By on February 6, 2020


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]

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16 Comments on “2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid: More MPGs, Less Drag, and a Solar Hat...”

  • avatar


    that roof sorta looks like a vinyl top of yore

  • avatar

    I wish these would use a planetary power split device like Toyotas instead of just sticking an electric motor behind a conventional automatic.

    A lot of these are used as Ubers in California cities and I’m sure the solar panel will add some slight amout of MPG in that application. Enough to pay for it? Unclear.

  • avatar

    So is the solar roof standard equipment? I can’t see it worthwhile to spend anything extra for 2 miles. 2 miles of gas is about how much extra you would get from clicking the pump one more time after it clicks off.

    I personally think this design is atrocious front and rear but then I’m not in this segment and I’m in my upper 30s so I’m clearly not the intended audience.

  • avatar

    I can’t get over how awful the styling is on this thing.

    Looks like a French blob. Exterior there is nothing I like anywhere.

    Inside doesn’t look shabby.

    But a butt ugly Hyundai sedan. Now that has sales success written all over it.

    This car is going to join the rest of the sedan world that isn’t Toyota or Honda.

  • avatar

    This thing gets uglier every time I see it. Have Hyundai and Kia switched places again regarding who makes the better looking car?

    Also, what’s the point of the Android key? I embrace my minor Luddite when I say that’s not something I ever want. I’m all in on keyless go, but this feels a bit too risky. How hard is it to hack and spoof? Is there some sort of 2 factor authentication? Would one be able to call Hyundai roadside assistance and have them provide a new “key” over the air?

  • avatar

    This design is actually growing on me. Those wheels are gorgeous for a factory wheel and I’m interested in seeing what sort of factory wheels go on the N-line edition.

  • avatar

    Just wanted to comment on design. I do not really care about hybrids – the real thing is Tesla if you concerned about green credentials. Hybrids are so yesterday.

    Style wise Sonata moves in the “uglier” direction. It’s shape did not change since 2010. It looks like Sonata does face lift every 3-4 years and every time it looks verse than before.

    • 0 avatar

      Hybrids are the best of both worlds. My plug-in C-Max has given me 70+ MPG over two year’s mixed driving. In my coal-heavy grid, that’s greener than a pure EV.

      Then there’s this:

      “Some consider plug-in hybrids to be a “transitional technology,” a stepping stone on the way to “pure” battery electric vehicles. Perhaps it is better to think of them as an “enabling technology,” encouraging more consumers (and fleets) to move beyond gasoline and diesel vehicles…Seen another way, it was found that households with multiple vehicles accumulate about the same number of miles on electricity with a plug-in hybrid as with a battery electric car (45% versus 43%). The explanation is simple: households with battery electric vehicles tend not to use the vehicle for longer trips, but do not worry about range with plug-in hybrids and thus use them more.”

      I met a man who claimed 200mpg from my same model of car. He never drives it out of EV range. Otherwise, he drives his F-150. He’s playing a numbers game. I’m sure he winds up using more fuel than I do, driving my PHEV everywhere, every day.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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%.

    • 0 avatar

      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.

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