My Thoughts Exactly: 2020 Hyundai Sonata

When you are looking at this photo of this sedan, what two words come to mind?

If you said “smaht pahk,” then you’re right.

We look back at Hyundai's Super Bowl LIV commercial for the 2020 Sonata and only think of Chris Evans, Rachel Dratch, John Krasinski, and David Ortiz telling us how "wicked smaht" the Remote Smart Parking Assist feature was when they demonstrated it around the city of Boston.

Just like Krasinski, I got "some good news" for you. I received one for the purpose of telling its story here. Obviously, I am not in Boston. Rather, the Twin Cities. Somewhere between Hudson and Excelsior are some tight parking spots that could test the Sonata’s new feature.

Before I even test out the Remote Smart Parking Assist, there is an entire car to talk about. And, believe me, this is not a "ghost car," as Dratch called it.

The eighth-generation Sonata started from a clean sheet (or screen). It was designed to bring you back to cars. You have been enamored by the SUV and crossover as the preferred conveyance for your family, your business associates, and so forth. While Hyundai produces their own line of SUVs, they have not forgotten about the mid-size family sedan. Instead of just designing one and calling it a day – Hyundai went for it.

The result is a stand-out among mid-size sedans. Based on Hyundai’s new Third-Generation Platform, the Sonata gives us a look that is sleek and future-forward. Some may not like some of the details, such as the "catfish"-like grille, the extended LED lights flowing onto the hood, the added chrome trim beyond those LED lights, and so forth. If you put the sum of the whole together, you get one of the most advanced looking cars sold in this country. It simply looks the part – and, then some!

The "catfish" grille opens up a new generation of Hyundai design. You better get used to it.

The silhouette is beyond what you expect from a mainstream mid-size sedan. The coupe-like profile is absolutely lovely to look at. Even the rear deck stands out with its swoopy tail and wraparound taillamp unit. My Limited tester wore a set of 18-inch alloy wheels with a what could be described as a silver-finished version of some Genesis details.

The 2020 Sonata reminds me of a couple of vehicles in my past – the first-generation Ford Taurus for being a stand-out design for its time and the 2011 Sonata. For the record, the latter won #VOTY10.

Future-forward best describes the Sonata’s interior. I like how the instrument panel flows from the door cards to create a warm and friendly place to operate the Sonata. The interior motif on this Limited tester is a two-tone black-ish and saddle tan-ish symphony of leather and other materials. To access this lovely interior are four wide-opening doors.

Once inside, the driver has a digital instrument binnacle that shares its design with the Palisade SUV. When you signal your turn, the Blind Spot View Monitor pops up to replace the speedometer or tachometer, depending on which way you’re turning. The view is directly along the side of the car to see if anyone is in your way when you change lanes or make a turn.

The infotainment screen sits on top of the dashboard. If it looks familiar, it is also the same size and design as in the Palisade. The 10.25-inch screen has a standard tri-pane home view, which is rather neat. Bose offers its Centerpoint speaker system, connected to a variety of playback options. Come to think of it, I have ever seen a Bose audio system in a Hyundai before.

Another feature first seen in the Palisade on the Sonata is the push button transmission on the console. I’m not a huge fan of anything other than a shifter. It does fit the Sonata’s future-forward design quite well. You do get a pair of paddle shifters in case you need to shift up or down.

The front seats start off as a bit firm. It does read you and start to relax you by being supportive and comfortable. There are plenty of power-assisted adjustments to find the right place behind the wheel. Rear seat room is very good. Tall passengers might have to negotiate the roofline, but your legs will be very comfortable. The leather upholstery in this Limited tester is very nice to the touch.

Trunk space is very good. You get 16.0 cubic feet to start with from its clamshell-like trunk lid. The rear seats fold down for longer items.

One thing that stood out for me on the 2020 Sonata is the quality of the cabin. The controls are good to the touch and there are some nice details on the knobs and stalks. It feels very Genesis-like…I said that before, right?

Underneath the Sonata Limited tester's hood is a wonderful 180-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged engine. It may not sound like a lot until you press the accelerator to access the 195 pound-feet of torque. There’s more than enough low-end oomph for passing and just getting off the line. The push-button eight-speed automatic transmission makes things easier with smooth, responsive, and quiet shifts. In all, this is a wonderful driveline.

Even fuel consumption did not disappoint me. I turned an average of 30.5 MPG.

At this point, I better talk about the Remote Smart Parking Assist feature that won over the good folks of Boston. It works by a button on the center console to enable the system to work. You take your remote fob – the clickah – and you press the corresponding button as to the direction your Sonata has to go.

A few things to consider. One, you have to keep your finger on the button until you can fully park the Sonata. Once it is in place, you let go. It will stop. This is just to help you understand how the feature works, trusting you and the Sonata to do this properly.

Two, it only works when you position the Sonata into the parking space. You cannot use this feature to parallel park or to turn into a space. Oh, and make sure you can turn off the car when you’re done parking into that tight spot where door dings and back pain will happen.

Understanding this, the Remote Smart Parking Assist works. While it won over Big Papi, it freaked out the good folks of the Twin Cities. Sorry, folks!

When you are not trying to pahk your cah in a tight spot, the Sonata is actually rewarding to drive. The ride quality is superb in all drive modes. I also like the way it handles in evasive maneuvers, as well as taking on corners. At the limit, it will roll and lean, but not enough to scare anyone. That is easily resolved by flipping the Drive Mode switch to Sport. The suspension firms up a bit, but it takes corners with confidence.

As you have read throughout the years, I prefer my steering a bit more weighed down than usual. That way, I have a sense of better control and on-center feel on the highway. That is still achievable in Sport mode on the Sonata. It really turns a handsome, future-forward looking mid-size family sedan into a luxury sports sedan. Put the Sonata back into Normal mode, and the steering still feels good without being too vague. It does have a good turning radius, though I wished for tighter turns when you need it without the overboost from the steering box.

The Sonata’s brakes are equally confident and controlled. A firm pedal feel helps to keep stops on point in normal and panic situations.

Pricing for he 2020 Hyundai Sonata is right in the ballpark for its class. The base SE model has a base price of $23,600. My top-of-the-line Limited tester arrived with a sticker price of $34,365.

If you ask me, this is perhaps the best Hyundai Sonata ever. But, that’s a given considering how much Hyundai has progressed since its arrival in the USA back in 1986. This sedan has earned both #VOTY awards for Hyundai, dating back to the first one in 2007.

With all due respect to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, the 2020 Hyundai Sonata is the breakout star of Super Bowl LIV. It is redefining the sedan for this market again. The new Sonata is doing so by being innovative and future-forward. And by being wicked smaht.

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Hyundai Motor America

All photos by Randy Stern

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