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2023 Hyundai Sonata Trim Levels, Configurations & Comparisons.

2023 Hyundai Sonata Trim Levels, Configurations & Comparisons: SE vs SEL, SEL Plus vs N-Line and Limited
Reviewed & fact checked by
James Murdoch

What 2023 Hyundai Sonata Trim Should You Buy? What is the Difference Between Trims?

Not every driver out there needs the capability of a truck or the expansive interior of an SUV. That is why sedans continue to be a popular option with some. A midsize sedan, in particular, provides a nice balance between comfort and efficiency.

The 2023 Hyundai Sonata is a fine example of what a sedan can offer. It is currently in its seventh generation, which debuted in 2020. Over the years, Hyundai has kept up with advancements in the automotive world, resulting in a well-rounded vehicle with a lot to offer busy drivers. This year, the SEL model is upgraded to a 10.25-inch touchscreen.

Five versions of the Sonata are available for drivers to select from. Choosing the right 2023 Sonata will require finding the model that has everything that is most important without overspending. The following guide is designed to help accomplish this.

Compare the SE vs SEL Trims. What is the difference?

The entry-level SE and the SEL trim levels of the 2023 Sonata utilize a 2.5L four-cylinder engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The output is a healthy 191 horsepower along with 181 lb-ft of torque. Every 2023 Sonata is equipped with front-wheel drive.

Since they have the same powertrain living under the hood, it is not surprising that the SE and SEL trim levels have the same estimated fuel efficiency numbers. In the city, drivers can expect 28mpg. On the highway, the 2023 Sonata with the base engine can give drivers up to 38mpg. Interestingly enough, the SE comes with a 14.8-gallon tank, while the SEL has a 15.9-gallon tank.

There are several Sonata features that are standard across the board, including drive mode select and a high-strength steel frame. A MacPherson strut with coil springs makes up the front suspension, while the rear suspension consists of an independent multi-link design. Drivers benefit from an anti-lock-braking system on all trims.

The Sonata SE sits on striking 16-inch alloy wheels. It has several advanced exterior features on its standard equipment list, including automatic LED headlights and LED daytime running lights. LED taillights are found on the back, and the side mirrors have integrated LED turn-signal indicators. Those side mirrors are heated as well, which helps drivers have a clear view of what is happening behind them.

Solar control glass is included for the 2023 Sonata. The SE trim level is the only one to come with a single rear exhaust that is hidden in the rear fascia. An acoustic film windshield rounds out the standard exterior features for this entry-level model, helping to isolate the cabin from road and wind noise.

Inside, the 2023 Sonata has premium cloth upholstery and 6-way manually-adjustable front seats. In the back, there are 60/40 split-folding seats to help drivers haul the combination of passengers and gear they need. Choosing the entry-level Sonata will mean dealing with a manually-controlled climate control system.

An 8-inch touchscreen is standard for the new Sonata, and it gives drivers access to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. HD radio is also standard, giving the Sonata SE a more sophisticated and modern feel. A six-speaker sound system is also included, which is plenty for this midsize sedan.

There is a surprising amount of advanced safety features for the 2023 Sonata, considering its relatively low price. The entry-level SE is equipped with a safe exit warning, a rear occupant alert feature, and driver attention monitoring. This sedan also has popular features like blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision mitigation, and lane-keeping assist to help boost the confidence of drivers as they go about their day. Rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist is also standard on the SE and all the trim levels above it.

As previously noted, the SE and SEL trim levels are mechanically the same. Stepping up the SEL model does upgrade the Sonata to 17-inch alloy wheels, however. This is also the first trim to show off sporty features like a twin-tip single exhaust and a gloss-black front grille. The SEL adds acoustic film to the front door glass, further isolating the cabin from noise.

The SEL gains a couple of convenience-boosting exterior features as well. This trim has a hands-free trunk release, and it also has proximity keyless entry and a push-button start to make it easier to get going in the morning. Inside, the SEL has heated front seats, and the driver's seat is now power-adjustable. A rear center armrest is also added, giving back passengers two cupholders.

SEL models of the Sonata now come with a 10.25-inch touchscreen. They gain satellite radio, further expanding drivers' options when at the wheel. Unlike the SE, the SEL can support connections with two devices at once. Dual-zone automatic climate control is also gained by the SEL trim.

The entry-level 2023 Sonata SE has a starting price of $24,950. This is pretty low for the class. Stepping up to the SEL means paying around $27,475, but this Sonata gains several useful features that justify the bump.

Compare the SEL vs SEL Plus. What is the difference?

Next up on the list is the Sonata SEL Plus. One of the biggest differences involves what is lurking underneath the hood. A turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder creates 180 horsepower along with 195 lb-ft of torque for the Sonata SEL Plus. The output between this engine and the standard one is quite similar, but the turbocharged 1.6L provides swifter acceleration. Hyundai sticks with the eight-speed automatic transmission for this engine.

As one might imagine, the fuel economy estimates are similar with this new engine powering the Sonata. Drivers can expect 27mpg in the city along with 37mpg while out on the highway. There are 19-inch alloy wheels underneath the Sonata SEL Plus. This trim has black window surrounds as well as glossy black side mirrors for a bolder look. Otherwise, it looks quite similar to the standard SEL trim.

Moving into the cabin, buyers will find that the SEL Plus has front seats with microfiber inserts. While the SEL trim level can add a leather-wrapped steering wheel with an available package, the SEL Plus counts this as a standard feature. Although six speakers do an adequate job of immersing drivers in sound, the SEL Plus upgrades to a 12-speaker premium sound system from Bose.

Wireless device charging and an auto-dimming rearview mirror are standard for the SEL Plus. Those features are available for the SEL as part of the previously mentioned package. The same is true of console-mounted rear vents. To reflect its sportier nature, the SEL Plus comes equipped with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. There are also aluminum sport pedals to show off.

Up until this point, the Sonata has come with a fairly basic 4.2-inch instrument cluster. The SEL Plus is the first model that introduces a 12.3-inch LCD cluster as a standard feature, making it easier to get important information at a glance. The Hyundai digital key feature, which allows drivers to use their smartphone to unlock and start the Sonata, is included for the SEL Plus trim and higher. Other nice touches added by this trim include a panoramic sunroof and a second-row USB port for charging.

The SEL Plus trim level of the Sonata does not bring any extra safety features to the table. It does come with a significant price jump of around $4,500, however. While the SEL Plus adds a few nice touches, many drivers would rather do without them so that they can save that money. Many of the extra features found here can be added to the SEL with a handy package that costs two grand, saving drivers a considerable amount of money at the end of the day.

Compare the SEL Plus vs N-Line Trim. What is the difference?

Yet again, Hyundai changes up the powertrain when drivers move up to the next trim level. The Sonata N-Line moves around town with a turbocharged 2.5L that pumps out 290 horsepower with 311 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed dual-clutch transmission is paired with this engine in 2023. Naturally, the N-Line gets the worst fuel economy of the bunch. Drivers can expect 23mpg city as well as 33mpg highway.

Sport front seats with extra bolstering with microfiber inserts are the highlight of the N-Line cabin. There is a sport steering wheel that is wrapped in leather, and the auto-dimming rearview mirror is enhanced with a universal garage door opener. Highway driving assist becomes standard for this trim as well, proving it provides both an engaging performance and family-friendly practicality.

Stepping up to the N-Line from the SEL Plus does not cost as much as one might think, despite the considerably more powerful engine. Buyers can expect to pay around $2,350 more for the 2023 Sonata N-Line than they would for the mid-level SEL Plus.

Compare the N-line vs Limited Trim. What is the difference?

The king of the Sonata line is the luxurious Limited trim. This trim level reverts back to the turbo 1.6L engine that is found in the SEL Plus trim level. The Limited is the only trim on the list to come standard with 18-inch wheels. It deletes the sportier exterior upgrades made by the N-Line, including the rear spoiler and the twin-tip dual exhaust.

Ramping up the sophistication level of the Sonata Limited's interior are features like a heated steering wheel and ventilated front seats. This is the only version of the Hyundai sedan that comes with leather seating surfaces. Ambient interior lighting is another nice touch that is found inside the Limited model. The sport pedals and steering-wheel-mounted shifters are not included in this trim.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the Sonata Limited is its standard safety feature list. This is the only trim to come with a remote smart parking assist feature. It allows drivers to get out of the Sonata, and then park it in a tight spot or garage. This is a simple quality-of-life upgrade that can make a big impact on someone's daily commute. Parking collision-avoidance assist is also included. Finally, the Sonata Limited comes with a blind-view monitor that actually shows drivers what is in their blind spot right on the infotainment touchscreen.

Buyers may predict that the Limited model will cost quite a bit more than any other Sonata, partly due to its advanced safety features and impressive cabin upgrades. In reality, it costs only $650 more than the N-Line, likely due to the fact that it does not have the turbo 2.5L engine sitting under the hood. It is worth considering for anyone willing to spend that kind of money that values comfort and convenience over raw power.

Final Thoughts

Thanks to the long list of standard equipment for the Sonata SE, many drivers will not feel the need to go any higher on the trim ladder. That said, the SEL adds several important features to the sedan, including heated front seats and automatic climate control. If there is room in the budget, it is definitely worth stepping up to at least this trim.

The SEL Plus may be a bit more enjoyable to drive, but it comes at the cost of being a bit less efficient. Many of the features that are added here can be gotten for less on the SEL by adding a package, making the SEL Plus a fairly hard sell. The N-Line is appealing to those who value power, but there are more engaging options on the market if that is the main priority. While the Limited trim is impressive with its added safety features, not every driver is looking for that level of assistance, especially when it will cost them so much more than a lower trim level. The standard suite of driver-aids will be plenty for most people.

Most drivers will be more than happy with the 2023 Hyundai Sonata SEL, thanks to its balance between value and features.


Previous Year Trim Configurations:

2022 Hyundai Sonata Trim Levels