2020 Hyundai Sonata Limited Review - A New Contender Emerges

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

2020 Hyundai Sonata Limited Fast Facts

1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (180 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 195 lb-ft @ 1,500-4,500 rpm)
Eight-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
27 city / 36 highway / 31 combined (EPA Estimated Rating, MPG)
8.6 city, 6.6 highway, 7.7 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$33,300 (U.S) / $38,599 (Canada)
As Tested
$34,365 (U.S.) / $40,736.20 (Canada)
Prices include $930 destination charge in the United States and $1,910 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2020 hyundai sonata limited review a new contender emerges

The idea of Honda and Toyota slugging it out for midsize sedan supremacy, with every other contender — from the very good to the mediocre to the also-rans — fighting it out for sales scraps, is pretty much an auto-journalism cliché at this point.

Other contenders dance in and out of the ring, but never quite stay part of the conversation. Hyundai’s Sonata has long been one of those. Certain generations of the Sonata were very much a part of the mix at the top of the class. Others were forgettable, hanging out in the muddled middle.

Part of it, as I wrote last fall, was that Hyundai seemed unable to strike a balance between driving dynamics and styling. When the car looked good, it wasn’t great to drive, and vice versa. And while only a percentage of midsize buyers might care about either attribute, that doesn’t mean either one should be ignored. Even the most car-ignorant commuter would likely prefer a car that looks good and doesn’t drop them into a deep snooze on the interstate.

Enter the newest Sonata. This is the first entrant from Hyundai in a while that will make folks at Honda HQ and Toyota’s corporate offices sweat a bit. Sure, both the Accord and Camry are quite good themselves right now, but should either stumble, well, Hyundai dealers might want a word.

[Get price quote on a Hyundai Sonata here!]

Let’s start with the powertrain. The 1.6-liter turbo-four under hood makes 180 horsepower and 195 lb-ft, which is good enough for smooth, relatively swift acceleration.

Hyundai continues to improve its vehicles’ steering incrementally. The Sonata’s unit feels appropriately weighted, but even the computer-controlled magic summoned by selecting Sport mode doesn’t quite put this car in league with the segment’s sportiest offerings. If you’re an enthusiast buying a family sedan for practical reasons, the Sonata won’t be as satisfying as the Accord or perhaps the Mazda 6. But for everyone else, the dynamics are engaging enough.

My first drive in Arizona left me complimentary of the Sonata’s smooth ride, and it wasn’t a letdown on pock-marked Chicago streets. It’s a quiet machine, too.

The styling might be a bit divisive, at least in photos. But it’s not a bad look in person. The squeezed snout is, at the least, a sign that Hyundai is willing to take chances after being panned for being too conservative with previous generations. There are cool touches, like the running lights that streak back towards the A-pillar, or the C-shaped taillights connected via a light bar that dissects the Hyundai and Sonata badging.

Inside, it’s similarly mixed – the four-spoke steering wheel looks odd, and the push-button shifter will divide opinions. But the infotainment screen sweeping across the dash integrates better than most that sort of “pop up”, and the HVAC controls are cleanly mixed in.

Limited is the top trim, and my test car had only one option: Carpeted floor mats for $135. Standard features included blind-spot assist, rear cross-traffic assist, forward-collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, parking-collision-avoidance assist (rear), front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, 18-inch wheels, panoramic sunroof, LED lighting, keyless entry and starting, automatic-open/hands-free trunk, digital key, leather seats, heated and cooled front seats, power front seats, Bose audio, dual-zone climate control, 12.3-inch infotainment screen, navigation, USB, auxiliary input, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, and Hyundai’s BlueLink connected-car app.

Oh, and it included the remote-control parking app, which if you remember pre-pandemic life, was memorably featured in a Super Bowl commercial. The one with the Boston accents: “Smaht Pahk.” I’d love to tell you how well this feature works, but I stupidly forgot to give it a whirl. I guess I’m still an analog player in a digital world (Internet points to the commenter who gets that movie reference).

I also can’t tell you if the digital key or its near-field communication works, because that’s an Android feature and I don’t have an Android phone.

Inside, the Sonata isn’t just quiet, it’s also comfy and spacious. It’s a well-balanced machine.

The best driver’s cars in the midsize segment are sold by other brands. But if you’re looking for a balanced, well-rounded mid-sizer that is priced competitively (a tad over $34K as shown here), you could do worse.

Welcome Sonata back to the top of class midsize mix. Maybe this time, it will stick around awhile.

[Images © 2020 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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  • ShoogyBee ShoogyBee on Jul 29, 2020

    This car (at least the SEL+ and Limited) looks much better in person than it does in photos. It's quite striking. I also agree that the SE's grille looks better than the blacked out grille of the higher-end models. But the SE and SEL's wheels are atrocious. The one major beef I have with this car is that Hyundai canned the power seat height adjustment for the front passenger seat that comes with the Limited trim level, whereas the previous generation Sonata Limited had it. I've heard that the cheaper models still have a manual ratcheting height adjuster for the passenger seat. It might be a minor feature, but that would be a dealbreaker for me.

  • MyerShift MyerShift on May 23, 2021

    Yeah yeah yeah. Whatever. You journos claim with every new Hyundai/Kia that it's "now" a contender and will blah blah blah. We heard the same thing back in 2005 or so. We don't believe you. This thing is UGLY. It's just as ugly in person as pictures. Some people have NO taste.

    • ToolGuy ToolGuy on May 23, 2021

      "Some people have NO taste." Fair enough. Observation A) Some of these people have an excuse: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html Observation B) Some people with no taste have plenty of discretionary money to spend on automobiles. (If you are an automaker, are you going to let them pass you by on their way to your competitor?) [Or are you going to employ some people with no taste to give the people with no taste what they want?]

  • MaintenanceCosts We hear endlessly from the usual suspects about the scenarios where EVs don't work as well as gas cars. We never hear the opposite side of the coin. From an EV owner (since 2019) who has a second EV reserved, here are a few points the "I road trip 1000 miles every day" crowd won't tell you about:[list][*]When you have a convenient charging situation, EV fueling is more convenient than a gas car. There is no stopping at gas stations and you start every day with a full tank.[/*][*]Where there are no-idling rules (school pickup/dropoff, lines for ferries or services, city loading, whatever else) you can keep warm or cool to your heart's content in your EV.[/*][*]In the cold, EVs will give you heat from the second you turn them on.[/*][*]EVs don't care one bit if you use them for tons of very short trips. Their mechanicals don't need to boil off condensation. (Just tonight, I used my EV to drive six blocks, because it was 31 degrees and raining, and walking would have been unpleasant.)[/*][*]EVs don't stink and don't make you breathe carcinogens on cold start.[/*][*]EV maintenance is much less frequent and much cheaper, eliminating almost all items having to do with engine, transmission, or brakes in a gas car. In most EVs the maintenance schedule consists of battery coolant changes and tire maintenance.[/*][*]You can accelerate fast in EVs without noisily attracting the attention of the cops and every passerby on the street.[/*][/list]
  • MaintenanceCosts Still can't get a RAV4 Prime for love or money. Availability of normal hybrid RAV4s and Highlanders is only slightly better. At least around here I think Toyota could sell twice the number of vehicles that they are actually bringing in at the moment.
  • Tree Trunk Been in the market for a new Highlander Hybrid, it is sold out with order time of 6 months plus. Probably would have bit the bullet if it was not for the dealers the refuse to take an order but instead want to sell from allotment whether it fits or not and at thousands over MRSP.
  • AKHusky The expense argument is nonsense. My mach e was $42k after tax credit. Basically the same as similarly equipped edge. And it completely ignores that the best selling vehicles are Rams, F150s, and Silverados, all more expensive that a bolt, MAch e or ID4. As an owner, I'd say they are still in second car territory for most places in the country.
  • Johnster I live in a red state and I see quite a few EVs being purchased by conservative, upper-class Republicans (many of them Trump-supporters). I suspect that it is a way for them to flaunt their wealth and that, over time, the preference for EVs will trickle down to less well-off Republicans.
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