Hyundai's midsize sedan gets a complete refresh for 2020. Wheelbase and length grow slightly, exterior and interior styling are all new and there is a shuffling of powertrain options. Still, the biggest takeaway, at least from Hyundai's advertising blitz is the addition of new technology like Smart Park. Regardless, Sonata is a front-drive, 4-door sedan with seating for 5 passengers. It remains mechanically similar to the Kia Optima. Competitors include the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry and Volkswagen Passat.
Sonata buyers can select from two gas engines and a gas-electric hybrid powertrain. Trim levels include SE, Blue, SEL, SEL Plus, Limited. Gas engines choices include a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that makes 191 horsepower and a turbocharged 1.6-liter four that makes 180 horsepower. Both mate to a traditional 8-speed automatic transmission. Sonata Hybrid gets a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that pairs with an electric motor to produce 192 peak horsepower. It works through a conventional 6-speed automatic transmission.
Sonata prices start at $23,600 with hybrid starting at $27,750. Standard features include LED headlights, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, lane-centering assist, and forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking. Gas models include the SE, SEL, SEL Plus and Limited. Sonata Hybrid is offered in Blue, SEL and Limited trim.
Sonata's base engine is just becoming available. Likely it's pretty similar to last year's offering, meaning mild performance, good economy and little fuss. Thankfully it's bolted to a conventional automatic. While many competitors offer continuously variable automatics, the Sonata's conventional stepped-gear transmission provides crisp shifts and a more natural feeling during acceleration. Though no powerhouse, the available turbo 1.6 is noticeably stronger in passing situations. Put your foot down and the turbocharged Sonata will run from 0 to 60 MPH in about 8.5 seconds.
Sonata Hybrid is significantly more fuel efficient for 2020. That said, it seems to be a bit more powerful as well, and, thanks to the conventional automatic, it drives like a regular car most of the time. Yes, the electric motor can power away at stoplights and operate at parking lot speeds, but more importantly it allows the gas engine to take time off and save fuel. All-in-all it's a smooth and seamless powertrain that is well worth the look for average shoppers.
EPA numbers for the 2.5-liter gas model are 28 MPG city and 38 MPG highway. Turbo four numbers are 27/36 MPG. The hybrid nets 45/51 MPG unless you opt for the Blue trim, which gets 50/54 MPG ratings. Regardless of engine, Sonata runs fine on regular-grade gasoline. In real-world routine suburban driving, expect to average about 30 MPG overall with the gas-only models. Hybrid models will easily average 45 MPG around town. Also available on hybrid models is an available solar roof, which Hyundai claims can add up to 2 miles of range per day.
On the road, the new Sonata benefits from a stiffer chassis and revised suspension that seem to have a clearer mission this year. That task is to provide a comfortable and stable ride that's not pillow soft or floaty. In fact, in some to trims Sonata's ride gets a bit busy. For the most part, things are on point as the Sonata has ample bump absorption and great ride control. Throw in a significantly quieter cabin and you have the right mix to make the majority of midsize car shoppers very happy.
Dynamically, Sonata is not a sport sedan or even a sporty sedan. The accurate steering is definitely better tuned to provide some feedback and the brakes have plenty of stopping power. But there's too much body lean in turns, the tires don't have enough dry-road grip and the body seems to wallow in quick transitions. All combined, the new Sonata fails to elevate to sporty status. All-in-all, Sonata succeeds in its mission to provide comfortable, quiet transportation to the masses.
Striking styling aside, Sonata's biggest improvement may be on the inside where a deft blend of design, materials and technology transform a ho-hum interior into a master class on ergonomics that others are sure to copy. SE and SEL models get traditional analog dials in the instrument cluster, while SEL Plus and above get an amazingly sharp and crisp 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. Also available is a 10.25-inch infotainment screen that sits at the top of the center stack. Traditional climate controls and a unique push-button gear selector round out the simplistic design.
As you would expect, there's ample space inside as well. Six-footers can easily sit behind six-footers, and the 16-cubic-foot trunk is just about as big as it gets for the class. Front-seat passengers sit high in well bolstered and supportive seats. Back-seat passengers are treated nicely as well with ample seat cushioning l. Despite the sloping roof, the Sonata has good hear-seat head room. Outward visibility is excellent thanks to the sedan's relatively narrow pillars and large greenhouse. Interior storage is great with lots of open and covered bins throughout.
No discussion of the new 2020 Sonata would be complete without a deep dive into technology, as it is a big part of the redesign. It seems like there are sensors everywhere in the car, alerting you to every possible danger. The adaptive cruise control operates smoothly, and when you get to your destination, parking the Sonata is easy, thanks to excellent rear- and surround-view cameras. The Sonata also shows a rear-side view in the gauge cluster when the turn signals are activated. The large 10.3-inch center touchscreen is nicely integrated into the dash and is quick to respond to even light touches. Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity are supported, and there are plenty of charging and storage options for smartphones. Hyundai's Smart Park is currently only available on the regular Sonata. It is a neat parlor trick, but its real-world usefulness is questionable.
Bottom Line -- Sedans are dead, long live the Sonata. With a complete ground-up refresh, Hyundai has reinvented the modern midsize sedan. Taking all that is good about sedans and adding a healthy dollop of technology and a fair amount of frugality, Hyundai has quite possibly built the perfect midsize option for the majority of sedan buyers. No, it isn't as sporty as the Accord or as affordable as the Malibu or Fusion. But is strikes a perfect middle ground that deftly blends all of the features buyers want with the technology they need to make their ride a bit more safe and pleasant. Hybrids surprise with impressive efficiency and range and no penalty in cargo capacity or performance.