Hyundai's 2020 Sonata: Optimized Engines, and an N Line Model Waiting in the Wings

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
hyundais 2020 sonata optimized engines and an n line model waiting in the wings

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.

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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  • Liam Gray Liam Gray on Apr 19, 2019

    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.

    • See 2 previous
    • Bd2 Bd2 on Apr 28, 2019

      @Liam Gray The profile is more like the Azera from a couple of gens ago than the G70.

  • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Apr 24, 2019

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

  • SCE to AUX Let it die with dignity - no electrification. That would kill the spirit of the original.Mazda needs to think about survival and market share, not tinker with a niche car with waning sales, or dying on Wankel Hill.Maybe their body and paint engineers could help Tesla once Mazda folds.
  • Lou_BC H-E-L-L-C-A-T
  • EBFlex "EBFlex speaks more truth."It's sometimes a burden being right all the time.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird Add a couple of more body styles. A coupe with a vestigial rear seat like the BRZ along with a shooting brake version would appeal to a number of drivers who want something sporty but not a hatchback or crossover.
  • Theflyersfan It's the mother of all "ifs" - if Mazda gets the small rotary/hybrid combo going, I can see them using that in the next MX-5. Can they keep it under 2500 lbs and somewhat affordable? Not sure...this is why I don't run a car company! But if they want to replace it around 2025, and it's 2023 now, they need to get started very soon with some rumors and leaks to keep us going. But with the rest of their lineup going greener in next generations, and Mazda selling under 10,000 MX-5s per year, how does it really impact any average emissions and fuel economy ratings? If they can keep tweaking the Skyactiv-G engine for better fuel economy and fewer emissions, they should be able to get the NE generation using gasoline before being forced to go EV or hybrid with the NF. The mission of the MX-5 is light, affordable, open air fun and it's their halo car. And while I agree that EVs are going to be a much larger part of the future, the "all things by 2035 or 2040 or so on" edicts have "kick the can down the road" written in massive font size 1,000 written all over them. We'll be on gas for a while longer - just continue to eke more mpg out of what we have.All that being said, if they were to put the turbo Skyactiv-G engine in the MX-5 for 2024 and make it a Mazdaspeed model, I'd put a deposit on it right now. I love mine, but if it gets bumped up from 181hp to 250-275hp, it would be a flat out riot to drive.
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