Which to buy: 2015 Mazda6 Touring or Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T
Earlier this year Torque News tested a $25,310 Mazda6 Touring with a stick shift. This week we are testing the $29,510 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T. Both of these cars want buyers to see them as a sporty version of the 4-door mid-sized family car. The Camry, Chrysler 200 and Accord are available as V6 versions of these cars, but at about a 10% premium in price. After driving the Camry XSE V6 and both the Mazda6 and Hyundai Sonata 2.0T, it is clear that the Camry is a step above these two. However, comparing the Mazda6, and Hyundai Sonata is more than fair.
Driving the 2015 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T
My Hyundai Sonata 2.0T came with power adjustable heated leather seats, 18” alloy wheels, and the usual amenities. It also had the optional 245 hp 4-cylinder turbocharged engine and a 6-speed automatic. In addition to its “Sport-tuned” suspension, the car has a sport mode. After only a few miles, it became clear that this car is something special. Hyundai has nailed the sweet spot with this particular setup. The steering, suspension, and the drivetrain indeed do provide a sporty driving experience. What I love about the setup is that it is all you need and not an ounce more.
Around town, this Sonata Sport 2.0T has all the engine you can really use and not be ticketed. It is a great example of how a good 2.0-liter turbo can work. Lag is minimal. Far less than any Volkswagen, BMW, or Audi turbo I have driven. The automatic transmission is a great pair with the engine. You almost never wish for more power. In fact, if you try to push this car after about 7/10ths of its capability it all starts to unravel. This is NOT a sports sedan. The engine pulls the wheel with torque steer if you try to use all 245 ponies. The suspension gets a little un-nerved after you go beyond “spirited” driving. And I love this car for this. I do not need or want more than this in an everyday car. Whenever I am in a true sports sedan like a Lexus IS350, I feel constrained by the world. I want everyone to get the heck out of my way and let me fly. As soon as they do I either see blue lights, or I have to dial back my passion for driving. The Sonata 2.0T gives you exactly the right amount of performance in a great feeling package.
Driving the 2015 Mazda6 Touring
Although my week long test was in a stick shift Mazda6, I have driven the automatic as well. I prefer the Auto for a car with this mission. Option up your Mazda6 with the same leather and automatic as the Sonata and the price is very close if not the same for all practical purposes. The Mazda6 has a 4-cylinder normally aspirated (non-turbo) engine, but it is a gem. It has 184 hp, which is class average, but it is smooth, silent and just oozes quality. In a stoplight race, the Hyundai would pull this car. Do you really care? If you do, buy the least expensive Chrysler 200S V6 you can find and beat both of these like a boss. The Mazda6 dances around town. It handles so well you forget that it is front-drive unless you do something unusual. The Hyundai feels front drive.
Practical Considerations Mazda6 Vs Hyundai Sonata
The Hyundai Sonata is bigger than the Mazda6. The seating area and interior feels a class size larger, almost like a Toyota Avalon. It is big and airy, and the back seat is so large it almost seems wasteful. If you have tall teens or transport adults (perhaps clients) in the backseat, stop right here. The Sonata is your choice. The Mazda6 is plenty big enough for kids in back and four adults going out to dinner. Both have huge trunks.
The Hyundai Sonata makes me cheer because even though it is a turbo it uses regular unleaded. Hyundai deserves a high-five for this. However, it uses more gas than the Mazda6. A lot more. In similar driving, I got about 26 MPG in the Hyundai and about 32 MPG in the Mazda. If fuel economy is your main priority, the Mazda6 is your better buy. The EPA confirms my findings rating the Sonata at 26 MPG combined and the Mazda6 at 29 MPG combined.
I am pleased to report that both of these vehicles have the highest possible IIHS safety rating, the Top Safety Pick. Each also earns the higher “+” rating if you buy the optional forward crash prevention. I strongly recommend you do, but it may not be available from dealer stock. Both have identical crash ratings and did acceptable on the tough small frontal overlap test.
Both of these cars are a joy to drive as long as you drive like an adult. You can have fun, but these are not supposed to be rear-drive sports sedans. On the upside, they are not priced as such. If you drive in a spirited, but mature way, these cars shine. You feel like a hero, and also smart, for not having bought more car than you can practically use. If space and acceleration are your two top priorities the Hyundai beckons. If fuel economy and handling are your two main goals, look no further than the Mazda6. Whichever way you go you will be driving a car that brings a lot of satisfaction for very few dollars.
Photo by John Goreham