The Sonata midsize sedan, Hyundai’s longest-running and most successful model, is entirely redesigned for 2020, marking the start of its eighth generation. It’s the first Hyundai sedan styled in the carmaker’s new “Sensuous Sportiness” design language, and it will take many first-time beholders a while to even realize it’s a Hyundai.
This new Sonata looks expensive but Hyundai hasn’t strayed too far from its affordability origins. With a $955 destination charge included, pricing starts at $24,555.
Along with the sweeping design changes, the 2020 Sonata has a new platform, new engines, and a lot of new technologies.
There are four trim levels: SE, SEL, SEL Plus, and Limited.
SE and SEL trims have a 2.5-liter four cylinder engine producing 191 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. It’s rated 28 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, and 32 mpg combined.
SEL Plus and Limited models come with a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 180 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. Its fuel economy numbers are 27/36/31 mpg.
All four models have an eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive isn’t available.
The base Sonata SE trim doesn’t ask buyers to endure hardship. The only features it lacks whose absence I’d bemoan are a power driver seat with lumbar, heated front seats, satellite radio, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and, depending on the time of year, heated outside mirrors.
I drove the top-tier Sonata Limited, which weighs in at $34,455 including a heavy dose of special features as standard equipment.
The Limited’s 1.6-liter engine has less horsepower than the 2.5-liter used in the SE and SEL, but its turbocharger takes up the slack, and then some, with the thoughtful gift of extra torque, which is the soul of satisfying acceleration. Still, its performance isn’t particularly exceptional, and if you consider that a deal-breaker there’s a sport-tuned Sonata N-Line model coming later in the year. For those more interested in maximizing miles per gallon, a Sonata Hybrid is set to arrive this spring.
Sonata’s interior design is handsome, uncluttered, and comfortable. Front seats are wider than average. They’re well bolstered, and there were several inches on both sides between me and the bolsters. Large people who get overly squeezed driving a midsize sedan will appreciate Hyundai’s generosity. Head room for front and rear passengers is also magnanimous.
The infotainment system and I got along pretty well during the week, even though it required a bit too much research and experimentation to be deemed full-on intuitive. I wasn’t cheerful about the capacitive (touch-sensitive) controls in place of mechanical buttons or switches, and confess to holding a week-long grudge about there being no tuning knob for the audio.
An unusual “Sounds of Nature” feature lets you play sounds simulating such things as a Lively Forest, Calm Sea Waves, Snowy Village, and Warm Fireplace, presumably for relaxation, which is a bad idea while driving unless you’re in the middle of a road-rage episode. One of the sounds of nature options is really odd: Open-air Café. For fun I played Rainy Day and listened to the slow plinking of raindrops when it was pouring outside.
A decidedly more interesting feature of the new Sonata is called Hidden Lighting Lamps. The name itself is wonderful enough. There’s a chrome line that starts at the wing mirror, goes around the side passenger windows, and returns to the front of the car by running the length of the hood and ending beneath the headlights. It has LED running lights embedded with the Hidden Lighting Lamps that look like chrome when switched off but become dramatically lit when turned on.
2020 HYUNDAI SONATA LIMITED
Base price, including destination charge: $34,455
Price as driven: $34,455
Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.