2020 Hyundai Sonata Is a Big Step Forward
This affordable midsized sedan impresses with a roomy cabin and advanced safety features that come standard
The redesigned 2020 Hyundai Sonata midsized sedan leaves behind the upright styling of its predecessor for the stylish silhouette of the Sonata of two generations ago. It’s cloaked in sleek sheet metal that gives it a sporty look. In our first drive of the new Sonata we’ve found that it handles well, has plenty of power, and is quite roomy.
We just bought an SEL trim Sonata with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. This version is expected to be the most commonly sold. In addition, we rented a Sonata Limited 1.6T from Hyundai so we could get impressions of its turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and all the features that are available.
We’re impressed with the Sonata’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. It’s happy to putter around town yet can quickly change its attitude and deliver strong acceleration when you want it. It’s paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission that shifts smoothly and promptly. So far, we haven't experienced anything about this powertrain that owners will find fault with.
Our testers have remarked that the engine is never loud and obnoxious, even under full acceleration. It’s usually in the background as a mild hum, and has a pleasing sound when called on to deliver more power.
The 1.6-liter turbo has no horsepower advantage over the standard 2.5-liter engine, but it delivers its power at lower revs, meaning drivers don’t have to mash the throttle to get usable power. In addition, unlike some turbocharged engines we’ve experienced, this one doesn't suffer from a noticeable lag when taking off from a stop.
The entire cabin is incredibly roomy. Everyone at CR who has driven this Sonata—tall, short, and in between—has been able to find a comfortable seating position. The power driver’s seat has plenty of adjustments, including a two-way lumbar adjustment, and the telescoping steering wheel has ample extension range.
Rear-seat passengers are treated to space that’s usually found in large sedans. Legroom is generous, with lots of area to stretch out. And despite the Sonata’s sloping roofline, there's plenty of headroom for tall passengers.
While the previous generation had good handling, it’s been improved with the 2020 Hyundai Sonata. The steering is sharp and responds quickly, and the body remains stable and tied down, making the sedan enjoyable to drive. It isn’t a razor-edge sports sedan, but it’s on a par with the Accord and Camry.
Like most Hyundais, the main controls are pretty simple to use. The text and buttons that are used with the 8-inch center touch screen are easy to read and close at hand. We like that there are knobs for volume and tuning, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability is standard. Climate system adjustments are made via knobs and solid-feeling buttons.
The trunk is quite roomy, and the rear seatback folds in a 60/40 split, so long items can be accommodated even while one or two passengers sit in the rear seat.
The Limited version we rented was equipped with a system that gives the Sonata the ability to move forward and backward during parking maneuvers without a driver behind the wheel. Drivers operate the system via the key fob by remotely turning on the car, and then using buttons on the fob to move the car. We found this system especially helpful when extracting the car from a tight parking spot.
The 2020 Hyundai Sonata can’t match the plush ride of the Accord, Legacy, or Camry. While the ride isn’t as stiff as in the last generation, it’s still quite firm, and some potential buyers might find it unpleasant.
We'll check to see if the suspension settles in during the 2,000-mile break-in process, resulting in any improvements to ride quality.
While most controls are excellent, the Sonata’s push-button gear selector is unintuitive. It’s just like the one in the Hyundai Palisade three-row SUV. Operating the gear selector requires extra concentration and attention from the driver. As in the Palisade, selecting a gear can’t easily be done by feel, requiring the driver to look down to ensure the proper button is pushed and engaged. That can make it a challenge to smoothly and expeditiously back in or out of parking spots.
The 10.25-inch touch screen that’s on the SEL Plus and Limited trims uses only one knob, which controls volume levels. Tuning is handled by two buttons that are far away on the passenger side of the display. We think the two-knob setup that's used with the smaller screen is far more user-friendly.
The rear seat is roomy, but the seat itself isn’t all that comfortable. The bottom cushion is low and flat, and fails to provide much leg support, particularly for those with long legs.
We like that FCW, AEB with pedestrian detection, and lane keeping assist are standard equipment. Plus, the rearview camera uses guidelines that move when the car turns while reversing. This really helps position the car when backing into a tight parking space.
The 2020 Hyundai Sonata may be the deal of the new decade. Our SEL tested car is incredibly well-equipped for the price, particularly with its standard forward collision warning (FCW), automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning (BSW), rear cross traffic warning (RCTW), heated seats, and remote start for the MSRP of $26,670. Add a roomy cabin and attractive design details and the Sonata may give the Honda Accord, Subaru Legacy, and Toyota Camry a challenge for top midsized sedan.