Exploring Southern California, and Doing Good, in the Refreshed Midsize 2018 Hyundai Sonata

2018 Hyundai Sonata.

Is it possible to get the most out of the twisty roads of southern California in a 4 door family car?

Yep. If you’re driving the 2018 Hyundai Sonata. Surprised? So was the audience of social media influencers and writers invited by Hyundai to southern California to see the refreshed midsize Sonata four-door sedan. Company execs had a story to tell—one that surprised the audience.

What the group didn’t know:

  • The Sonata is built in America, at the Hyundai plant in Montgomery, Alabama.
  • Eight Hyundai models are recommended by Consumer Reports.
  • Eight models have the highest crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  • Hyundai has sold 2.8 million Sonatas since the car was introduced in 1989.

Responsive handling, reliable technology and a smooth ride added to the surprise. As an added plus, the refreshed design meant we looked really good while we were driving those winding roads.

Cuddling Puppies From The Sunroof Of This 4 Door Family Car.

Cuddling puppies from the sunroof of this 4 door family car. Photo: Cindy Richards

Taking the Sonata Out to Do Some Good

We paired up and drove Sonatas through southern California, starting at the lovely Lodge at Torrey Pines, winding our way east through the foothills of the Laguna Mountains for lunch at the Julian Grille, then circling back to San Diego. Along the way, we did some good, delivering dog food and treats to the Helen Woodward Animal Center and toys for sick kids as part of the Hyundai Hope On Wheels program, which donates money in the fight against childhood cancer.

Doing Good On A Sonata Test Drive: Delivering Dog Food In Socal.

Doing good on a Sonata test drive: delivering dog food in SoCal. Photo: Cindy Richards

Hyundai is tops in quality. Who knew?

During the trip, we reveled in the twisty roads, expansive views and berry pie at Julian Grille (oh, that berry pie!) But the star of the show was the Sonata.

I admit it: Before driving the Sonata, I was among the 82 percent of our group (18 out of 22) who said we thought of Hyundai quality as middle of the road among automakers.

Turns out that’s not true. Hyundai sits at the front of the pack.

Hyundai says eight of its nine models are recommended by Consumer Reports—Sonata, Sonata HEV, Azera, Elantra, Veloster, Tucson, Sante Fe Sport and Santa Fe. In addition, seven of its 2017 models earned a 5-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the highest crash test rating awarded by the agency. Those models are the Sonata, Elantra, Tucson, Santa Fe Sport, Santa Fe, Veloster and Elantra GT. The 2018 Sonata already has garnered that same 5-star NHTSA safety rating.

In addition, all new Hyundai vehicles sold in the U.S. are covered by the Hyundai Assurance program. That includes a 5-year/60,000-mile fully-transferable new vehicle limited warranty, Hyundai’s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty and five years of complimentary Roadside Assistance.

Are you too hip for a four door car? Check out the Veloster turbo

The 2018 Hyundai Sonata Has New Tech, New Safety Features And An Updated Look That Makes It A Sexy Midsize Sedan. Really.

A New, Sexier Design Makes this 4 Door Family Car Look Like So Much More

Sexy is a word that is rarely used to describe a 4 door family car. At least not one that costs less than $25,000. But a few changes to the exterior of the Sonata moved this car from basically blah to subtly stunning.

Redesigned Rear View Of The 2018 Hyundai Sonata.

Redesigned rear view of the 2018 Hyundai Sonata. Photo: Cindy Richards

In this, the seventh iteration of the Sonata, designers added what they call a “cascading grille” to the front that gives the car an aggressive, powerful look. There’s also a fully redesigned rear with new taillights that make the car appear wider than it is. The redesigned trunk sports a more prominent Hyundai symbol that hides the trunk release button. (I predict many confused buyers will be googling “how to open Sonata trunk.”)

An hour behind the wheel zipping along Routes 69 and 78 on our way east to Julian showed us the Sonata is more than just a pretty face. This car, which starts at a truly affordable $22,050, was responsive, comfortable and fun to drive, thanks to an updated rear suspension and improved steering.

There'S Plenty Of Knee Room In The 2018 Hyundai Sonata.

There’s plenty of knee room in the 2018 Hyundai Sonata. Photo: Cindy Richards

Check Out Another Midsize Sedan, the Redesigned 2018 Toyota Camry

Sonata Has More Room Than You Might Expect

Inside, this midsize sedan has the most interior volume among midsize sedans, according to Brandon Ramirez, senior group manager for product planning at Hyundai. It definitely feels like a much bigger car. Even in the back seat, with the front seat ratcheted all the way back (as it would be if my husband was driving), I had room between my kneecaps and the front seat. The trunk, too, offers full-size cargo space and the 60/40 rear folding seats mean this midsize sedan can haul stuff like a trooper!

Higher end models offer some truly family-friendly features, such as a hands free smart trunk (just stand there for 3 seconds with the key in your purse or pocket and the trunk pops open!), rear vents, and integrated rear side window shades. I would have loved those features on road trips when my kids were roasting in their car seats in the hot sun.

Check out a Sportier Midsize Sedan, the Ford Fusion Titanium Hybrid

Seven-Inch Display On The 2018 Hyundai Sonata 4 Door Midsize Sedan.

Seven-inch display on the 2018 Hyundai Sonata 4 door midsize sedan. Photo: Cindy Richards

Technology Makes the Grade in the 2018 Hyundai Sonata

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration come standard across the lineup and the seven-inch in-dash screen makes it easy to use the system. The display mirrors your smartphone.

Hyundai’s optional Blue Link technology allows you to control your car from an app on your phone or via a virtual assistant device in your home. You can lock, unlock, start or stop your car as well as turn the lights on and honk the horn via the My Hyundai app or by talking to an Amazon Echo or Google Home device. The feature I liked most was being able to program the navigation and send the directions to the car. Everything is ready before you walk out the door.

The My Hyundai App Lets You Control The 4 Door Family Car From Anywhere.

The My Hyundai app lets you control the car from anywhere. Photo: Cindy Richards

The application requires a password tied to that car and works over the web. I’m pretty sure I unintentionally started the Sonata I drove on a Monday while playing with the app on a Tuesday.

Hyundai also added a much-needed USB port in the back seat. Unfortunately, they added only one. That means two kids in the back seat who need to plug in will be fighting over that precious port.

Why Safety Features are the No. 1 Reason to Buy a New Car

Safety Features Come Standard on Sonata

A rearview backup camera, blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert come standard on all Sonata models, along with a whopping seven airbags–dual front, side, and curtain airbags and a driver’s knee airbag.

The rear cross-traffic alert paired with the backup camera are key safety features. Despite drivers spending about 1 percent of the time driving in reverse, it accounts for 25 percent of all accidents. The rear cross-alert will warn drivers when it’s not safe to pull out of the driveway or parking spot because another vehicle is approaching.

The Midsize Sedan 2018 Hyundai Sonata Is A Pretty Sexy 4 Door Family Car.

The refreshed 2018 Hyundai Sonata is a pretty sexy 4 door family car. Photo: Cindy Richards

The Bottom Line on the 2018 Hyundai Sonata

This midsize sedan is fun to drive, comes with enough standard safety equipment and enough cool technology to make it a contender in the category. The refreshed 2018 Hyundai Sonata will be up against some stiff competition in the class. Both the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord have been redesigned for 2018.

But the roominess, design and family friendly price (from $22,050 to $32,450 for the Sonata Limited 2.0, which includes some fun extras like heated and cooled seats) make the Sonata a midsize sedan worth a test drive. If you can test it on some twisty California roads, all the better.

Disclosure: I was hosted by Hyundai in San Diego for the purposes of this story.

Cindy Richards is a Pulitzer Prize nominated journalist who serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the TravelingMom LLC companies, TravelingMom.com,... More about Cindy Richards