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.

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2020 Hyundai Sonata N Line First Drive - Spicy Side Dish

We all have that one friend who puts Tabasco sauce on everything. Even foods that aren’t meant to be spicy are doused – this person has to give their food a kick.

Hyundai’s 2020 Sonata N Line is sort of the midsize sedan equivalent of that.

I flew to Arizona to test the redesigned 2020 Hyundai Sonata, and while there I got a surprise – I’d be driving an N Line prototype part of the way back to the hotel from lunch.

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2020 Hyundai Sonata First Drive - Comfort First

Near the start of this decade, I thought the Hyundai Sonata was perhaps the most attractive mid-size sedan on the market.

I also thought it drove like crap.

The steering was disconnected from the road, it felt slower than its rivals, et cetera.

Hyundai’s next Sonata was better in terms of driving dynamics and on-road behavior, but its styling was conservative to the point of boring. It felt like Hyundai was flailing about, unsure how to build a car that both drove well and looked good, while its rivals were having no problem doing the same. Even its corporate sibling, Kia, was offering up an engaging and handsome Optima.

Enter the 2020 Sonata. It looks good (better from certain angles and with certain colors), but does it drive well? Can it walk and chew gum at the same time?

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Hyundai Sonata N Rumored for 2020

In April, Hyundai confirmed it would introduce a performance-oriented Sonata sometime in 2020. The model was supposed to yield over 275 horsepower, leaving many wondering if it would hail from the brand’s N Division. Hyundai later said it would actually be supplying an N-Line car, placing it a step below the fully fledged N. But this turned out to be good news — because it leaves room for a more powerful Sonata in the lineup.

While the vehicle’s existence is still speculative, albeit probable, Korean Car Blog reports that a midsize N is actually in development. It claims the Sonata N will be be released next fall, with the N-Line debuting at this year’s LA Auto Show.

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Hyundai's 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.

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Spied: 2020 Hyundai Sonata, Looking Larger and Definitely Rounder

If sales stats tell us anything, it’s that Hyundai’s latest refresh of the Sonata sedan didn’t seem to resonate with buyers. Despite the addition of a large and aggressive new grille for the 2018 model year, complimented by a sharper rear deck and nicely canted taillights, Sonata sales — like that of so many other traditional passenger cars — continued a downward path. So much for fixing the styling issues of the previous refresh.

After hitting a high water mark of 230,605 vehicles sold in 2012, Sonata volume sunk to 131,803 units in 2017. Sales over the first five months of 2018 fell 33.8 percent.

Given the sales trajectory, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see Hyundai drop the model after the current generation runs its course, but the automaker seems intent on generating as many sales as it can across the segment spectrum. Thanks to these spy shots from Las Vegas, it looks like there’s a new Sonata in our future.

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  • 3SpeedAutomatic Once e-mail was adopted by my former employer, we were coached about malice software as early as the 90's. We called it "worms" back then.They were separating the computers that ran the power plants from the rest of the system in the early 00's. One plant supervisor loaded vacation pictures from a thumb drive on his work PC. His PC was immediately isolated and the supervisor in question was made an example of via a disciplinary notice. Word spread quickly!!Last I heard, they still had their own data center!! Cloud Computing, what's that?!?! 🚗🚗🚗
  • 3SpeedAutomatic At this time, GM had a "Me Too" attitude towards engine development:[list][*]the Euro luxury brands have diesels, so can we via an Olds V8[/*][*]variable value timing, welcome to the brave new world of Cadillac V8-6-4[/*][*]an aluminum block V8 engine via the HT4100, the go-go 80's[/*][*]double overhead cams, 4 valves per cylinder, no sweat, just like the Asian brands via NorthStar. [/*][/list]When you mindset is iron block and cast iron heads, life if easy. However, each time, GM failed to understand the nuances; intricate differences; and technical difficulty in each new engine program. Each time, GM came away with egg on its face and its reputation in ruin.If you look today, the engines in most Cadillacs are the same as in many Chevrolets. 🚗🚗🚗
  • 3-On-The-Tree I don’t think Toyotas going down.
  • ToolGuy Random thoughts (bulleted list because it should work on this page):• Carlos Tavares is a very smart individual.• I get the sense that the western hemisphere portion of Stellantis was even more messed up than he originally believed (I have no data), which is why the plan (old plan, original plan) has taken longer than expected (longer than I expected).• All the OEMs who have taken a serious look at what is happening with EVs in China have had to take a step back and reassess (oversimplification: they were thinking mostly business-as-usual with some tweaks here and there, and now realize they have bigger issues, much bigger, really big).• You (dear TTAC reader) aren't ready to hear this yet, but the EV thing is a tsunami (the thing has already done the thing, just hasn't reached you yet). I hesitate to even tell you, but it is the truth.
  • ToolGuy ¶ I have kicked around doing an engine rebuild at some point (I never have on an automobile); right now my interest level in that is pretty low, say 2/5.¶ It could be interesting to do an engine swap at some point (also haven't done that), call that 2/5 as well.¶ Building a kit car would be interesting but a big commitment, let's say 1/5 realistically.¶ Frame-up restoration, very little interest, 1/5.¶ I have repainted a vehicle (down to bare metal) and that was interesting/engaging (didn't have the right facilities, but made it work, sort of lol).¶ Taking a vehicle which I like where the ICE has given out and converting it to EV sounds engaging and appealing. Would not do it anytime soon, maybe 3 to 5 years out. Current interest level 4/5.¶ Building my own car (from scratch) would have some significant hurdles. Unless I started my own car company, which might involve other hurdles. 😉