2020 Hyundai Sonata Gets Fashionable Looks and a Phone-Based Key
A new platform, new engine, and new standard tech round out the list of updates
The 2020 redesigned Sonata has distinctive design and cutting-edge technology and it still brings a lot of kit for the buck.
Aside from a slight refresh in 2018 and 2015, the last time the Sonata got such a major overhaul was way back in 2011. The 2020 redesign makes it clear that despite the automaker’s focus on SUVs, Hyundai isn’t abandoning sedan buyers.
Hyundai gave the Sonata a distinctive appearance that's unmistakably sleek and modern. A trapezoidal grille runs from the edge of the hood to the tip of the bumper, and the tapered rear is surrounded and bisected by lighting.
One interesting design detail is what Hyundai calls Hidden Lighting Lamps, which surround the headlights and extend up the hood. Although they glow when the car is on, they look like chrome trim when the car is turned off.
We're fans of Hyundai's clean, straightforward cabin designs, and it appears that the new Sonata doesn't stray too far from those design principles. The infotainment and climate control systems still get hard knobs and buttons for frequently used tasks, but alas, the traditional gear selector has been replaced with buttons, which we've found tricky to use on the Palisade.
Otherwise, the dashboard is dominated by rounded-off angles—including the housing for the touch screen, the vents, and even the chrome trim on the steering wheel. There’s lots of hidden lighting, as well. An 8-inch touch screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility comes standard.
A panoramic sunroof, wireless smartphone charging, heated and cooled front seats, and a premium sound system are optional, as is a 10.25-inch touch screen, which has a split-screen function that can display both audio and navigation at the same time. The top trim gets a Summon feature which allows an owner to retrieve the car from a tight parking spot (perpendicular only) through the key fob.
Android phone users will be able to swap the Sonata's key for an app. Hyundai Digital Key uses a phone's built-in near field communication (aka NFC) to perform the same functions as a traditional key, in addition to granting remote access to family and friends—as long as they also have an Android phone. An owner can set limits on those shared virtual keys and revoke access as well. Unlike the Tesla Model 3, which also uses a smartphone-based key, the Sonata still comes with traditional keys.
Buyers will have two new four-cylinder engines to choose from: a 2.5-liter engine rated at 191 hp or a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine rated at 180 hp. We hope the turbo addresses some of the issues we’ve had with uneven power delivery from older turbocharged engines in other Hyundai models.
An eight-speed transmission is the only choice, and it replaces the six- and seven-speed transmissions available on the previous Sonata. Hyundai says to expect combined fuel economy of 33 mpg from the 2.5-liter engine and 31 mpg from the 1.6-liter turbo—an improvement over the 28 mpg we got from a current Sonata with a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine and six-speed transmission.
The new Sonata is also the first vehicle built on a new platform that will underpin future Hyundai models. The sedan also gets a new suspension designed to improve handling, and brakes that are more responsive than the outgoing car’s. We find the current Sonata’s ride to be taut although a touch firmer than other sedans in its class.
Standard advanced safety features include forward collision warning (FCW), and automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection.
Like the Santa Fe, the Sonata offers Hyundai’s Safe Exit Assist, which warns occupants that a vehicle is approaching from behind when they open a door.
Sedans may be fading in popularity, so it's a particularly bold move from Hyundai to give the Sonata such a dramatic new look. We expect the new features that debuted on the Sonata will make it to other Hyundai models in the near future.
We’ll be testing the new Sonata after we buy our own in fall 2019.