Will Last Year’s Changes Be Enough to Keep the ’16 Hyundai Sonata Relevant?

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What changes will make it different?

Except when a manufacturer makes major mistakes with a new model—which is somewhat rare—the second year of that car doesn’t usually bring significant styling changes. A lot of time, money and effort go into developing an all-new car like the model-year 2015 Sonata midsize sedan, so only minor cosmetic upgrades are likely for the next model year. Somewhat unusually, the styling of the car has been toned down, which is the opposite direction many manufacturers have been going with redesigns recently. If the more conservative look isn’t well received, model-year ’16 could bring some additional sharpening. Every auto company nowadays strives to improve gas mileage and increase connectivity, so look for advances on those fronts as well.

Why should I wait for the 2016?

Those with a keen eye may have noticed that model-year ’15 doesn’t feature a hybrid in its range, so the outgoing version will continue until the new hybrid arrives. The automaker has indicated that although the all-new version will come late to the lineup, it will probably still be launched as a model-year ’15 offering. At this stage then, there doesn’t seem to be much in the pipeline to make buyers hold out for a model-year 2016 version

Should I buy a 2015 model instead?

Yes, as long as you like the more mundane look that the vehicle has adopted. Maybe it’s too harsh to say that this enduring brand has gone bland, but the car does look a bit anonymous in the crowd. If you don’t like the look, you may want to wait for the next incarnation. But if the car’s other outstanding attributes are what you’re interested in, there’s no reason to hold back.

Will the styling be different?

The South Korean automaker has quite a strong design philosophy with its Fluidic Sculpture 2.0, an evolution of the original fluidic sculpture concept. Each new launch follows this edict, which is as much about aerodynamics to help performance and economy as it is about making the vehicle look attractive. The next version of the seventh generation will probably be a continuation, apart perhaps from the usual refreshing of the lights and grille.

Any mechanical changes?

This is a company that can rarely be accused of following the crowd, and although there are some similarities between what it and its competitors have been doing with engines lately, they still dare to be different. Although the automaker has gone with an entirely four-cylinder lineup, the power ratings have actually lowered from the outgoing models, which is, for example, the opposite of what rivals like Ford are doing with its EcoBoost models. The base 2.4-liter now develops 185 horsepower, while the 2.0-liter twin-turbo gets you 245 horsepower, although the delivery of this power is smoother and quieter than before. Even if opinions over time decree that more power is still needed, it’s unlikely to appear as soon as model-year 2016.

Will fuel economy improve?

These days, you can be pretty much certain that a new model will get better gas mileage than the one it’s replacing. While the improvements seen in the latest generation are modest when you consider how much work appears to have gone into the all-new Sonata, they are probably enough to keep everyone happy for now. The Eco model is the one to go for if you’re particularly interested in gas mileage, as it is actually more fuel-efficient than the existing hybrid. But if you want more miles for your gallon than can be found at the moment, you may want to wait for the plug-in hybrid.

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Will it have new features?

The Sonata is already feature-packed, especially when you start to go up the range. That said, the base models are starting to look a bit sparse on goodies, and it is usually worth spending a few extra dollars for the optional Technology Package, which gives you features such as ventilated front seats, a panoramic sunroof, upgraded audio and navigation. Infotainment and connectivity are moving forward at quite a pace these days, so greater integration with both iOS and Android smartphones is likely to be part of model-year 2016. More sophisticated safety systems will also probably be put in place, as Hyundai works on developing technologies such as collision-avoidance and auto-braking. The car already features systems such as blind spot detection, forward collision warning, rear cross traffic alert and lane departure warning—once the preserve of luxury cars—and an even bigger emphasis on advanced driver safety should be expected for model-year ’16.

How will 2016 prices be different?

If you look back over recent years, you’ll be amazed at how little prices have increased. Manufacturers simply cannot get away with such rises anymore, even with entirely new models. Since model-year 2015 brings an all-new car, don’t expect prices to go up much in model-year ’16.

What Is the Expected Release Date?

The model-year 2016 Sonata will be with us midway through ’15 or by early fall at the latest.

Best competitors

Mazda 6, Subaru Legacy, Chrysler 200, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima, VW Passat, Chevrolet Malibu, Kia Optima

What change would make it better?

This is a family sedan, but consumers are becoming increasingly demanding these days. In other words, they want to enjoy their driving, even if it’s just taking the kids to school or to the mall. Therefore, a sportier and more powerful addition to the lineup would be welcome. But unless there is a noticeably adverse reaction to the tame styling of the model-year 2015 offering, the car is unlikely to change much until the next generation. But that doesn’t stop us hoping that the Korean automaker will bring a bit of character back in model-year ’16. Sacrificing some power for the sake of fuel economy or making the design more conservative may be palatable on their own, but doing both things at once is too much for some people. It’s not often you hear people say that a ’15 model could be improved in 2016 by making it look a little more like the ’14, but that’s the case here.

Quick hit

Don’t let any negativity about the styling of the model-year 2015 Sonata put you off if you are shopping in this segment. Every mass-market manufacturer looks to have an affordable midsize sedan coming in at under $22,000. The Sonata has one of the lowest starting MSRPs for a base model ( $21,960), although the real value looks like the SE with a Popular package that will set you back just north of $23,000. Hyundai usually means quality and value, and that’s certainly true with this car.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]