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Hyundai Sonata Se vs. Sel

1. Comparison of Hyundai Sonata SE and SEL

In terms of performance and engine options, both cars are equipped exactly the same with a 2.4L GDI 4-cylinder engine which is capable of 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque. Both cars are also equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission with SHIFTRONIC which is capable of fuel economy at 25 mpg city and 36 mpg highway. The trims of the SE and SEL are also the only trims that are available in the 2.4L engine. No turbo or larger engine options are available with the SE or SEL. The only difference between the two cars is the SEL has an electronic parking brake with automatic vehicle hold, while the SE does not have this feature. Overall, the performance of the two cars is the same, except the SEL's parking brake could be seen as a bit of an advantage. In terms of performance, the only difference is that the SEL has a bit of an advantage with the parking brake. An automatic parking brake with vehicle hold seems more modern.

For exterior features, there are a number of differences. The Sonata SEL has heated side mirrors, a bit of an upgrade compared to the SE. Also, the SE's headlights are automatic, while the SEL's are not. The SEL has various other features such as turn signal lights on its side mirrors and round LED fog lights, while the SE has no fog lights. For many drivers who want style, the 17-inch alloy wheels of the SEL are more appealing compared to the SE's 16-inch wheels. Also, the SEL's chrome door handles and chrome window belt molding are more flashy compared to the SE's painted door handles and window belt molding. The SEL's last advantage is it has a hands-free smart trunk, while the SE does not come with this feature. Overall, the SEL has more features compared to the SE, but these features do not impact the car's performance.

The Hyundai Sonata SE and SEL are both reliable family cars with decent miles per gallon, economy, and style. The main differences between the two, however, are the features that each car comes with. The SE is in a lower price range, so naturally it has fewer features compared to the more expensive SEL.

1.1. Exterior Features

Wheel sizes range from 16-inch alloys on the lowest trim level to a sporty set of 17-inch wheels, which are standard on the Sport and Limited. The Sonata Eco comes with an exclusively styled pair of 16-inch wheels. If purchasing an SE, the sporty and elegant-looking rear lip spoiler is available as an option, and only from the dealer. The high-end Limited trim benefits exclusively from HID headlamps featuring dynamic bending light, which is a tidbit typically found on vehicles that are more premium priced. This functions by angling the headlamp in the direction of your steering to help see what's around dark corners; an excellent safety and convenience feature. A power tilting and sliding sunroof is also standard on both the Sport and Limited trims. From the side, wheel arches of each SE, Sport, and Limited are filled in nicely with chrome inserting that surrounds the window glass, soundly connecting to chrome bits visibly placed around the door handles and on down to the rear end. Lastly, the Sonata is available in some colors that are exclusive and very easy on the eyes, such as the iridescent Silver Blue and a dark scarlet Red.

The front end is dominated by Hyundai's new "cascading grille" shape, which is visually interesting and abundant looking. A robust character line flows from the top of every headlamp, beautifully lower and finishing at the rear door. Profile-wise, the Sonata is involving. A roofline that's rather coupe-like is ubiquitous, and flanks that are etched with classically styled doorsills add to a simple yet striking appearance. The rear end is neat and tidy, with a trunk lid that doesn't add any curve complexity and tail lamps that mimic the front end theme.

1.2. Interior Features

The SEL contrasted with the base model likewise includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel. In option packages, one can add the premium bundle to the SEL for a sum of $1600 for things, for example, a 2-glass automatic temperature control system, 4-way power front passenger seat, leather seating surfaces, and a big sunroof. This bundle will make the SEL almost a substantial substitute for the now-gone Sonata Limited. A solitary option is a $1000 Tech bundle uniquely for the SEL with the goal the driver memory system and an overhead surround view screen. This would mean a Sonata of any trim has up to 4 available bundle additions.

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata SEL begins at $26,430. This model grandstands much more contrasted with the 2019 SEL for a $650 contrast. The efficient and not very rich plastic-looking dash, entryways on SE are given a major improvement to a progressively premium-looking dark shiny trim with a diminishing impact. Higher on the dash, there is a cowled instrument bunch and accompanying the SEL's standard blind spot and rear-cross traffic alert safety features is an advanced 12.3-inch entirely computerized instrument cluster ahead of the driver. This all made for a very refined and great quality-looking feel in the SEL.

While the outgoing 2019 Hyundai Sonata has a dim interior versus competitors, the 2020 model sees noteworthy upgrades. Some are standard over all trim levels - an altering rear view monitor, a bigger 8-inch floating touchscreen, and electric parking brake. Do these changes reach base level now, and the Sonata SE has an MSRP of $24,330. When contrasted with the active 2019 SE it is $750 more, however the additional features make it worth the increase.

1.3. Performance and Engine Options

The performance and engine options for the two models vary. The SE is only available with a 4-cylinder engine with 130 HP. The base model doesn't have any available engine upgrades. The automatic transmission is available with traction control. The automatic transmission in the four-cylinder engine is designed to provide smooth shifts. The SEL, however, is available with a V6 engine and offers the 4-cylinder as a lower priced alternative. It has 170 HP and with a 4-speed Shiftronic transmission, providing increased acceleration with a step-gate automatic that allows the driver to experience clutch-less manual style shifting with a 4-speed automatic. This can be useful when driving up steep hills, towing a trailer, or simply for increased control while driving. This may decrease vehicle wear and tear and reduce maintenance costs. The new 4-cylinder, on the other hand, has been designed to increase fuel efficiency due to rising fuel costs. This doesn't sacrifice any horsepower from previous 4-cylinder engines; it, in fact, raises the bar to 162 HP. This engine is able to get 24 mpg in the city and 35 on the highway. This is 2 more mpg than the V6 gets and can be a significant difference in fuel savings when compared to other vehicles in the class. The 4-cylinder engine also has optional steering wheel audio controls and chrome window belt moldings, features often considered to be SEL exclusive options. Upon making this engine type more readily available to the general public, Hyundai now has an upgrade package for the Sonata SE. This may be considered by the perspective 4-cylinder SEL buyer. This package includes infinity speakers and an in-dash 6-disc changer. This package is available for the same price as the 4-cylinder engine which now comes standard on the SE. All of these options still make the 4-cylinder SE and SEL very comparable in the minds of many. This now leaves the 4-cylinder SEL buyer with the option of the V6 engine and its many perks, but a consumer must first weigh these options with the changes in price.

2. Safety and Technology

The Hyundai Sonata SE is equipped with standard safety features including blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert and lane change assist. These are great features that are not always standard in most base models of vehicles. Not having these features in the base could be a deal-breaker for some vehicle shoppers. This is another example of Hyundai maintaining great value for their base model vehicle. The SEL also comes with these same safety features. The only real difference in safety between the SE and the SEL is that the SEL comes standard with the lane departure warning system. This safety feature provides a small advantage for the SEL Sonata in terms of preventing collision and run-off accidents. The lane departure warning system makes automatic steering adjustments to guide the driver back to the center of the lane if he/she has crossed the lane markings. Although lane departure warning doesn't guarantee that driver will never leave the lane, it may help prevent unintentional drifts and possible collisions. This is a good feature to have for a small incremental cost to upgrade to the SEL model.

Safety and technology make up a big part of vehicle innovation. High quality safety systems can help prevent accidents, and nowadays it's always a boon when a car can keep you from getting lost. Modern technology built into cars can include anything from advanced safety features to infotainment systems. The 2018 Hyundai Sonata comes with some great safety and technology features. You may or may not have these features in mind when looking at an SE or SEL Sonata. This post is to outline the specifics on safety and tech in the SE and SEL models.

2.1. Advanced Safety Features

Now moving on to active safety features, the SEL package includes automatic emergency braking. While all Sonatas come with forward collision warning, only the SEL and higher packages come with the AEB feature. This feature can prevent accidents or minimize damage by automatically braking if the driver fails to do so when a collision appears imminent. The final safety feature difference between these two vehicles is that the SEL includes blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert. This feature is self-explanatory in that it helps prevent collisions with vehicles approaching from the side as the driver is changing lanes and backing up.

This first comparison goes to the higher end model Sonata SEL, which includes several features not available on the Sonata SE. First, for the more passive safety features, the SEL includes heated body color side mirrors. This feature is not only more convenient in melting ice or fog but can also be a safety feature by ensuring the driver has full visibility at all times. The SEL also includes a power driver seat with lumbar support, a feature that can be crucial to driver safety. Having the ability to adjust the seat position to a more comfortable and safe position is beneficial to the driver so that they can remain alert and well positioned. A memory system for the driver seat and outside mirrors is also included with the SEL model.

It is important to understand that given the shorter length of this article, the differences in safety features between these two vehicles are minor.

2.2. Infotainment System and Connectivity

The infotainment system in both of these trims is identical. The only differences are the addition of a dual automatic climate zone control in the SEL trim. The system is centered around the new 8-inch standard color touch screen. Both the SE and SEL come with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a rearview camera. It is not pictured, but the SE trim does not come with a CD player. This is standard in the SEL. The system is very easy to use and more functional than the system it replaces. Response time is quick and the layout is intuitive. Having used this system in other Hyundai and Kia vehicles, I can attest that I am a fan of this system and it's great that this is Hyundai's new standard infotainment system despite being a mid-level offering. CD player notwithstanding, this is a big win for the SE trim by virtue of having an identical system to the SEL at a cheaper price point. Furthermore, there are new options that were not offered or not available on the SE or even higher-end Sonatas in the past. This includes an available power sunroof and an 8-speaker Bose premium sound system which are available for the SEL. This would have the effect of evening the score for the SEL in this category, but we're only concerned with what is standard on each trim. On the connectivity front, there is a standard front USB / auxiliary input and a USB charging port. Both trims also have an available BlueLink Connected Car System available with a free 3-year trial. This allows you to control your car with your smartphone or smartwatch and comes with service like automatic collision notification and SOS emergency assistance. Since it is available to both trims, the BlueLink system does not play a role in comparing the two trims but is still a noteworthy feature for the seventh generation Sonata. Overall, a big win for the SE at making a feature-rich infotainment system and it is difficult to say that the CD player, dual automatic climate control, and Bose audio sound system qualify as enough of a difference to outweigh the lower price point and value of the SE's standard system.

2.3. Driver Assistance Technology

The SEL comes with a few extra features, including smart cruise control and highway drive assist. Smart cruise control uses a front-mounted camera and radar sensor to maintain a safe distance between you and the car in front of you. It will accelerate or decelerate as needed and can even bring you to a complete stop and start again without deactivating the cruise control. This can help alleviate some of the stress of stop-and-go traffic and freeway commutes. Highway drive assist is a semi-autonomous feature that can control your steering, throttle, and brakes to keep you centered in your lane, maintain distance from the car in front of you, and keep you going at the speed limit. These features may not be as impactful in accident prevention as the base-level features, but they are still convenient and can help to reduce the stress and fatigue of long drives.

The Hyundai Sonata SE and SEL each come with their own variations of driver assistance technology. Both models come with lane keeping assist and driver attention warning. If you drift out of your lane without a turn signal, the car will give gentle steering input to get you back in the center of the lane. If you continue to drift, it will warn you with a chime and a message on the dash. The car monitors your driving patterns to look for signs of fatigue and can suggest that you take a break if you're driving drowsily. These are key features in keeping drivers safe and preventing accidents, and can be the difference in Hyundai's extremely low collision and injury ratings translating into lower insurance premiums.

2.4. Audio and Entertainment Options

In the SE trim level, the standard audio system is a 6-speaker "AM/FM/SiriusXM/MP3 audio system with iPod/USB and auxiliary input jacks" that is also noticeable on the Honda Accord Hybrid in varying but similar options. The difference, in general, comes in that the Honda has a greater variety of other options that the SE doesn't compare to, and the fact that if you wish to select the Honda Accord Hybrid's highest trim level, a 10-speaker 450-watt premium audio system becomes available to you. On the other hand, both Sonata trims have an option for a power sunroof, which is not a priority to some but is often considered a premium CAD$ feature seen in a lot of new cars these days. The impact of the sunroof will depend on the climate and location of the purchaser. As nice as it is to have the option of opening the sunroof on a nice day, weather is a catalyst, and in a climate where it rains often, the sunroof would lose its value.

The audio and entertainment options made available in both the 2019 Hyundai Sonata SE and 2019 Hyundai Sonata SEL largely reflect the general features that have been mentioned thus far. Most of the major differences or additional features present in the SEL trim level in comparison to the SE trim level when regarding audio and entertainment are options that are present on the SE trim level but are changed in some way. On the Hyundai website, a comparison of their vehicles to other vehicles in the same category is made possible. In comparing both trims of the Sonata to another vehicle in its category, the Honda Accord, you can see the standard technology and audio options that the SE and SEL do not reflect too well comparatively.

3. Comfort and Convenience

The Hyundai Sonata SE arrives with front and back cupholders and front entryway pockets. It can really convey five travelers, and its material front seats and texture back seat incorporate tallness movable driver and traveler seats notwithstanding a split-collapsing back seatback. The Sonata SEL includes a few comfort and accommodation highlights to the inside. It has front and back cupholders alongside front entryway pockets. Moving up to the SEL form will empower one to climb into the seats, which are at any rate calfskin cut—and cowhide, warmed seats are a possibility for the individuals who esteem comfort. The driver will partake in the eight-way control movable seat with power lumbar uphold, and every other person will appreciate the warmed front seats. The SEL can in any case convey five inhabitants, however it has somewhat more inside space. Both the driver and the front traveler get more prominent legroom and headroom, and the additional back legroom can be valued by back travelers. The back seatback actually parts and folds, yet the SEL's creases in a 60/40 split. Both the SE and SEL have a similar two-tone inside and LED inside lights energy, it is either a battery-powered electric lamp on the SE or a discretionary LED inside lights energy on the SEL. Both are intended for those hoping to zero in on both inside and outside look and feel of their new Hyundai Sonata. Moving up to the SEL form will empower one to climb into the seats, which are in any event cowhide cut—and calfskin, warmed seats are a possibility for the individuals who esteem comfort. The driver will partake in the eight-way power flexible seat with power lumbar uphold, and every other person will appreciate the warmed front seats. The SEL can in any event convey five travelers, yet it has somewhat more inside space. Both the driver and the front traveler get more prominent legroom and headroom, and the additional back legroom can be valued by back travelers. The back seatback actually parts and folds, however the SEL's creases in a 60/40 split, and it is the main model of the two that has a middle back armrest. Both the SE and SEL have a similar two-tone inside and LED inside lights energy, it is either a battery-powered electric lamp on the SE or a discretionary LED inside lights energy on the SEL. Both are intended for those hoping to zero in on both inside and outside look and feel of their new Hyundai Sonata. The SEL gives individual environment control to the driver and front traveler, contrasted with the double zone programmed temperature control on the Sonata SE. Despite the fact that either the SEL or SE can give a definitive solace bundle to drivers that settle on the SEL Tech Group, and the individuals who select both of the two will get a 10-way power driver seat with power lumbar uphold notwithstanding incorporated memory framework for driver's seat and mirrors. Also that the bundle adds a back window power sunshade and manual back side window conceals for back travelers—just accessible on the SEL—and the best component for both driver and travelers is the three-arrange warmed calfskin directing wheel. This bundle is focused for those that think much about the driving solace and inside experience of their new Hyundai Sonata.

3.1. Seating and Interior Space

The SEL comes with heated front seats, a very nice feature for many, at no additional cost. However, the SEL does not offer a heated steering wheel, which is a feature present in the Limited model. The Limited model, however, is not part of our comparison and therefore the heated steering wheel is not a factor in comparing the SE and the SEL.

Both models allow the rear seat to fold down for extra trunk space. However, the SE has only a pass-through while the SEL has a center armrest with a dual cup holder. The SEL rear window also has a manual sunshade, a very nice feature for anyone with small children.

The driver's seat on both models is very comfortable and somewhat supportive, for someone of my size at least. I am about 5'9" and 150 lbs, so other people of different sizes may have a different opinion. The driver's seat is an 8-way adjustable seat with power height adjustment. The passenger's seat, on the other hand, even in the SEL model, is very disappointing. It is only a 6-way seat and does not have any power adjustments for the back angle. It also does not have power height adjustment. I found it very difficult to find a comfortable position in the passenger seat because of this.

In the Sonata's interior, the most noticeable difference between the SE and the SEL is the seat fabric. Although it is difficult to differentiate the comfort level between the two fabrics, I did find that the fabric on the SE seats was much more attractive. I found the wood grain interior trim on the SEL to be unattractive. I much prefer the metallic grain trim that is found on the SE, and of course, this is a personal opinion.

3.2. Climate Control and Cabin Amenities

The driver will immediately appreciate the tilt-telescope adjustment of the GLS and Limited models, which replaces the less convenient tendon a lever it SE model. The thickly padded steering wheel found on GLS and Limited feels more comfortable than the urethane/leather wheel used on the SE. All Sonatas have a 3-pod gauge cluster with a basic trip computer and a conveniently located EcoCoach shift indicator light IDEC model only).

Bluetooth and an auto-dimming rearview mirror are now part of the popular equipment package. Unfortunately, the Bluetooth microphone location (near the map lights) makes the voice quality of the system subpar. This will not be resolved because any improved clarity from a different location would be negated by additional wind and road noise. An auxiliary iPod/USB port is also standard, but it is poorly located in the open ashtray area behind the automatic transmission lever. There is a small storage nook out of sight on the left, another 12V outlet, and a more suitable location for the iPod, and any factory USB cord can be created by hardwiring it into the 12V outlet. All Sonatas have steering wheel audio controls, which actually was not the case on any 2009-10 Sonata GLS with the 3.3L V6.

The Sonata's climate control knob is easy to reach and simple to use, but the dual-zone automatic climate control that comes on the Sonata Limited is much more convenient. Both the SE and the GLS have manual climate control that puts the temperature and blower controls into three simple knobs with mode and fan speed buttons in between. Front seat warmers come on the GLS and Limited models.

3.3. Keyless Entry and Start

The Sonata SE comes with a traditional remote key that serves as a keyless entry system. It is paired with an alarm that will sound when there is an unauthorized attempt to enter the vehicle. As for the start-up, the SE also comes with a traditional key start. The remote key has a flip-out metal ignition key and an unlock/lock function for the doors. The alarm system can be enabled or disabled and when the driver is exiting, there is also a function on the remote that can sound the horn and flash the lights to help locate the vehicle. The SEL model comes with a proximity key entry system to go along with a push button start. This enables the driver to leave the key fob in their pocket or purse upon entry and start-up, eliminating the need to fumble for the remote. It has a detection system on all four doors which will lock or unlock the doors when the driver is within a close proximity of the vehicle. The system also has an automatic lock function and can send a notification to the driver when the vehicle leaves the proximity range with the doors still unlocked. Overall in this category, the SEL's systems are more convenient and functional compared to the SE's basic forms of keyless entry and start.

4. Pricing and Value

The base price for a Hyundai Sonata SE is $21,350, $1700 less than the opening price for a Sonata SEL. This means that the base price for an SE model is a more competitive option against an industry average entry-level midsize sedan. It offers a more affordable alternative to the more luxurious, but less performance-oriented Toyota Camry. Prices for the Sonata SE with the Popular Equipment Package are still unknown. There is much more value with the SE model when considering the added features. Even with those add-ons, it still remains as a good alternative to more basic midsize sedans. It can be viewed as the best version of the Sonata to buy for someone looking to maximize affordability and bang-for-buck. An SEL model approaches a price range that overlaps with more premium midsize sedan options when fully decked out. This may be a concern for some potential Sonata buyers, who value the fact that they can always get more features for less money in comparison to more premium cars. The price increase for an SEL compared to an SE is significant when considering the differences in performance and luxury are more marginal. Nonetheless, for some, the added features of a fully loaded SEL are worth the premium in cost.

4.1. Base Price Comparison

The 2019 Sonata SE and 2019 Sonata SEL have a $1,000 difference in their MSRPs, but the actual price is something different. The 2019 Sonata is made in the United States, so Hyundai usually has unusually high profit margins on the model. This means the Sonata SEL is a relatively better value compared to the SE, as the features it has cost less than a $1,000 hike. The average paid price for the Sonata SE is $21,000 and the SEL is $23,000. Usually, an average of $2,000 off MSRP can be negotiated for either model. This trend of a SEL being $2,000 more expensive than a similarly trimmed SE continues for older used models, making it relatively hard to find a good deal on a used Sonata SEL. Step inside the 2019 Sonata SE and SEL and it becomes apparent how all 2018 and newer SE models have a light colored headliner. The 2019 Sonata SE is the only trim that still comes in a gray or beige interior. Every Sonata SEL comes with a light colored headliner and has a black interior. This makes it harder to find a SE with the desirable black interior, something that isn't an issue with older models. During the redesign, the 2018+ Sonata SE got a power driver seat with adjustable lumbar support. This removed the biggest interior feature gap between the 2019 Sonata SE and SEL. Every SEL model has a power front seat, but the ability to adjust lumbar support is now only available on the SEL with the Tech package and the Sport model. The Tech package is an extra $1,800 and can't be found on older used Sonata SELs. Essentially, there isn't much of a difference in interior features between new SE and SEL models other than the ability to find a black interior and the price of the SEL wanting to increase to get the best feature (power driver seat with adjustable lumbar support).

4.2. Optional Packages and Upgrades

As every car buyer knows, the most disheartening thing about purchasing a new car is watching the value plummet the second it's driven off the lot. But, some vehicles hold their value better than others, and knowing which can save the buyer thousands in the long run in depreciation cost. If the buyer expects to sell or trade in their Sonata in the future, the best resale value would be to hold onto it for the long term. For example, in three years the average trade-in value of an SE is estimated to be about 60% of the original cost compared to 61% for the SEL. This may not seem significant, but the SEL model is currently expected to have a marginally higher percentage of value compared to the SE throughout the years. Higher value can also mean higher resale demand and a better ease in selling the vehicle. A car that holds its value well will also have a lower cost of ownership, giving even more savings for the buyer.

The options provided from Hyundai really break down the difference between the SE and SEL models. Both can be purchased with a "convenience package" that includes a proximity key with push button start, hands free trunk release and their latest feature: the Safe Exit Assist (SEA). The only difference in the packages between the two models is that the SEL also includes a power sunroof. Another important factor about making a purchase on either is the ability to collect a good discount, and then there is the availability of color options. Higher end models usually have incentives to buy, and the SEL seems to be the popular choice for rental companies also making them more willing to negotiate a little on the price. The SE is often purchased by Lyft, Uber or delivery drivers and the new car companies now require specific colors and options which may make it more difficult to find a specific SE. Price and availability can probably talk more about this once incentives are announced.

4.3. Resale Value and Cost of Ownership

Another important factor to consider in breaking the tie between the two models in terms of price and value is their resale value and cost of ownership. This is a significant deciding factor for many buyers who plan to sell or make their new vehicle a second car when their lease on it runs out. According to Kelley Blue Book, the 2012 Hyundai Sonata was an award winner in this category and maintenance for many owners has been relatively inexpensive. They predict an average 5-year cost to own the 2012 LX at around $35,000. Now if we predict that the SE and SEL will have a similar cost to own before they are driven into the ground, this makes the $700 price gap up front seem even smaller. But when considering resale value, the Sonata has slipped only slightly from 2012 compared to its competitors. KBB predicted the 2012s to be worth at least 20% of their value after 5 years and if the SE and SEL hold to the 2016's average trade-in value of 19%, via carcomplaints.com, then they should remain a decent value down the line. Given these statistics, the SE's initial price is validated but the SEL's additional features can still be gauged as potentially worth the extra price, particularly for anyone keeping the car for less than 5 years. Ultimately, the decision between the 2 models lies on individual needs and capital. The SE offers a good value with near identical function to the SEL at a lower price point. It is a better value for those planning on keeping the car until a high mileage. The SEL is a better car for a lease or short term ownership. Future model Sonatas should look to revive the great value the base models had in comparison to higher ones, as is evident in Hyundai's many accolades in recent years. An larger price gap and greater discreteness in function between various models will make the selection process easier and add to Hyundai's great reputation of affordability combined with quality.