MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- After shaking up the industry with the previous Sonata's swoopy sheet metal, Hyundai engineers focused most on improving driving dynamics for the mid-sized sedan's seventh generation.
The effort appears to have succeeded. While a rough, jittery suspension and vague steering dogged the outgoing version, a revamped suspension and stiffer body give the updated Sonata a more composed ride, while new steering systems provide greater feedback.
But the Sonata faces a major challenge in the marketplace. The segment is brutally competitive, and mid-sized sedan sales are down 3 percent through the first five months of the year.
The basics: The 2015 Sonata rides on a modified version of the platform underpinning the outgoing version. Hyundai stretched the car's wheelbase slightly for more front legroom and widened the car by more than an inch.
The geometry of the Sonata suspension's front MacPherson strut was revised while engineers redesigned the multilink rear suspension to a double control arm for better stability.
The Sonata's biggest powertrain news is the 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine combined with a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission in Sonata Eco models designed for fuel efficiency. Otherwise, the outgoing model's powertrains carry over with minor updates. The 2.4-liter base engine has adequate power, while the optional 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder provides strong acceleration.
Christopher Chapman, chief of U.S. design for Hyundai, likened the Sonata's tauter sheet metal to an athlete in a well-tailored suit. He said the Sonata is the second of four vehicles, including the 2015 Genesis, that will define a more understated, confident phase of Hyundai design. "We don't have to prove ourselves anymore," Chapman said at a media event here.