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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

First Drive: 2015 Hyundai Sonata in Sweet Home Alabama

Image: Jason Sasaki
The awesome team at Hyundai invited me to Montgomery, Alabama for the launch of the 2015 Hyundai Sonata. This would be my first visit to Alabama and my first visit to an auto plant. Not only did we get an amazing tour of the plant and get to see the car being built, but we also got to drive the car right off the production line!
Image: Jason Sasaki
The tour was very much a Disneyland-style experience and I highly recommend it if you get a chance to visit! You board a multi-vehicle tram and are provided safety goggles and a wireless set of headphones. You won't be allowed to take photographs though they made an exception for us covering the media event.

This massive factory works 24-hours a day with three 8 hour shifts. They make over 1000 cars a day. While they could make more cars a day they choose quality over quantity. This plant is shooting for a 97% FTT (First Time Through) Ratio. This means that 97% of the vehicles made here pass every major test the first time through. Once again quality over quantity. The workers here are happy and waved to us as we passed by. Happy workers mean better quality of work and you can see the pride they take in their job.
Image: Jason Sasaki
I could sit and watch the robot arms do their thing all day long! It's easy to see why someone took a look at these robotic arms and envisioned a ride vehicle on the other end of it. Take a look at the ride system for Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey at Islands of Adventure.
Image: Jason Sasaki
Other wire guided robots deliver items to workers on a timely basis. This reminded me of the wire guided vehicle system at the Tower of Terror at Walt Disney World. The vehicles move on the same system. So cool to see the practical uses of these systems.
Image: Jason Sasaki
And here is the finished product! The sleek 2015 Hyundai Sonata!  My driving partner and blogger Erick from The Korean Car Blog drove this Urban Sunset painted Sport 2.0T Sedan, the sportiest of all the Sonata models right off the production line!
Image: Jason Sasaki
Here I am actually getting ready to drive off the production line! This is by far one of the coolest experiences ever!
Image: Jason Sasaki
We hit the open road and got to see what Alabama is all about. We discovered smooth winding roads and so many fantastic places begging to take photos of with the Sonata of course! While we had the sportiest model, we also had the base SE model that comes in cheaper than last year's model.
Image: Jason Sasaki
The Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design compliments the Genesis that I drove back in April. The sports model here has a more aggressive front grill and bumper than the sedan version. There is also side chrome molding and side rocker extensions.
Image: Jason Sasaki
Check out the dual exhaust outlets! This car is ready to tear up the road! The 2.0-liter Theta II turbocharged GDI four-cylinder engine is fitted to the Sport 2.0T models. It gets 23 MPG in the city, 32 on the highway and 26 combined. The ride is smooth and solid. Acceleration is smooth and we had no issues trying to pick up speed through traffic or over the inclines. Braking is fantastic and the vehicle stops in a surprisingly short amount of distance. Cornering is solid and is limited to tire grip.
Image: Jason Sasaki
The interior took it's cue from the Genesis as well. The flat dashboard creates a wonderful sense of openness. While there is no color infotainment screen on the base Sonata, a five-inch color touchscreen is on the model above it and a larger eight-inch color display is available as an option. Plus, there is a 400-watt Infinity premium audio system.

All models do come with iPod/USB/AUX inputs, SiriusXM satellite radio and Bluetooth. The Sonata will also feature Apple CarPlay and Android connectivity down the road. Addition standard equipment includes remote keyless entry and premium cloth upholstery. Optional equipment includes leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof (one of my favorites), heated rear seats, Xenon headlights, and a hands-free Smart Trunk that we saw on the Genesis.
Image: Jason Sasaki
The Sonata also comes well equipped with a ton of great safety features. There is a rearview camera, seven standard airbags, available Forward Collision Warning, Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning System and a Smart Cruise Control. All of these safety features will keep you and your loved ones safe.
Image: Erick Uceda
Here I am showing a new friend the awesome 2015 Hyundai Sonata! Southern Hospitality is an amazing thing! We stopped to ask the owner if we could take a photo with the horse and it ended up being a whole tour of his carriage barn as well.

At the end of the drive, I was all smiles. Alabama showed her beauty in terms of the scenery and it's people. I could not find any negative issue that would stop me from highly recommending this vehicle to friends and family. The 2015 Hyundai Sonata uses it's big brother the Genesis as it's role model and creates a safe, fuel efficient, upscale offering at an affordable price.

The base SE model comes in at $21,960 and the Sport 2.0T Sedan I drove had a base price of $29,385.

*Disclaimer: Hyundai covered all of my expenses in this drive experience but all opinions are mine.*

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