2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited – Hyundai is killing it!

Seriously, the title of this article couldn’t be more true. I say this with no specific preference or bias regarding the Korean automaker. It’s just that this ongoing car-review-story that I’ve been telling has a hero emerging, and its name is the Hyundai Motor Company. Between their various badges, Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis, they are simply making good vehicles. The Veloster Turbo is incredibly fun, the Genesis G70 could be a giant killer, the electric Niro and Kona are both impressive compact EVs, and the Palisade and Telluride are some of the best SUVs I’ve driven. That’s not even getting into Hooniversal favorites like the Stinger GT and Veloster N. There may be no other car conglomerate producing a better mix of automobiles. It was with this positive feeling that I hopped into the latest Sonata Hybrid for a week. Let’s see it if lives up to the hype.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited

Background

The Hyundai Sonata is a Korean classical music car, at least according to comedian John Mulaney. It dates way back to 1985, when Hyundai marketed the first generation Sonata as an executive sedan. As it predates Hyundai’s arrival on our shores, we wouldn’t get our first taste of the car until the second generation in 1988. While it was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro of ItalDesign, it was a fairly forgettable looking entry into the sedan market. Built on the platform from the Mitsubishi Galant and using its 2.4L engine, the Sonata was only partially a true Hyundai at this point. I won’t go gen-by-gen, so here’s a quick graphic of the Sonata through its lifecycle.

Hyundai Sonata

We’re here for the most recent update, the 8th generation which uses what Hyundai calls, and I’m not making this up their new “Sensuous Sportiness” design language. Coincidentally, that is how we refer to Jeff around here. If you look at the Sonata through the years, you’ll see how the Sonata has gotten curvier and curvier. Haven’t we all. Hyundai lists the regular petrol-powered and hybrid Sonatas separately on their website. The base Sonata starts at a reasonable $23,600*, while the base hybrid model rings in at $27,750*. The Sonata Hybrid comes in three trim levels.

(*It’s that time of year again, Hyundai has updated their website to 2021 models but they are still loaning out 2020s, so details may vary slightly).

What’s impressive right off the bat is the pricing. Hyundai and Kia have always touted that “more content; less cash” concept, although probably not that exact slogan. The Sonata Hybrid in base “Blue” form starts at a reasonable $27,750 and nets 52 MPG combined. Our Limited tester started at $35,300 and with just $155 in options lands at $36,430 out the door. Here, check it out, and then it’s off to the review!

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited

Exterior

If you pan left to right on the history of the Sonata graphic above you’ll see just how much it has evolved from a styling perspective. “Mild to wild” is a cliché that I won’t use, I promise. Besides, the new Sonata isn’t really wild, it’s still a midsize sedan and not some limited edition hypersupercar. Still, Hyundai with some bold design elements, particularly up front. Like a lot of automakers, they went with a big ole grill, and at certain angles the Sonata looks a bit like a carp. But like, an upscale carp who could easily have a really good middle management job with great benefits and a 401K.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited

At night, the Sonata is easy to spot with it’s unique headlight design. The metallic strips that run stem to stern, headlight to c-pillar, are certainly striking and definitely not derivative of any other specific car.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited

The rear is pretty handsome, as is the profile. I particularly like the way the trunk lid protrudes out further at the top, almost making a spoiler. The fan-style wheels are ok, they definitely give off that “hybrid” vibe. But overall, Hyundai kept from shouting “hey you, I’m a hybrid!” at passers-by.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited

Interior

Automotive interiors are tricky. The mix of tactile touchpoints requires a variety of materials. Go to expensive and you’ll drive up the MSRP. Go to cheap and buyers will notice. I think Hyundai has struck a good balance between comfort and affordability. Even though they use some of the gloss black material that has invaded so many other automaker’s interiors (and shows every bit of dust and dirt in the car) the overall interior looks good.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited
Get your paws off the leather Dublin!

Mercifully, they decided not to make the infotainment screen look like a glued-on iPad. Yeah, it sticks up a bit, but the organic shape looks much better than a lot of the German-designed screen layouts.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited

Elsewhere, there is a good mix of plastic and metal, I particularly like the high-end feel of the HVAC dials. Again, you’ll notice that high-resolution cameras pick up every speck of dust on glossy black trim.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited

The older I get, the more important seats become to my overall attitude towards a car. Hyundai offers a decent bolster for a hybrid sedan and enough adjustments to keep you comfortable.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited

Driving

Like the seats, the overall ride quality is a bit deal, especially in a mainstream sedan. The Sonata Hybrid rides incredibly well, between the hybrid silence and the ride quality, it is near silent at times. Even my wife, who typically prefers more traditional luxury brands, was quite impressed with the silence and comfortable ride.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited

I absolutely hate sport mode, as I do in a lot of non-enthusiast focused vehicles. It’s just revs and revs for no reason other than to give the driver the impression that it’s “sporty”. Overall, the driving experience can be summed up with “it’s not fast, but it’s not slow” and that’s fine. People aren’t buying a Sonata, much less in hybrid guise, for speed.

Summary

As the Sonata left my driveway I was left with a primarily positive vibe. The midsize hybrid lives up to the Hyundai hype, and while it wasn’t as exciting as the Veloster or as versatile as the Palisade, it’s an amazingly solid entry into the segment. Compared to Accord and Camry, it’s actually slightly more expensive, but it’s attractive, gets as good (or better) MPG and comes with a well laid out interior. While we’re looking forward to getting some “N” in the Sonata lineup, this is a pretty solid entry onto anyone’s shopping list.

Bonus Pics

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited
2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited
2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited
2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited
2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited
2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited
2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited

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8 responses to “2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited – Hyundai is killing it!”

  1. Sjalabais Avatar
    Sjalabais

    Great review, again. I haven’t been around this one yet, but I find it very interesting that the Hyundai is more expensive than the competition from Toyota and even Honda. They’re the established benchmark, and it is quite a sign of confidence to price the Sonata above them, regardless of content. How do you predict used car values to be? How is the pricing compared to US domestic competition, and is the Sonata nice enough to draw customers from near-luxury twilight brands like Volvo? I’d love to see a class comparison with 5-6 competitors head to head…

    1. Zentropy Avatar
      Zentropy

      I don’t think Hyundai is pulling buyers away from Volvo, but it’s certainly tapping into the traditional customer base of Honda and Toyota. The Sonata comfortably undercuts the price of comparable Accord or Camry in my area.

    2. Maymar Avatar
      Maymar

      For what it’s worth, in my company’s experience, the Sonata has settled into similar resale values to a Nissan Altima, or most of the other similar sized cars we own (although we also get decent discounts from Hyundai, so overall, they’ve been quite cheap to run). The Toyota Camry is worth a couple thousand more, typically, but we pay for it up front, and some of our US domestic options have been worth more, but for trims with quite a bit more equipment.

      1. Sjalabais Avatar
        Sjalabais

        You sit on a lot of interesting data there! It is fascinating here how well Toyota used cars retain their value. Everyone and their dog knows Toyotas are reliable, so that is reflected by used car pricing, somewhat undermining the expected savings from a reliable car. Less hazzle is a huge plus, too, though, so I keep recommending them to people who ask.

        1. Maymar Avatar
          Maymar

          Perks of being the one who prepares the data.

          The Camry in particular is helped by being a popular choice in local taxi markets, as you say, from years of positive reputation (I’m completely speculating here, but with taxi drivers frequently being new immigrants, Toyota having a positive global reputation helps as well).

  2. Zentropy Avatar
    Zentropy

    The first Sonata I recall noticing was the somewhat goofy-looking ’98 model. It was only after seeing that car that I occasionally noticed one from the prior generation. These cars flew under the radar for a while. My first opportunity to drive a Sonata was in 2005 while on a trip to San Diego. It was our rental car, and my wife and I were extremely impressed. I knew at that point that Hyundai was a legitimate up-and-comer.

    This new model doesn’t embody many things that I look for in a car, but I don’t even pretend that I fit the norm. For what most people want, this car checks all of the boxes (except that it’s a sedan, not a crossover). And while I wouldn’t call the car gorgeous (the grille alone prevents that), it has some pleasantly interesting details and looks great from the rear.

    1. Maymar Avatar
      Maymar

      My parents had a 1990 Sonata from new, and even back then, it was mostly fine (I think we had one breakdown in 5 years, but compared to the Pontiac Sunbird we also had at the time, that was an improvement). Still, except for the Korean plastic smell, the new ones are worlds different from that early example.

  3. outback_ute Avatar
    outback_ute

    The last photo shows how the traditional three-box sedan shape has basically disappeared.

    It would be 20 years since I’ve had a sedan daily driver, and I don’t think I’ll ever have another as I enjoy the flexibility of a hatch or wagon (or SUV) too much.

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