- Good: Radical styling, upscale interior materials, all the bells and whistles.
- Bad: Engine isn’t as refined as rivals, no all-wheel-drive option, looks aren’t for everyone.
- DM Verdict: The Sonata is no longer a stand-in, it’s a stand-out.
What you need to know: The 2020 Hyundai Sonata is the Korean automakers freshly redesigned mid-size family sedan. Competitive models include the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu, and Kia Optima. The Sonata has three engine options, including a hybrid that can get over 50 mpg. Prices range from $24,555 to around $35,000.
31 years. That’s how long the Hyundai Sonata has been for sale on U.S. shores. 31 years of trying to be as good as the Ford Taurus, Honda Accord, and Toyota Camry. It just goes to show, if you keep trying long enough, you just might figure it out. With the 2020 Sonata, Hyundai is no longer trying to be as good as anyone. Now its got its own style and its own rules.
Over past few decades, the Sonata has swung back and forth between quirky and conservative styling. The 2020 redesign is certainly quirky, but gosh is it also striking. While the swooping chrome strips, gaping grille, and immense rear LED light might not be everyone’s choice, Hyundai should be commended for such radical styling elements in what is often a bland segment.
The interior is more universally appealing. Hyundai struck a pleasing blend of form and function. There are a few aspects of particular note: The steering wheel features four strategically placed spokes, maximizing arm comfort in virtually all positions. The infotainment display is worked artfully into the dash, rather than being plopped on top haphazardly, as it is with many new vehicles. The HVAC controls are some of the best around. Each function has a physical button or switch, and they’re all straightforward. This concept, which was so simple just a decade ago, has been muddled by manufacturers masking these functions behind lethargic touchscreens. Thank you, Hyundai, for not following this trend.
How does it drive? What, are you expecting to hear that it hugs the road like the new Corvette? No, it drives like a perfectly acceptable family sedan. In fact, with this 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and conventional 8-speed automatic transmission, the 2020 Sonata is pleasant in all daily driving. There’s only one car in this class that stands out in driving dynamics, and that’s the Honda Accord. If you crave more from your powertrain, sit tight until the hybrid and N-Line models are released later in 2020.
When it comes to the spec sheet, Hyundai covered all their bases. EPA fuel-economy numbers are on par with competitors (27 city, 36 highway, 31 combined for this Limited turbo model). Safety features abound, with necessities such as forward-collision avoidance, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control coming standard on even the base trim. The 2020 Hyundai Sonata hasn’t yet been crash tested by NHTSA, but it would be surprising if Hyundai didn’t engineer for the highest ratings. With heated and cooled front seats, wireless device charging, and fancy interior ambient lighting, nothing about the Sonata’s feature list left us wanting.
It does seem that Hyundai’s engineers and designers got to have a bit of fun with the Sonata. Aside from the dramatic exterior styling, the car does have some “features” that borderline on gimmicky. The Sonata can move forward or backward using only a button on the key fob—with no driver inside the vehicle. As demonstrated in Hyundai’s clever Superbowl commercial, this could be useful for particularly tight parking spots, although in the time it takes to confidently utilize the system, you could likely find a wider parking spot down the street. If carrying a key fob is too 2010’s for you, you can leave it at home and use your smartphone as a key. Just make sure you don’t let your phone battery die. Lastly, an icon in the infotainment display opens a thoroughly entertaining Sounds of Nature application. Upon launch, soothing forest sounds emit from the Sonata’s Bose speakers. Should you seek a different relaxation environment, there are more options: calm sea waves, rainy day, open-air cafe, warm fireplace, and snowy village, which is just the sound of feet clomping around on crunchy snow.
Quirky gimmicks aside, the 2020 Hyundai Sonata is a significantly complete package. With this eighth generation, Hyundai is no longer trying to emulate class leaders. It’s surpassed adequacy, and now it can experiment with making this car both competent and unique. With bold styling, a comfortable interior, and a solid build, the Sonata is now a desirable option, not just a pragmatic one. And pragmatic it is, staring at only $24,555 for a base SE model (about $500 less than a base Toyota Camry or Honda Accord); this range-topping Limited model is $34,365. A 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, 5-year or 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, and 3-year or 36,000-mile complimentary maintenance add to the Sonata’s value proposition.
The new 2020 Sonata embodies Hyundai’s hard work over the last 30 years. No longer is the Korean automaker playing catch up, trying to compete with class leaders from Japan, America, and Germany. This new Sonata is entirely its own, and it’s entirely good.