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So long, Sonata: We admire 2014 Hyundai Sonata’s sheet metal

Sections: Chassis

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The sheet metal of the 2014 Hyundai Sonata draws some design critics, but it sure seems to sell a ton of Sonatas for Hyundai. (Lyndon Johnson photo)

There’s been plenty of press about the Hyundai Sonata getting a fresh redesign for 2015. That faced us with a bit of a conundrum recently when we were handed the keys to a 2014 Hyundai Sonata for a week-long test. How do you write about this car and keep folks interested in it when they already know the sexy new design is coming soon to their nearest Hyundai dealer?

Well, to start, the 2014 Hyundai Sonata wasn’t bad to look at by any stretch of the imagination.

I’ve heard some criticize this generation of the Hyundai Sonata for its sharp, swoopy creases and cascading grille, saying the design elements will look dated quickly. Perhaps that’s true. Perhaps it’s also worth considering how designs that initially dated quickly seem to be having their day again. If you don’t believe me, check out a few recent auction prices on second- and third-generation Pontiac Firebird Trans Ams. Or consider the revered status some tuner circles now grant to plunky, square-bodied Japanese sedans of the same late ’70s-early ’80s time period.

The point is this: Style’s a moving target.

It’s particularly telling that the range-topping GM full-size sedans — in particular, the Chevrolet Impala and Buick LaCrosse — have recently taken on stronger character lines on the body sides and hood after the Hyundai Sonata has been rocking very similar lines for the past few model years. Perhaps the General saw how well the Sonata has done in sales the last several years. The Hyundai Sonata sold 203,648 copies in calendar year 2013, and it moved an even stronger 230,605 examples in the prior calendar year.

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The interior of the 2014 Hyundai Sonata Limited we tested featured black-on-tan interior that was black in all the right places to avoid looking dirty. It was a comfortable, solidly constructed place to be that also happened to be full of thoughtful design touches like that color selection. (Lyndon Johnson photo)

Inside, the 2014 Hyundai Sonata we tested featured Limited trim, which included leather seats and a ton of technology touches. The two-tone black and tan treatment was black in all the right places to avoid showing dirt — which is both a styling and a cosmetic consideration I admire because the newspaper ink in which I practically swim at my day job tends to get noticed on light-colored steering wheels and door pulls. That being said, while the 2014 Hyundai Sonata’s interior was all very stylish to look at, I didn’t feel styling compromised its comfort or functionality. A common complaint I have with many GM products is how twin-binnacle instrument clusters often feature swoopy plexiglass over the gauges that makes them hard to read in sunlight, for example. No such problems in the 2014 Hyundai Sonata, whose gauge fonts were even nicer to the eyes than is typical in many American cars today.

Where Hyundai designers really deserve credit, however, is in making a car that looks good and feels good. By that I mean everything felt solid. Doors closed precisely. Controls moved with neither too much nor too little resistance. Buttons felt good to push. Interior storage compartments had doors that opened and closed softly, yet latched tightly. Overall, a job well done by the fit-and-finish team who oversaw the building of the 2014 Hyundai Sonata.

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata will probably have the same level of refinement built into its design. I can’t see Hyundai forsaking the solid door-closing sound in the name of, say, fuel economy or cost control. However, based on my experience with the 2014, I can confidently say if the 2014′s interior and exterior style does it for you, now might be the time to shop for deals on the last of its generation, the 2014 Hyundai Sonata.

Disclosure: Hyundai provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.

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