Hyundai adds thrifty Sonata Eco that’s peppy, fun to drive

The new Sonata Eco has a starting price of $23,275.

WASHINGTON — The Sonata was redesigned for this year. I drove the limited model earlier and came away impressed by the features and build quality, but the base 2.4 liter, four-cylinder engine wasn’t the most powerful. A smaller 1.6 liter turbo doesn’t sound like the making of a powerful ride, but it really works well in the new Sonata Eco.

The new Sonata Eco has a starting price of $23,275, and my tester was fitted with the $4,100 Tech Package, adding a good amount of money, but also a lot of features. A NAV system with an 8-inch touch screen, heated leather seats up front, leather steering wheel and shift knob help class up the interior. There are some safety items for that price as well, including Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, plus a hands-free trunk entry to make loading a bit easier. Going Eco doesn’t mean you have to forego the items you want in a midsize car.

When you hear the word Eco in the name of a car, you expect to have good fuel economy and the Sonata Eco doesn’t disappoint. I drove 270 miles and managed 32 1/2 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving. The sticker says a mix should be 32 mpg and I could have done even better with a highway trip.

Another benefit of the Eco is a peppy little turbo engine good for 178 hp and nearly 200 foot-pounds of torque. It really moves the midsize sedan well. It has a seven-speed, dual clutch automatic, has quick shifts and sometimes feels like a manual when starting from a stop. I liked driving this one more than the Sonata Limited. It feels lighter on its feet and dare I say it’s fun for a midsize sedan. It’s also a solid midsize sedan that’s good to drive on short trips or longer trips and offers a very quiet cabin with no real wind or tire noise.

Inside the Sonata Eco, there is a good deal of space for people both up front and in the back. The materials are still high quality, and the dash is nice to the touch with a good amount of softer touch materials throughout the car. The gauges and dials are easy to read and buttons and screens are easy to use. The overall look is more upscale than what you expect from a vehicle under $30,000. There is even a large trunk and the rear seats fold so you can haul a good amount of cargo. Really cool: if you stand behind the car after a few seconds the trunk will pop open for you.

The exterior of the Sonata Eco doesn’t look much different from the other Sonatas, except its smaller wheels, a little spoiler on the trunk and lower front air dam underneath the bumper. It may not be as standout as the previous Sonata, but instead, it’s more grown-up and complete for 2015.

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco is a midsize sedan with the fuel economy of a smaller car. With a large upscale interior and a reasonable price, this is the gem for the Hyundai Sonata lineup. Even with a small turbo engine, it feels quick and agile. If I was looking at the Sonata (and it’s worth a look), I really think this Sonata Eco is the one that would be a good fit.

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