The Frugal Sonata: 2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco
2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco.
Much like the Phoenix Bureau and its recent test of three 2015 Toyota Camrys, we here at TireKicker World Headquarters in Sacramento have had a trio of 2015 Hyundai Sonatas in the last few weeks.  We've already covered the luxurious Limited and the more performance-oriented Sport 2.0T, which charmed its way onto a spot on the list of TireKicker's Best Cars (see right-hand column of this page). Now comes a completely different flavor, the Sonata Eco.

Rear 3/4 view of 2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco
2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco.
The Eco is designed to maximize fuel economy. It uses a 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine with 178 horsepower combined with a seven-speed EcoShift dual clutch automatic transmission. That pairing results in some significant EPA numbers....28 city/38 highway.  That's right, the purely gas-powered Sonata Eco equals the Toyota Camry Hybrid's highway EPA estimate.  It lags the Camry Hybrid's city number by 12 mpg, which is significant (a stop-start feature would help, but not enough to close that gap), but that highway number is a great indicator of what you can get without going hybrid.

The Sonata Eco's base price is also $2,500 and change less than the lowest trim level of Camry Hybrid, which could offset the lower city fuel economy for a couple of years' worth of operation.  At a base price of $23,275, the Eco is nicely equipped: 16-inch alloy wheels, rear lip spoiler, projector headlights with automatic light control, heated side mirrors with built-in turn indicators, driver blind spot mirror, solar control window glass, power windows and locks, premium cloth seat trim, a power driver's seat with lumbar support, tilt and telescoping steering wheel with controls for cruise, audio and phone, air conditioning with a cabin air filter, a 5-inch color touchscreen audio display, an AM/FM/CD/mp3 audio system with iPod and USB connections and Bluetooth, an advanced trip computer and Hyundai's BlueLink telematics,

All that for $23,275.  You could stop there, but Hyundai's press fleet folks didn't.

Interior view of 2015 Hyundai Sonata
2015 Hyundai Sonata interior.
Ours added the Technology Package (blind spot detection, hands-free smart trunk opener, proximity key and pushbutton start, chrome exterior door handles with welcome light, leather seating surfaces, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, leatherette interior door panel inserts, dual automatic temperature control, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and HomeLink, electroluminescent gauges with a 4.2-inch color LCD display, a navigation system with an 8-inch color touchscreen , HD Radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio and Dimension speakers with a subwoofer and amplifier) for $4,100 and carpeted floor mats for $125.  With $810 inland freight and handling, the bottom line was $28,310.

You could debate whether you need the $4,100 Technology Package.  It does keep the frugal Sonata from seeming penurious, and it still keeps the tab on this side of $30,000...which is hard to do with any hybrid, especially at that level of equipment.  We'd probably say yes, if it was our own money.

The only downside we can think of:  In the name of weight savings and the edge in fuel economy it gives, the spare tire doesn't exist.  Hyundai includes a tire repair kit, but there are instances where that's going to be inadequate and if it happens, you'll be on the side of the road waiting for assistance for however long it takes. But that's really it. I loved our week in the Sonata Eco, actually forgetting what it's mission in life is...driving it without babying it...and seeing a mighty fine 31 miles per gallon on the trip computer at the end of a week of urban street and freeway driving.