The Hyundai Sonata is the Korean automaker’s flagship family car, slotting into the hotly contested mid-size sedan category. Now in its seventh generation, the Sonata embodies the best of what Hyundai has to offer the average family car shopper. It boasts a rich feature set, a premium look and feel, and the sort of classic, elegant styling that has historically been reserved for much more expensive automobiles.

The seventh-generation Hyundai Sonata is all-new for 2020, moving the goalpost forward with its most impressive suite of standard safety and driver-assist technologies yet. It boasts a sleek new exterior design with a fastback silhouette. The architecture underpinning the 2020 Sonata is brand-new, too, as is one of its two U.S.-market engine options: a naturally-aspirated 2.5L four-cylinder. (The other option is Hyundai’s stalwart 1.6L turbo four-cylinder.)

As Hyundai continues its slow-but-steady march upmarket, the all-new Sonata exemplifies everything the Korean automaker has learned so far about building quality, high-value automobiles to compete on a global stage. Previous generations of the model range have played to the automaker’s strengths, offering desirable, choice content and a quasi-premium look and feel at an uncharacteristically low price point. This strategy has made the Sonata an appealing choice for the budget-minded buyer who still wants all the latest gizmos.

The all-new, 2020 Hyundai Sonata made its North American debut at the 2019 New York International Auto Show. For that market, the car is built at the company’s Montgomery, Alabama manufacturing plant.

Hyundai Sonata Fuel Economy

2020 Hyundai Sonata

Fuel economy figures for the new 2020 Hyundai Sonata aren’t yet known, but they shouldn’t be a radical departure from the 2019 model range. The 1.6T engine with 7-speed DCT represents the highest-achieving of the 2019 Sonatas, not counting the hybrid models. That powertrain resulted in a combined 31 miles per gallon: 28 mpg city and 37 mpg highway.

Yet, hybrid powertrain options seem likely for the eighth-generation Sonata, so more impressive figures could be on the way. In EPA testing, the 2019 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid SE represented the most efficient, with 42 mpg on the combined test cycle: 40 mpg city and 46 mpg highway.

Hyundai Sonata Safety Rating

 

The outgoing 2019 Sonata was selected by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) as a Top Safety Pick Plus, having earned ratings of Good in every crashworthiness category. That includes both of the troublesome small overlap front crash test categories and roof strength testing. In addition, Top Safety Pick Plus recipients like the Sonata must offer superior headlight illumination and a frontal collision prevention system rated either Advanced or Superior.

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata has not yet been tested by the IIHS, but it features Forward Collision Avoidance Assist as standard at every trim level, along with LED headlamps and LED daytime running lights. Considering that, we fully expect this new model to be selected as an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus just like its predecessor.

Hyundai Sonata Features

A rich feature set is part of the Hyundai Sonata’s core essence, and for 2020, the Sonata boasts an impressive array of high-tech gadgets. This extends beyond the aforementioned Forward Collision Avoidance Assist and LED headlamps and DRLs.

The list includes a lane keep assist system, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, and a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. In addition, the new Sonata offers an advanced parking assist system, 360-degree around-view monitoring, a 12.3-inch LCD instrument panel, and premium Bose audio.

That parking assist system features a nifty trick: Remote Smart Parking Assist. With that, the driver can align the vehicle with a parking space, hop out, and use buttons on the key fob to slowly maneuver the Sonata into the space. That’s handy when the only space available is an especially tight squeeze, or would have the driver stepping out into a deep puddle. Later, the driver can pull the vehicle out using the same system.

Hyundai Sonata Pricing

2020 Hyundai Sonata

The 2019 Hyundai Sonata starts at $23,580 including destination, with the MSRP swelling nearly ten grand to $33,180 for a top-of-the-line Limited 2.0T. Optional extras are limited on that model to tack-on accessories; check every box and the price increases marginally to $34,295.

The pricing hierarchy could look a bit different for 2020. The 2.0T engine will no longer be offered in the U.S.; word has it that it will be replaced by a turbocharged version of the 2.5L four-cylinder in a new performance-oriented N-Line model. That, along with all the expensive new gadgetry, could raise the Sonata’s price ceiling.

Hyundai Sonata Competitors

The Hyundai Sonata competes in the fiercely contested mid-size sedan segment against the likes of the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, and VW Passat. While much of the market emphasis has been on utility vehicles in recent years, the mid-size category continues to heat up; the Accord, Altima, and Camry have all undergone complete redesigns for 2017 or later. Like the Sonata, the Passat is all-new for 2020.

Mass-market automakers have been throwing everything they have at the mid-size sedan segment of late; the Sonata’s major competitors all feature an impressive mix of high-tech active safety and convenience features aimed at poaching buyers away from rival brands. That’s a strategy that Hyundai excels at for the price point, and the 2020 Sonata is positioned to hold its own on that front.

What’s less clear is whether the new Hyundai Sonata might be penalized for failing to offer all-wheel drive; both the Altima and Fusion offer AWD in the segment, giving them a leg up among concerned drivers in colder climes.

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2020 Hyundai Sonata Review

2020 Hyundai Sonata Review 1

By Sami Haaj-Assaad

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata has combined all of the many lessons learned over the past few years and is once again at the top of its game, delivering fantastic value, jaw-dropping style, and comfortable drivability.

With its unique design, the Sonata leaves an amazing first impression. And that will lead to a second impression. And then maybe a third impression, too! It’s a combination of outside the box thinking and classical elegance that makes the Sonata so intriguing to look at. A long, low slung hood hosts a chrome strip that really showcases the sedan’s profile. Even more interestingly, at the front of the vehicle, the day-time running lights spill onto the hood, giving the vehicle a look that’s found nowhere else on the market. It’s an original idea and design and mixes well with the rest of the shape of the vehicle.

Back to Beauty

2020 Hyundai Sonata Review 2
It may have a liftback kind of four-door-coupe profile, but don’t mistake this vehicle for a hatchback, it has a traditional trunk. Another fair warning: The Sonata will have two distinctly different flavors. Mainstream models have this elegant look, while sportier models are equipped with a turbocharged motor, and have a few extra gills and vents to exude a more aggressive mug on the road.

This design direction suggests that Hyundai looked back on their history and realized that the most successful Sonata was the sixth generation model with its provocative design, that looked so different than its competitors. The following generations went more conservative and safe in terms of design, and the Sonata lost its edge. It’s nice to see the 2020 Sonata is even more eye-catching than before, and much more impressive than its competitors.

Decked out Interior

I’m not suggesting the last Sonata was bad though. It made significant strides in terms of interior quality. The 2020 model continues that success with a slick interior design that looks premium and well finished. It’s full of nice touches like a huge 10.25-inch touchscreen mounted nice and high on the dashboard, or the 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. That gauge cluster will even feature a live feed of what’s happening beside the car when you flick the lane change indicator. It’s like Honda’s lane-watch system for both sides of the car and it’s a totally cool tech demo. The interior also features ambient lighting with 64 colors to choose from.

The materials and layout of the car are good, as well. Mind you, we were given a general overview of the Korean market models, rather than North American spec models, so trim packaging may differ from what we saw. No matter the market, the Sonata has a spacious interior, with a rear seat that’s almost as spacious as the Honda Accord. I love the new headliner, a cloth that we first saw on the Santa Fe. Up front, meanwhile, you’ll notice tactile, bumpy knobs and a shift by wire setup for the transmission.

Two engines offered (so far)

Under the hood, the automaker will offer a new generation of engine named Smart Stream. Expect 0a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine that makes about 180 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque or a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that uses both direct and port injection to deliver 190 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. Both engines will be paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Hyundai seems to be considering other powertrains including an all-wheel-drive model and hybrid versions, and other markets are getting 2.0-liter turbocharged motors that would line up nicely against the 2.0-turbos in this segment.

We spent a limited amount of time with the 1.6-liter turbo, but it definitely has some pep. So far, the motors aren’t a radical departure from the current generations, but the gearing is nicely sorted out. Drivers shouldn’t place too much emphasis on the figures, which seem a bit limp in comparison to the Sonata’s top rivals.

The vehicle has pretty light steering, although there are a few drive modes that adjust the feeling and the heft. It follows the road nicely, with a smooth suspension that isn’t stiff or aggressive at all. This might be changed when it hits our market because the Korean roads have plenty of speed bumps that wouldn’t be comfortable with a stiff suspension. It’s worth noting that the vehicles we drove rode on Pirelli P-Zero tires, high-quality rubber that has plenty of grip. It’s a big factor in how the new Sonata feels so confident on the road.

New Tech on Tap

As per usual, Hyundai will have a lot of technology to offer, be it in-cabin convenience, driver assistance, or safety features. Expect lane keep assistance, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision warning. The Sonata will also have a parking assistance feature, and can even move forward and backward without a driver so you can get in or out of tight spots. Hyundai even demonstrated a handy digital key, which has owners using their phone as a key, although we’re unsure if this feature will make its way to North America.

The Verdict: 2020 Hyundai Sonata Review

We’re glad we got the chance to drive this new vehicle, but there is still a lot up in the air at this point. Fuel economy and pricing have yet to be announced, and buyers in this segment will want to wait until those figures are public before putting their name on a new Sonata. Hyundai thinks that they have a good chance at winning next year’s World Car of the Year award but it’ll come down to those last missing bits of information before we’d agree with them.

What is clear, though, is that the Sonata is not only better than it’s ever been, it’s back to being one of the more intriguing and exciting vehicles of its class thanks to its gorgeous styling, thoughtful interior, and plentiful tech offerings.

Detailed Specs

Engine / 1.6L Turbo 4-cyl / 2.5L 4-cyl
Horsepower / 180 / 190
Torque / 195 lb-ft / 181 lb-ft
Transmission / 8-speed automatic
Drivetrain / Front-wheel drive

Our Final Verdict

Stunning looks and amazing technology abound in the 2020 Hyundai Sonata, but is it enough to put this car on top? We’d say: no. Competition from the Camry is strong as always – though it’s looks are certainly more polarizing. And the Honda Accord continues to be our top pick in the mid-size category. Still, there’s lots to love about the Sonata and more than a few reasons it could edge out the perennial frontrunners for a spot in your driveway.

4.1