Drive: Hyundai nails the 2020 Sonata redesign to craft a sharp and spacious sedan
The best automotive redesigns are the ones that encompass style, function and technology. Hyundai nailed all three with its new-for-2020 Sonata, a four-door sedan that dates back to 1989.
Style? The new Sonata bears a family resemblance to the Kia Stinger, which we first encountered at the Connecticut International Auto Show in Hartford in 2017. The Stinger was appropriately named; it was one of the sharpest-looking sport sedans we’d seen in years. If you liked the Stinger’s graceful, feline lines, you’ll like the Sonata’s, too.
Function also is a strong suit. The Sonata seats five, and while the rear-seat passengers will be squeezed a bit if the front seats are levered all the way back, there’s plenty of leg room in front to enable even the tallest drivers to slide forward a few inches. Rear headroom is sufficient for 6-footers. And the Sonata has a spacious trunk, too — 16 cubic feet.
In Limited trim — like our test car — the Sonata is loaded with tech and luxury features. Starting with safety tech, the Sonata Limited has blind-spot, rear cross-traffic, forward and parking collision-avoidance assist; surround view monitor; and smart cruise control. Activating the turn signal summons a live visual image in the gauge array of any obstacles that may be to the right or left of the car. It’s also possible to park the car in a tight space (or extract it) while standing outside. “Just press a button on your Smart Key and Sonata can drive itself into a parking space, and pull out of one, too,” Hyundai says on its website.
Our Sonata Limited, with just one inexpensive option — carpeted floor mats, $135 — has a sticker price of $34,590. That may seem to be on the high side for a midsize, medium-priced sedan, but this is a legitimate luxury car that pampers drivers and passengers in just about every way possible. The base Sonata SE starts at a more modest $23,600 and is well-equipped in its own right. A step up to the SEL, at $25,700, adds highly desirable safety-tech items that are not included with the SE, as well as heated seats and a power driver’s seat.
Hyundai offers a pair of engine choices, each bolted to an 8-speed, push-button transmission. The SE and SEL come with a 2.5-liter, 191-horsepower normally aspirated inline Four. The SEL Plus and Limited are equipped with a 1.6-liter turbocharged Four that delivers 180 horsepower. We found this power plant entirely acceptable in all conditions, though not exhilarating in terms of acceleration. We were pleased with its fuel economy — 36 mpg in mostly highway driving, using regular unleaded gasoline.
The ride and interior styling matched the Sonata Limited’s luxury environment. This is a very quiet, smooth-riding car that handles well enough to justify its sporty appearance.
2020 Hyundai Sonata Limited
Engine: 1.6-liter turbocharged inline Four, 180 horsepower, 195 lb.-ft torque
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters
Weight: 3,336 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 18-in. alloy
Tires: P235/45R18 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 16 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 15.9 gallons
Fuel economy: 27 mpg city, 36 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline
Like most sedan lines, the Sonata has weathered declining sales since peaking at 230,605 in 2012. Last year saw sales shrink to 87,466. Major competitors include the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Volkswagen Passat and Chevrolet Malibu, Subaru Legacy, Mazda6 and Kia Optima.
The Sonata has been rated a Top Safety Pick Plus by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Steven Macoy (email@example.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel.