Well, we are always excited to hear about a new Hyundai Sonata. It seems that the automaker always tries to do something special, and their flagship sedan also seems to get some hand-me-down (we should all be so lucky!) technology from its wealthy sibling Genesis.
And if you saw the Superbowl commercial, it’s bringing some amazing tech to the segment as well. So, is this the sedan to beat Camry and Accord at their own game? We’ll see!
Sonata exterior – Distinctive Styling
Ok, you see the word “distinctive” and you wonder – and well you should. At first glance the new front end is a bit polarizing. We like the newly-designed Digital Pulse Cascading Grille that spans the width of the front – sporty and aggressive. The headlights are interesting – hidden lighting lamps in the trim appear to be chrome when switched off and become a very cool signature design when lit.
We think it’s the shape of them, with the downward turn that leaves us a little cold – it almost looks like some deep sea creature on the cruise for delectable digestibles. That said, we applaud Hyundai for not following the crowd, and being willing to do their own design.
The profile is much more to our taste, the Sonata looks long (it is), sleek, and very sporty. Two sharp character creases at the shoulder line and near the center line of the wheels give a muscular stance, while the coupe-like roof line gives added flair. The Limited’s 18-inch alloys look modern and crisp, and there’s plenty of room for larger, which we’re sure to see here in SoCal.
The rearview is especially sporty, with areo-like tabs across the top of the rear taillights the flow seamlessly into a rear spoiler, a cool lower fascia with a dual exhaust pipe poking out of the rear corner. Overall, this is a sleek, aggressive looking car with strong sport overtones. We like it!
Sonata Interior – Genesis-level Luxury
Inside is an even bigger treat. Hyundai says the cabin conforms to a “Beautifully Smart” theme, and we’ll agree they hit their mark. First of all, it is spacious – that long wheelbase means stretch-out room for those in front and in back. Need extra cargo space? The rear seat folds down easily. Settle down into heated and cooled leather front seats, and the sweeping low dash lays out before you.
The first of many of the “Smart” features is the first-in-class 12.3-inch digital gauge display. Tasteful, clear and stylish, it’s one of the best we’ve seen, bettering even the BMW M340i we tested recently. Well, mostly – like the Bavarian the Sonata also has a tachometer that spins in the counter-clockwise direction. At least it looks like a traditional gauge, but we still like a speedo and tach that turn the same direction.
It makes up for that by being exceptionally useful, and customizable to suit different drive modes and personal preferences. We also love the Genesis technology with both speedo (left) and tach (right) will give you a digital camera view on the side you are signaling respectively. Honda does this on the passenger side only, and it’s displayed on the navi-screen, Hyundai’s way is smarter, and takes less time looking away.
Sharing the digital love-fest is a humongous 10.25 HD infotainment display – and with its large size, it can split-screen, allowing audio and navi at the same time – Lexus like treatment – at Hyundai prices. Very nice. Apple CarPlay and Android auto? Of course! Hyundai loves to load their cars with tech.
They also load the Sonata with sound, thanks to a new collaboration with Bose, you get 12-speakers including a 9-inch subwoofer that pump out powerful sound. You also get cordless smartphone charging, and something they call Digital Key that lets you leave your key/key fob at home, and access everything via your smartphone.
Our favorite piece of tech is the Remote Smart Parking Assist. It’s a sure way to draw a crowd, as you maneuver in or out of tight parking spaces while outside of the Sonata, using the smart key to drive the car forward or back. It’s a game changer – you only see this on the uber-expensive German luxury sedans! It’s a great idea for tight garages – but we’re not sure we’d want to use it to park out beautiful Sonata super close to another vehicle. Don’t ding my Hyundai, please!
Along with the tech is a very conscious effort to make things feel upscale, with tasteful chrome trim, light gray leather, soft touch trim in the places you’re most likely to touch, tasteful lattice designs in the trim, and even a lovely leather steering wheel that echoes the downward arches of the grille. Nice.
Our only gripe is the relentless amount of gray, gray, gray and gray in the interior. It’s very somber. We would opt for one of the other exterior colors to get the camel leather, it offers a nice contrast with the seating, dashcover and armrests for a look that is even more upscale, and tasteful.
Sonata Performance – Polished and Purposeful
The Sonata doesn’t just look nice. It drives nice. While less models have a normally-aspirated 2.5-liter, four cylinder, our Limited enjoys the upscale 1.6-liter, turbocharged four cylinder engine. At first we thought a 1.6-liters is not a lot for such a large car, but the turbo is a powerhouse, with 180 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft of torque coming in at just 1,500 rpm.
Combined to an honest-to-goodness 8-speed automatic (no CVT, thank you), the Sonata builds a head of steam quickly, and in Sport Mode feels extremely responsive to the gas pedal. A side benefit of that 1.6-liter’s size, a combined EPA number of 31 mpg. Quite feasible if you can keep out of Turbo Time.
While the turbo serves up a sporty Sonata, the rest of the chassis is more designed for comfort. The ride is firm, but not harsh, the steering feel is good, as are the brakes. But there’s nothing here that begs you to hit the twisties, it’s more of a composed, and quiet cruiser. Which is probably right on target for the buyer. And with a 5-star NHTSA rating, you’ll feel comfortable with the family on board.
Do You Need Unlimited Means for the Limited Model?
Hey this is a Hyundai, and you get a lot for your hard-earned dollar. There’s a full range of models and equipment, starting with the SE model at just $23,600, with such niceties as 38 mpg highway, a 191 hp, 2.5-liter four cylinder engine, Forward Collision Avoidance with Pedestrian Detection, Driver attention warning, Lane Follow Assist and 8-inch touchscreen audio.
Our Limited model features the other end of the spectrum, and at $33,500, features everything we mentioned above, including leather seats, turbo engine, 10.25-inch Navigation, Remote Smart Parking Assist (a show-stopper!), Blind Spot View Monitor, Surround View Monitor, and more. The only option on our tester was carpeted floor mats at $135. Add in $995 for delivery, and we totaled out at $34,590.
Competitors are the Honda Accord Touring at $37,205 an excellent choice, but $2,600 more is significant. The Camry XSE V6 has a powerful V6 engine, but at $38,875, it is even more expensive than the Accord.
So, the Sonata strikes as an excellent value in one of the most competitive segments.
Sleek, stylish, with loads of advanced technology and luxury, the 2020 Hyundai Sonata is a massively impressive new sedan – that can even park itself!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.