2020 Hyundai Sonata

2020 Hyundai Sonata Test Drive Review: Huge Leap Forward

by Ian Wright

The mid-sized sedan segment is as competitive as ever. It's full of showcases for what automakers can do with driving dynamics, styling, features, and safety at more affordable prices than comparable family crossovers. The Hyundai Sonata is all-new for 2020 and, while it handles competently, it doesn't have the thrilling dynamics of some of its competition, this despite the option of a turbocharged 180-horsepower 1.6-liter engine on upper trims in place of the 191-hp 2.5 on base models. Instead, Hyundai has concentrated on bringing the premium-level feel and features to a more affordable segment, and all while showing flair in an elegant new design both inside and out.

Many will remember the Super Bowl advert showing off the new Sonata's ability to pull in and out of parking spaces remotely, but that's just its party trick for the top-level trim. Dig deeper, and there are plenty more standard and optional features that reliably and usefully assist drivers. Live with it for a week or two, and you'll come to appreciate that the Sonata is a contender for best in class. Against the likes of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, that's high praise.

Read in this review:

  • Exterior Design 10 /10
  • Performance 8 /10
  • Fuel Economy 8 /10
  • Interior & Cargo 9 /10
  • Infotainment & Features 10 /10
  • Reliability 9 /10
  • Safety 9 /10
  • Value For Money 9 /10
9.0
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2020 Hyundai Sonata Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2019 Sonata?

The new decade brings with it an all-new Sonata, which means modern exterior styling, new engines, and a whole bag of new tech toys. The 2020 Sonata rides on an all-new platform said to be lightweight and more efficient, and is also the first sedan designed with Hyundai's Sensuous Sportiness design language, which underscores the sporty four-door coupe look of the car. Technological improvements over the previous generation car include the introduction of a digital key, which allows the vehicle to be unlocked, started, and driven without a physical key, but via a smartphone app. Another futuristic feature that we think is pretty cool is the Sonata's hidden lighting elements that turn chrome when switched off and create a sense of functional design.

Pros and Cons

  • Hands-down the best Sonata yet
  • Handsome interior
  • Plenty of driver assistance features
  • Great value for money
  • Spacious seating
  • Fussy ride quality
  • Top powertrain not as potent as competitors
  • Still missing brand cachet
  • Interior materials could be better
  • Styling isn't everyone's cup of tea

2020 Hyundai Sonata Trims

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
SE
2.5-liter Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$23,600
SEL
2.5-liter Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$25,700
SEL Plus
1.6-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$27,650
Limited
1.6-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$33,500

Sonata Exterior

The first thing you'll notice when you first lay eyes on the 2020 Hyundai Sonata is its rather shapely new look. Hyundai calls it the 'Sensuous Sportiness' design language, but you can call it whatever you like - we think the redesigned Sonata looks stunning. The sloping hood and gaping front grille is a massive step up in terms of design when compared to the more sedate looking 2019 model. Standard features on the base model include hidden LED daytime running lights that appear chrome when not in use, automatic LED headlights, LED taillights, and solar glass control. SEL models add a sport front and rear fascia, heated side mirrors with LED turn signal indicators, and a hands-free smart trunk with auto open. The top-of-the-line Limited model includes premium features such as matrix-type LED headlights, gloss black side mirrors, and a power tilt-and-slide panoramic sunroof, available as an option on all lower trims except the SE. Wheel sizes range from 16-inch alloys on the base model to 18-inch items on SEL Plus and Limited trims, while the SEL gets a set of 17-inch wheels.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Frontal Aspect CarBuzz
2020 Hyundai Sonata Rear-Facing View CarBuzz
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See All 2020 Hyundai Sonata Exterior Photos

Dimensions

The Sonata is classified as a midsize sedan, but in its new shape, four-door fastback would be more apt. The Sonata measures 192.9 inches in length, over half an inch longer than its rival, the Honda Accord. Width, excluding side mirrors, is 73.2 inches, and the Sonata stands 56.9 inches tall. The whole sleek production rolls on a 111.8-inch wheelbase, once again nearly half an inch longer than the Honda, and there is a useful 5.3 inches of ground clearance on offer. The lightest trim, the base model SE, tips the scales at 3,120 pounds, while traveling further up the trim ladders sees the Limited tip the scales at 3,336 lbs, the heaviest of the lot.

  • Length 192.9 in
  • Wheelbase 111.8 in
  • Height 56.9 in
  • Max Width 73.2 in
  • Front Width 63.5 in
  • Rear Width 63.8 in

Exterior Colors

It is clear to see from the massive new redesign that Hyundai isn't content with building mild-looking sedans any longer. The 'Sensuous Sportiness' of the new car is a design revolution for the Korean car manufacturer and one that will see the reinvention of a lot of their smaller cars as well. We think it looks good, but how else do you complement some facial reconstruction other than with a good dab of color? Hyundai offers the 2020 Sonata in eight colors, with seven available across all trims and at no extra cost. These include demure shades of gray like Shimmering Silver Pearl, Portofino Gray, and Hampton Gray, staples like Phantom Black and Quartz White, and more attractive hues like Stormy Sea Blue and, our favorite, Calypso Red. Buyers who choose the SEL Plus get access to one additional trim-exclusive color in the form of the luminous Glowing Yellow.

  • Quartz White
  • Phantom Black
  • Calypso Red
  • Shimmering Silver Pearl
  • Portofino Gray
  • Stormy Sea
  • Hampton Gray
  • Glowing Yellow

Sonata Performance

The new decade brings with it two engine options on the Sonata that might not differ too much on paper, but are worlds apart in real life. While the 1.6-liter turbo engine on the upper pair of trims is a familiar one we've seen in a number of Hyundai products, the base 2.5-liter is an all-new creation dubbed the Smartstream G2.5 GDI. It produces more power than the turbo mill, but with less torque it's the slower option in a real-world setting, lagging behind the turbo's 0-60 mph sprint of around 7.5 seconds in real-world testing. This is where the Sonata's first major flaw begins to show, as even base engines on rival sedans are capable of matching - or even beating - that sprint. Adding further insult is the Sonata's lack of multiple drivetrains, offering only FWD while the likes of the Toyota Camry and Subaru Legacy boast AWD availability.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Rear View CarBuzz
2020 Hyundai Sonata Rim CarBuzz
2020 Hyundai Sonata Engine Bay CarBuzz

Engine and Transmission

Despite the sleek new looks and sporty attitude, the 2020 Hyundai Sonata is only offered with two mild power plants that won't get most too excited. You'll have to wait for the upcoming N-Line, which is expected to use a turbocharged 2.5-liter for truly thrilling performance. Under the hood of the 2020 base model SE and SEL, you'll find a naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces a lemon and herb-flavored 191 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque. The SEL Plus and range-topping Limited models get access to a 1.6-liter turbo-four that develops less power at just 180 hp, but a fair chunk more torque at 195 lb-ft. Power is sent to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission with shift-by-wire push-button gear selection.

Our test unit came with the 1.6-liter turbo mill and while we can't criticize the decent chunk of low-end torque or the way the eight-speed auto managed the boost-reliant engine, we can't say we were thrilled with how it performed. It's one thing for on-paper figures to be similar, but in the real world the turbo engine just doesn't provide enough punch, and those who back-to-back shop with an Accord 2.0T will find the Sonata woefully underpowered.

  • Engines
    1.6-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas, 2.5-liter Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmission
    8-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrain
    FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

The Sonata is responsive out on the road, although it doesn't deliver the sharp dynamics of some of its competition. The ride is on the firmer side, which we would expect of a car more capable of sporty driving, but start pushing it around on back roads, and things begin to feel uneasy. That's not what the Sonata is about, though. The Sonata shines as a commuter and family car for those who want some style and serenity in their lives. The steering is neither too heavy nor too light, the suspension is firm but yields where it matters, and it has some grunt for the freeway on-ramp available with the available 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Having the quicker engine isn't a must, though; the naturally aspirated version still gets up to speed without struggling, but is a smoother experience.

The push-button transmission control that Hyundai has adopted rather than a traditional shifter might annoy traditionalists, but the design exudes care and attention. It doesn't take long to get used to and appreciate. Touch the drive button, and the eight-speed automatic transmission is remarkably transparent, even when making a trip up and down a twisty mountain road. Hyundai likes to give you drive modes, and the Sonata is no exception. Normal mode keeps things toned down, perhaps a little too much so, as we occasionally needed a switch to Sport mode for better responses rather than for fun. The Smart setting is where most people should leave it, though, and does a great job of knowing when to sharpen things up or keep throttle response dialed down.

Sonata Gas Mileage

Eco-champions will likely be eyeing the Sonata Hybrid eagerly (reviewed separately), but the standard Sonata isn't all too bad a performer in the gas mileage stakes, particularly when neither engine choice is really geared for performance. The base 2.5-liter is the most frugal, attaining 28/38/32 mpg city/highway/combined, while upgrading to the 1.6T-equipped trims sees the figures drop to 27/36/31 mpg respectively. Both models fall just shy of the base Honda Accord, but have it beaten when selecting any higher trims, and with a full 15.9-gallon tank of gasoline, the Sonata will keep on cruising for up to 509 miles on a good mix of city and highway driving. Real-world figures prove a little less impressive, as is so often the case, and we saw figures of around 27 mpg with our turbo-powered test car.

  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 28/38 mpg
* 2020 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.4L

Sonata Interior

Hyundai has come a long way in terms of interior build quality and design, and while the Sonata's exterior may be its biggest talking point, the interior has evolved just as much. The 2020 Sonata reveals an interior that is both styling and contemporary, but also put together with fine attention to detail that makes it feel more premium than its asking price suggests. In typical Hyundai fashion, the seating throughout is comfortable and spacious, and thanks to larger overall dimensions, it's capable of genuinely rivaling the Honda Accord for stretch-out room. Some materials may feel a little low-rent on lower trims, but on the whole, the Sonata provides a spacious, well-appointed interior that blends tech and practicality impressively.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Central Control Panel CarBuzz
2020 Hyundai Sonata Center Stack CarBuzz
2020 Hyundai Sonata Gearbox Controls CarBuzz
See All 2020 Hyundai Sonata Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

The Sonata boasts enough room for five adults inside, although four is ideal for elbow room. Curiously, the sportback styling of the new Sonata doesn't impact rear headroom as much as the sloping roof suggests. There's still 38.4 inches of upright room in the back compared to 40 inches at the front. Also, for rear passengers, there is a generous 34.8 inches of legroom compared to the 46.1 inches of legroom available to stretch out in up front.

The driving position is excellent, and there's plenty of adjustment from the steering wheel. We would like to see the ability to lower the driver's seat a little more for preference, but tall drivers and passengers will still find the headroom they need.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 46.1 in
  • Front Head Room 40.0 in
  • Rear Leg Room 34.8 in
  • Rear Head Room 38.4 in

Interior Colors and Materials

Considering the abundance of features, Hyundai has kept the interior uncluttered and stylish. There's a healthy mix of hard plastics to keep the cost down, but soft-touch materials are found everywhere it matters.

The base SE model and SEL trim come with cloth seats in black or dark gray. Upgrading to the Premium Package adds the choice of black, grey, or light brown leatherette seats. The SEL Plus interior only comes in black but uses leatherette and suede to trim out the seats. Stepping into the top of the line Limited trim brings the option of the black, gray, or light brown choices, while the material is upgraded to genuine leather.

Sonata Trunk and Cargo Space

The modern midsize sedan is expected to do the job of multiple cars combined; it needs to be agile enough to navigate tight city streets, it has to be powerful enough to overtake and sit at highway speeds, carry five adults and fit enough stuff in the trunk to warrant the driver not just going out and buying an SUV. The 2020 Sonata offers a good amount of interior space and thankfully pulls through in the back with a total trunk space of 16 cubic feet. That's not best in class, but it's competitive and will easily swallow a college kid's luggage at the airport. 60/40-split-folding rear seatbacks aid practicality too, while an available hands-free power trunk lid makes life easier when your hands are full.

Inside, the center console is well thought out and deceivingly spacious and useful, even giving the passenger a small storage space. As is standard, door pockets on all four apertures and the usual collection of four cupholders applies, making the Sonata a practical life partner.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Second-Row Seats CarBuzz
2020 Hyundai Sonata Maximum Cargo Space CarBuzz
2020 Hyundai Sonata Trunk Space CarBuzz
  • Trunk Volume
    16.3 ft³

Sonata Infotainment and Features

Features

Hyundai has always used standard features as one of its most significant selling points; even in base trim, Hyundai cars come with some great standard features that punch above their price range. The 2020 Sonata continues this trend, but you're going to have to aim for the top of the range to get the best goodies like a standard panoramic sunroof, surround-view camera, remote smart parking (or Smaht Pahk), a blind spot camera, ventilated front seats, a head-up display, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and front and rear parking sensors. Lesser trims get access to some of these features by means of the options list, but for the most part, they're exclusive to the top-ranking trim. You do however get dual-zone climate control on all models except the base SE which has standard air conditioning, while an eight-way power driver's seat is standard from the SEL. Heated front seats and a hands-free trunk release are standard from the SEL, while the SEL Plus unlocks standard wireless device charging and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Standard assistance features at every level are inclusive of forward collision avoidance, lane keep assist, driver attention warning, and smart cruise control, with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert added from the SEL.

Infotainment

In a digital era, Hyundai has been wise to make available two infotainment screens, with an eight-inch item standard on all but the Limited, which gets a 10.25-inch screen instead. Both the eight-inch and 10.25-inch touchscreens are quick to respond, and the screens, controls, and settings are laid out intuitively. That's then complemented by a proper volume knob to go with the simple physical controls for the HVAC system. Forward and back buttons are capacitive and on the passenger side of the horizontally laid out screen. The vivid and useful digital gauge 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster is optional on the SEL trim and standard above that.

Android and Apple CarPlay is standard on all models along with Bluetooth connectivity, as it should be, along with an eight-inch touchscreen with HD Radio. The SEL trim adds Sirus XM and wireless charging, as well as the option for a 12-speaker Bose sound system in place of the standard six-speaker setup. On the SEL Plus is where a 10.25-inch color touchscreen with navigation and traffic flow becomes available as an option, and everything mentioned is standard on the Limited trim option.

While the SE has a solid list of standard features, you'll still need to step up to SEL for Hyundai's new and much-touted Digital Key technology that uses Near Field Communication to operate various functions of the car remotely, including pulling the car in and out of parking space while standing outside. We discovered how useful that feature is when returning to a tightly packed parking lot; however, it isn't instant, and you'll stand there waiting for a few seconds as the car makes sure its absolutely safe to move.

Sonata Problems and Reliability

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata has already been recalled once in 2020 for incorrect tire size info, however, this was limited to a little more than 5,000 units overall. Other than that small issue, no major recalls have been issued, but it's early days for an all-new generation Sonata, so only time will tell how reliable it truly is. Hyundai covers the Sonata with an impressive five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, a ten-year/100,0000 powertrain warranty, seven years of corrosion protection, and a five-year roadside assistance plan.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    10 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    7 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    5 Years \ Unlimited Miles

Sonata Safety

Safety is crucial to the success of any midsize family sedan, and while a lack of safety scores from the NHTSA may initially seem worrying, a 2020 Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS is quick to restore faith in the Sonata's safety record.

Key Safety Features

No modern car can get away without being thoroughly equipped with safety features, particularly with the stringency of testing getting tougher by the year. The 2020 Sonata comes packed with a bunch of active driver assistance features across the lineup, which is a strong selling point when some competitors make you pay extra. The basics are covered by a seven-airbag system with vehicle stability management, including a driver's knee airbag and side curtain airbags. Active driver assistance features that come as standard across the range include forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, lane following assist, driver attention warning, and smart cruise control with stop & go. SEL models add blind-spot collision avoidance assist and rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist. Limited models also feature parking collision avoidance assist and highway drive assist, as well as a head-up display and surround view monitor.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2020 Hyundai Sonata a good car?

Hyundai has managed to put together a stylish sedan both inside and out, packed it with features, and added some flair without making it feel gimmicky. The new Sonata doesn't match some other cars in its class for fun driving dynamics, but, if that's not essential for the buyer, the Sonata is punching high in its weight class. The basic SE comes standard with the safety and infotainment features we consider essential in modern cars, and it only gets better from there. In terms of style, comfort, and value, the Sonata registers for us as a great car. We would recommend cross-shopping, but the Sonata should definitely be on the shortlist of cars to check out.

🚘What's the Price of the 2020 Hyundai Sonata?

The completely redesigned 2020 Hyundai Sonata not only looks good, but it offers good practicality, decent performance, and, most importantly, a price tag that will make you do a double-take. The base model of the range, the SE, starts with an MSRP of only $23,600. That price does not include tax, title, license fees, and a destination charge of $955. The next car up, the accomplished SEL, will set you back $25,700. Second from the top is the SEL Plus, which can be yours for $27,650. The range-topping Limited goes for $33,500. In comparison, the Honda Accord starts at $24,020 and tops out at $36,250 for the range-topping Touring 2.0T.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Models

The new decade brings with it four Sonata trim levels: SE, SEL, SEL Plus, and Limited. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder is standard on the lower two trims, while a 1.6T engine takes over duties in upper models. All make use of an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

The base model SE features LED head- and taillights with hidden chrome daytime running lights, as well as a set of 16-inch alloy wheels. On the inside, the SE gets cloth upholstery, manual air conditioning, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel with cruise controls, as well as an eight-inch infotainment display with Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration.

SEL models add a sport front and rear fascia, sport single twin-tipped exhaust, 17-inch wheels, and a hands-free smart trunk. Inside, push-button start, a 4.2-inch color multi-information display, dual-zone climate control, an eight-way power driver seat with adjustable lumbar support, heated front seats, and a center rear armrest with dual cupholders up the ante, while the infotainment now includes SiriusXM satellite radio and a Blue Link Connected Car System.

A step up to the SEL Plus grants access to the turbo engine, but also equips 18-inch wheels, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, leatherette combination seating surfaces, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, wireless device charging, as well as a Hyundai Digital Key, and a rear-seat USB charge port.

The top of the range Limited adds a panoramic sunroof and matrix LED headlights to the mix, while inside, a full-color head-up display, a four-way power front passenger seat, an

integrated memory system for driver seat and side mirrors, leather seating surfaces, and a heated steering wheel all scream class. You also get ventilated front seats and LED interior lighting. On the infotainment side of things, the Limited also gets a 10.25-inch high-resolution touchscreen navigation system and a 12-speaker Bose sound system. Further driver assistance is added in the form of a surround-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, and Hyundai's smart parking system.

See All 2020 Hyundai Sonata Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

Despite being packed full of standard features, most trim levels can be upgraded with a few tasty optional packages. The base model does not offer any packages, but you can add an auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink and compass for only $295. The SEL comes with the optional Convenience Package for $1,200. This package adds a 12.3-inch infotainment display, a Hyundai Digital Key, wireless phone charging, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather-wrapped steering wheel, second-row air vents, and a rear USB charging port. The SEL is also offered with the $1,850 Premium package, which adds a Bose 12-speaker sound system, leather seats, and a heated steering wheel. SEL Plus cars can be equipped with the $2,750 Technology package, which includes a panoramic sunroof, LED interior lights, a 10.25-inch touchscreen with navigation, a Bose sound system, and highway drive assistance.

🚗What Hyundai Sonata Model Should I Buy?

There is absolutely no shame in picking up the Sonata in SE trim. We like the value and the essential features, as well as the smoother non-turbo engine for daily driving. There's no wrong choice here, and shopping based on features wanted is the way forward. Top trims in the midsize sedan segment can often bring up the question of moving up to a brand considered premium instead. However, the value proposition on the Limited trim and its features negate that question, and we heartily recommend it in the sub $40,000 price range, unless you prefer driving dynamics over features.

Check out other Hyundai Sonata Styles

2020 Hyundai Sonata Comparisons

Hyundai Elantra Hyundai
Kia Optima CarBuzz
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Hyundai Sonata191 hp28/38 mpg$23,600
Hyundai Elantra 147 hpTBCTBC
Kia Optima 185 hp24/32 mpg$23,390

2020 Hyundai Sonata vs Hyundai Elantra

The Hyundai Elantra is Hyundai's compact sedan competitor and starts at $19,150. Like the Sonata, the Elantra gets a choice of engines, including the same 1.6T motor in the larger car. However, it has up to 201 hp on tap, and it's a smaller machine, meaning power to weight swings heavily in favor of the Elantra. Its smaller size means the Elantra is nimbler too, but it's also not unruly, still erring on the side of comfort. For a compact sedan, the Elantra is well kitted and fairly premium, but the midsize Sonata takes things up a notch with exclusive tech, high- quality materials, and crucially, a massive cabin and large trunk. Despite being several grand dearer, the Sonata is more car, and aside from lackluster performance and a higher price tag, it's the sedan we recommend.

See Hyundai Elantra Review

2020 Hyundai Sonata vs Kia Optima

While traditionally, the Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata share platforms, in 2020 the Kia is yet to be overhauled, meaning the Sonata rides on a newer platform and makes use of newer engines and much newer technologies. The truth is that it shows, and while the Kia is available with a vastly more potent 245-hp 2.0-liter turbo engine, the rest of the package falls short. Not only is it less spacious and the interior less luxurious, but it gets less available safety features, and the technological suite isn't quite as impressive. But the big power is paired with a sportier suspension setup, and for those willing to forego luxury for the sake of performance, the Optima is worth a look. Ultimately, the newer, more advanced Sonata gets the nod from us as the better sedan, at least until the new Optima arrives soon.

See Kia Optima Review

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