Midsize sedans aren’t getting the attention that they used to years ago, which is why Hyundai gave the 2018 Sonata a big refresh for the new model year. When we last tested the 2018 Hyundai Sonata Limited, we were impressed with the more stylish exterior and the spacious and comfortable interior. Well this time we decided to do a deeper dive with the 2018 Sonata Eco, which is positioned as an alternative to a hybrid with its 37 mpg highway rating.
The 2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco is positioned just above the base SE in the Sonata lineup. With a starting price at $22,650 it’s also only $600 more than the base Sonata and in our opinion, it’s definitely worth the upgrade. The Sonata Eco is powered by a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder with 178 horsepower and 195 lb-ft. of torque. The 1.6L generates a little less horsepower than the naturally-aspirated 2.4L with its 185 hp, but with only 178 lb-ft. of torque, the small turbo beats it.
The 1.6L is also mated to a more interesting seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that shifts faster than the base six-speed automatic. The Sonata Eco’s more efficient powertrain gives it a 28/37 mpg rating, which is slightly better than the 25/36 rating that you get with the base Sonata SE.
Beyond the different powertrain, pretty much everything else is the same between the Sonata SE and the Sonata Eco. The Sonata Eco comes standard with a 7-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, blind spot detection and a 3.5-inch digital screen in the gauge cluster. There aren’t any package options, so if you want to features like a navigation system, adaptive cruise control or even leather seats, you’re out of luck.
Around town the 2018 Sonata Eco is just as comfortable as the rest of the Sonata lineup. The 1.6L engine packs a surprising amount of grunt and the 7-speed dual clutch transmission shifts fast and always manages to select the right gear. Push the “sport” button and the Sonata Eco comes to life. The Sonata Eco is more fun than you’d expect from a budget minded midsize sedan and especially one that is geared more towards efficiency. Its available low end torque makes it more entertaining than the base Sonata, that it makes you wonder why anyone would choose the base engine instead.
It’s also a shame that Hyundai only offers the 1.6L engine in the Sonata Eco, since it would be nice if there were a few more luxury options available.
While the Sonata Eco’s powertrain does make the Sonata a bit more entertaining to drive, it’s suspension and steering are geared more towards comfort. The electric power steering is light and the suspension is a bit soft. Just like the rest of the Sonata lineup, the Sonata Eco is quiet and comfortable, but not nearly as engaging as the Mazda6 or Honda Accord.
Hyundai only expects a small percentage of Sonata buyers to buy the Sonata Eco, which is a shame. The 1.6L engine and 7-speed dual-clutch transmission are begging for more attention. The powertrain is efficient and quiet for your daily commute, but when you want to have a bit more fun, the powertrain is ready to come alive with the push of a button.