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.

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