While crossovers are all the rage right now, a lot of people still buy midsized sedans like the Toyota Camry and Hyundai Sonata and hold on to them for hundreds of thousands of miles and several years. With some exciting new updates to these established players in this segment, it’s only natural to compare them.
To best experience these newly updated cars, we have the fully loaded models equipped with upgraded and more powerful engines. The Camry packs a V6 powertrain while the Sonata has a turbocharged four-cylinder. The contrasts go much further, as one car looks wildly overstyled while the other is much more conservative. And finally, one car packs a few impressive features while the other seems to focus on creature comforts.
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Like it or Leave it Looks
The new Camry, which is totally new, stands out much more and the overhauled styling is probably the first thing you’ll notice about the 2018 model. It’s easy to say that Toyota went overboard with the design, but I see a lot of Lexus in the bodywork with the big grille and aggressive lines. Maybe the grille is too much, though, because it kind of reminds me of those five-blade shavers from Gillette.
Jumping into the vehicle, you find a cool layout, something that the Camry wasn’t known for in the past. The asymmetric design of the center console stands out and the other details of the car are fantastic, like the real stitched upholstery and the way the chrome accents flow into the door handle.
ALSO SEE: 2018 Toyota Camry Pros and Cons
Another appreciated aspect of the interior is plentiful cubbies to store your stuff. There also a nifty sliding secret compartment under the wireless smartphone charger that can hide your valuables.
The Camry’s interior, however, is far from perfect. I don’t like how less luxurious materials are incorporated in the vehicle, and the car lacks Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which are must-haves these days. Additionally, the armrest in the back is quite limp and the front seats are too aggressively designed, especially these forward-tilting headrests.
These might seem like little issues, but when a family uses a car for a long time, these small annoyances can become seriously frustrating.
The fully loaded Camry V6 XLE comes with quite a few cool goodies, but the highlight has to be the color head-up display that shows the car’s speed as well as navigation information. In addition to this, the car has a 360-degree parking camera, which is always helpful. Naturally, there’s also blind spot information, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, and lane departure warning and assistance.
The navigation system is nicely updated and looks sharp, and there’s an upgraded JBL-branded sound system that sounds pretty good. However, there’s very little in terms of convenience features to blow you away. This car has heated seats and dual-zone automatic climate control, and parents will like the ability to see on the dashboard which of the rear seat passengers have buckled their seatbelts.
As equipped, this car rings in at just under $38,000 in the U.S., which is a solid price for near-Lexus like qualities.
New Gear Under the Hood
There’s some new hardware under the hood of the new Camry, where you’ll find a 3.5-liter V6 engine makes 301 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. It’s much more potent than what’s found in the Sonata, which uses a turbocharged four-cylinder. The Camry’s engine is very smooth, although all the power and torque is available at the upper half of the range, which means you have to rev it quite a bit to get going, which is nothing you’d really want to do in a Camry. It also doesn’t help that the eight-speed automatic transmission is a bit temperamental, sometimes changing gears clumsily and at unwarranted times. Simply put, it’s quite unrefined and unlike a typical Toyota.
Also see: 2018 Honda Accord vs Toyota Camry
There are different drive modes to help change the way the car reacts to your inputs, but no matter what, the car still feels generally the same. It’s comfortable and obedient with predictable handling and road manners. It’s also notably serene with excellent sound insulation.
It handles like a big car but it isn’t unpleasant. I can see this being a pretty solid car for the long trips, as long as you can live with the interior and exterior design quirks.
|Vehicle||2018 Toyota Camry V6 XLE||Advantage||2018 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Limited|
|Engine||3.5-liter V6||-||2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder|
|Power||301 hp||Camry||245 hp|
|Torque||267 lb-ft||Camry||260 lb-ft|
|Transmission||8 speed auto||-||8 speed auto|
|Combined Fuel Economy (MPG)||26 MPG||-||26|
|Combined Fuel Economy (l/100kms)||9.2||-||9.1|
|As Tested Price (USD)||$37,680||Sonata||$32,450|
|As Tested Price (CDN)||$40,690||Sonata||$37,126.50|
Hyundai’s Conservative Competitor
But looking at the Sonata, you have a car that’s far more conservative. It’s not wild or polarizing, but it’s nothing too eye-catching. The new grille is attractive, but it’s hard to ignore the gap in the wheel well.
The interior is also reserved and more traditional, featuring a more horizontal layout. It’s not as classy or stylish as the Camry in this regard, but it has a more liveable layout and is easier understand. Both cars feature large 8-inch touchscreens that are easy to use. The fact that the Sonata has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is a huge advantage.
ALSO SEE: 2018 Hyundai Sonata Review
There are more convenience features in the Sonata as well, like vented seats and a heated steering wheel. There are also window shades in the back, useful for people who don’t want to bake in the sun. While there are fewer secret storage spots, there’s a handy ridge in the dash that you can use to prop up a phone.
The rear seats are down on legroom a bit, but the car feels more comfortable to be in. There’s more passenger volume than the Camry, and there’s more trunk space as well. The rear seat armrest is much better than the Toyota’s and the Sonata has a hidden button on the rear badge to pop the trunk.
Delivers the Drive
As soon as you start driving the Sonata, you can tell there’s quite a bit of difference between it and the Camry, starting with the engine. The turbocharged four-cylinder makes 245 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, which are both below the Toyota’s V6 rating, but due to the almost immediate low-end torque, the Sonata feels more responsive and punchy right from the get-go.
The transmission feels far more normal, despite it also being an eight-speed automatic. There are different drive modes that change how active the transmission is, but it never gets in the way or feels as unrefined as the Camry’s. I also like the paddle shifters that are here to help change gears as needed.
It feels more powerful, but unfortunately, you hear more of the engine. The exhaust note is deep and bassy, and that might seem a bit juvenile for this class. In addition to that, there’s just much more noise in the Sonata’s cabin. That can get a bit annoying, but I think the driving feel and engine performance is more natural and usable every day.
This car has the same driving assists as the Camry, but I prefer the way its adaptive cruise control works because it acts more naturally. It doesn’t have the head-up display of the Toyota or the 360-degree camera, but I wouldn’t consider those to be a dealbreaker.
The final piece of the puzzle is the price and value of the Sonata, which comes in at just over $32,000 in the U.S. At $5,000 less than the Camry and with more useable tech, the Hyundai sweetens the deal with a long warranty, which helps provide some serious peace of mind.
Both cars earn 26 mpg combined and the Sonata doesn’t need premium fuel even though it features a turbocharged engine.
The Verdict: 2018 Hyundai Sonata vs Toyota Camry Comparison
These cars are some of the best selling products in each automaker’s lineup. While the Camry is all new, it’s just not as complete of a package when compared to the Sonata. I can’t believe I’m giving Toyota a hard time about an unrefined powertrain, but it’s more than that. There are a few helpful features missing and it’s a more expensive car as well.
The Sonata is more affordable, feels more natural on the road and packs all kinds of helpful convenience features that make it the ideal choice for someone looking for a new sedan. It surprised me in weathering the storm from a new Camry, and it might surprise you too.
2018 Toyota Camry V6 XLE
2018 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Sport