The mid-size sedan might be a dying breed, especially in Canada where they’ve never been as popular as compact four-doors and hatchbacks, but Hyundai hasn’t given up on it like some others in this…

2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Ultimate Road Test

2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Ultimate
Hyundai’s Sonata Hybrid Ultimate looks less aggressive than some other Sonata trims, but still balances performance-oriented styling with plenty of upscale class.

The mid-size sedan might be a dying breed, especially in Canada where they’ve never been as popular as compact four-doors and hatchbacks, but Hyundai hasn’t given up on it like some others in this class. In fact, the Sonata was given a complete eighth-generation redesign for the 2020 model year, so therefore its seriously menacing new face carried forward unchanged into 2021, and will so once again for 2022.

Menacing yes, but that’s not to say I don’t like the look. As seen on this as-tested Sonata Hybrid Ultimate, which gets more chrome than some other Sonata trims, such as the sporty new N Line variant, and particularly when that grille is surrounded by Hampton Grey paint that comes across as more of a champagne-taupe in some lighting conditions, the snarly look is almost soft and approachable. Whether you find it intensely angry or just purposefully intent, the new Sonata does appear consequential, and when push comes to shove it should be, because it’s doing the serious work of minimizing its eco-footprint while maximizing range and performance.

2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Ultimate
Cool LED taillight treatment is distinctive enough to be spotted from blocks away.

The Sonata Hybrid’s fuel economy is superb at 5.3 L/100km in the city, 4.6 on the highway and 5.0 even combined. It’s even a smidge better than similarly-equipped Toyota Camry Hybrids that come rated at 5.3 L/100km city, 5.0 highway and 5.1 combined (the Camry Hybrid’s base LE trim does better at 4.9, 4.8 and 4.9 respectively), and considerably more efficient than the Honda Accord Hybrid that gets a 5.3 city, 5.7 highway and 5.5 combined rating.

Even more surprising was the Sonata Hybrid’s acceleration and all-round performance, especially when the net numbers showed just 192 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque. It certainly felt more potent off the line than these figures suggest, plus thanks to steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, its six-speed automatic transmission was quite engaging as well.

2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Ultimate
Even more beauty can be found in the Sonata’s details, particularly the LED character lights that follow the hoodlike partway up the tops of each fender.

The Sonata Hybrid responds eagerly when pushed hard through corners too, plus it tracks confidently at high speeds in any condition, including on wet, slippery roads. It even remained stable when yanked aggressively toward the centre median by a large puddle, something much-needed and often appreciated in my city’s mostly wet winter weather.

Additionally, the button-operated gear selector is one of the best electronic transmission controllers I’ve tested, as it’s laid out intuitively and can all be actuated without moving the hand very far. Unlike some others (I’m speaking to you Honda/Acura), Hyundai’s quickly became second-nature, never leaving me mentally stranded in dumbfounded, panic-stricken overwhelm when coming up short of a turning circle-deprived U-turn with traffic approaching.

2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Ultimate
The Sonata Hybrid’s lower front fascia details are unique, as are its stylishly complex alloy wheels.

Interestingly, the electromechanical parking brake doesn’t automatically release when skipping a step and simply putting the car into Drive ahead of hitting the throttle, which is normally how these things work. I guess Hyundai felt it was best to err on e-brake safety, so be prepared to flick the switch manually each time you set out.

A two-way memory driver’s seat will automatically adjust you or your significant other back into your chosen position at the press of a single button, mind you, and I must say the driver’s positioning was superb overall. It comes complete with plenty of reach from the manually-operated tilt-and-telescopic steering column, while the seat itself was blissfully comfortable, despite only providing two-way lumbar support.

2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Ultimate
It might look like a sunroof, but this solar-powered glass roof only goes skin deep.

Both front seats get amped up with three-way heating and/or cooling, however, while the heated steering wheel rim put out near finger-scorching warmth—Hyundai may want to consider allowing drivers to tone it down a bit by adding a dual-mode temperature setting. Speaking of warmth, a dual-zone automatic climate control system made it easy to maintain an ideal level of cabin air comfort, while the centre stack-mounted interface was easy to sort out.

Now that I’m on the subject of instrument panel interfaces, there’s no shortage of digital displays inside this top-tier Hyundai. For starters, the only hint to things analogue about the gauge cluster is the nicely designed graphical nod to yesteryear’s circular speedometer and tachometer dials, with the division between both comes filled with a multi-information display-style assortment of functions. The display quality is very high in definition, while its reaction to inputs is instantaneous, and its feature set good for the class.

Being a hybrid, my tester included an animated energy-flow graphic at centre when the car was set to Eco mode, with surrounding colours being a mix of aqua-green and blues when so set, but everything glowed red in Sport mode, not that choosing the fiery hue was a particularly original thing for Hyundai to do (hey designers, how about orange or yellow just to separate your cars from the masses?). This said, Hyundai leaves a version of its Eco metre on the right-side dial no matter which drive mode the car is set to, with the Smart setting a personal favourite, being that it feels ready and waiting to either drive as frugally as possible more often than not, or as quickly as possible when called upon.

2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Ultimate
If the Sonata Hybrid Ultimate’s interior doesn’t impress you, you’re probably already driving a Genesis.

Hyundai added rear-facing cameras below the Sonata’s side mirrors last year, which project a live image onto the left- or right-side primary gauge cluster dials when engaging either turn signal. This is an absolutely brilliant feature that more competitors should adopt, but so far Hyundai, plus its Kia and Genesis sibling brands, are the only ones to offer it simultaneously with advanced driver technologies such as blind-spot monitoring, or lane change warning and intervention.

Of note, Honda was actually first with a turn signal-activated rear camera system dubbed LaneWatch, which I raved about when more readily available, but recently the Japanese brand has been phasing it out in favour of blind-spot monitoring. Kudos to Hyundai for created an even better dual-sided camera system (Honda’s was only added to their cars’ passenger-side blind-spot), and then making it available alongside all of its advanced driver assistance and safety features.

2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Ultimate
The Sonata’s infotainment touchscreen is large, high-definition, easy-to-use and well stocked full of features.

A glance to the right shows a centre display that’s as high in definition as the digital gauge cluster, which means it’s impressive as well. It’s about the same size too, and utilizes a touchscreen-controlled scrolling tile system that features three large tiles at startup. These can be organised as per preferences, with the stock setup including a navigation map on the left, audio functions in the middle, and fuel economy readouts to the right. Hyundai also includes some touch-sensitive buttons down each side of the display, plus a volume knob. I would’ve appreciated a tuning/scrolling knob (usually on the right) as well, and considering this car is probably targeting a more mature crowd than most others in Hyundai’s lineup, I’m guessing an analogue dial for tuning in radio stations or changing tracks would be appreciated by more folks than just me.

The navigation system worked faultlessly during my multiple-week test, and the audio system impressed even more, not only filling the car with streaming media and satellite radio, both of which I use all the time, but its sound quality was very good for this class.

I was also happy to see a wireless charging pad at the base of the centre stack, plus USB charge points for the wired crowd, not to mention the availability of Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, the former having become my go-to smartphone connectivity tool as of late. The charging pad wasn’t working when I first got the car, but I was able to set it up easily via the infotainment system’s settings page, where I found countless cool personalization possibilities as well.

2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Ultimate
The intelligently designed electronic gear selector takes up very little space, leaving room for useful features like a wireless charging pad.

Looking upward, there’s an attractive overhead console, but no moonroof. That’s an unusual site in this class, but maybe more fitting in a car that’s partially powered by a motive battery, Hyundai replaced the traditional moonroof with a non-translucent glass solar roof. That’s right, the cool glass section on the front half of the Sonata Hybrid’s outer roof is only visible when outside of the vehicle, and while the lack of a sunroof wasn’t much of an issue for me, it was a very strange omission after 20-plus years of testing cars, and one I can imagine some may be totally put off by. After all, the only cars without sunroofs have long been cheap, base models, which this Sonata Hybrid Ultimate is not.

Along with the aforementioned comfortable front seats that included all the usual adjustments in this class, the cabin provided very impressive finishing. The dash top was mostly softish composite, except for the shroud overtop the instrument cluster and the very front portion of the dash under the windshield (some might call this the back portion), which alternatively gets a textured, soft-painted composite.

2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Ultimate
The driver’s seat is inherently comfortable, despite only offering two-way powered lumbar support.

Even better, to the left and right of the dash top’s sloping section, plus around the centre display, nicely stitched and padded leatherette added an element of luxury. There’s more of this highfalutin stuff elsewhere too, particularly on the door panels front and back, plus the just-noted soft-painted surfacing gets used for additional touchpoints as well. Lastly, some of the mainstream sector’s usual hard-shell plastic can be found in the interior’s lower regions, but it’s nicely textured and seems well put together, as does everything else in the cabin.

Rear seat legroom is excellent, while the backrests and lower cushions are very comfortable. A large, wide armrest folds down from centre, featuring the usual dual integrated cupholders, plus outboard rear passengers also get two-way heatable seats, with switchgear next to each power window controller on the door armrests. Lastly, a USB-A charging port can be found on the backside of the front centre console, just below a set of heat/air vents.

2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Ultimate
Rear seat spaciousness is very generous, while the outboard backrests and cushions, complete with heat, are very supportive.

The Sonata Hybrid’s trunk is identically sized to the regular Sonata’s cargo area too, this not having always been the case with hybrid models due to rear-bulkhead-mounted battery packs (the old Ford Fusion Hybrid’s battery was quite intrusive). It’s therefore quite spacious at 453 litres (16.0 cu ft), while the trunk’s usefulness can be expanded upon with the usual 60/40 split rear seatbacks.

At the time of publishing, Hyundai had yet to update its retail site with 2022 Sonata Hybrid information, which probably means 2021 models are still available. Either way, CarCostCanada had and still has 2022 and 2021 model year details, so suffice to say the 2022 is pretty well identical to its predecessor, other than the addition of new Shimmering Silver optional paint to go along with the same five upgraded hues that were also available last year. All six optional colours add $200 to the bottom line, whereas Hyper White is the only standard shade, and therefore the only way you can get a 2022 Sonata Hybrid for $40,649 (plus freight and fees), before negotiating a discount that is.

2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Ultimate
The Hybrid’s large trunk, which is identically sized to the gasoline-powered Sonata, gets the bonus of 60/40-split rear seatbacks for expanding load carrying capability.

When putting pen to paper, so to speak, Hyundai was offering up to $2,000 in additional incentives, although most CarCostCanada members were saving an average of $1,500, thanks to knowledge of these incentives as well as having dealer invoice pricing info on hand when negotiating. All said, the 2022 Sonata Hybrid is $450 pricier than the 2021, the latter still starting at $40,199. Both model years are only available in one Ultimate trim, which means there are no options other than just-noted colours.

So, if you’re looking for a luxuriously appointed mid-size sedan with an impressive balance of efficiency and performance, you should seriously consider Hyundai’s Sonata Hybrid. If you don’t mind being greeted by a menacing frown each morning, I can promise it’ll deliver plenty of smiles throughout the rest of each day.

by Trevor Hofmann

The Sonata has been with us for a long time, 31 years in fact. During those three-plus decades we’ve seen truly expressive designs offset by comparatively safe styling exercises, and it seems to have…

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate Road Test

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
Last year’s refresh transformed a rather bland Sonata into this very alluring mid-size four-door. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The Sonata has been with us for a long time, 31 years in fact. During those three-plus decades we’ve seen truly expressive designs offset by comparatively safe styling exercises, and it seems to have done better with the latter. 

Looking back, the 1998–2004 fourth and 2009–2014 sixth generations were especially daring, while the comparatively conservative 2004–2009 fifth-gen model was nevertheless so modestly attractive it sold well too. I tested all of the above and was impressed with each, plus I had the latter car in V6-powered top-line trim as a long-term tester for more than a year, experiencing zero problems and thoroughly enjoying its comfort and performance, as my weekly blog-style updates attested. It’s no wonder I’ve been a proponent of the car ever since. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The Sonata’s exterior design is more elegant than sporty, but Ultimate trim’s alloy wheels, blackened trim and rear diffuser give it an edgier look. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The current 2014–2019 seventh-generation Sonata is, of course, the best one yet, but up until a rather thorough 2018 mid-cycle refresh it was one of the least inspiring visually. Don’t get me wrong, the 2014–2017 version was still a reasonably attractive mid-size four-door family sedan, but calling its update a facelift doesn’t do the level of cosmetic reconstruction justice. 

The identical 2018 and 2019 Sonata models featured a completely modified grille that left the previous sharply edged six-sided design behind, replaced by a much more fluid shape that has helped move Hyundai away from the new Genesis luxury brand, the latter having kept much of the old grille design up until the new 2020 G90’s diamond-shaped look. The Sonata’s stylish new grille gets flanked by attractive headlights filled with ovoid projector beams (or as-tested LEDs) and LED daytime running lights, all of which hover over an eye-catching six-pack of vertical LED fog lights. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The Sonata’s big new grille previewed a new look designed to separate Hyundai from its premium Genesis brand. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The Sonata’s sportiest Ultimate trim (shown here in the photos) boasts cool dark chrome edging around an otherwise black gloss mesh grille insert, plus more darkened chrome on the lower fascia and the headlamp bezels, which uniquely flow rearward along the front fenders and the car’s entire shoulder line before curving up and around the rear quarter windows ahead of meeting up at the base of the A pillars. This signature detail was first used with the sixth-generation Sonata back in 2009, and will once again help make the upcoming 2020 model look special. That 2020 Sonata incorporates many of the design elements shown on this attractive 2019 model, but adds drama and size, while its rear styling is completely reworked. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
LED headlights come standard on Luxury and Ultimate trims. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Hyundai continues with the darkened chrome trim while adding its fair share of gloss-black accents to this Sonata Ultimate, its front fog lamp surrounds ideally matching the sporty diffuser-style rear bumper, all topped off by the panoramic sunroof’s deep, inky glass and the high-gloss black roof that combine into one all-black mass. I must admit, the 2018 refresh turned a rather boring Sonata into a superb looking mid-size family hauler. 

It needs to be good looking in order to survive, of course. It’s up against some very strong competitors such as the new Toyota Camry, a car that could even be called seductive in its edgiest XSE trim, not to mention the newest Honda Accord that antes up with its most premium-level design yet, plus the new Nissan Altima improves styling while providing standard all-wheel drive, as well as a whole host of other brands trying to lure in mid-size sedan buyers with performance models and/or economical hybrid/plug-in alternatives, while Hyundai’s sister-brand Kia and Germany’s Volkswagen are complementing their more traditional Optima (the Sonata’s platform-mate) and Passat offerings with sportier four-door coupe variants called Stinger and Arteon respectively, and despite all these interesting and impressive choices most new car consumers are looking to the crossover SUV segment for their next ride. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
This vertical six-pack of LED fog lamps looks brilliant, especially at night. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

How is this SUV enthusiasm affecting mid-size sedan sales? Of the 14 currently available in Canada, just four found more year-over-year buyers through the first nine months of 2019, and this Sonata wasn’t amongst them. The category-leading Camry’s 11,579 unit sales were up 4.18 percent since the third quarter of 2019 ended, but this market growth is hardly notable next to the third-place Ford Fusion’s 33.43-percent increase, but it only managed 7,280 total deliveries. The other two bright lights are actually nominal players when it comes to overall numbers, with Honda’s Clarity plug-in hybrid showing a 12.37-percent gain to 890 sales, and Buick’s Regal experiencing an amazing 48.71-percent uptick to 635 units down the road. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The top-line Ultimate’s wheels are only 18s, but nevertheless the car handles better than competitors with larger rims and rubber. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Ultimate losers include VW’s aforementioned Passat that’s decreased its year-over-year unit sales by 78.24 percent, resulting in only 570 sold, while Kia’s Optima didn’t do much better thanks to delivering just 1,363 examples for a 52.09-percent decline. Others, such as the Altima, fell 43.34 percent for a 2,568-unit downturn, and that’s despite its all-new design, while the Mazda6 plunged 42.76 percent to 1,130 units. Comparing some of these numbers shouldn’t leave Hyundai feeling too bad about its Sonata that only managed 3,346 deliveries for a 14.18-percent reversal, this actually leaving the car in fifth place behind the Camry, Accord, Fusion and Malibu, albeit still more popular than the Altima, Optima, Subaru Legacy, Stinger, Mazda6, Clarity, Regal, Passat, and Arteon. Some brands might’ve let out a collective sigh of relief upon Ford’s announcement that its Fusion would soon be discontinued without replacement, but the thought of why they’re ditching the segment altogether may be too sobering to provide any hope of market gains. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
These sharp looking LED taillights come standard across the Sonata line. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Everything said so far in mind, this road test review is more of an adieu to the outgoing 2019 Sonata ahead of the entirely new 2020 model arriving, which will allow some of us to pay tribute to the car that helped define Hyundai’s new design direction, while more serious folk decide whether or not they’ll take one home. I’ve got a great deal of good to say about this specific Sonata Ultimate, with the styling and sales portion of my review now moving inside, where this particular four-door gets an impressive cabin filled up with premium-like finishings and more standard features than you’ll likely find in the majority of rivals noted above. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The Sonata’s interior is starting to look a bit dated, especially when compared to the 2020 model about to replace it, but it’s well made and fully featured. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

No shortage of premium-quality, soft-touch synthetics can be found throughout the interior, joined by beautifully textured metallic inlays and brushed aluminized accents, not to mention glossy piano black detailing to match all the exterior trim mentioned earlier. A medium-grey cabin motif boasts stylish perforated leather seat upholstery in an identical medium-grey shade, with light-grey piping highlighting each bolster to match the same colour of contrast stitching found along those bolsters as well as the door panel inserts, shifter boot, and baseball-stitched, black leather-wrapped, flat-bottom sport steering wheel. 

The steering wheel looks sporty enough, and thanks to a thick padded rim, ergonomically shaped thumb spats, and an overall substantive weightiness makes its driver feel as if piloting a now classic Genesis Coupe than anything family oriented, not that you couldn’t stuff a fairly sizeable kid or two into the back of that four-seat liftback. The placement of the shift paddles is near perfect, truly enhancing the driving experience overall. It’s all combined with more than enough steering column rake and reach to, together with the eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat (with two-way powered lumbar), provide my long-legged and short-torso five-foot-eight body with complete comfortable and total control, unlike some in this class that don’t fit me in as ideally. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The Sonata’s cockpit is very well laid out, with everything in easy reach. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

This in mind, Toyota’s new Camry XSE was sharing commuting and errand duties with the Sonata Ultimate during the same week, which by looks alone seems to be the sportiest mid-size four-door on today’s market. It’s a big improvement over the outgoing Camry in every way, including steering column reach, but nevertheless it doesn’t fit my frame as well. Additionally, the Camry XSE’s steering wheel doesn’t look or feel as sporty, or allow as much control as this Sonata Ultimate. I’m not griping, because Toyota has done a very good job with the new Camry’s cabin, with finishing that’s more refined and an overall design that’s slightly more premium-like than this top-line Sonata, but when talking real performance, the Japanese brand’s mid-sizer couldn’t hold a candle to this Korean. What’s more, the steering wheel in the Sonata is heated from the mid-range trim upward, while the Camry doesn’t even make a heatable steering wheel available. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
A classic dual-dial gauge cluster features a simple yet clear multi-info display at centre. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

One of the most notable differences between the Camry XSE and Sonata Ultimate are the front seats. The latter model offers up two of the best sport seats in the mid-size sedan class, that aren’t only embossed with slick “Turbo” lettering on their backrests and finished with all the attractive upgrades noted earlier, but were designed with deep side bolstering that holds buttocks and backside firmly in place during aggressive manoeuvring. If you want to stay planted in the Camry’s driver’s seat while attempting the same lateral Gs you’ll need to hang onto something other than the steering wheel, as Toyota’s driver’s seat leaves you perched on top rather than within. The Camry’s seats weren’t very comfortable either, not even in the luxuriously appointed XLE model, but the Sonata Ultimate’s seats are fabulously supportive. The Sonata’s three-temperature front seat warmers heat up faster and more potently than the Camry’s too, plus Hyundai provides three-position front seat ventilation as well, this not available in any 2019 Camry (Toyota will add optional ventilated front seats for 2020). 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
A nicely shaped sport steering wheel and paddles help separate Sport and Ultimate trims from more luxury-oriented Sonata models. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The Sonata’s rear outboard seats offer two-way seat heaters too, in mid-range Preferred trim and above, plus their seatbacks are similarly carved for comfort and support, but not so much as to render the centre position unfit for a third passenger. My tester’s retractable side window sunshades, standard in Luxury and Ultimate trims, are also not available with the Camry, while the Sonata’s rear occupants benefit from a bevy of additional features such as LED overhead reading lights, dual air vents, a big folding centre armrest with integrated cupholders, large bottle holders in the door pockets, plus more. A panoramic sunroof, standard on Luxury and Ultimate trims, adds more light to the rear passenger compartment too, although even less equipped trims are hardly dark inside thanks to good side window visibility. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The Sonata lays its controls out in a more conventional centre stack than some of its rivals, but it all works well. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Rear seat roominess is a Sonata strongpoint too, thanks to a lot of knee space, ample legroom that allowed me to stretch my legs out almost completely while shod in winter boots, and about four to five inches from hips and shoulders to the door panels, while approximately three and a half inches remained over my head, so therefore taller passengers should fit in back without issue. 

The trunk is quite big at 462 litres (16.3 cubic feet), while you can open its lid by pressing a button on the dash or automatically by standing aft of the Sonata with the ignition off and proximity-sensing key in pocket. The trunk is nicely detailed out with carpeting all the way up each sidewall, including the inner lid, plus each side of the 60/40-split seatbacks fold down via pull-tabs. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The navigation system’s map is very detailed, thanks to a high-resolution touchscreen display. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

All of the items noted thus far came standard in my top-tier Ultimate tester, including its sporty looking 18-inch double-five-spoke alloys encircled by 235/45R18 Michelin all-season rubber (replacing 16- or 17-inch Kumho tires), the front two directed by a special rack-mounted motor-driven power steering (R-MDPS) system featuring a dual-pinion steering rack, while a trim-exclusive twin-scroll turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with dual continuously variable valve timing and two-stage variable induction produces 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque (this engine replaces the base 2.4-litre four-cylinder with 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque), and an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual mode and steering wheel-mounted shift paddles (instead of a six-speed automatic with no paddles on lesser trims) enhance performance. Additionally, Ultimate trim includes the upgraded leather sport seats mentioned before, and the eye-catching textured metallic inlays, the construction of which Hyundai refers to as the 3D Three-dimensional Overlay Method (T.O.M). 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The backup camera’s image is big and bright, plus includes dynamic guidelines to ease parking. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I decided to make a more detailed list of key features than usual because Hyundai’s value proposition has always been a good way to judge its cars against rivals, and when factoring in that the 2019 Sonata Ultimate retails for only $37,199 (plus destination and fees), it becomes hard to argue against. A similarly powered Camry with less features, incidentally, tops $41,000, about $4,000 or 10 percent more than this top-line Sonata, while its base price is also a couple of thousand higher. The base Sonata Essential starts at $24,899, while Hyundai has up to $2,000 in additional incentives available at the time of writing, according to CarCostCanada, where you can also find pricing details for almost every car sold in Canada, including trims, packages and individual features, as well as rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
Aluminized audio and HVAC controls add a quality look and feel. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Additional features pulled up to Ultimate trim from the $34,899 Luxury model include the previously noted LED headlights with adaptive cornering and automatic high beams, ventilated front seats, rear sunshades and powered panoramic sunroof, plus aluminum scuff plates, chrome inner door handles, an electromechanical parking brake, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a HomeLink garage door opener, a six-way powered front passenger seat, driver’s seat and side mirror memory, an 8.0-inch high-resolution centre touchscreen with navigation, great sounding 400-watt nine-speaker Infinity audio, always appreciated wireless charging, rear seat HVAC ducts, reverse park distance warning, driver attention warning, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, and lane departure warning with lane keeping assist. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
Three-way cooled front seats add to the Sonata Ultimate’s premium experience. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Items pulled up to Unlimited trim from the mid-range $28,799 Preferred model include the stitched pleather door inserts, heatable steering wheel, rear seat warmers, and proximity-sensing trunk release noted earlier, plus dual-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio (including the rooftop shark antenna), remote engine start, and BlueLink connectivity, while the second-rung $27,699 Essential Sport donates its sport grille, dark chrome and sportier exterior trim, sport suspension, LED taillights, front door handle welcome lighting, proximity keyless entry, sport-type Supervision instrument cluster with a 4.2-inch TFT LCD multi-function display (within the otherwise analogue primary gauge cluster), paddle shifters, eight-way powered driver’s seat, and aluminum pedals. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
Its two 12-volt chargers, aux plug and single USB port make the Sonata’s age obvious, but its wireless charging pad is one modern-day advantage we wouldn’t want to live without. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Finally, standard items pulled up to Ultimate trim from the base Essential model include auto on/off headlights, LED daytime running lights, power-adjustable heated side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, speed-sensitive variable intermittent wipers, heated front seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, Bluetooth with audio streaming, filtered air conditioning, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, the usual active and passive safety features, and much more. It really is a lot of car for thousands less than most competitors. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The Sonata Ultimate’s 8-speed automatic aids performance and efficiency. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Being that I’ve been comparing to the Sonata to Toyota’s Camry, the Japanese mid-sizer offers up a more advanced gauge cluster-mounted multi-information display, featuring a larger, more organically shaped screen that wraps around the outside of each analogue dial, plus it’s filled with more features. Nevertheless, the Sonata’s is bright, clear and not short on many functions. The Sonata’s centre stack comes across a bit more vertical and therefore more traditional than the Camry’s as well, but this has more to do with end of lifecycle issues than any lack of technical prowess at Hyundai (the 2020 Sonata’s 12.3-inch display will be a big step above the Camry’s, by the way, plus my upcoming Nexo and Palisade stories will provide even more proof of Hyundai’s infotainment leadership). The Sonata’s touchscreen sits high on the centre stack between two vents, and it’s a very clear, high-resolution display with excellent depth of colour and good graphics. It boasts a quick operating system too, and it’s generally easy to figure out, no matter the function. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
These are two of the best sport seats in the mid-size sedan class, and they’re comfortable too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The quality of Sonata switchgear is also excellent, especially those on the steering wheel and centre stack, the latter finished with a nice aluminized treatment on two tiers of interfaces. The top tier is for audio and infotainment systems, whereas the bottom one is for the HVAC system and its various functions, plus the heated/cooled seats and heatable steering wheel. Below this is a rubberized tray for your phone that doubles as a wireless charger, while additional connectivity can be found just above on a panel featuring two 12-volt chargers, a USB port and aux plug (expect more USBs and less of the others in the 2020 redesign). 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
No one in the back seat with feel claustrophobic thanks to this big panoramic sunroof. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Back to the thick paddle-infused flat-bottom steering wheel and well-bolstered driver’s seat, the Sonata Ultimate feels a lot sportier than the Camry XSE I tested, even without having a V6 under the hood. The top-line Camry is about a second and a half quicker off the line (the 6.0 seconds compared to 7.3, give or take a tenth or two), as long as you can stop the front wheels from spinning, but straight-line acceleration is hardly the only performance criterion, or for that matter the most important one in my books. The 2.0-litre turbo moved the Sonata off the line quickly enough, while its eight-speed auto shifted with much snappier increments than the Camry’s eight-speed, especially when its Drive Mode Select system was switched from Comfort, past Eco, into Sport mode, these adjusting steering, engine, and transmission responses. The free-revving top-line Sonata powertrain is a lot more fun when pushed hard, and its lighter weight over the front wheels results in easier, quicker turn-in with less understeer. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
Rear seat roominess is generous, and comfort good. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

This is probably why the Sonata Ultimate takes to corners more aggressively than the Camry XSE. Truly, Sonata Ultimate handling is a black and white differentiator, the Hyundai feeling crisp and reacting sharply, with the Toyota pushing its front end past the edge of its lane when driven at similar high speeds through the same stretch of tarmac, not to mention becoming much more unsettled at its back end. The one felt confidence inspiring and the other out of its league, and this was despite having one-inch larger 19-inch alloys on 235/40 all seasons on the Camry. Mix in driver’s seat superiority and it’s really no contest, the Sonata Ultimate so much more engaging we might as well be comparing a BMW 5 Series to a Lexus ES 350. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
You can’t get rear window sunshades on a Camry, helping set the Sonata apart. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The Sonata Ultimate also gets high marks for fuel economy thanks to a claimed rating of 10.4 L/100 km in the city, 7.4 on the highway and 9.1 combined compared to the Camry XSE’s 10.7 city, 7.4 highway and 9.2 combined rating, but to be fair I need to point out that Toyota’s use of an eight-speed automatic throughout the range helps its less potent four-cylinder models eke out as little as 8.1 city, 5.7 highway and 6.9 combined, compared to the Sonata 2.4’s best rating of 9.2, 6.8 and 8.1 respectively. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The 2020 Camry will finally offer rear seat warmers, but they’re available in the Sonata now. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

More negatives? It wanting to use the auto trunk opening function when the Sonata is already unlocked it won’t open, and being that there’s no button in back you’ll need to walk around to the driver’s door, open it, and push the button on the dash. The Camry provides a button on the trunk that works by proximity sensing whether the doors are unlocked or not. Another Camry bonus includes heated front seats that come on automatically upon startup, or not, depending on how you left them. You’ll need to set the Sonata’s heated seats each time you restart. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The Sonata’s trunk is large. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Plenty of other qualities help keep the Camry atop the mid-size sedan segment’s hierarchy, and I’ll cover these in an upcoming full-line road test review, while there are a number of other credible contenders in this class, as noted earlier, but you shouldn’t buy any of the Sonata’s competitors without spending time behind its wheel, especially if performance is high on your list of new car attributes.