2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid: More MPGs, Less Drag, and a Solar Hat

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Hyundai usually waits a bit before revealing the hybrid variant of the Sonata, and the Korean brand continued the tradition with the latest iteration of its midsize sedan. Sporting the same polarizing styling as its gas-only sibling, the 2020 Sonata Hybrid delivers significant improvements in fuel economy while debuting a gimmicky feature that Hyundai says amounts to “free miles.”

Good thing it’s always sunny in Chicago.

As that city’s auto show kicks into high gear, the Sonata Hybrid has plenty of competition when it comes to getting noticed. That said, the model’s wild design should — Hyundai hopes — bring it more attention than its oft-overlooked predecessor.

The 2.0-liter four-cylinder/electric motor combo returns, though the engine is now a Smartstream unit optimized for reduced friction and boosted thermal efficiency. A six-speed automatic is still the go-to tranny here, while the 39 kW electric motor draws power from a redesigned battery that affords the model an extra 2.5 cubic feet of trunk space.

A word about that powertrain: Hyundai employed Active Shift Control to quicken shift times by 30 percent and reduce friction loss. Combined output of the engine/motor combo doesn’t change much, however, sitting at 192 horsepower.

If that all sounds conventional and underwhelming, the Sonata Hybrid’s increase in fuel efficiency might perk you up. While the 2019 model delivered no more than 42 mpg combined on the EPA cycle, the 2020 Sonata Hybrid tops that by 10 mpg in ultra-efficient Blue trim. Hyundai estimates the Blue model’s consumption at 50 mpg city, 54 highway, and 52 combined. Factor in a modest haircut for non-Blue models.

That 52 mpg figure happens to match the efficiency of the thriftiest Toyota Camry hybrid.

Two advancements assist the new model in achieving those MPG gains. First off, the Sonata Hybrid is a touch slipperier than before, seeing its grad coefficient drop from 0.25 to 0.24. Grille flaps, a rear spoiler, copious underbody cladding, and aerodynamic wheels do their part. Joining the fray this year is something we’ve seen in the past on big-bucks plug-ins: a solar roof.

Hyundai claims that, when parked outside, the solar roof can add “about” two miles of additional range per day. The trick roof feeds both the 12-volt battery and hybrid battery and cuts down on range loss born of electron-consuming vehicle accessories. Put another way, the roof could net a driver an extra 700 or so miles per year.

Let’s hope it doesn’t take after the model’s past sunroofs.

On the techier side of things, the Sonata Hybrid adopts Hyundai Digital Key, an option allowing owners to tailor cabin settings and unlock their vehicle via their (Android) smartphone. You can also “share” a key with a friend, but be sure to revoke that privilege if things turn sour.

Inside the car, a 10.25-inch touchscreen greets drivers, joined by a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and info display. An 8-inch audio interface handles the tunes. Safety also measures up to competitors, with things like lane-keeping assist, forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, smart cruise control (with start/stop capability), blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert offered as standard kit. That’s a bigger standard bundle than you’ll find on hybrid rivals from Toyota and Honda.

There’s other nifty features on offer here, but you get the gist. The Sonata Hybrid comes loaded and, while there’s no pricing to share at this moment, you don’t have long to wait. The 2020 Sonata Hybrid goes on sale this spring.

[Images: Hyundai, Tim Healey/TTAC]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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3 of 16 comments
  • Wheatridger Wheatridger on Feb 07, 2020

    I have that planetary gearset in my Ford hybrid, and it works beautifully. The engine still drones like an Evenrude outboard motor on acceleration, but with an 8-sec. 0-60 time, it doesn't last long.

  • RHD RHD on Feb 09, 2020

    The solar roof is an idea whose time has come. Now add it to the hood and sides, and you can get 5 free miles per day. Imagine leaving your car at the airport, and when you come back from your vacation, the battery is charged at 100%.

    • RHD RHD on Feb 09, 2020

      And add a detachable, fold-and-stow solar panel feather flag to the front and back and you're up to 7 free miles per day... and a solar panel kite for those perfect breezy days, and you're up to 8.

  • ToolGuy I would answer, but the question might change again, and then where would we be? Also, bran... wheat bran? Bran Castle? The coliva served at Bran Castle is made with wheat, I checked. (Some places use rice, because collectivism does not work.)
  • ToolGuy Learn to drive, people.
  • Corey Lewis I saw a TVR Griffith 500 (mfd 1990-2002) back in June 2014 at the Ault Park Concours, in a side parking lot. It had plates on it, but was MUCH too new to be in the US, especially so as the 500 was a later model 1993+. Luckily I took pics as proof!
  • Bd2 This is when BMW started to go downhill design-wise...
  • Jalop1991 "...their resale value to be in par with a 80's GM diesel wearing a Yugo badge." Those words, sir, paint a picture.