2020 Hyundai Sonata First Drive Review

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

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.

See Also: 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Review

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.

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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.

ALSO SEE: Where is Hyundai From and Where are Hyundais Made?

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.

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