The 2020 Hyundai Sonata takes a ground-up approach from the model it replaces. This eighth generation of Hyundai’s flagship sedan uses a new architecture, new powertrains and unique styling from its predecessor. In doing all that, the company aims to set the Sonata apart from its competition, taking direct aim at the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Collectively, these two models alone have sold nearly 560,000 examples this year (Camry sold 310,669 while Accord sold 247,885), while the Sonata has sold just 80,361 units. While the Sonata may not sell at the same rate as the two frontrunners, clearly there’s some room for Hyundai to peel some sales away from some of the most popular midsize sedans on the market.
Months after seeing it at the New York Auto Show in April, we have the chance to try out the redesigned 2020 Hyundai Sonata. The company brought Roman and Tommy out to Scottsdale, Arizona to see what the car’s like in person, and also cover some of its more surprising features.
On the convenience front, the 2020 Hyundai Sonata comes out strong with more powerful wireless charging that’s actually vented, preventing your phone from getting too hot while topping off. Sticking with the phone, you can also use Hyundai’s app to access the digital key feature, letting you use your smartphone to lock and unlock your car, open the truck, hit the panic button, and use remote start. On top of that, however, it also lets you remotely control the car from a short distance. If you’re close to the car, you can use your phone or the key fob to summon the car out of a tight parking space, or park itself if you aren’t keen on doing it yourself.
The tech continues once you get inside, including the digital gauge cluster. Now, the 2020 Hyundai Sonata is hardly alone in having a digital dash. That said, its party trick is bringing up images covering your blind spot in either the speedometer or tachometer depending on which turn signal you switch on. As with other fully digital clusters, you can configure it to display the most important information to you at any given moment. In the infotainment system, you also have a “sounds of nature” feature with the Bose premium audio system. A bit strange, perhaps, but if you just want to drive along with some white noise in the background, it could be a useful feature. Sounds include “Calm Sea Waves”, “Rainy Day”, and “Open Air Cafe”.
What do you think of the styling?
The 2020 Hyundai Sonata aims to shake off the model’s image as a boring, somewhat stodgy sedan. That translates to the whole segment, rather than just Hyundai’s offering, so that’s why we have the latest, more aggressive versions of the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Mazda6 and so on.
The Sonata adds a more pronounced hood that runs from the front grille back to the A-pillar, with some attractive-looking creases along the way. You also get unique daytime running lights that run up into the hood thanks to a perforated chrome trim piece. With the lights off, it looks more or less like an ordinary sedan, but the lighting offers the 2020 Hyundai Sonata a distinctive presence at night. That presence moves through to the rear end as well, with the taillight design. The exterior is much sharper than the old model, but while the interior has also seen a redesign, it’s let down a bit by a sea of black and gray materials.
Under the hood
At launch, the 2020 Hyundai Sonata has two available engines. The base SE and SEL models actually have a more powerful engine, by way of a 191 horsepower naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter unit. However, it has just 181 lb-ft of torque. Higher trims get a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine with 180 horsepower, but 195 lb-ft of torque. Both mate up to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Rather than using an old shift lever, though, this model gets Hyundai’s shift-by-wire push button system, for better or worse. It does clear up space in the center console, but those who like more direct, mechanical control may be disappointed.
Despite the move to a new platform, the 2020 Hyundai Sonata strictly remains a front-wheel drive car. There is one encouraging development, though, and one we’re hopeful Hyundai will eventually use. There is an N Line model coming, which will be the sportiest and most powerful version. It has a 2.5-liter turbocharged engine with 290 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. It isn’t a full-on N model, but that does make it one of the most powerful Hyundai models in current production.
While Hyundai says all-wheel drive isn’t available, engineers tell us the platform can readily accept a rear-mounted electric motor. Could we see an all-wheel drive Sonata Hybrid at some point? Perhaps not, but it’s always possible.
The 2020 Hyundai Sonata offers a pretty good value incentive, with prices starting just $24,330 including destination for the base SE. For that money, you still get the distinctive running lights, an 8.0-inch touchscreen display and a suite of safety equipment including automatic emergency braking and lane keep assist. Prices rise through SEL, SEL Plus and Limited, topping out at $34,230 for a fully-loaded Sonata, barring options and accessories.
If you’re in the market for a 2020 Hyundai Sonata, (non-N Line) models are hitting dealerships right now.