My Thoughts Exactly: 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Yes, the new 2020 Hyundai Sonata looks like a smash hit. It is a technologically advanced mid-size family sedan that needs to be. It is living proof that the sedan is far from erased off of the dealer lots of this country

How can you top a car that has a future-looking design inside and out, a plethora of driver assistance features, and smaht pahk?

What about a solar roof, for starters?

This version of the Sonata has a solar roof for one simple reason. It is the Hybrid version. A new gas-electric hybrid driveline has been added to the revolutionary Sonata. It is a sign that Hyundai has (a) pushed the envelope further on this car and (b) they are truly bullish on electrified vehicles. 

Why is that solar roof panel so special? To augment energy recovery from regenerative braking, as expected in an electrified vehicle, the LG solar panel on the roof adds more energy back to the 270-volt battery pack. The result is more driving range from the battery and overall – Hyundai claims it would provide an additional 2 miles per day from solar charging. 

This 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited has traded in smaht pahk for solar energy. Clever. Sustainable, even. 

Yet, you still have to look beyond that solar roof to see how this generation’s Sonata Hybrid stacks up with the rest of the class. Granted, the selection of hybrid-drive mid-size sedans have been thinning out for the past two years. With the elimination of the Ford Fusion and the eventual replacement of the Kia Optima with the new K5, Hyundai still has to compete with the / Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. Of these two other remaining hybrids, I have driven the Camry. That car, in itself, is a benchmark to beat. 

For Hyundai, the Sonata’s driveline starts with a 150-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. They add on a 51-horsepower 39kW electric motor to the mix, fed by a 270-volt lithium-ion battery pack. This driveline is rated for a combined 192 horsepower. It is worth noting that the electric motor itself pouts down 151 pound-feet of torque – more than the gasoline engine by itself at 139 pound-feet of torque. 

Before this power goes down to the front wheels, Hyundai still believes is connecting it with a six-speed automatic transmission instead of a continuously variable transmission. One could argue that a CVT is the perfect match for the electric motor when combined with an internal combustion engine. I have to admit that the automatic transmission in the Sonata Hybrid shifts as smoothly as a CVT with better ratio (er, gear) control by the paddle shifters on the steering wheel. 

In all, this driveline serves the Sonata Hybrid well. The instant torque of the electric motor helps in low speed situations. Seldom do you use the gasoline engine by itself, as the electric motor assists in highway and city driving extremely well. 

If there was one expectation for the Sonata Hybrid was to match the advertised fuel economy figures – in particular, the combined rating of 47 MPG. Also, I wanted to see if it can beat the last two hybrid mid-sized sedans I’ve driven (Toyota Camry at 44.6 MPG and the Ford Fusion at 41.8 MPG). The good news is that the Sonata Hybrid averaged 45.6 MPG – although I was shooting for the magic 47 MPG combined EPA rating. Not disappointed, really. 

For the record, the turbocharged Sonata Limited I drove earlier this year averaged 30.5 MPG. 

One thing you love is the solid and silent ride the Sonata Hybrid gives you. It is also a bit of a softy. I felt some roll and lean at the limit. The steering system offers a good turning radius with a bit of softness at the wheel, especially on-center as it challenges the driver assistance tech within the lanes. 

There is some good news to share. It is the Sonata Hybrid’s braking system. Stopping power and pedal feel are as responsive as a non-hybrid Sonata.  That says a lot here. 

My tester wore a gray-on-gray theme, which could go either way. The lighter gray interior is rather uninspiring, even with the advanced design Hyundai created inside the Sonata. If you look beyond the color scheme, you will enjoy a superb digital instrumentation screen that has a different color per each drive mode. I kept the Sonata Hybrid Limited in Eco, so the green motif was nice to look at. The center section of the screen has all of the data you need for the Sonata Hybrid.

The large, tablet-like infotainment screen is also extremely useful. Not to mention, very informative and quick to connect with other devices. Bose provided 12 speakers of quality sound throughout the cabin. I found the controls the of high quality, good to the touch, and logical. I am including the four buttons that make up the main transmission controls. 

The front seats had a firm feeling to them. I took it on a day trip to the Chippewa Valley in Wisconsin to meet up some friends and found I needed to stop on occasion to get some relief for my back. Although, stronger spines may want a bit more support and bolstering for longer drives. Rear seat room is good, just like the non-hybrid Sonata. As for trunk space, there was no loss in volume because of the battery pack. In fact, the trunk is the same as the non-hybrid model. 

As for the exterior, I admit liking the non-hybrid Limited’s front end better. Although, I also believe that owners would appreciate the specific grille texture on this Hybrid Limited model, as well as the extra chrome strip on the lower front fascia. The Hybrid’s rear bumpers are different, as it looks cleaner with the combination reflective strip and back-up lamps on each side of the license plate. The finishing touch is the 17-inch aerodynamic alloy wheels. In all, the Sonata Hybrid Limited is handsome, but not as cool as the non-hybrid Limited model. 

As for how much this package will cost, my Hybrid Limited tester came with a sticker price of $36,430. For comparison, a fully loaded 2020 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE was priced out just short of $40,000.

The obvious question is whether the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is a good choice for sustainable transportation for your family. Well…as long as you stick to a sedan, it is really a solid and advanced vehicle that turns in good fuel economy figures. Pricing is not bad, and you do have a couple more hybrid models to choose from below this Limited tester.

Would it be better if it came with smaht pahk? Maybe. If it is sustainable transportation you are after, then you really don’t need it to park itself. 

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Hyundai Motor America

All photos by Randy Stern

Special thanks to my friend and car collector/restorer Rick Payton for the use of his lakeshore home on Lake Wissota near Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin for a selection. of these images.

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