Hyundai Sonata Eco: The 38 MPG Family Sedan

Imagine a family sedan that is enjoyable to drive, gets exceptional fuel mileage, and has ample cargo space with a sticker under $24,000 and you have one of the great automobile bargains today. This is an exceptional commuter vehicle as well as a family trip partner. Don’t get confused as Hyundai is offering several forms of the Sonata. This is the Eco with a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine that produces 178 horsepower turning a slick seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. The result is a government average of 28/32/38. We averaged 34 mpg in daily use making it one of the most efficient family sedans we have tested.

Mom’s view: This is one of the most unobtrusive vehicles on the market. The interior and exterior don’t ruffle any feathers so keep that proximity key handy because the Eco’s exterior blends in with the Toyota, Chevrolet, and Buick sedans in mall parking lots. The interior has an abundance of storage areas, an easy-to-use communication/stereo system with a seven-inch, touch monitor. Visibility is excellent in all directions. The trunk is large and the low lift-over height makes it is easy to use. The 60/40-split-folding rear seat even adds to the Eco’s usefulness. An optional automatic trunk opener is highly unusual and worth considering. If you stand behind the Eco for more than three seconds the trunk opens automatically. This alone is worth a trip to the dealer to experience. Safety wise the Sonata has antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag all standard. It earned good scores in crash tests. Overall, a competent and compelling family vehicle.

Dad’s view: Call the Eco an oxymoron: a fun to drive family sedan. It is nimble and the power comes on at only 1500 rpm making it eager to help when freeway merging or passing on those trips to Arrowhead. This is the Sonata to own if you enjoy driving as the steering is well weighted and ride is firm but won’t loosen your fillings over unkempt roads. Hyundai’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission works well for a vehicle in this price range, but it can be jerky when just starting out. The benefit is exceptional mileage and the ability to keep the four-cylinder engine on task. The 1.6-liter engine is very smooth and responsive, although a little noisy. The electric steering is very quick, but lacks feel. It provides a fairly tight turning radius taking the worry out of tight parking situations. The tires were apparently chosen for fuel efficiency so handling does suffer. We found the brakes worked very well. All in all a pleasant vehicle with an abundance of standard features. With lawful driving, 500 miles is possible on a tank of gas, and the seats are so comfortable that you won’t mind the journey.

Young working woman’s view: The warranty is 5 years/60,000 miles and 10 years/100,000 miles on the drivetrain, which reassures those who want to stray from the usual marques. Trust me, you won’t be sorry. I would recommend considering the Tech option, although at over $4,000 it does seem counter intuitive to those looking to buy a budget-conscious family sedan. This option gives you an 8.0-inch center-dash display, premium audio, leather seats, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, blind-spot warning, navigation, a proximity key, and premium sound and more. Probably the best economical car you can get for the money, and you have to move into hybrid territory to get better fuel economy. I think a lot of people have underestimated this Sonata.

Young male’s view: Hyundai offers as standard a Bluetooth, satellite and HD radio, a USB port, a 7-inch touch screen, Android Auto and a rearview camera. The Blue Link telematics system allows you to lock and unlock your car using your smartphone. The Hyundai entertainment and information system is called Android Auto. What it does is integrate your Android based cell phone with the vehicle’s communication system. An interesting feature is that Hyundai’s emergency telematics system includes a monitoring feature for parents that can track teenage drivers’ speed among other things. There is also Apple CarPlay available. This Sonata really is impressive when it comes to electronics.

Family conference: Sonatas come in several flavors with a Sonata 2.0T, Sonata Hybrid, Sonata Plug-In, and regular Sonata to go along with the Eco. Each has its own forte, but we quite liked the Eco’s versatility and price. In essence the Eco is truly a family jewel. Great for daily commutes, excellent storage capacities and well above average fuel economy make this sedan a best choice for those who need an all-around vehicle that is value priced.

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