The Hyundai Sonata is all-new for the 2020 model year and just look at the front bumper! But more on that later. How does this new 7th generation Hyundai Sonata compare to the competition from Mazda, Honda, & Toyota?
Engine – At launch, the 2020 Hyundai Sonata is available with 2 engines. A naturally aspirated 2.5L 4-cylinder with 191 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque & a 1.6L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 180 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. Why are both engines so similar in power? I’m not sure why the power figures are similar but the reason why the 1.6T engine, as equipped in this Ultimate trim Sonata, is the one to go for, is for better fuel efficiency, reduced emissions and low end torque.
This new 1.6T engine is the first engine to come equipped with CVVD, Continuously Variable Valve Duration. It allows the engine to keep the valves open for a short or long duration of time. This in turn allows for a more thorough combustion of the air/fuel mixture which improves fuel economy and reduces exhaust emissions. As a result, the 1.6T engine is rated at 6.6 L/100km on a highway and 8.6 L/100km in the city. Those are impressive numbers given the 1,527 kg curb weight and in the real world, it is possible to get slightly lower highway fuel economy figures.
Transmission – An 8-speed automatic is the only transmission available with both engine options. It shifts so quickly and smoothly in normal driving conditions that you’d be mistaken to think that it’s a dual-clutch transmission. The 8 gear ratios make good use of the engine’s limited power, relatively speaking compared to the Mazda 6 or Honda Accord, and you’d be surprised at just how quickly it can accelerate to highway speeds.
Braking – Automatic emergency braking is a standard feature across all trim levels of the 2020 Hyundai Sonata. The brakes themselves are easy to modulate for smooth deceleration when coming to a stop. The brake pedal though has a slightly longer travel when driving more enthusiastically and the brake discs heat up. But brake force is still strong.
Handling – Compared to other mid-size family sedans, the 2020 Hyundai Sonata was not really meant to be a sporty car. Having said that though, it can still hold its own on a twisty mountain road. Sure, it’s not as fun to drive as the Mazda 6 but the steering wheel feels like it’s actually connected to the front wheels and has some weight behind it. Too many manufacturers these days are making steering wheels feel too light when turning which in turn takes away from the driving pleasure.
Ride Comfort – Driving over bumps is not too bad in the Hyundai Sonata. The ride is not too jarring but nor is it too floaty. It soaks up small bumps and small road imperfections with ease but larger bumps can definitely be felt. The front seats are a tiny bit on the firm side, however, long trips won’t feel too tiring because of them.
Interior Space – This new generation Sonata is larger than the previous and it shows most on the inside. Front occupants benefit from more leg and head room although for me personally, I’d prefer it if the driver’s seat went down just a bit more. I felt like I was sitting a bit too close to the headliner at 6”4”. Rear occupants also have more room than before, especially leg room. Sitting behind my driving position, my knees don’t touch the back of the front seat. The trunk offers 453 L (16 cu-ft) of cargo volume with the rear seats up.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – Thanks to the low peak torque rating and the 8-speed automatic transmission, the engine doesn’t need to rev quite as high in the rpm range to get the car going. In return, engine noises into the cabin are minimal making for a quiet drive. Road and wind noise are also well insulated from the occupants which makes the Sonata a very good long distance cruiser.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – With a starting price of $26,999 CAD ($23,600 USD, SE trim), the Hyundai Sonata is quite well equipped. It has standard heated seats and heated steering wheel, Apple CarPlay & Android Auto connectivity, LED headlights, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane follow assist, and remote start. Those are pretty much the features that most buyers would want out of a car. Of course with this top Ultimate trim at $38,599 CAD ($33,500 USD, Limited trim), you get a few more things such as a heads-up display, HD surround view, panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and a summon feature to name a few. Yes, you can “summon” the car from a tight parking spot (you just push a button on the remote to move the car slowly forward or backwards, it’s not like Tesla’s auto summon feature though). While that price may seem quite steep from its base MSRP, the Sonata Ultimate is actually less expensive than the Mazda 6 Signature or the Honda Accord Touring.
Pricing aside, all of the features fitted to the Sonata work as advertised. The HD surround view system is clear, the 10.25” touchscreen infotainment is easy to navigate, and the advanced safety features are arguably the best out of all the more mainstream competitor vehicles. One thing that may take some getting use to is the button shift selector. Hyundai used a button layout rather than a traditional shifter to increase the amount of space in the center console. The change worked as there is space for a wireless charging pad, 2 large cup holders, and a little bit of small item storage just to the left of the charging pad.
Interior Design – As with many other Hyundai vehicles, the interior is laid out in such a way that almost anyone can get into it and figure out where each control is. The HVAC controls have knobs for temperature and toggle switches for air direction or heated seats features. Although the steering wheel has a large amount of buttons on it, it’s easy to figure out what each one does. The layout of the dashboard and center console is perfectly suited for anyone to get in and not feel overwhelmed.
The materials of the interior though could be better. The leather on the seats is good but the plastics around the lower portion of the center console and on the door panels is hard and cheap feeling to the touch. For me this would not be a deal breaker considering the amount of tech I’d be getting for the price. But it could be a deal breaker for others.
Exterior Design – Now let’s talk about that front bumper. There’s no beating around the bush, it’s hideous to my eyes. There are some styling features that I do like but that big gaping hole does not look appealing. I do like though the LED daytime running lights that extend up and across the front fenders which then blend into a chrome strip. I also like the little fins on top of the rear taillights. I also like the little details such as the hidden trunk release button that is on the upper half of the Hyundai emblem on the trunk. But that front bumper is just too much.
The base trim and the upcoming Hybrid Sonata have a chrome strip along the lower half of the bumper which does help a bit. But for me, it’s not as elegant as the Mazda 6.
In all the 2020 Hyundai Sonata holds true to the Hyundai philosophy of providing a lot of value for not a lot of money. If you are looking for a mid-size sedan with a lot of tech (and you can ignore the questionable styling), then the 2020 Sonata should be at the top of your shopping list. But if you want something that offers a bit more fun, the Mazda 6 is still king despite the almost $2,000 CAD price difference.
Thank you to Hyundai Canada for providing the vehicle. www.HyundaiCanada.com