Year, Make, Model: 2020 Hyundai Sonata
Topline: Hyundai's midsize Sonata sedan has been completely reworked from top to bottom for the 2020 model year, and features the Korean marque's latest styling...complete with hints of the Louisiana Bayou.
What's New: Hyundai's new "Sensuous Sportiness" design philosophy comes through in the 2020 Sonata, and is the source of its catfishy front and Honda Civic-esque rear end. Central to this design is a pair of flashy features first seen on Hyundai's past concepts, such as a "Digital Pulse Cascading Grille," and "hidden lighting" that alternates between a chrome finish with the vehicle off, and LED highlights when on.
This bodywork and its ultra-aerodynamic contours—which produce a drag coefficient of just 0.27—enclose a completely new vehicle platform, one that's lighter and stronger than that of the outgoing Sonata. It's safer, too, thanks to a "multi load path structure" that sends energy around the Sonata's occupants, rather than into them.
Added stiffness helps to improve the Sonata's handling, a major focus for Hyundai in this vehicle's new iteration. The entire car will sit an inch lower than the current model, lowering the center of gravity, ergo handling. Chassis tweaks make the front and rear subframes as well as the rear crossmember stiffer, while suspension geometry has been altered to increase handling predictability. Thanks to a larger brake booster, the brakes will also be more effective.
It sounds like the perfect foundation for a Veloster N-like Sonata N sports sedan, but if there's such a project in the works, we won't hear about it until Hyundai wants us to. It confirmed that there'll be an N-Line appearance package coming out, but no word on a full-fat Sonata N.
Making a Sonata N isn't a matter of throwing a couple finishing touches on, either, as the 2020 Sonata's powertrains are all about economy. There's a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine that makes 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque, good for 31 combined mpg, or a 2.5-liter unit with 191 and 181 respectively, which will do 33 mpg. Compare that to the 2019 model's 2.4 (185 horse, 178 torque) and its 29 mpg and the improvements to both economy and performance are obvious.
Sadly for us, driving nerds make up a minority of car owners, so what's more important to the average Sonata customer is comfort, convenience, and tech, and Hyundai hasn't shorted them in the slightest. Apple CarPlay (and Android Auto) are standard, controllable through the 10.25-inch infotainment system with a split-screen function that lets navigation and entertainment controls be displayed concurrently. Said nav system comes with three years or free map updates, and traffic flow motoring forever—no subscription needed.
One can splurge on the Sonata by specifying wheels anywhere from 16 to 18 inches in size, or on a 12-speaker Bose audio system. Make sure the world knows about your Bose by adding the optional, Wyoming-sized panoramic sunroof to the car, and leaving it open while you play Old Town Road at maximum volume.
Standard to all 2020 Sonatas is a head-up display (HUD), which shows speed and navigation instructions, along with the status of the Sonata's arsenal of safety assists. Lane keeping, safe exiting, forward collision, blind spot watch, and surround-view cameras alert drivers to hazards or obstacles in their vicinity, whether on the road or in parking lots. Should safety assists be unable to prevent an accident—like if someone runs a red light and T-bones you—the Sonata's nine airbags (presumably not Takata) will serve as the last line of defense for keeping drivers safe.
When it comes time for the journey to end, the 2020 Sonata comes with "Smart Remote Parking Assist," which means the Sonata will squeeze into or out of a space with nobody in the car, so you don't have to risk an earful from Infiniti drivers upon coming within an inch of their doors. Yes, this means the car can be remotely started, with either a smartphone-based "digital key" or a traditional fob. It's not quite Tesla's summon feature, but it's pretty good for something this affordable.
Quotable: "Sonata is our signature product," proclaimed Mike O'Brien, Hyundai Motor America's vice president of product, corporate and digital planning. "Having been one of our first and most successful nameplates, Sonata is our legacy, and it needs to be special and memorable in all attributes. Sonata signifies our vision for future Hyundai designs, great active safety systems and cutting-edge technology that is effortless."
What You Need to Know: Hyundai says this, the eighth-generation Sonata, will enter production in September, and be built by Americans in Alabama. The first 2020 Sonatas should be arriving in Hyundai showrooms around October.