8.14.2016

What's A "Sport" Button Doing In A Hyundai? The 2016 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T
The 2016 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T.
Show me a squiggly line on a road map and I just naturally want to drive it.  Mrs.TireKicker and I were in the last three days of our ten-day honeymoon drive up California's Highway 1 from Morro Bay to Gualala.  As noted in our review of the 2016 Mazda 3 S Five-Door Grand Touring, we'd begun our trip in that car...but we traded in Monterey two days earlier for the 2016 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T (our thanks to the fine folks at DriveShop for their flexibility in pickup and dropoff locations).

The trade netted us considerably more room for people and cargo (the Sonata's trunk easily accommodated what we had to fold down the rear seats in the Mazda 3 to hold), and without a horrendous penalty in fuel economy (an EPA estimated 23 city/32 highway compared to the Mazda 3's 26/35...and ultimately both wound up getting 29.5).  But the biggest squiggly line of the trip lay ahead.



Satellite view of Jenner Grade, CA Highway 1
Jenner Grade, CA Highway 1 (source: Google Maps satellite view)
That is Jenner Grade, five miles north of the town of Jenner.  From the ground it looks like this:

Jenner Grade, CA Highway 1.
What the terrestrial photo shows you that the satellite shot doesn't is that it's not just squiggles, it's drastic changes in elevation.  It's also two lanes with limited opportunities to pass slower vehicles and a notable lack of guardrails along sheer cliffs, so if a driver doesn't do everything exactly right, certain death ensues.  Having the right gear all the time is a major plus.  In the Mazda, that would have been as simple as leaving the six-speed manual in a certain gear (likely second or third).

Rear 3/4 view of 2016 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0 T
2016 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0 T.
But the 245-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder in the Hyundai Sonata Sport is mated to a six-speed automatic.  A great combination for most driving.  Certainly more than adequate power...but how to keep from the gearbox hunting around for the sweet spot during the second-by-second changes of Jenner Grade?

One button.  It's marked "Drive Mode".  Press it and you have three choices..."Normal", which is what the transmission usually does, "ECO", which gets you into higher gears faster in the interests of even greater fuel economy, and "Sport".  Those of you of a certain age may be chuckling at the existence of a button in a Hyundai that makes a light reading "Sport" come on, but things have changed.  There is some significant enthusiastic driving ability in the Sonata Sport Turbo, and the "Sport" setting, which holds a gear longer, is the perfect solution on roads where varying speeds caused by curves and other terrain would have a typical automatic frequently putting you in the wrong gear. It worked like a charm and greatly reduced what, even to this squiggle-loving TireKicker, can be a stressful stretch of a truly great road.

Interior view of 2016 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T
2016 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T interior.
$28,825 is the altogether reasonable base price for the 2016 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T, which for that price comes with blind spot detection, tire pressure monitoring, sport-tuned suspension and steering, the aforementioned drive mode select, 18-inch alloy wheels, HID headlights and LED taillights, a rear diffuser with quad exhaust tips, chrome exterior door handles with welcome lights, a hands-free smart trunk opener, keyless entry and pushbutton start, sport leather seating sufaces with heated front seats, a power driver seat with lumbar support, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, dual-automatic temperature control, floor-mounted rear vents, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and HomeLink, aluminum pedals and premium door sill plates, a seven-inch color touchscreen auio system, with Android Auto (again, if it works as well as Apple CarPlay, you'll love it), AM/FM/HD Radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio and Bluetooth streaming.

Again, all standard.  The only extra cost option on our tester was carpeted floor mats ($125).  With inland freight and handling, the bottom line stayed just this side of $30,000 at $29,885. And you get Hyundai's legendary 10 year/100,000 mile warranty.

One week and 750 miles made me a big believer in Hyundai's ever-increasing competitiveness in classes of cars even the most optimistic of us would have doubted five years ago.  The 2016 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T is a sport sedan for Everyman.

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