2021 Hyundai Sonata SEL Plus new car reviews

Photography Courtesy Hyundai

Okay, so it’s not the performance-oriented N-Line, but that doesn’t mean the Hyundai Sonata SEL Plus that we drove isn’t worth your attention.

It may not be the quickest of the bunch, but the SEL Plus is a surprisingly well-equipped car for not a lot of coin–starting price for our tester comes in at $28,300.

So, can a car that’s satisfying to drive be just as much fun as a car that’s quick off the line? Read our impressions below.

Other staff views

J.G. Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

We’ve had more than a few Hyundais in the press fleet rotation lately, and I come away impressed each time I try one. The overwhelming sentiment I’m left with after each Hyundai experience is “value,” and in a time when the median new car price has reached the $40,000 mark, this Sonata SEL Plus at $32,000 seems like a LOT of car for the money.

In fact, the particular model we sampled, the SEL Plus with the $2700 Tech Package that gets you a panoramic sunroof, 10.5-inch DIC with Bose sound and Hyundai’s excellent Highway Drive Assist cruise control and lane maintenance system, stickered out at $32,174. That’s about $1000 shy of the top-of-the-line Sonata Limited, which includes all those features standard. So even within Hyundai’s own catalog, there are hidden value gems for the plucking.

For your $32,174, you get a car that’s not ashamed to be an appliance but doesn’t punish you for choosing value and practicality. The driving experience with the 191-horsepower, 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-four and eight-speed transmission is perfectly satisfying, especially since the transmission does such an excellent job at matching output to desire. Sure, the 290-horsepower N-line trim would be more exciting, but not everything has to be exciting to be satisfying.

Inside the Sonata, it’s comfortable without being overly plush or gaudy. The Sonata is the kind of car that would make a long road trip positively disappear, especially with Hyundai’s seamless Highway Drive Assist, which is one of my favorite deep-function cruise control packages. The lane assist function is tuned to never be intrusive—it merely has the effect of making the car feel extremely stable while underway. Likewise, the automatic cruise control never seems to intrude on the pace, unless someone in another lane does something remarkably stupid. The whole system has the effect of simply making driving seem easier, not like you’re competing with evil robot overlords for control of your own car.

Unlike some of the Sonata's competition, they seem to be available as well. Hyundai’s website shows more than 60 SEL Plus Sonatas on dealer lots within a 90-minute drive of our offices, although we had to search out a bit further to find one with a technology package.

But, yeah, Hyundai is really nailing it right now by building value-rich vehicles that are satisfying to drive and loaded with easy-to-use features, at prices at or below their competition. Not much more you could ask for from a “normal” car these days.

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