The Hyundai Sonata is one of few counter-SUV-current agents; an intermediate sedan meant to take a bite out of the 90 000 car sales of this type that are coming out of dealerships yearly in Canada, alongside the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima, to mention a few.
Preferred, Preferred, Sport, Luxury and Ultimate are the four trims offered for the 2020 model-year.
While sedans are dying, they tend to get bigger. And the Sonata gained quite a bit in shape; it is now 4,900 mm in length and 1,860 mm in width, making it bigger than other members in the segment. But the styling was also modernized for this year, with a more complex front end featuring bow-shaped headlights that climb alongside le hood. In the year the wide, connecting taillights steal the show.
Interior spaciousness – with special tech features
The rectangular insert inside the steering wheel, paired with the line that runs across the dashboard, gives the cabin a cleaner, more spacious-looking look. The use of “piano black” plastics has officially spread out to the compact car segment – some would say that it’s a repetitive trend and it has lost some of its panache. But the contrast with the Sonata’s soft-touch surfaces on top of the dashboard in our Ultimate tester was a spot on pairing.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are accessible via a 10.25-inch screen on the Ultimate, which very much accessible. In fact, ergonomics in the cabin are generally how they should be. The Ultimate trims also have a Bose 12-speaker with a quirky gizmo; drivers and occupants can tune to “nature sounds” in order to keep zen and calm in traffic or on long drives.
Another cool (and more useful) feature on the 2020 Hyundai Sonata is the Remote Smart park assist. Available on the Ultimate trim, this feature allows you to virtually remote control the car from outside using the key fob. This is useful to take it out of a tight parking spot, for instance.
Atmospheric and turbocharged power
Two engines have been elected to fit under the hood of this new Sonata; the four-cylinder 1.6-Litre turbocharged unit, which cranks out 180 horsepower along with 195 lb-ft of torque, and the naturally aspirated mill, which offers a more powerful 191 horses, but only 181 lb-ft of torque.
Both are paired with an 8-Speed automatic transmission with drive mode select, geared with four options: Smart, Normal, Comfort and Sport.
Only the base Preferred trim gets the naturally aspirated engine. Our test model was a top Ultimate model, which ultimately made it turbocharged. Although not riveting (at all), the accelerations are linear throughout all the powerband, thanks to the 8-Speed automatic doing a lovely job, quick shifting and suppling a less “elastic” driving experience than with a commonly used CVT in this particular segment.
Although the general driving experience will not satisfy the spirited pilot, the Sonata’s steering is direct, with little to no numb feeling in the steering wheel. It comes well-equipped with several safety and collision avoidance systems, even in the base trim. But one gadget that we tested and were fairly impressed by was the Highway Driving Assist (HDA) – available only on the Ultimate.
Yes, many manufacturers have their own semi-autonomous systems now in entry-level models, and most of them require regular driver interaction. Hyundai’s HDA was surprisingly permissive during our drive, driving practically autonomously for long distances on the highway without requiring us to touch the steering wheel. When the road was getting too twisty for the system’s sensors, the system chimed and ultimately disengaged itself.
No, it doesn’t have riveting amounts of power, nor does it provide a thrilling drive. But being inclined towards sedans rather than SUVs, I generally enjoyed driving this recent iteration of the Sonata; it is better in every way. The only question mark at this stage is the price. Hyundai should release it by the end of the year.
Hyundai announced that the Sonata would get a conventional, non-pluggable hybrid model next year. For those who feel left out by the Sonata’s disadvantage in terms of power will also be happy to know that an N-Line model – Hyundai’s high-performance branch – is in the works, and will ultimately bring more horses, foot-pounds and fun to the table.