2020 Hyundai Sonata: First Drive Review

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2020 Hyundai Sonata
Crossovers have exploded in popularity, and the American public’s affinity for all-things-SUV-like seems to know no bounds. Automakers continue to offer new CUV models in every size and category, but every year there are still millions of cars sold in the U.S. market. Hyundai shows its commitment to the midsize sedan with the all-new eighth-generation Sonata, designed to compete with the popular CUV. The 2020 Sonata pushes past the previous model with significant improvements in design, technology, safety and comfort.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceDistinctive Design
Built on a new platform that delivers both increased strength and reduced weight, Hyundai designers faced less restrictions to implement design ideas. The Sonata design is an evolution of new Hyundai design language that the Korean automaker calls Sensuous Sportiness. Sonata has a long, sloping roofline that terminates right at the trailing edge of the decklid, creating a 4-door-coupelike silhouette. The hood slopes down to a wide black grille that stretches out to the headlights, and there is no cutline between the hood and the front fascia.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceStriking Profile
Unique lighting elements for the daytime running lights sit underneath chrome strips that trace the inner edge of the headlight, shining through tiny perforations in the chrome when lit, yet hidden by the chrome when turned off. The chrome strip, with what Hyundai calls the Dynamic Lasso, follows the front fender to the base of the side windows and surrounds the side window opening for a signature design element. Sculpted shoulder lines emphasize the taper of the body at the rear to the taillights.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceRear Design
A ducktail spoiler integrates into the decklid design and the taillights follow the same shape and contour. The taillights are also an aerodynamic element with six small fins at the top of each light unit. The signature rear light graphic is cleverly created by a line across the center of the trunk lid that connects the lower edge of the brake lights with a strip of LED lights.

© Hyundai Motor AmericaModel Lineup
The 2020 Hyundai Sonata is offered in four versions: SE, SEL, SEL Plus and Limited. The Sonata SE is $23,400; the SEL starts at $25,500; the SEL Plus starts at $27,450; and, at the top of the line, the Limited is $$33,300. Above prices do not include a shipping charge of $930. Sonata SE standard equipment includes 2.5-liter engine, an 8-speed automatic transmission, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights and standard SmartSense safety features including smart cruise control with stop and go, lane-keeping assist, lane-following assist, driver attention warning and forward collision-avoidance assist.

© Hyundai Motor AmericaSonata SEL
The 2020 Hyundai Sonata SEL adds a sport front fascia, a sport rear fascia, 17-inch alloy wheels, a twin-tip exhaust, heated side mirrors, side mirror turn indicators and a hands-free trunk release. Inside, SEL adds heated front seats, dual automatic temperature control, a power driver’s seat, liquid chrome accents, leatherette door panel inserts, a proximity key with pushbutton start, a 4.2-inch color LCD instrument cluster display, blind-spot collision-avoidance assist with rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist, SiriusXM satellite radio and Blue Link Connected Car Services. SEL options include a Convenience Package, a Premium Package, a panoramic sunroof and a Drive Guidance Package.

© Hyundai Motor AmericaSonata SEL Plus
The 2020 Hyundai Sonata SEL Plus adds a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, paddle shifters, 18-inch alloy wheels, 235/45R18 Michelin or Pirelli tires, gloss-black mirrors, gloss-black window surrounds, Hyundai Digital Key, aluminum pedals and Dinamica suede / leatherette seat surfaces. Sonata SEL Plus offers an optional Technology Package. The standard Convenience Package includes a 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster, Digital Key, wireless device charging and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

© Hyundai Motor AmericaSonata Limited
The top-line 2020 Hyundai Sonata Limited includes Digital Key, a color head-up display, a blind-spot view monitor with blind-spot collision warning, remote smart parking assist, Bose premium audio, leather seat surfaces, a heated steering wheel, a panoramic sunroof, LED interior lights, a 10.25-inch navigation system, highway drive assist and a Blue Link Guidance Package.

© Hyundai Motor AmericaUnder the Hood
The 2020 Hyundai Sonata SE and SEL are powered by a normally-aspirated 2.5-liter engine that produces 191 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm, while Sonata SEL Plus and Limited receive a turbocharged 1.6-liter that produces 180 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque at 1500–4000 rpm. Both engines get mated with an 8-speed automatic transmission with a shift-by-wire gear selector. The 2.5-liter engine earns an EPA fuel-economy rating of 28 mpg city / 38 mpg highway / 32 mpg combined, and the 1.6-liter engine has a rating of 27 mpg city / 36 mpg highway / 31 combined.

© Hyundai Motor AmericaInner Space
Hyundai describes the 2020 Sonata’s interior theme as “Beautifully Smart,” with low and wide proportions balanced with a combination of technology and comfort. The tablet-style 10.25-inch screen allows the dashboard to be lower, which creates a more open feeling; the screen shape, curved on the left, integrates nicely with the interior design. The steering wheel, stalks and surrounding trim are new and possess a more refined finish. Details such soft-touch materials, textured knobs and color combinations add a more upscale feel. A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is available.

© Hyundai Motor AmericaInterior Convenience
In addition to maximizing the feeling of interior space, the 2020 Hyundai Sonata’s interior design also creates storage and provides convenience. Buttons for the electronic gear selector take up less space than a traditional gearshift, and the center console has a large area at the front for storage — including available wireless charging — in addition to cupholders, a mobile phone folder and a larger covered storage bin at the back. The full-length padded door armrest creates a long grab-handle to close the door, but it also doubles as additional storage.

© Hyundai Motor AmericaNew Platform
The all-new Sonata is the first model built on Hyundai Motor’s third-generation vehicle platform, giving it a lower stance and a longer wheelbase than its predecessor. The new platform offers design innovation, improved safety, more efficiency and improved driving performance. Crash safety gets improved through the use of a multiload path structures, hot stamping, and super-high-tensile steel plate — all to increase the energy that the vehicle absorbs during a collision. In addition to the stiffer platform, steering and suspension improvements mean the Sonata feels more nimble than the previous model, creating sporty driving dynamics to match the exterior design.

© Hyundai Motor AmericaDigital Key
The 2020 Hyundai Sonata offers Hyundai Digital Key via a smartphone app, utilizing Near Field Communication technology to communicate wirelessly when the device is within several centimeters of the door handle. The Hyundai Digital Key app allows smartphones to control vehicle functions using Bluetooth Low Energy communication. With Hyundai Digital Key, owners can leave traditional keys at home and also securely share keys with family and friends. Hyundai Digital Key also works with an NFC card for valet use. Digital Key is only compatible with phones using the Android operating system.

© Hyundai Motor AmericaRemote Smart Parking Assist
The 2020 Sonata offers remote smart parking assist to help maneuver the car into or out of tight parking spaces where it is difficult to exit or enter the vehicle. The driver pulls up to the parking space, exits the vehicle, then moves the car into the parking space automatically using the key remote. After returning to the vehicle, the driver moves the car out of the parking space using the remote, and then enters the vehicle. This feature seems more like a novelty at first try, but it can be a tangible benefit for folks who have to contend with tight parking spaces fairly frequently. Granted, first-time use is a very strange experience — starting the car and moving it with a mere button on the remote. High tech indeed.

© Hyundai Motor AmericaOn the Road
Our test car was a 2020 Hyundai Sonata Limited with the turbocharged 1.6-liter engine and all available technology and comfort options. The Sonata Limited has a solid feel with a comfortable ride and responsive handling. The 1.6-liter turbo delivers decent power and the 8-speed automatic shifts smoothly and quickly. Sonata doesn’t feel very quick off the line, but once the car is moving the engine seems quite responsive with both a wide torque band and a responsive transmission. Drive mode select changes throttle response and transmission mapping for different conditions, with Sport offering more responsive throttle and aggressive shifts.

© Hyundai Motor AmericaBalanced Performance
The 2020 Sonata offers a balanced combination of comfort and dynamic performance — along with a quiet, comfortable ride — while still feeling stable and responsive with consistent handling through sweeping corners and no bump-steer. In wet conditions it’s easy to have a slight amount of wheelspin before the traction control takes over, but overall performance is very balanced. The Sonata ends up being an incredibly easy car to drive thanks to confidence-inspiring responsiveness.

© Hyundai Motor AmericaTechnology
The winning new features in the 2020 Hyundai Sonata are the blind-spot indicator in the head-up display and the blind-spot camera view in the digital dash when a turn signal is activated. Having the blind spot indicator in the head-up display makes it even easier to check before initiating a lane change; when the turn signal is activated, the camera view gets displayed on the dash. For the left signal the image replaces the speedometer with digital speed indication superimposed over image, and for the right signal the image replaces the tachometer with digital engine speed superimposed over the image.

© Hyundai Motor AmericaRight for You?
The exterior design of the 2020 Hyundai Sonata is both expressive and distinctive, although it might be polarizing to some. The interior has a clean but elegant design, a really open feeling — especially with the panoramic roof — and there is plenty of rear-seat room. The Limited, with its two-tone interior, soft-touch materials and all the latest technology, feels like a much more expensive car. Performance is decent for a midsize sedan, balanced with notable fuel economy; the powertrain warranty is 10 years / 100,000 miles. If you’re looking for a midsize sedan — or even a midsize CUV — the 2020 Sonata should be on your list.

© Hyundai Motor AmericaRating: 9.0
Pros: Great design; latest technology; comfortable; still a good value.
Cons: No all-wheel-drive option; styling may be too bold for some.
Bottom Line: The 2020 Hyundai Sonata is a super midsize sedan with great styling, technology, comfort, safety — and value.

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