If there is any car that has seen it all, it’s the Hyundai Sonata. First out in the late 1980’s it wasn’t a particular good car, following in the footsteps of the Hyundai Excel. But as each new generation of the Sonata appeared, it improved. First, it became more reliable. Then its styling was addressed. By 2009, the sixth Generation Hyundai Sonata was making a serious statement – it looked just as good as any Accord or Camry, was just as dependable, was packed with features, and came with a lower price tag.
The 2020 model years marks the debut of an all-new Sonata – the 7th in the car’s history. To experience what this new Sonata is like, Hyundai sent me not just any new Sonata, but the Sonata Hybrid Limited.
The all-new 2020 Hyundai Sonata is a strikingly good looking car. Prior to 2009, Sonata’s were as exciting to look at as a blank piece of paper. But once that sixth-generation appeared, everything changed – the Sonata became one of the best-looking mid-size sedans on the road.
Today, the 2020 Sonata continues that trend with an attractive grille and headlights that make for a pretty face, sleek, smooth body and nicely tapered backside.
On the new Sonata Hybrid, the grille and bumper are slightly different to better integrate its active air flaps, deflectors, and smooth under-body panels. Remember – high fuel economy is the goal here, so reducing aerodynamic drag is key. The result is a Sonata hybrid with a 0.24 Cd (drag coefficient).
The slippery Sonata Hybrid uses a drivetrain similar to the model it replaces which is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, electric motor, and six-speed automatic transmission. The six-speed transmission, which is rare for a hybrid as most use CVTs, has been reprogrammed to make shifts smoother and quicker. Total power output is 192 horsepower which is more horses than either of the two gas engines found in the non-hybrid models (the 2.5-liter four makes 191hp while the 1.6-liter Turbo four makes 180hp).
The results of the aerodynamic body and hybrid drivetrain is impressive. EPA rates the 2020 Sonata Hybrid Limitet at 45 mpg city, 51 mpg highway and a combined rating of 47 mpg – all excellent numbers for a midsize sedan. And those numbers increase by 1 mpg if you can do away with some of the Limiteds fancy features and opt for the lesser Blue trim level.
But if you are into technology and high-end features, the Limited is the way to go. There are front and rear sensors that detect when you’re too close to an object and it responds by beeping and flashing. There are cameras everywhere – including surround-view cameras and cameras that show a rear-side view in the gauge cluster when the turn signals are activated. It has the typical blind-spot monitors, but the indicators are also displayed in the colored heads-up display. There are plenty of charging and storage options for smartphones and you’ll be happy to know that both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity are supported, although Hyundai’s digital key option is only compatible with Android phones.
And then there’s the roof. Looking futuristic, Limited models come with a range-boosting solar-panel roof that acts as a trickle charger for both the conventional 12-volt battery and the hybrid system’s 1.6-kWh lithium-ion pack. Hyundai says with adequate exposure to the sun, the roof can replenish up to two miles of driving range per day.
Cruising around in the Sonata Hybrid, it easily achieves its goals – to get excellent fuel economy and to do it in comfort. I enjoyed the vented leather seats and the sound of Imagine Dragons coming out of the 12-speaker Bose sound system. A 10.25 inch touchscreen kept me in tune to the music and the navigation system. And all-the-while, I was thrilled to see that I was averaging 46 mpg.
Unfortunately, that was the only thrill I had, as the drive experience offered none. The drivetrain isn’t the smoothest and the handling isn’t anything to write home about either, as the Sonata Hybrid is just mediocre when it comes to attacking the curves. One bright spot – I never felt the need for more power. So those that feel that high fuel economy will come at the expense of a loss in power – well that’s not the case with this Sonata. And to be truthful here – if you’re looking at a Sonata Hybrid for the driving experience, well, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid starts at $27,750 – and my Limited carried an MSRP of $36,430. That’s a heck of a lot of car for the money. Included with that is Hyundai’s impressive ten-year warranty.
Thirty years ago, the Sonata was a car that wouldn’t be given a second look, and comparing it to a Honda or Toyota was ludicrous. But oh how things have changed. Both Hyundai and the Sonata have recently won a slew of awards & accolades for their achievements – and the 2020 Sonata Hybrid is proof on just how far Hyundai as come.
— Christopher A. Randazzo
By The Numbers:
2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited
Base Price: $35,300.00
Price as Tested: $36,430.00
Layout: front-engine / front-wheel drive
Engine: 2.0 liter inline 4-cylinder / electric motor
Transmission: 6 – speed automatic
Horsepower: 192 hp (combined)
EPA Fuel Economy: 45 city / 51 highway mpg
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