2015 Hyundai Sonata: The Long Road to Phoenix
by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing on November 26, 2015
Duty called me to a business trip in Arizona, where I would hear all about the new Nissan Titan XD. My destination in Phoenix wasn't all that far away, so the decision between driving and flying was easy. Our 2015 Hyundai Sonata sedan got the call because I hadn't road-tripped it yet.
Nominally, the drive to Phoenix is a simple six-hour interstate cruise. But my event started in the morning and I'd lose an hour changing time zones. I had to leave the day before and grab a hotel, and since it was a day off I decided to stray off course and take my time. I'd never been to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument before, and I had my eye on a couple of other random spots.
All told, my elongated figure-eight round-trip route would amount to well over 1,300 miles.
You've never seen so much nothing interspersed with cactus. The ratio tips decidedly toward the latter when you get into the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and other rugged and mountainous areas.
I got out and hiked around a couple times, but no matter how carefully I scanned the ground, my shoes invariably collected long and pointy cholla cactus spines. No matter, the expansive scenery was nearly as stunning from behind the wheel on the lonely two-lane roads I chose through the Tohono O'odham Nation.
Invariably, I started paying attention to my fuel economy and range. The 75-mph Arizona freeways were unlikely to produce any records, but when I rolled into the gas station next to my hotel in Fountain Hills, I was surprised to see I'd set a new "best range" mark of 458 miles while rolling along at a respectable 33.4 mpg.
The trip home began in earnest from the Nissan Proving Ground in Stanfield, Arizona, well south of Phoenix. The most direct route was the lonely Interstate 8, with a jog north past the Salton Sea to finish the trip along the axis of Interstate 10.
The tank already had 75 miles under its belt when I headed out, but I was determined to make it home without stopping for fuel. The event wrapped up just after lunch, and I was going to regain my lost hour when I crossed back in to the Pacific time zone. I had a good chance of making it home in time for dinner.
A moderate headwind vexed me for a time, but it died out as I crossed into California. The biggest delay was yet another Border Patrol checkpoint near Kane Spring. It was clear sailing after that and eventually I rolled up to my neighborhood gas station after the Hyundai sipped on that one tank of fuel for all of 501.6 miles, another new "best range" mark. And the low-fuel warning light hadn't come on until I exited the freeway and began the final mile.
I added 13.447 gallons, resulting in a calculated 37.3 mpg. But that felt wrong. It seemed that too few gallons had gone in, resulting in too much mpg. The Sonata had clicked off about a gallon prematurely once before when I filled it before the previous weekend's errands, so I was suspicious. I resolved to figure it out the following day.
Next morning I began the 46.4-mile drive to work, but I soon gained confidence I'd been right about the short fill when the fuel gauge dropped one segment below "full" within the first 10 miles. I stopped at the station nearest the office after a traffic-free highway commute and added 2.667 gallons, which resulted in a laughably wrong 17.3 mpg that nevertheless made sense in the circumstances.
The extra fuel and poor mpg were conclusive evidence that my hunch about the previous night's short fill was correct.
So I added the two together to make my official return-trip calculation using 16.124 gallons over 548 miles. That worked out to 34.0 mpg, a solid number that makes a lot more sense.
How was the car?
Smooth and comfortable. The seats never got tiring and the driving position remained agreeable throughout. It was just me and a single bag, so I can't say anything about road trip ride comfort with the whole family on board. There was no one to complain about the lack of rear seat cooling vents.
My biggest beef concerns the coarse sound of the 4-cylinder engine at idle and when accelerating from low speeds around town. It's the least pleasing aspect of our 2015 Hyundai Sonata.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 19,905 miles