By on April 18, 2019

Image: Hyundai

Staying true to its tradition of extremely bold styling revamps, Hyundai’s 2020 Sonata looks like something penned by a team of French and Italian designers. We explored the next-generation midsizer’s many styling highlights earlier this year.

Now that the upcoming Sonata has had its official New York debut, there’s more information to get across. Specifically, power, but also efficiency. The same engine technology that went into the pint-sized Venue unveiled Wednesday also makes an appearance in the Sonata, though the automaker hasn’t forgotten that horsepower (sometimes) sells.

The Sonata will be the second North American model to undergo the N Line treatment.

The Alabama-built Sonata will have two engines on offer when it goes on sale this October: a turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-four and a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four that replaces the current generation’s 2.4-liter mill. Both powerplants are “Smartstream” units designed to maximize thermal efficiency for fuel economy gains.

Image: Hyundai

The uplevel Smartstream G1.6 T-GDI engine generates 180 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and hits peak torque (195 lb-ft) at 1,500 rpm, maintaining that grunt through 4,500 rpm. With a pushbutton-actuated eight-speed automatic handling shifting duties, Hyundai anticipates a lofty combined fuel economy figure of 31 mpg.

The 2.5-liter essentially flips those power figures, generating 191 hp and 181 lb-ft, with the same eight-speed in tow. Compared to the engine it replaces, the 2.5L adds 6 hp and 3 lb-ft — not a huge gain, though its estimated combined fuel economy rises 4 mpg to 33 mpg.

As we told you before, the Sonata’s migration to a new, stiffer platform brings with it rejigged suspension fore and aft, plus a body that’s longer, lower, and wider than before. Hyundai promises improved handling dynamics, plus a quieter cabin environment. There, you’ll find more tech than ever, with available 10.25-inch touchscreen, 12.3-inch gauge cluster display, and Blue Link connected car tech available for those who want to pay more. Standard touchscreen size is 8 inches, by the way, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity comes standard.

Speaking of spending more, doesn’t Hyundai offer a turbocharged 2.0-liter for top-spec buyers? Why, yes, it does. And a refined version of that powerplant is on the way.

Hyundai Motor America’s public relations director, Jim Trainor, told Autoblog that a Sonata N Line is in the works, but won’t appear this fall. Expect to see the N Line variant sometime in 2020, he said, with an engine making “at least 275 horsepower, and probably a lot more.”

A hybrid variant will also return to the lineup at some point, he added.

As the current-gen Sonata’s 2.0T engine generates 260 hp and 245 lb-ft, this represents a meaningful performance boost, and upgraded brakes and suspension, plus N Line-specific exterior add-ons, should tempt the family man who isn’t willing to go the minivan or crossover route.

Speaking of that hypothetical buyer — he’s going extinct, or at least into hibernation. Midsize sedan sales are drying up, even for the segment-leading Camry and runner-up Honda Accord, and the current-gen Sonata’s 2018 refresh certainly didn’t do anything to turn things around. Sonata sales fell 20.2 percent in the U.S. in 2018, with the first three months of showing a 9.7 percent year-to-date sales drop.

Can the radically restyled 2020 Sonata compel American buyers to return to the once-loved midsize sedan? Chances are, you’re silently mouthing the word “no” this very second — and you’d be forgiven for doing so, given the state of the market’s seemingly irreversible shift to utility vehicles. But you wouldn’t respect Hyundai for not pulling out all the stops to prevent it, would you?

[Images: Hyundai]

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41 Comments on “Hyundai’s 2020 Sonata: Optimized Engines, and an N Line Model Waiting in the Wings...”


  • avatar

    View from the rear is much more upscale. I like the thin heckblende and sharp creases.

    Viewing the front half from the 3/4 angle, I’m getting old ES330 vibes.

    The headlamp pieces implementation isn’t great up close. Those seams are going to collect dirt big time, and age more at the edges (yellowing).

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    It’s a handsome vehicle, I think better looking than Accord, and certainly the Camry.The interior looks better too.
    AWD would help this sedan in a big way. I think the same folks in cold weather states would prefer the looks to this over the Legacy , or I suppose the Altima.
    Now the 6 is going to offer AWD.
    I think having full size AWD sedans will help hedge bets that crossovers could fall out of vogue.

  • avatar
    SlowMyke

    Am i the only one who doesn’t find this thing attractive? I mean, I’m usually not in the majority with my styling preferences, but this just looks so awkward to me.

    Corey Lewis is spot on with his assessment of the headlights up close, and from afar they look like they’re going for some sort of cartoony motion-lines. And that grill… It’s got 8 different points and goes from concave to convex and back. It’s too goofy a shape for my liking.

    And unrelated, can someone get that poor autoguide kid in the video some properly fitting clothes? He’s got a bit of a Dana Carvey in Master of Disguise look going on.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I agree, I dont find it attractive at all. It, like the Camry, looks like a hot mess of “LOOK AT ME, please!” styling that I do not think will age well.

      I do like the dashboard, though.

    • 0 avatar
      RedRocket

      It looks like they took the design crew who did the overstyled 2011 model and were subsequently exiled to the Kona and Veloster studios, and swapped them for the bunch that did the recent ultra-conservative Sonata designs. Some nice touches here and there but taken as a whole, way overdone for the segment.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      the droopy grille resembles the mouth of a catfish.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I think it is good looking. I wish it was launching with an N version.

    However I think at this point the sedan segment is going to turn into cannibalization. You are going to have a hard time luring someone into a sedan who wasn’t planning on buying one in the first place.

    • 0 avatar
      Raevoxx

      They said an N-Line model with “more than 275HP” is coming later that launch year.

      My guess is it’s going to be the 2.5T with the 8-speed DCT, both of which they have had in development.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        God I hate dual clutches.

        Give me an honest to god torque converter automatic.

        • 0 avatar
          Raevoxx

          It’s the same contentious opinion many gearheads have, about CVTs.

          I personally enjoy dual-clutch automated manuals, and loathe CVTs. They aren’t as smooth but far more sporty and I enjoy the “direct” feeling. Even my partner loves the DCT in his Elantra GT Sport, and he’s about as far from a car person as you can get.

          As an aside, my left foot got messed up in an auto accident about 7 years ago which basically ended my days of driving a manual transmission as a daily driver. So a DCT is the closest I’ll ever get to driving a manual again. I CAN still drive a manual, but not over long drives or my foot gets stiff and numb, and eventually I wouldn’t be able to manipulate the clutch.

          That being said, Ford’s DCT absolutely sucked and after we got used to the transmission in his 2016 Fiesta, we both grew to loathe that one.

          A wet clutch would presumably be smoother as well as having a much higher torque limit; ala VW’s DSG. Hyundai’s dry clutch is only rated to about 275 ft-lb.

        • 0 avatar
          johnny_5.0

          @Dan

          The 7 speed DSG that is replacing the 6 speed everywhere has an 80k/mile interval now. Personally I’d rather have a good dual clutch that requires maintenance once over the lifetime most people will keep it rather than a torque converter automatic that is constantly in the wrong gear and is frustrating on a daily basis. That part obviously comes down to programming, where something like the 8HP is quite good. But VW’s DSG is far better than the automatics in 90%+ of cars our there.

        • 0 avatar
          Raevoxx

          Then I think it comes down to a simple issue of “Pay to Play”; I fully expect a higher performance oriented transmission to require more maintenance than a traditional automatic.

          Automatics will still need fluid changes, despite claiming “lifetime” fluid. It’s never lifetime, and if you look into a lot of vehicle manuals it will actually give an automatic transmission fluid service interval for the Severe Duty schedule.

          40K miles for a DSG fluid change isn’t really too bad. And there’s independent shops that can do the service, you don’t need to go to the dealer and get raked. If I did DSG fluid changes based on mileage, it would be every decade or so since I have a 3 mile daily commute. If I had my OLD commute, and took a few trips and drove on weekends, I’d still have a -5 year- DSG change interval.

          If I factor in a DSG fluid change of $400 (on the high side – likely less through an indy shop), every 1,825 days, the DSG fluid would cost me 22 cents per day to maintain.

          • 0 avatar
            Nick_515

            Just serviced my DSG (ahem S-Tronic) at my trusted indie, who is trusted but not dirt cheap. I think the bill was ~300. Audi A3 with nearly 80k. Under 5 mph, I still don’t like it despite having had the car for twenty thousand miles already. Above 5 mph it’s a thing of beauty.

            The question of whether I’d go for a DSG again is interesting, I honestly don’t know right now. But that’s because I don’t know what I value more, not because they’re some mysterious thing.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        There has been talk of the next Optima GT pushing out 286 hp w/ the 2.5T, so the Sonata N-Line should be somewhere around that.

        Think the 8 spd AT is a possibility (or Hyundai may offer both).

        Can definitely see the new 8 spd DCT being used if Hyundai decides to do a full-blown Sonata-N, but should also mean AWD (the new N3 platform is AWD-capable).

  • avatar
    Gedrven

    Is this only for family men?

    I like that they’ve toned down the Complicated Catfish at the front, though there’s still a ways to go. The sides and rear are quite nice IMO, not too busy. I hope it looks as good in person as in photos. Not that I’m going to buy one; it not only is unavailable in a manual but the center console and parkingbrake make it that much harder to ever convert.

    They’ve come a long way since the likes of the Excel.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      “They’ve come a long way since the likes of the Excel.” Three months ago, I’d enthusiasically agree. Now I’m starting to wonder all over again.

      The recent toll of recalls and defects on H/K products is pretty alarming even if you calibrate by Fiat/Chrysler standards. Shavings in engines causing thrown rods. Cars going on fire in serious numbers. Cars bursing into flames when they’re switched off. Cars bursting into flames at the TAILLIGHTS, for Chrissakes.

      Modern automakers employ lots of engineers to manage lots of design complexities. It’s been reported for years that H/K skimped in this area, even in recent years. Increasingly the question is: How much?

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The US spec turbo front clip has more of that catfish shape than the KDM version (which looks better).

      Someone did a rendering of what the Sonata-N/N-line could look like based on the KDM and it looks pretty good.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    May not be as dumb a move as everyone thinks it is. After all, yes, the midsize sedan markets is shrinking, but one major player (Fusion) is gone, and another (Malibu) looks like a dead nameplate walking. That’s a couple hundred thousand sales, give or take.

    There might be an opportunity here, particularly for a car that’s substantially better looking than the Accord or Camry.

  • avatar
    Raevoxx

    The 2.5T and 8-speed wet DCT option are slated to go into the Veloster N, so I don’t see why the Sonata N-Line wouldn’t be part of that.

    Now, a FULL Sonata N? Probably a cranked-up 2.5T. I think the 3.5T would be overkill (plus so far, I haven’t read anything about a tranverse version of that engine becoming available)

  • avatar
    aquaticko

    I was really hoping for a global release of the hybrid model at NYIAS. We saw the thing debut locally, sort of, at the Goyang motor show a few weeks ago, but there was no information about it besides the presence/availability of a solar panel on the roof. The new hybrid Sonata is the sole competition for the Accord hybrid for a self-gift when I pass my nursing boards next year. I was hoping to stoke the flames of motivation with some more details about the hybrid.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Ha! I looked at the photos before reading and my first thought was, that back end and that stupid steering wheel look like something out of France!

    I am not so sure going with funky Citroen design is a good move here. This is one UGLY car.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    so a mass market sedan manages to get the daylight opening right while the CT5 can’t. sad!

    shaking my head.

  • avatar
    Trucky McTruckface

    Those running lights are ridiculous. Interesting idea, but the effect is just too odd and inorganic. At least they disappear in the daytime.

    The back end looks like a mashup between a current Civic and a ’98 Sonata. Not the best inspiration.

  • avatar

    I am not impressed. Yes interior may look good on photos but in reality is will be low quality materials and craftsmanship compared with Accord and even Camry. But interior does not look that good – that ugly steering wheel and gauge cluster.

    So thank you but NO, I want my SUV back, now. I said NOW!

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    That ledge below the touchscreen looks like a convenient place to rest/stabilize your hand (hypothenar) while making touchscreen selections.

    (On curvy or bumpy roads it can be near-impossible to do accurately if you’re working from your shoulder, and in a lot of vehicles it can be a challenge to find a support point without messing up some other controls.)

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    Black with a tan interior.
    I like the inside and outside.
    Like Raevoxx said, 2.5 turbo and 8-speed wet DCT.
    Wow!

  • avatar
    Liam Gray

    I’m digging this, but I worry about HK using too many of the same styling queues across their lines. This car has more than a little Genesis G70 in it, and that steering wheel is an awful lot like the 2019 Kia K900. I really like what they are doing as a whole, but I think the three brands need more unique design language even if they are sharing platforms.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The only thing this really has in common w/ Genesis is sharing the hexagonal-shaped grille – each using a different iteration/shape.

      That is going to change as Genesis is going to a pentagonal-shaped grille w/ a totally different/distinct headlight/taillight design.

      The steering wheel design is a non-issue; most automakers use the same basic wheel designs, even if they do use different ones on diff. models.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    Give them credit for not using the “smiley” Gentex mirror with an inch of reflective area where a normal rim would be.


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