The Honda Accord Hybrid may have finally met its match.
The eighth-generation Hyundai Sonata has been a revelation for the Korean brand. It's not that the previous generation was a bad car - but the new one has elevated the marque in stature, both in terms of style and substance, to be one of the best vehicles in the midsize sedan segment. While the Sonata has always been a decent alternative to the likes of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, those in search of electrification have been somewhat disappointed before as the Sonata Hybrid has lagged behind the best-in-class hybrid offerings. Not anymore. Meet the new 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid - freshly unveiled at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show and ready to take the midsize hybrid segment by storm.
The new Sonata Hybrid is immediately identifiable, carrying over the sleek design of the standard Sonata, including those striking LED daytime running lights that trace the edge of the hood shut line. However, there are some differences, with a new cross-hole grille design featuring active flaps, a model-specific rear lip spoiler, and aerodynamic alloy wheel designs contributing to a slippery silhouette with a 0.24 drag coefficient. LED head- and taillights still feature on all three available trims, but on the top-spec Limited, the headlights are upgraded to LED matrix units. The range-topping trim also has an additional trick up its sleeve - what looks like a glass panoramic sunroof is actually Hyundai's new Solar Roof technology - effectively a solar panel that Hyundai claims will give you up to 700 miles of free extra range per year - just by driving around.
Mechanically, the Sonata Hybrid employs a slightly different powertrain setup to the standard 2.5-liter and 1.6-liter turbo engines of the regular Sonata, and under the hood, you'll find a 2.0-liter four-cylinder developing 150 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque. This engine is paired with a 51 hp electric motor and a 270-volt electrical architecture for a combined figure of 192 hp (regular models develop 180-191 hp). Front-wheel-drive remains the staple, but instead of a CVT - the standard for most hybrids - the Sonata Hybrid makes use of a six-speed hybrid automatic transmission to dole out the power. The new transmission also makes use of newly developed Active Shift Control Technology, which utilizes the electric motor to help match engine and transmission speeds for smoother shifts and reduced mechanical drag.
The outputs may be less than what the Honda Accord Hybrid (212 hp) and Toyota Camry Hybrid (208 hp) supply, but the Sonata Hybrid makes up for this where it counts, with gas mileage estimates that rival the best. In it's most efficient Blue trim, the Sonata Hybrid will achieve EPA estimates of 50/54/52 mpg city/highway/combined, matching the combined estimate of the Camry Hybrid and beating the Accord Hybrid by 4 mpg. Higher trims don't miss out by much, achieving 45/51/47 mpg. In its most efficient Blue guise, the Sonata Hybrid can achieve up to 686 miles of range on a 13.2-gallon tank. On models equipped with the Solar Roof, buyers can expect a claimed 2 miles of additional range courtesy of the segment-first technology.
The interior gets the same treatment as non-hybrid models, with an abundance of space despite the addition of a battery pack. The battery pack is now located under the rear seat, saving an additional 2.5 cubic feet of trunk space compared to the old model with 16 cubic feet matching the capacity of the non-hybrid. Rear headroom takes a slight knock at 37.8 inches compared to the standard model's 38.4 inches, while the 46.1 inches of legroom is class-leading - besting even the Accord Hybrid.
The Sonata Hybrid also benefits from high levels of standard specification, with features including a hands-free power trunk lid, wireless device charging, a 10.25-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, heated and ventilated front seats, and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Safety is standard too, with the brand's SmartSense safety suite incorporating forward collision avoidance, blind spot monitoring, advanced smart cruise control, and an optional highway driving assistant. Also optional is Hyundai's Digital Key, a new technology for the brand that offers NFC and Bluetooth connectivity to unlock and start the car using phone-as-key technology on compatible Android devices. Sadly, though, it appears the Sonata Hybrid isn't getting the brand's Smaht Pahk functionality.
Pricing is yet to be announced, but we expect the Sonata Hybrid to start at around $25,000 like the 2019 derivative.