Sunday, April 25, 2021



About a decade after bringing a hybrid version of its popular Sonata sedan to mark, Hyundai introduced a performance-oriented model with the Sonata N Line. (For my takes on those, see the April and August files in the index to the right.)

But if your automotive budget doesn’t quite stretch as far as $33,300 Sonata N Line or $35,300 for the top of the line Sonata Hybrid Limited, here is some good news.

The non-N Line, non-hybrid Sonata offers a very attractive alternative for those shopping in the “affordable” midsize sedan segment.

The 2021 Hyundai Sonata comes in four trims starting with the base SE at $23,700. With a starting MSRP of $28,800, the SEL gets a little more in the way of standard equipment, and SEL Plus and Limited versions run take that on up $28,300 and $33,300, respectively (not including the destination and delivery charge.

Also offered in SE, SEL, and Limited trim, the 2021 Hyundai Sonata SEL Plus, which this review is based on, is stacked with just about everything you might desire in family vehicle without venturing into full-blown luxury class.

The SEL Plus comes with a 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine rated at 180 horsepower and 196 pound-feet of torque, giving it a slight advantage over the 2..5L 4-banger in the SE and SEL when it comes to torque get-away power.

All Sonatas all front-wheel drive and come with an 8-speed automatic transmission. They all also offer LED headlights with high-beam assist (which, frankly, I don’t care for) and LED taillights, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, and safety features like lane-keeping assist and forward collision avoidance with pedestrian and cyclist detection.

Gears are selected via a push-button panel on the console, and SEL Plus and up models also get steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Starting with the SEL trim, you get keyless entry and push-button start, Hyundai’s Blue Link connectivity service (think GM’s OnStar here), heated front seats, hands-free trunk opener, and blind spot warning with rear cross traffic alert and lane changing assist.

What features put the “plus” in the SEL Plus? Glad you asked. 
There’s the turbo engine, of course, and also standard are leatherette seats over cloth, a wireless charging device, leather-wrapped steering wheel (optional on the SEL, Hyundai’s Homelink system to allow you to connect with devices such as garage door or gate openers (also optional on the SEL), and 19-inch alloy wheels over  the SEL's 17s and SE's 16s.

A Tech Package that includes navigation on a 10.25-inch screen and Bose premium sound is an optional offered on the SEL Plus but not available on SEL models.

The SEL Plus also includes standard such features like rear vents, Hyundai Digital key (which allows you to operate your car via your Smartphone instead of a physical key) and Smartphone charging, all in a Convenience Package that costs as an option on SEL models.

Right there you have pretty much made up the difference in the higher MSRP for the SEL Plus over the SEL.

A Tech Package (panoramic sunroof, LED interior lights, Bose premium sound system with 12 speakers and a 12-inch woofer, navigation and highway drive assist) and floor mats the bottom line for my test vehicle to $32,174.

That does make for a rather complete package for the Sonata SEL Plus, however, one that you may find as much satisfaction in as you will the Sonata N Line or Sonata Hybrid.

The get-up-and-go in the Sonata SEL Plus doesn’t quite match that of the Sonata N Line, but the difference is not noticeable in every day driving. And when it comes to fuel economy, numbers for the SEL Plus are a very respectable 27 miles-per-gallon city, 37 highway, and 30 combined, not as good as the base Hybrid Blue model (50/54/52) or the 15/51/47 for the other trims offered on the Sonata but still very good.

Frankly, you can’t go wrong with any of the Sonata versions. They each have their points.

What I liked about the 2021 Hyundai Sonata SEL Plus: The exterior styling has the eye-catching look of a coupe and the interior is top-notch and roomy. Infotainment functions are plentiful and very user-friendly. The trunk is very spacious.(16 cubic feet).and pops open at the push of a button on the key fob or the dash.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Hyundai Sonata SEL Plus:  While audio functions are easy and intuitive to operate (like the rest of the tech features), I still would like a knob to spin through the radio dial. Nit-picking? Very much so, but that is the only thing that really annoys.

Would I buy the 2021 Hyundai Sonata SEL Plus? Yes. The SEL Plus is a nice combination of technological features in an an attractive package. By the time you add in options on the SEL model to match what the SEL Plus offers as standard, you are pretty much at the same price.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021



A hybrid drivetrain was not the only feature Kia added when it gave its Sorento midsize SUV a makeover for this year.

The 2021 Kia Sorento SX Prestige X-Line is designed for those looking for more off-road capability with a slightly higher ground clearance, improved approach/departure angles, and a more capable roof rack than outgoing Sorento models.

It also has more power. The 2.5-liter, turbo 4-cylinder is rated at 281 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque, a jump of 90 hp and 130 lb.ft. over the base Sorento LX model.

It is mated with an 8-speed dual clutch automatic transmission that comes with paddle shifters and an extra Snow mode to take advantage of the all-wheel drive configuration to go along with Comfort, Sport, Smart, and Eco.

Mileage figures of 21 miles-per-gallon city, 28 highway, and 24 combined are competitive for its class.

As befitting a model at the top of the top of the Sorento trim options, the Sorento SX Prestige X-Line offers a long list of features that are covered by the starting MSRP of $42,590, making adding expensive options unnecessary.

Those features included navigation with a 10.25-inch touchscreen display, rear view camera with dynamic guidelines, Bluetooth wireless technology, wireless charger and USB outlets in all three rows, one-touch slide-and-go second row captain’s chairs, dual-zone climate control, heated power front seats, keyless entry and push-button start, and Kia’s UVO suite of connected services.

A panoramic sunroof with a power sunshade, hands-free open and close rear lift gate, and LED projection headlights, tail lamps, and fog lights also are included. 

Lots of safety systems are included, though you, like I, may find the Highway Driving Assist features gives the steering a bit of an unsettling, odd feel. Other safety systems include blind-spot assist, forward collision prevention assist, rear cross-traffic assist, lane keeping and lane following assist.

There’s also an alert that lets you know when a vehicle ahead of you has begun to move after being stopped
an intersection in case you didn’t notice. I often have the same alert function just to my right when I am driving.

Special additions to the SX Prestige X-Line model replacing SX features include 20-inch alloy wheels, X-Line front and rear bumper fascias, matte trim accents, special X-Line roof rails, leather seat trim, Bose premium sound, a surround-view camera, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, heated steering wheel, parking collision assistance (reverse), and aluminum sport pedals.

The only extras on my test vehicle were an X-Line rush inhibitor package, carpeted floor mats, and carpeted cargo mat with rear seat protection. Those features ran the final bottom line to $44,285 including the $1,170 destination and delivery fee.

What I liked about the 2021 Kia Sorento SX Prestige X-Line:
The interior is very classy.. Seats are very comfortable and well-suited for road trips, and fuel efficiency is good for its class. The upgrade to the X-Line from the SX adds many features as standard. Infotainment features — and there are many of the included — are user-friendly. Adaptable cruise control makes highway cruising comfortable, and I like the cameras that display what’s in your blind spot when you activate your turn signal.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Kia Sorento SX Prestige X-Line:
Cargo space when the third-row seats are in place is extremely limited. Most of the 12.6 cubic feet capacity is vertical space as there is very little room to put items on the floor. If you need the third row for trips, you’re going to have to store baggage on the roof. Fortunately, upgraded roof rails are included in the X-Line ‘slist of standard features. Some of the driver assist features take some getting used to.

Would I buy the 2021 Kia Sorento SX Prestige X-Line? Yes. My son’s young daughters gave this one an enthusiastic endorsement. They hadn’t been in it five minutes climbing in the back, raising and lowering the seats, and checking out the panoramic sunroof when they told me, “You should keep this one!” Even if you don’t have small children (or grandchildren) the 2021 Kia Sorento SX Prestige X-Line is a good crossover SUV for empty-nesters as well. Storage with the back seats folded is a spacious 38.5 cubic feet.

Friday, April 2, 2021

2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line


After giving its longstanding midsize Sonata a makeover for the 2020 model year, Hyundai has upped the performance meter for the spiffy sedan with the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line.

N Line models come out of the South Korean automaker’s performance division with an added kick and extra design touches that give them a sportier appearance and power boost.

The 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line comes with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that ups horsepower and torque to  respectively, to 200 hp and 311 pound-feet over the 191/181 produced by the 4-banger in the base SE model and the 180/195 in the 1.5L turbo in SEL Plus and Limited Sonatas.

The N Line comes with an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters for manual gear selection, which as far as I concerned gives it a distinct advantage over the continuously variable transmissions found on some competitors.

The N Line also offers the option of four drive modes, including a Custom setting that allows you to vary the gear ratios and steering settings and turn off the Electronic Stability Control to your preference.

Normal, Sport, and Sport-Plus are the other modes.

It might be nice if the Sonata N Line was rear-wheel drive, but, as with other Sonatas, the power goes to the front wheels.

Fuel mileage for the Sonata N Line isn’t all that far off from that of the other Sonatas. EPA figures are 23 miles-per-gallon city, 33 highway, and 27 combined for the Sonata N Line and 28/38/32 for the base Sonata SE.

All Sonatas have the same length (192.9 inches), wheelbase (111.8 inches) and passenger space (46.1 and 34.8 inches of legroom front and rear) and trunk capacity (16.0 cubic feet), but N Line models have a little more heft (3,552-pound curb weight to 3,120 for SE trim) and ride on standard 19-inch wheels to the 16-, 17-, and 18-inchers on other trims.

The 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line comes with a long list of standard appearance, comfort and convenience features to make adding numerous option packages unnecessary.

They include a panoramic sunroof, Smart cruise control with Stop-and-Go function (which can be turned off), LED headlights, rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, a unique front and rear fascia with twin exhaust outlets, keyless entry and push-button start, dual automatic temperature control, hands-free trunk release, unique N leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bose premium audio, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a 10.25-inch display featuring navigation and operation of other infotainment features.

Safety systems include blind  spot and collision avoidance assist, rear cross traffic alert, lane follow and lane keeping assist, the usual assortment of air bags, and a “safe exit” warning.

The MSRP of $34,305 (including destination and delivery) covers all that. Summer tires and carpeted floor mats ran the bottom line on my Sonata N Line for the week to $34,674, which, sad to say, is becoming an “affordable” cost these days.

What I liked about the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line: It comes with a lot of standard technology and pretty much all of it is user-friendly with one tiny exception (see below). It is not overpowering, but it is fun to drive. The cabin is pretty roomy, and
the seats are comfortable. Mileage is still pretty good for what you get in way of performance.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line: I don’t know why Hyundai saw fit to do away with a knob to use to spin through the radio dial. It’s much easier to control than pushing the seek or scan button on the touchscreen.

Would I buy the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line? Yes. If you are thinking “outside the box” in considering a sedan, the Sonata N Line has to be on your list, preferably at the top. The redesign gave it a classy look, and the N Line ups the fun-to-drive quotient without sacrificing much in fuel efficiency.