All three barbers seated in the barbershop craned their necks when I walked in recently. No, it wasn’t to check out the train wreck that was my hair at the time.
Instead, they were looking past me at the bright blue 2018 Hyundai Sonata 2.0t I had just parked.
And they weren’t alone in admiring the car, as a few mechanics from the garage next door also took a stroll out to the car to check it out.
I guess that is what Hyundai was going for when it gave the midsized Sonata a major upgrade for 2018, with a bolder styling than what many associated with the Korean automaker.
There are two engines available in the Sonata lineup, starting with the 2.4-litre inline four-cylinder (185 horsepower, 178 lb-ft of torque).
The 2.0t tester, however, comes with a more potent twin-scroll turbocharged and intercooled 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder engine. It delivers 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque and gets a new 8-speed automatic with SHIFTRONIC manual mode.
Fuel economy for the 2.0t is rated at 10.4 litres per 100 kilometres in the city and 7.4 L/100 km on the highway, for a combined 9.1 L/100 km.
My average came out to 9.2 L/100 km, but only thanks to the fact I switched to Eco mode over the last few days of driving, which brought down the numbers by about .5 L/100 km.
While Eco mode was good for fuel numbers, the Sonata was a little more fun to drive in other modes, with a sportier drive that meshed with the look.
Speaking of mesh, the 2.0t gets a very different front grille than its sibling in the Sonata family. It features a sporty mesh grille, black bezel headlamps, black surrounds for the daytime running lights, a black lower front bumper and black caps on the side mirrors.
The model also gets 18-inch alloy wheels (up from the standard 17-inch ones) and a whole lot of chrome accents: Lower side body, door handles, rear lamp moulding, rear diffuser and dual exhausts.
I, for one, really found the Sonata to have an attractive design – even if one of the barbers mentioned that the only way it would look good was to remove the H on the front. I beg to differ.
And the refinements don’t stop there.
The Sonata’s interior also gets some enhancements, including to the centre stack, which now comes with a standard 7-inch display screen. The tester came with the larger 8-inch screen with navigation system.
The controls surrounding it are also large and easy to operate, with a combination of knobs and large buttons for the climate control system. Hyundai calls them ‘piano key’ buttons and the description fits.
The 2.0t also has a sporty flat-bottomed steering wheel, and seats that are bolstered to match the car’s performance.
The Sonata’s infotainment system is simple to understand and operate, and now benefits from Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, technology that I wish would be included in every vehicle.
The vehicle also offers wireless smartphone charging capability, with a space reserved for that at the bottom of the centre console.
And the Sonata now comes with BlueLink, the Hyundai telematics system also in the Elantra GT 5-door.
BlueLink allows owners to get maintenance alerts, remotely lock and unlock the car, remote start with climate control, enhanced roadside assistance, SOS emergency assistance and more.
The Sonata was a pleasant drive for a week, with a good amount of giddy up from the turbo engine, which can be tamed somewhat depending on what mode you choose.
There are four drive modes – comfort, eco, sport and smart, which allows the system to switch automatically between the three other settings depending on driving style.
It’s a fairly smooth ride over most surfaces and the cabin stays pretty quiet even at highway speeds, making for a pleasant driving experience. The Sonata left me with a very good impression based on how it drives, looks and the decent amount of cargo space in a large trunk.
Midsize sedans are often overlooked by consumers, who are opting more and more for the smaller crossovers and SUVs for a number of reasons. But there are still some good midsize sedans out there, and the Sonata makes my list of ones I would consider if I was looking in that segment.
2018 Hyundai Sonata 2.0t
Price as tested: $36,999.00
Configuration: Front engine/Front-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: Twin-scroll turbocharged and intercooled 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder/ 8-speed automatic with SHIFTRONIC manual mode
Power/torque: 245 horsepower/ 260 ft-lb of torque
Fuel (capacity): Regular (70 L)
Combined fuel economy ratings (L/100 km): 9.1 L/100 km
Observed fuel economy (L/100 km): 9.2 L/100 km
Warranties: 5-years/100,000 km (basic)
Competitors: Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima, Volkswagen Passat, Chevrolet Malibu, Kia Optima.