In a world where more car costs a lot more, the Sonata Hybrid offers more for a very reasonable price.
Once again, this review was conducted during the Covid-19 global pandemic. While most restrictions had been lifted in my area by the time I reviewed the Sonata, I still took necessary precautions.
First thing’s first: the styling of the 2020 Hyundai Sonata does nothing for me. The front is weird, the side is bland, but the rear isn’t that bad. However, my good friend, who is my next-door neighbor, thought the Sonata Hybrid looked like a million bucks. He kept saying that it looked like true luxury, even going as far to say some expletives when describing how good it looks. He makes damn good money and could easily one, so when I told him it was only about $35,000 I thought he was going to both shit and go blind.
Now let’s talk about that headline: Everything costs so much these days, and in this post-pandemic world we’re starting to take more responsibility for what actually is worth our hard-earned dollars. Not that people didn’t think like this before, but with all that’s happening, I think more and more people are looking at each dollar differently than they have in a long time.
This is no different when it comes to cars. Who needs an expensive piece of machinery when you’re working from home? Well, why not something that’ll save you money while not costing as much? The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid starts at $27,500 for the Blue trim, $29,900 for the SEL, and the Limited, my tester, comes in at $35,300. The Hybrid Blue achieves 50 mpg city and 54 highway, respectively, with a combined average of 52 miles per gallon. The SEL and Limited trims 45 city, 51 highway, and 47 combined.
On top of the Sonata Hybrid Limited you will find a first-in-class solar panel roof, it provides 205 watts of electricity and charges the regular and Hybrid batteries. Hyundai say it will give you an extra 2 miles per day from the natural charge, and makes sure that the HVAC and infotainment systems don’t drain the batteries when the vehicle is off. But this done mean that the interior of the Sonata Hybrid gets less natural light and can’t be equipped with a sunroof/moonroof.
The 2020 Sonata Hybrid is powered by what Hyundai call their Smartstream G2.0 GDi HEV motor. The gas-powered engine makes 150 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 139 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm. The electric motor makes 51 hp (39 kW) and a voltage of 270 volts, all of this contributes to a combined horsepower of 192.
All of this power and torque goes through a 6-speed hybrid automatic transmission with Active Shift Control (ASC). Hyundai say this system monitors shifts 500 times per second and then fine tunes and adjusts shift response on the fly for faster shifting. Per their official press material, “ASC applies new control logic software to the Hybrid Control Unit (HCU), which aligns the electric motor with the rotational speeds of the engine and transmission to reduce gear shifts by 30%. The technology also delivers smoother gear changes and quicker shift times.” Now does all of that prove effective? Actually, yeah. At least in my driving it did. More on that later. But I can tell you right now: The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid has a far superior transmission response than the $100,000 Lexus LS Hybrid I recently reviewed.
My car was painted in Portofino Grey over Black leather interior. The only options were a $295 auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink and a compass, and $155 carpeted floor mats. All told, the car comes to $36,365 after a destination and handling fee of $995. That, in my opinion, is pretty damn cheap for a car that offers the amount of luxury and safety features this car has. Sadly, the $4,919 federal tax credit ended with the 2019 Sonata Hybrid. Now that would have made this car even more compelling. Still, you’ll save a ton on gas, at least.
The safety features are abundant. With Hyundai’s SmartSense advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) you have 3 radar sensors, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and 5 cameras that aid in forward collision avoidance, blind spot collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic alert and assistance, lane-keep assist, advanced smart cruise control with stop and go, and highway driving assist (this just uses the cruise control and lane-keep assist systems and combines them for highway use). All of them are standard on all Sonata Hybrids. Interestingly, and probably my favorite feature, is the blind spot monitors that pop up when you put your turn signal on. In the 12.3-inch gauge cluster, a circular image will appear in the display in front of you showing a a view of your blindspot to make sure you’re not potentially hitting anything. It’s brilliant in its implementation. It is by far the best system I’ve used thus far. You can see the little camera in the side mirrors. Four cameras give you a full 360-degree bird’s eye view for use when driving at low speeds through parking lots and when parking. This shows up on the 10.25-inch infotainment screen. Just be warned, if you’re sitting in with the car in drive or reverse and someone walks in front of your car, the sensors will go wild and let you know the world is ending. And just one last thing about the cameras. They are without a doubt the best quality of cameras I’ve used in a car yet, whether it’s the front, side, or rear-view, they are crystal clear in daytime and nighttime.
Now, I know I’ve already discussed the styling of this car, but regardless of that, it is engineered very well to achieve a drag coefficient of just .24. Basically, less drag is good, which seems obvious. The more slippery the car is, the better the fuel efficiency. Again, obviously. But 0.24 is a monster number. The Toyota Prius has a cd (coefficient of drag) of 0.24, and the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord Hybrids each are at 0.25. The non-Hybrid Sonata is still slices through the air at 0.27.
The Sonata Hybrid is able to do so well because of a number of things. There are active air flaps behind the front grille that can open and close when appropriate, and they will close when the engine doesn’t need to be cooled down as much by the flowing air. In some of the photos you’ll notice little bumps that look like a bunch of fins on the corners of the lip of the taillights. These baby shark fins help to direct air along with the thin lip spoiler. Engineers have also added front and rear wind deflectors, undercovers in the front and back of the engine bay, as well as under the center and rear of the car to aid airflow.
Thanks to those same engineers, the Sonata is able to take full advantage of its trunk, keeping the 16 cubic feet from the non-Hybrid. Well, actually, to be specific, the non-Hybrid has a 16.3 cubic foot trunk. Oh, and unlike other Hybrids, the back seats can be folded to slide larger things into the cabin. This was made possible by putting the batteries under the rear seats. This is 2.5 more cubic feet than the 2019 Sonata Hybrid.
Speaking of the trunk, the Sonata Hybrid will automatically open it for you if you just stand by the bumper for about 4 seconds. The car will actually beep for every second so you can count along, and then *pop*. No need to look like a weirdo trying to find the right way to wave or wag your foot or leg under the rear bumper. Just stand there with the key fob in your pocket, and voila!
As you can see in the photo above, the Sonata is actually a good sized vehicle inside. But look at how much more front legroom it has over the Camry and Accord. I would happily give up 2-3 inches of front legroom to give it to the rear passengers. It’s not that the rear is small, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have an extra couple inches so kids in carseats aren’t kicking the back of your seat, or passengers well over 6-feet don’t feel cramped, and so on. I’m 5’10” and was very comfortable in the back behind my seat, though.
Alright, now let’s get to what you’ve all been waiting for: sliding into the driver’s seat. While the Sonata seems like it is tight and short, once in the seat you realize Hyundai have optimized the whole experience. Grab the steering wheel at 9 and 3, or 7 and 5, you will notice that your elbows should line up perfectly with the center and door armrests. It’s brilliant for when you’re driving long distances. I couldn’t help but feel like the engineers had built the car around me and my highway driving comfort. I guess they kidnapped me while I was sleeping and ran some tests on me. I knew it wasn’t a dream… The center console armrest is also wide enough for both driver and front passenger to rest their tired arms. You will also be able to reach buttons easily without straightening your arms. And while things are easy to reach, see, and touch, the infotainment can be a tad confusing at first. I recommend taking a few minutes to familiarizing yourself with everything, and then making sure you have everything the way you want it before you set off so you won’t get tripped up while driving.
Once you do get your settings right, turning up the Bose sound system reveals crisp and clear audio. It’s not going to put up a fight against other high-end systems when cranked, but it is in no way holding this Sonata from being considered luxurious.
The 2020 Sonata Hybrid is very comfortable no matter where you’re sitting. There is a bit of road noise, but I wouldn’t say it’s a deal breaker. Plus, the car’s comfort and driving pleasure will make up for that. Leather is soft and recliner-like, but the seats still hold you well. There was a lot of attention paid to dual-purpose seating. Comfortable while still assuring you that you’re not going anywhere. And even though the interior seems a little on the cheaper side with the black plastics that are easily scratched and marked up, everything is well laid out. The placement of the Qi wireless charger (pronounced like Chee) is absolutely perfect. Finally, a car company who gets that the phone doesn’t need to be in a hole or cubby, but instead in an open area that’s easy to drop your phone into or pick up your phone out of.
Surprisingly when driving the Hybrid is feels athletic in its movements, and is quite spry. It’s not a barn stormer, but it will get up and go. When coming off of a stop, the car will be in pure EV mode, and it can feel jumpy. That’s not abnormal for an electric vehicle since there’s no need to build up torque. Some may see it as unrefined, but I welcomed it because it gives you that extra oomph to get on with what you’re doing. I believe the fact that all trims around between 3,300-3,500 lbs helps with making sure the car doesn’t feel pitchy when turning in hard, or sluggish when you need to hustle the car around. The lower weight also helps the braking, and that’s great, but they feel grabby and the pedal is spongy. You’ll get used to the brakes, but just know that it’s going to stop… a little more hard than you anticipated.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was getting between 40-45 mpg in city driving, because I was dogging on the car around town like it was my Shelby GT350, but also because it was between 90-95 degrees with 90% humidity the week I had the Sonata Hybrid. So to achieve good fuel mileage in those conditions makes it an impressive package.
After a week spent inside the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited, there were a few quirks or missteps. One of the oddities was that when you telescope the steering wheel all the way in, the left and right stalks actually shift upward a little. It’s not bad, just odd. In more cars I drive I notice there are at least two USB ports for the rear seats, including Toyota, but the Hyundai only offers 1. Not a bad deal, just a little cost-cutting, I guess. But that’s it. I swear, that’s really all I had written in my notes for things I “didn’t like”.
So what do I think after a week? I wouldn’t hesitate to buy one for myself. The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is comfortable, fun to drive, easy on the wallet when filling it up (it has a 13.2 gallon tank), has excellent trunk space with folding rear seats, and one of the best driving positions for a non-sports car I’ve driven to date. It’s weird, I found myself actually believing this to be a far superior Hybrid than the $100,000 Lexus LS500h I tested. It just seems more natural in this world for well under $40,000. Hyundai, you’ve built a winner. Keep it up.