Hyundai Sonata Turns 30, We Look Back At Its 7 Generations

Hyundai is marking the 30th anniversary of the Sonata mid-size sedan with a look back at the nameplate’s seven generations.

With more than 7.3 million units sold since its introduction in 1985, the Sonata played an essential role in Hyundai’s growth and reputation. “The Sonata has been a huge factor in Hyundai’s growth not only in the U.S., but around the world,” said Dave Zuchowski, president and CEO, Hyundai Motor America.

The Sonata was introduced in the U.S. in 1988, with Hyundai Motor America selling more than 2.3 million units since then. Here’s a short recap of the seven generations.

1st Generation Sonata (1985)

The first-generation Sonata was one of Hyundai’s first models designed exclusively by the automaker’s in-house design teams. The model started the Sonata legacy by exceeding 1 million sales in Korea for a single model line for the first time.

2nd Generation Sonata (1988)

While the first-generation Sonata was rear-wheel drive, the second-generation model switched to a front-wheel drive layout for enhanced interior packaging efficiency. As Korea’s first independently-designed model, the Sonata adopted a more organic, aerodynamic design, departing from angular design language. The facelifted model, launched in 1991, was the first model to be sport the newly revised Hyundai logo.

3rd Generation Sonata (1993)

As the 1990s marked the acceleration of digital technologies replacing traditional analog technologies, the third-generation Sonata had to keep up. The model gained many advanced features, including automatic side mirrors and anti-lock braking system (ABS), helping it enjoy robust sales.

4th Generation Sonata (1998)

Launched in 1998, the fourth-generation Sonata was the best-selling model in Korea from February 1999 to August 2000. Also available in Europe, this generation was equipped with an in-house developed engine and a Hyundai Intelligent Vehicle Electronic Control (HIVEC) transmission. It was the highest scoring mid-size sedan in the 2004 J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey in the U.S.

5th Generation Sonata (2004)

This generation of the Sonata adopted a European design theme and was equipped with significantly advanced features. Designed to be a world-class mid-size sedan, the Sonata received near universal praise from automotive media and customers alike.

6th Generation Sonata (2009)

The sixth-generation Sonata was one of the first Hyundai models to feature the Fluidic Sculpture design philosophy. Along with an efficient engine and solid performance, the design helped Sonata achieve record sales worldwide. For the first time, a Sonata Hybrid model was introduced in 2010.

7th Generation Sonata (2014)

Finally, the latest-generation Sonata has applied a more refined Fluidic Sculpture design philosophy and expanded its powertrain offerings with two additional eco-friendly models: the Sonata Hybrid unveiled in 2014, and the first Sonata Plug-In Hybrid model, which debuted this year.


  • Jackson Li

    2009 is the best!!!

    • Go

      I can’t decide whether 2009 or 2015 is better, but you really can’t go wrong with either.

      After all these years, the Sonata is still better looking than any other car in its segment, with the exception of the Optima.

  • Six_Tymes

    i think the current is the best yet, it looks grown up

    • Alduin

      2015-current Sonata looks cheap. The 2011-2014 was nicer.

  • Billy Makris

    I think they made a mistake with the year. Where the 2009 is I’m pretty sure its supposed to say 2011.

    • Correct

    • Kash

      It went on sale in South Korea on September 2, 2009. The US version was unveiled at the 2009 LA auto show with sales beginning in 2010.

  • MarketAndChurch

    From a visual perspective, the current generation and the 93′ are my favorite.

    The 98 looks classic. Cheap. But classic. A modern interpretation could look really really good. Mix a modern interpretation of the 98′ model with the current 7th generation and you would have a very beautiful 8th generation Sonata.

  • JH

    My mom bought a 91’… biggest POS in her eyes and she’s been hesitant about Hyundai every since.

  • Obsequious_Lickspittle

    The 1st gen was an ugly pig that I believe was based on Ford’s Cortina.

  • aliXFR

    For me, the 3rd and 5th generations are the best looking as the have a clean looking european look to them, although the 2nd looks very similar to the cool, good looking Peugeot 405.

  • Sushma Gupta

    Amazing blog.

  • Alduin

    The chart is all wrong the 2009 represented is not even the same generation,that generation came out in 2011-2014 the 2004 was 2006 was the 2001-2004 design. The 2004 was really the 2006-2010. This chart is all screwed up.

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