Performance

There's a lot to like about the turbo drivetrain, with its 274 horsepower and six-speed automatic transmission, but before I talk about power I should say that the Sonata 2.0T really shines because of its impressive handling. If there's one drawback to the base Sonata, it’s that car's light steering, excessive body lean in corners and floaty ride. While that makes for a comfortable car, it also means the Sonata doesn't offer a sporty experience behind the wheel. There is an SE model with the base four-cylinder that's supposed to be more of a driver’s car, but it pales in comparison to the 2.0T.

Turning the steering wheel of the 2.0T for the first time, I knew it was a different car. It was heavier, more like a Honda than a Hyundai, and at speed it delivered accurate inputs. The 2.0T carved through twisty mountain roads as well as any of the V-6 competition I've driven over the years, without much of a hit to ride quality. In fact, the firmer ride of the Sonata 2.0T was immensely comfortable on most road surfaces, and certainly better than the Accord's and Mazda6's V-6 trims, by a wide margin.

Not many manufacturers outside the luxury realm offer turbocharged engines, but because of fuel economy regulations requiring higher mpg ratings, turbos are finding their way into economy cars and, in Hyundai's case, midsize sedans.

Hyundai is using the turbocharger to emulate the experience of a V-6, so the power comes on at a steadier rate. There is some turbo boost that kicks in, though, especially when accelerating hard and using the manual function and shift paddles to change gears.

One of my few nitpicks with this new Sonata is the paddle shifters themselves. They deliver accurate shifts, but the plastic feels cheap and hollow. They don't return a solid click when depressed, either. It's an oversight that should be addressed in the future.

Will driving enthusiasts opt for the turbo because of its higher horsepower figures? Probably not. But its handling will sway the folks who dismissed the base Sonata for being too sedate. I still prefer the excellent V-6 engines offered by Honda, Mazda and even the Subaru Legacy over the Sonata, but it’s by a slim margin.

Shoppers may be swayed more by the impressive fuel economy numbers tacked on to the solid driving experience. At 22/33 mpg city/highway, it bests its V-6 competition by 3 to 7 highway mpg, and Hyundai's numbers came on regular unleaded gas unlike some other turbo powerplants.

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