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2020 Hyundai Sonata Review

LIKES
  • Expressive design
  • Quiet cabin
  • Luxury-car ride quality
  • Solar roof system (Hybrid Limited)
  • Smart Park (Limited)
DISLIKES
  • Too much chrome
  • Lacks a sporty edge
  • Capacitive “buttons” seem pointless
BUYING TIP
  • The Sonata Hybrid with the best gas mileage is the lighter-weight Blue model, not the Limited with its solar roof.
The Hyundai Sonata finds its magic again for 2020, with a distinctive luxury-car vibe plus some features you won’t find in rival sedans.

Although midsize sedans might no longer be the heart of the American market, Hyundai is showing with the redesigned 2020 Sonata that it can put its heart into one. 

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata has a dramatic new design language that finally brings the exterior look of this sedan up to the higher standard for its cabin that it introduced with the last-generation Sonata.

The Sonata is a standout for offering the interior comfort of a more expensive luxury sedan, strong safety scores, and a good feature set for the money. But its actual performance is mid-pack at best, and altogether that figures out to a 7.3 out of 10.

There are three different powertrains on offer in the 2020 Sonata: a 2.5-liter inline-4 making 191 hp, a 1.6-liter turbo-4 making 180 hp, and a hybrid system that altogether makes 192 horsepower. The 1.6T makes its full torque at low rpm so it should feel stronger than the base engine (which we haven’t driven). It’s smooth and relatively quiet, but not especially responsive; the Hybrid feels like it might be the quickest in the lineup. In any case, the Sonata steers precisely and handles well, but it’s nowhere near as sporty as the quickest versions of the Toyota Camry (V-6) or Honda Accord (2.0T). 

The Sonata’s interior is indeed sensuous, and at least in the Limited versions, it surrounds you in soft-touch trims and makes sure all the switchgear feels just right. Actual seat comfort isn’t anything special, but upholsteries areThe ambience of the whole cabin, with superb smoothness and quiet, sets the interior mood as warm and calm.

From a feature standpoint, the Sonata offers some unique items at the top of its lineup, including Hyundai’s first smartphone-based key system, and Smart Park remote self-parking feature. The Solar Roof System offered on top Hybrid models can find free miles—and better gas mileage—in sunlight. The Hybrid is already the highest-mileage sedan on the market, at 50 mpg city, 54 highway.

Styling
The 2020 Hyundai Sonata lineup looks sporty and curvaceous on the outside, soft and luxurious inside.

By design and styling, the Sonata is the contrarian among today’s affordable midsize sedans. The so-called Sensuous Sportiness theme makes the car look a class above—and finally, there’s a cohesive theme to carry through from outside in.

In a way Hyundai is taking a step back to take two steps forward with the new car. The outgoing Sonata made some major advances inside, with a much more refined cabin, but its exterior just didn’t make much of a statement. The new 8th-generation car looks more like one that followed the 2011-2014 Sonata than its direct predecessor, and that’s mostly a good thing. It at last melds the swoopy, racy statement on the outside with a soft, luxurious interior—something that was missing previously.

Compared to the previous Sonata, this one sits slightly lower in almost every respect, with a steeper windshield rake, too. Even though the Sonata is within an inch of nearly all of its rivals in nearly all key dimensions, that plays a trick with perspective in making the Sonata look lower and wider.
The details are where it all clicks into place. A semi-trapezoidal grille is low set and looks ready to take the torch from Ford in trying to out-Aston Aston Martin. Boomerang-style LED strips lock the headlights into place, and they form the start of a vapor trail that ripples along the car’s side. There’s a lot of sculpting and motion in the side sheetmetal, and the rear lamps come as a visual surprise—a clean arc across where you might expect to see more sculpting. It makes the Sonata look wider and visually lifts the (lower) tail.

Moving inside, the horizontal look of the dash echoes that rear look, in a way, and the layout feels quite traditional, with the gauges directly in front, the climate control in a center stack, and a well-defined center console.

The push-button shift selector, plus the upscale black-gloss surfacing to touch points, flips the whole presentation to the luxury realm. Quilted seats in some models are distinctive and luxurious, and the recessed doorpulls have a soft surface to hold on to. The big, 10.3-inch infotainment screen stands atop the dash, but it’s connected enough to the design so as not to look like a module plugged in for the moment.

There’s a flip side to the design: Mull it too much, especially on the outside, and it starts to look very busy. In particular, there’s too much brightwork for many tastes both inside and out.

Performance
There are better picks than the 2020 Sonata if performance is a priority.

The base engine in the Sonata lineup is a new-generation 2.5-liter inline-4 making 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. The direct-injection engine has a lot of engineering refinements, but the one that shoppers are going to notice on a quick test drive is its smoothness.

The engine that’s a step up is the 1.6-liter turbo-4, now making 180 hp and 195 lb-ft. It’s a completely different engine than in last year’s Sonata, and paired with a new eight-speed automatic transmission instead of the dual-clutch automatic, it’s aiming for better drivability and smoothness.

The Sonata Hybrid's 2.0-liter inline-4 makes 150 hp, and a 51-hp motor is packaged with a conventional 6-speed automatic. Its combined output is 192 hp, and Hyundai has improved the drivability and smoothness of this system with new Active Shift Control tech that makes the motor more proactive in transmission shifts.
tThe standard gas-only Sonata models come with an eight-speed automatic transmission, and a Drive Mode system (Smart, Normal, Custom, and Sport) that affects the responsiveness of the accelerator and transmission shifts, as well as the steering effort. Smart mode follows an adaptive logic to intuit what you need—and usually gets it right.

The suspension layout follows a front-strut, rear multi-link layout and feels soft but responsive. Steering is precise and on the light side (even in Spot), and the Sonata drives in a relaxed way; it no longer has the artificially jumpy accelerator that made the Sonata feel less for grownups who could tell the difference.

That said, performance is perhaps the one area in which the Sonata doesn’t feel as focused as its rivals. With the 1.6T, the Sonata’s transmission could be slow to react with a downshift, and we experienced what felt like turbo lag. This powertrain competes with rival models but doesn’t measure up to the acceleration of the 2.0T that was offered in previous models.

Comfort & Quality
The 2020 Hyundai Sonata feels as luxurious as it looks, with a comfortable, supremely quiet cabin.

Inside, the 2020 Hyundai Sonata invites you to forget its modest pedigree and just enjoy what surrounds you. And for the most part, that feels like an uncompromised luxury car in almost every respect.

Based on the tactile look and feel of everything from the push-button shift controls to the steering-column stalks and the harmonious feel of surfaces and switchgear, you might easily think you were inside a premium-brand model costing much more. That’s based on our experience with 1.6T Limited and Hybrid Limited models, and we’re eager to see if those impressions extend to the models at the affordable end of the lineup.

The Sonata Limited comes with quilted seating, soft armrest surfaces, and even a soft surface to grab onto to pull the door closed. The seats themselves feel a little flat in the lower cushions, but the low-set driving position felt great. Trunk space is generous for a modern midsize sedan, at 16.0 cubic feet.
Based on its roofline, and the deceptive way it plays with perspective from some steps away, you might expect this version to cheat you out of rear headroom, or at least be tough to get into. It is neither. To achieve that, Hyundai says that its engineers lowered the height of the rear seat, with a slightly thinner cushion. It’s not a difference we would have been aware of.

The calm ride keeps out quivers and sharp bumps—as well as road noise. It might be the quietest mid-size sedan on the market, and to get there engineers used thicker door glass, improved window sealing, added a standard acoustic windshield (and front side window glass in some models), and put reinforced sound absorbing material underneath.

Safety
The 2020 Hyundai Sonata has a starting position as one of the safest midsize sedans.

The 2020 Sonata has an all-new body structure versus last year—and that already seems to be paying off.

The Sonata achieves a five-star overall rating from NHTSA—although its frontal crash result was four-star. It’s an IIHS Top Safety Pick, including top “Good” scores in the full battery of crashworthiness tests.

The IIHS rates the LED projector headlights in the Limited models as “Good,” while the other models’ headlights are rated “Marginal.” The Sonata’s active-safety systems also earn the top “Superior” rating in front crash prevention.
Standard features across the lineup include automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and a driver-attention monitor. Top Limited models get a rear cross-traffic assist feature, an around-view monitor, and a blind-spot monitor.

Features
The Sonata offers a best-in-class warranty, better-than-average infotainment systems, and good value for money. Add Smart Park and the solar roof on top.

The Hyundai Sonata starts at $24,555 for the base SE (including $955 destination) and runs up to $34,455 for the Limited 1.6T. Although Hyundai used to be known for packing in the features at the base level, it’s the top Limited that proves the more intriguing—mostly because of the unique features the Limited adds.

The base SE model has cloth upholstery, 16-inch wheels, LED headlights, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Step up to the SEL and you get synthetic leather upholstery, a power driver seat, heated front seats, keyless ignition, automatic climate control, and satellite radio.

The SEL model—or the SEL Plus, with the 1.6T engine—also taps into more option possibilities, such as leather seats, wireless smartphone charging, a panoramic sunroof, highway drive assist, and a 10.3-inch touchscreen with navigation. The Sonata is also the first Hyundai to offer a digital-key system that’s smartphone-based.
Top Limited versions gets a power passenger seat, cooled front seats, paddle shifters, parking sensors, and some pieces of tech equipment that are unusual in mainstream midsize sedans, such as a head-up display—and Smart Park, which allows you to stand away from the car as it steers itself into or out of the space of your choice.

Considering we haven’t driven a single Sonata yet with the engine that spans the affordable end of the lineup, and pricing isn’t yet out for the Hybrid, we can’t yet say which model we’d most recommend. But the dividing line between the two powertrains is between the SEL and SEL Plus, and that also happens to be the high-value model that includes most of the features people might have on their shopping lists—minus the top frills—for well under $30,000 in both cases.

A standout feature for the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited is the Solar Roof System, which generates energy that can be used to increase gas mileage.

Hybrid models come in Blue, SEL, and Hybrid models, with equipment for the Blue roughly paralleling that in the standard Sonata SE. Pricing isn’t yet out for the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.

Fuel Economy
The 2020 Sonata Hybrid Blue gets the best mileage of any sedan without a plug, while the rest of the Sonata lineup is competitive.

With the larger 2.0T engine out of the picture for 2020, the Hyundai Sonata comes in three different powertrains—1.6T, 2.5-liter, and Hybrid—and each one of them achieves more than an EPA-rated 30 mpg combined.

The base 2.5-liter is the best of the non-hybrid versions, at 28 mpg city, 38 highway, 32 combined, but the 1.6T isn’t far behind, at 27/36/31 mpg.

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid SEL and Limited models carry ratings of 45 mpg city, 51 highway, 47 combined, while it rates 50 mpg city, 54 highway, 52 combined in its lighter, eco-focused Blue version. That’s the highest EPA highway rating of any sedan.
The Solar Roof System that’s included in the Sonata Hybrid Limited is rated at 205 watts and, Hyundai claims, can generate about 700 “free” engine-off miles annually—significantly boosting mpg.

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