MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, a $1.7 billion automotive assembly plant sprawling along Hyundai Boulevard in the southern fringe of Montgomery, Ala., is currently producing a new fuel-sipping model of the redesigned 4-door and 5-seat front-wheel-drive mid-size Sonata sedan badged as the 2015 Sonata Eco.
The Eco version of Sonata carries a new 1.6-liter turbo-boosted in-line-4 Gamma engine which musters 177 hp at 5500 rpm and torque of 195 lb-ft between 1500-4500 rpm while running with regular unleaded (87 Octane) fuel. It links to Hyundai's innovative new 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with electronically actuated gear changing.
Hyundai's own fuel-burn tests with Sonata Eco indicate the new powertrain will generate fuel economy scores of 28 mpg city and 38 mpg highway, or 32 mpg combined.
Price points for the new Sonata Eco also seem thrifty. Eco's MSRP tallies to $22,275, and the only option is a Technology Package listing for $4,100.
Hyundai forges a new generational design for the 2015 Sonata. All editions (Sonata 2.4, Sonata 2.0T and Sonata Eco) feature slick new exterior styling over a unibody package that grows in size compared to previous models.
The structural expansion -- adding 1.3 inches of length and 1.2 inches of width -- creates more volume for Sonata's passenger compartment, now encompassing 106.1 cubic feet for riders plus a trunk for cargo with 16.3 cubic feet.
Headroom amounts to 40.4 inches up front and 38.0 inches in back, with front-seat legroom stretching to 45.5 inches and 35.6 inches in the rear.
Hyundai labels the design language for the seventh-generation 2015 Sonata as Fluidic Sculpture 2.0.
It represents an evolution of the 2011 Sonata's organic fluid styling as inspired by nature to produce the illusion of motion from curvy shapes of rigid surfaces.
Sonata's new look seems sharper with crisp lines and less chrome, although the new models retain a bright strip of chrome drawn from front headlamps and extending over front fenders to rear C-pillars, then ringing side windows. The prow sports narrow headlamp clusters with LED running lights flanking a trapezoidal grille with chrome fins and a wide air intake set low with corner LED foglamps.
The blunted rump looks clean with taillight assemblies wrapping around corners and a body-colored bumper swooping low with exhaust pipe tucked beneath.
Sonata Eco employs a MacPherson strut-type front suspension with gas-charged Mando Dual Flow Damper (DFD) shock absorbers and 23-mm stabilizer bar plus an independent multi-link design in the rear using coil springs and Mando DFD shocks with 17-mm stabilizer bar.
Steering, firm and precise due to a rack and pinion arrangement with Motor-Driven Power Steering (MDPS) assist, brings engine-RPM-sensing and seems comparable to a pricy Euro touring sedan.
Hyundai packs the 2015 Sonata Eco with a long list of safety gear. Passive safety systems include frontal air bags and seat-mounted side-impact air bags front and rear plus curtain-style air bags above outboard seats on two rows, even a driver's knee air bag.
For active safety, the Eco edition sets a disc brake at every wheel with electronic linkage to a 4-channel anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and traction control system (TCS). Also, a vehicle stability management (VSM) device directs the electronic stability control (ESC) and MDPS.
Standard equipment includes side mirror-mounted turn signal indicators, automatic headlights, cloth seat upholstery and 10-way power driver seat with lumbar support, rear seatback split 60/40, chrome interior door handles, a 5-inch color touchscreen audio, rearview backup camera and Blue Link telematics system.
The optional Technology Package brings a proximity key entry with push-button start, Blind Spot Detection System (BSD) with Rear-cross Traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist, Hands-free Smart Trunk Auto Open, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, heated front seats, dual automatic climate controls, auto-dimming mirror with HomeLink and compass, 4.2-inch color LCD Multi-Info Display, 8-inch navigation system with voice command technology and a Dimension premium audio kit.
2015 Hyundai Sonata
Mid-size car sedan
MPG: 28 city/38 highway
Horsepower: 185 horsepower to 245 horsepower
2015 Hyundai Sonata SE
2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport
2015 Hyundai Sonata ECO
2015 Hyundai Sonata Limited
2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T