By Chuck Giametta
Minor details as this eye-catching front-wheel-drive midsize sedan gets ready for a model-year 2023 refresh. The 2022 Sonata will continue as a family-car style leader available in cool, hot, and hybrid form and with technology like remote-control parking and a smartphone app that replaces the keyfob.
One feature the ’22 isn’t likely to offer is all-wheel drive (AWD), an asset standard on the rival Subaru Legacy and available on the rival Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, and Volkswagen Arteon. AWD is also an option for the Kia K5, a midsize sedan from Hyundai’s corporate sibling that shares some Sonata engineering. Some sources, however, suggest AWD and a plug-in-hybrid option could be part of Sonata’s model-year-’23 updates.
Should I wait for the 2022 Hyundai Sonata or buy a 2021?
Hyundai could remix some features among trim levels, maybe add a new color or two. But the 2022 Sonata will essentially be a repeat of the ’21, so there’s little reason to wait, unless you want to pay more for essentially the same car. Plus, a ‘21’s looks and technology will have a longer shelf life than a ‘22’s, given the expected model-year-2023 refresh.
Expect the 2022 Sonata to repeat the 2021 lineup: mainstream 2.5L SE and SEL models, more powerful turbocharged 1.6T SEL Plus and Limited grades, and the turbo performance-flagship N Line. The gas-electric Hybrid should return in Blue, SEL, and Limited form. The Hybrid Blue will defend class-leading EPA ratings of 52 mpg city-highway combined. The Hybrid Limited should return with solar roof panels claimed to capture energy enough to drive 2 extra miles per day.
Will 2022 Hyundai Sonata styling be different?
No. The next change will come with the model-year-’23 update. Even then, expect only subtle tweaks to nose and tail. The ’22 Sonata will reprise the appearance that came with the 2020 redesign and re-established it as a midsize-car style leader.
With a classy shape and contemporary-but-not-overstated details, the ’22 Sonata will again rival premium-brand sedans for sophisticated good looks. A returning highlight will be unique LED ribbons that underline the headlamps and continue up the fenders to blend with chrome strips bracketing the hood.
All models will have LED headlights and all but the SE 2.5L and Hybrid Blue will return with side-mirror LED turn signals. The N Line will continue with a unique grille insert, more aggressive front fascia, lower-body skirts, a black rear diffuser, and four exhaust outlets instead of two.
Otherwise, wheel sizes and design should continue among the few trim-level visual differentiators. Look for the SE 2.5L and Hybrid Blue to repeat with 16-inch alloys; the SLE 2.5L, Hybrid SEL, and Hybrid Limited with 17s; the Limited 1.6T with 18s; and the SEL Plus 1.6T and N Line with 19s.
Class-above cabin decor will remain a selling point. Plastic panels are richly grained. Padded surfaces abound. Controls move precisely. The four-spoke steering wheel is a debatable design decision, but pushbutton transmission controls on a piano-black console pod are an imaginative success.
A member of this South Korean automaker’s performance-tuned sub-brand, the N Line was a late-model-year-2021 addition to the Sonata roster. Hyundai had not released its final specifications in time for this review but – aside from dedicated performance and visual touches — expect equipment availability to mirror that of the Limited 2.5L.
Most 2022 Sonatas will return with an 8-inch central dashboard infotainment touchscreen. Satellite radio, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, will remain standard. Ensuring real-time GPS mapping in the absence of a cell signal will again require the 10.3-inch touchscreen navigation system. Including a bird’s-eye video view and teamed with a Bose audio upgrade, the larger setup should again be standard on the Limited versions and optional for SEL Plus 2.5L.
Both screens are exceptionally bright and crisp, as is the 12.3-inch digital-gauge cluster. The Limited should again get an informative head-up display that helpfully includes blind-spot-monitor alerts. Its gauge cluster should also return with sections that project live video of left and right blind spots when you activate a turn signal.
A wireless phone-charging pad that incorporates a cooling fan was standard on 2021 Sonata 1.6T models and optional on the SEL 2.5L. That should hold for ’22, but we’d suggest Hyundai extend availability of this convenience to the Sonata Hybrid.
Spacious, comfortable accommodations will again underscore Sonata’s family-car credentials. The rear seat is particularly roomy.
Look for the SE, SEL 2.5L, and Hybrid Blue and Hybrid SEL to return with cloth upholstery. The SEL Plus should reprise a leatherette/faux-suede combo and real leather should again be standard for the Limited models. The N Line will continue with its own cloth/pseudo-suede mix, extra-bolstered front buckets, red stitching, N logos, and dark-chrome cabin trim.
At 16 cubic feet, the trunk will remain among the roomiest in the segment. Touching the Hyundai logo opens its lid, but penny-pinching exposed hinges can crush luggage.
Will the 2022 Hyundai Sonata have mechanical changes?
No. The ’22 Sonata SE 2.5L and SEL 2.5L will return with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine of 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. The SEL Plus and Limited 1.6T will again use a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. (Think of torque as the force that gets a vehicle moving, horsepower as the energy that keeps it moving.)
Both these engines will continue with an eight-speed automatic transmission augmented on the SEL Plus and Limited by steering-wheel paddle shifters that facilitate manual-type gear control.
The 2022 Sonata N Line will share its powertrain and other mechanical touches with the sporty Kia K5 GT (which is also front-wheel-drive only). A turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder with some 290 horsepower and 310 horsepower will link to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with steering-wheel paddles. The N Line also gets uprated brakes and rides 0.2 inches lower than other Sonatas on a specially tuned suspension.
Every 2022 Sonata Hybrid will again team a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with an electric motor for 192 net horsepower (Hyundai doesn’t list net torque). This is no plug-in hybrid and so can’t run on an initial charge from the power grid. It recharges its lithium-ion battery pack by recapturing energy otherwise lost to coasting and deceleration. Sensors determine the optimal mix of gas, electric, or combined power. Sonata Hybrids will again use a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.
No Sonata N Line had been made available for testing in time for this review. Along with the K5 GT, it represents a rare commitment to elevated performance in a midsize sedan. Only the V-6 Toyota Camry and Nissan Maxima have more horsepower, but neither matches the N Line’s torque.
The 2022 Sonata 2.5L and 1.6T models should continue to meet the needs of their intended audiences nicely and each has its own virtues. Expect the SE and SEL 2.5L to again provide perfectly adequate acceleration, their naturally aspirated engine delivering power in a more linear fashion than the turbocharged SEL Plus and Limited 1.6T. The turbo duo furnishes usefully stronger merging and passing punch but suffers lazy throttle response off the line and from modest speeds.
Our test Sonata Hybrid sacrificed some driveability to achieve its laudably high mileage. With liberal application of the gas pedal it furnished good acceleration away from a stop and no-fuss passing and merging. But transitions between electric, gas, and combined sources of power were hesitant and sometimes accompanied by a slight drivetrain shudder. That lack of cohesion was unpleasantly common in around-town driving.
Sonatas we’ve tested also seemed to lack a layer of suspension polish. If Hyundai makes no adjustments to the ’22 models expect decidedly midpack handling from the non N Line models. They tracked well enough and changed direction predictably. But our test 2.5L and 1.6T models lacked the eagerness to tackle turns and the overall composure that makes class leaders like the Honda Accord, Mazda 6, and Altima rewarding even in everyday driving. Our test Hybrid suffered additionally from a rear suspension that become unsettled on broken pavement, especially through bumpy turns.
Similarly, cabin quietness, ride comfort, and overall mechanical refinement should remain acceptable but not selling points.
Will 2022 Hyundai Sonata fuel economy improve?
Not likely. Expect 2022 Sonata EPA ratings to repeat those of the 2021 models. That would keep the 2.5L and 1.6T versions among the highest-mileage cars in their competitive sets. And the ’22 Sonata Hybrid would remain one of the most all-around efficient gas-burning cars on the road.
The 2022 Sonata SE should again rate 28/38/32 mpg city/highway/combined, the SEL 2.5L 27/37/31 mpg. Look for the turbocharged ’22 SEL Plus and Limited 1.6T to return at 27/37/30 mpg.
EPA ratings for the 2021 Sonata N Line were not released in time for this review, but something like 24/35/27 mpg wouldn’t be out of line. Look for Hyundai to again recommend 87-octane gas for the 2.5L and 1.6T models (and the Hybrid) but don’t be surprised if it specifies 91-octane for the N Line.
Ratings for the ’22 Sonata Hybrid should remain 50/54/52 mpg city/highway/combined for the Blue model and 45/51/47 for the Hybrid SEL and Limited. The Hybrid Limited should return with a solar-panel roof that outputs 205 watts of electricity to charge the conventional 12-volt battery and the lithium-ion pack. The supplemental charge can add 2 miles per day of driving range — 700 “free” miles annually — Hyundai says.
Will the 2022 Hyundai Sonata have new features?
Unlikely, although Hyundai could shuffle equipment among models; we’d like to see it expand availability of some driver assists, for example. Otherwise, the 2022 Sonata will again offer a laudable range safety and convenience items that take top-line trims into near-luxury territory.
All 2022 Sonatas will again come standard with Hyundai Smartsense. This suite of safety tech is comprised of autonomous emergency braking designed to automatically stop the car to mitigate a frontal collision with another vehicle, object, pedestrian, or cyclist. Also included is lane-maintaining automatic steering and adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead, even in stop-and-go driving.
Another important driver assist — blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection – was standard on all but the SE for model-year ’21. That’s wider availability than on some rivals, but we think Hyundai ought to extend this safeguard to entry-level Sonata buyers for model-year 2022. It also ought to consider equipping more Sonatas with autonomous rear braking and a surround-view monitor. For model-year ’21, those assists were exclusive to the Limited 1.6T.
Thumbs up for Safe Exit Warning, which uses the blind-spot sensors to automatically warn of vehicles approaching from behind when parallel parked. It provides an audible warning and a “Watch for Traffic” instrument-cluster message to help prevent passengers from exiting into traffic. For model-year 2021, it was standard on all but the SE and Hybrid Blue models.
Returning as well will be Hyundai’s Highway Driving Assist. This introduces subtle steering assist to keep the car in the center of the lane but requires the driver to maintain contact with the steering wheel. Expect it to again be standard on the 2022 Limited 1.6T and Hybrid Limited and optional on the SEL Plus.
Don’t expect wider availability for Hyundai’s Remote Smart Parking Assist. Clever but of limited appeal, this feature automatically controls steering, throttle and brakes to move the Sonata into or out of a parallel or perpendicular space. The driver can remain in the car or stand outside and use keyfob controls to guide it. Remote Smart Parking Assist was exclusive to the Limited 1.6T for model-year ‘21.
Expect all but the 2022 Sonata SE to again come standard with three free years of Hyundai Blue Link smartphone-controlled locking, remote start (but not driving), and notification of conditions such as windows left open.
Building on that system is Hyundai Digital Key. This lets you leave your keyfob at home and use your smartphone to unlock, start, and drive your Sonata. It works within a few inches of the car, through wireless Near Field Communication (NFC). You can share functions with others, and it comes with an NFC card for valets.
For model-year-’21, Digital Key was an Android-only smartphone app. Expanding it to additional mobile operating systems would of course broaden its appeal. For ’21, Hyundai Digital Key was standard on the 1.6T models and the Hybrid SEL and Limited; it was optional for the SEL 2.5L
Will 2022 Hyundai Sonata prices be different?
They’ll likely increase, but probably not by much. Like every automaker, Hyundai faces declining demand for cars of all types. It raised base prices for 2021 Sonata 1.6T grades $350-$550 but increased those of the other models by less than $100.
For reference, here are 2021 Sonata prices; base prices include the manufacturer’s $955 destination fee.
Base prices were $24,595 for the ’21 Sonata SE and $26,695 for the SEL. The ’21 SEL Plus started at $29,195, the Limited 1.6T at $34,455. Look for the 2022 N Line to start around $35,000 and include Limited-level standard equipment, in addition to N Line-specific features already covered.
The 2021 Sonata Hybrid base prices were $28,745 for the Blue, $30,895 for the Hybrid SEL, and $36,295 for the Hybrid Limited.
Notable standard features should again include dual automatic climate control, heated front seats on all but the SE and Hybrid Blue models, and a heated steering wheel and ventilated front seats on the Limiteds. Expect a panoramic moonroof to remain exclusive to gas-only models as standard on the Limited and optional on the SEL and SEL Plus.
Expect most factory options to remain limited to the gas-only models. Among key options, look for the SEL 2.5L Convenience Package ($2,200 for model-year 2021) to again include Hyundai Digital Key, the panoramic moonroof, wireless charging, an automatic-dimming rearview mirror, leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear-seat vents and USB charging port, and LED interior lights.
The SEL Plus Tech Package ($2,700 for 2021) should again include many features standard on the Limited, such as the panoramic roof, imbedded navigation, and Highway Drive Assist.
Continuing as part of the Hyundai value equation should be a generous warranty. For 2021, it was 5-years/60,000-miles bumper-to-bumper and 10/100,000 powertrain, supplemented by 3/36,000 of complimentary scheduled oil changes and tire rotations.
When does the 2022 Hyundai Sonata come out?
Expect a fall 2021 release date for the 2022 Hyundai Sonata