Full 2013 Hyundai Sonata Review
What's New for 2013
The 2013 Hyundai Sonata receives a minor shuffling of features among trim levels. Most notably, the base GLS model's manual transmission is no longer available, as a six-speed automatic is now standard throughout the lineup.
It seems like only yesterday that the Hyundai Sonata set the midsize family sedan market ablaze with sharp styling, class-leading comfort, generous feature offerings and overall value. Now, just two years on, the pressure is mounting from newly redesigned competitors made by Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Nissan and Toyota.
To its credit, the 2013 Hyundai Sonata remains an excellent choice. With a long list of standard features -- some of which are options on other sedans -- the Sonata provides a lot of bang for the buck. Add to this the availability of two strong engine choices (along with a Sonata hybrid model that is covered in a separate review), admirable fuel economy, top safety scores and a lengthy warranty and it becomes clear why the Sonata is far from becoming yesterday's news.
Still, recent redesigns to the 2013 Ford Fusion and 2013 Honda Accord mean that the Sonata now has some company at the top. We would suggest that potential buyers take a look at all three of these midsize sedans, as the advantages among them are slight. By the same token we'd recommend the Kia Optima, which shares much of the Hyundai's underpinnings wrapped in an evocative exterior. Though not quite as impressive as these others, the Toyota Camry also earns our recommendation, buoyed by its reputation for bulletproof reliability.
The good news is that among these choices, there's really no loser in the bunch. The 2013 Hyundai Sonata may not enjoy the sizable lead it recently had, but the standard it set is still very much a bright spot in what used to be a bland and uninspiring class of cars.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Hyundai Sonata is available in GLS, SE and Limited trim levels.
Standard equipment on the GLS includes 16-inch steel wheels, keyless entry, air-conditioning, cruise control, full power accessories, heated mirrors, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, a 60/40-split rear seatback, a trip computer, Bluetooth and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an iPod/USB audio interface and an auxiliary audio jack. An optional Popular Equipment package adds alloy wheels, foglights, automatic headlights, heated front seats and an eight-way power driver seat.
The sporty SE includes all of the above and adds 18-inch alloy wheels with performance tires, a dark chrome grille, a sport-tuned suspension, keyless ignition/entry and leather/cloth upholstery. Opting for the SE with the turbocharged engine also adds dual-zone automatic climate control and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. An optional Navigation and Sunroof package bundles (you guessed it) a navigation system with touchscreen display, a rearview camera, premium Infinity speakers and a sunroof.
The plush Sonata Limited has all the SE's features, but it offers 17-inch alloy wheels, a cushier suspension and full leather upholstery. It also gains turn-signal repeaters in the outside mirrors, a sunroof, heated rear seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an upgraded audio system (with HD radio) and unique interior accents. The turbocharged Limited variant adds 18-inch wheels, dual exhaust tips and shift paddles on the steering wheel. The optional Limited Premium package adds a panoramic sunroof, the navigation system with the touchscreen display, a back-up camera and premium Infinity speakers.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the 2013 Hyundai Sonata GLS is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 198 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Sonatas sold in states that utilize California emissions standards can have PZEV emissions certification, though output drops slightly to 190 hp. A six-speed automatic is the sole transmission offered on all trims. In Edmunds performance testing, the GLS accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds, which is quick for a base-model sedan.
The dual-exhaust SE makes slightly more power at 200 hp and 186 lb-ft. Both the GLS and SE engines have an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 24 mpg city/35 mpg highway and 28 mpg in combined driving.
A powerful turbocharged 2.0-liter engine generating 274 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque is available on SE and Limited models. This added boost in power gets the Sonata to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, which is about average for midsize sedans with an engine upgrade. The EPA estimates fuel economy at a still favorable 22/34/26 mpg.
Standard safety features on all 2013 Hyundai Sonatas include antilock disc brakes, traction control, stability control, front seat side-impact airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. Also standard is BlueLink, Hyundai's emergency telematics system, which provides services such as remote access, emergency assistance, theft recovery and teen-driver-oriented geo-fencing.
In government testing, the Sonata earned a top five-star rating for overall crash protection, with four out of five stars for total front-impact protection and five stars for total side-impact protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Hyundai Sonata earned a top rating of "Good" for frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength protection.
In Edmunds brake testing, both a Sonata GLS and SE turbo came to a stop from 60 mph in about 120 feet, which is slightly better than average for the class.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Sonata feels as well built inside as it does out. The dash and center stack meld together in a seamless flow, while trapezoidal vents, sharp blue backlighting and, on some models, brushed-metal-style trim pieces create an environment that looks both modern and upscale. While overall interior materials quality is merely average, the knobs, switches and controls operate with a feel and precision befitting a more expensive car, and the Limited trim -- with its available two-tone color schemes, piano-black trim and padded door panels -- is particularly appealing.
The optional touchscreen adds clarity and vibrancy to an already intuitive system for operating and viewing climate control, navigation, audio and phone functions. Similar to OnStar, Hyundai's BlueLink telematics offers services like emergency crash response, remote opening of door locks, turn-by-turn navigation, and speed and curfew limits for younger drivers.
The Sonata offers enough room for four adults to stretch out. Five can make do on shorter trips. But in our experience, headroom both front and rear is merely adequate, and 6-foot-tall passengers in back may find their heads bumping the ceiling due to the Sonata's sloped roof line.
As far as driving dynamics are concerned, the 2013 Hyundai Sonata strikes a perfectly acceptable balance between comfort and confidence. Its chassis and suspension are taut, but not so taut that they transmit the road's every bump and rumble. Drivers seeking a measure of sport can opt for the SE, although its sharper handling capabilities don't really justify its rougher, bumpier ride. The Sonata's steering is OK but doesn't transmit much road feel, and the effort is artificially heavy.
On the move, the 2.4-liter engine provides thoroughly respectable acceleration for a four-cylinder midsize sedan. Gearshifts from the automatic transmission are seamless and drama-free. Power delivery from the turbocharged engine is smooth and linear, with no detectable turbo lag. Its excellent fuel economy is icing on the cake.