Style reawakened. Despite the move away from sedans, it’s full speed ahead for the all-new 2020 Hyundai Sonata. Both the interior and exterior are clean-sheet redesigns, establishing a worthy successor to the ground-breaking sixth-generation model, which was introduced in 2011.
Based on a new third-generation platform, the midsize Sonata offers the choice of two new gasoline engines, new suspension geometry, available app-based digital key technology, and a wide range of standard and available advanced safety systems.
Stunning from any angle, the sporty and curvaceous body is longer, lower, and wider than the outgoing model, punctuated by a roofline that begins with a steeper windshield rake, and terminates where the coupe-like roofline meets the trailing edge of the decklid.
Up front, the Aston Martin-inspired grille is flanked by a pair of wedge-shaped LED headlight enclosures. Boomerang-shaped LED strips lock those enclosures in place, establishing a vapor trail along the edges of hood that flows into the beltline.
Sharp upper and lower character lines define the body sides, while the rear fascia is more expressive than up front, with an aggressive upper overhang formed, in part by the upper portion of the C-shaped taillights, with the lower portion of those lights tracing a clean arc across the mid portion of the trunk lid.
Inside, despite a 1.5-inch lower roofline, head room is just 0.4 inches less up front, and 0.2 less in back. The horizontal look of the rear fascia is carried over to the soft-touch minimalist dash dominated by either an 8- or 10.25-inch color touchscreen.
Below brushed metal trim, the central dash strip houses air vents, while the lower center stack contains the controls for heat and air condition. Rounding out the near-luxury look is a push-button gear selector set in a piano black surround, a long, soft, stitched console storage cover, recessed door pulls, and bright metal door trim the blends into the door latches.
At the same time, interior and exterior brightwork might be a bit overdone for some tastes.
Advanced safety. The newest Sonata scores a five-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA, while the IIHS rates it a Top Safety Pick. Backing up those scores are a series of sensors and systems including three radar sensors, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and five cameras.
These feed information to the pre-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, lane follow assist, driver attention warning, automatic high-beams, and adaptive cruise control systems that are standard across the lineup.
SEL and above trims also feature blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane change assist, while the top Limited trim also receives a blind-spot view monitor and a surround-view camera system.
Value proposition. The Sonata lineup continues to impress with a list of standard amenities that includes LED headlights, daytime running lights, and taillights; an acoustic windshield; keyless entry; and an 8-inch color touchscreen with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto capabilities. This makes the $24,330 starting price for the base SE model a great value.
Stepping up to the $26,430 SEL trims adds the additional safety features along with heated outside mirrors, acoustic front door glass, sportier looking front and rear fascias, a power driver’s seat, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, chrome interior accents, push button start, a hands-free smart trunk, satellite radio, and Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system. A sunroof, 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster, wireless charging, and more are available.
The $28,380 SEL Plus model features a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylidner engine, and adds satin chrome outside door handles, aluminum pedals, faux leather and suede seats, a power front passenger seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. This is also where the 10.25-inch touchscreen becomes available.
The range-topping Limited trim, which starts at $34,230, adds the sunroof, 10.25-inch touchscreen, surround-view camera system, leather seating, a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, and more as standard.
Two new engines. The Sonata’s two new engines are trim-specific. The SE and SEL feature a normally-aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder that develops 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. The SEL Plus and Limited are spec’d with the 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder that’s down on power (180 hp), but makes up for that deficit with 195 lb-ft of torque that’s available from just 1,500 rpm.
Both engines are paired with a thoroughly modern eight-speed automatic transmission with a Drive Mode system (Normal, Smart, Sport, Custom) that tailors throttle response, transmission shift points, and steering effort – and represents a welcome respite from last year, when the small turbo was hitched to a less-than-satisfying dual-clutch unit.
Looking at fuel efficiency, the 2.5-liter engine manages up to an EPA-estimated 28 miles per gallon in the city, 38 mpg on the highway, and 32 combined. For its part, the 1.6-liter turbo achieves 27/36/31 mpg (city/highway/combined).
Suspension layout is more traditional, with front struts and a rear multi-link setup, that offers up a soft – yet still responsive – ride. Steering is precise with decent feedback, and the ride lends itself to relaxed, all-day cruising.
Overall, the Sonata’s performance seems to have slipped a notch as the transmission, when paired with the 1.6-liter turbo, seems slow to downshift. And while this drivetrain can hold its own with rivals, Hyundai has eighty-sixed last year’s 245-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo engine – although it may be waiting in the wings for a possible Sonata N. In addition, though body motions are well controlled, the Sonata is neither as poised, nor as communicative as a Mazda Mazda6 or Honda Accord.
Final thoughts. Despite an excess of flash and overall handling and performance that lags rivals, the 2020 Hyundai Sonata impresses with a stunning design, smooth ride, near-luxury interior, and long list of standard advanced safety features. These attributes vault the Sonata to near the top of the midsize sedan class.
Check prices for the 2020 Hyundai Sonata »