Seductive Silhouette and Best-in-Class Fuel Economy
The all-new 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is a case study in how to hit the ground running. From its striking looks to impressive efficiency, the bar has been set high by this five-passenger sedan.
The coupe-like design, with sleek lines that lean towards Audi and Mercedes-Benz, will cause you pause about buying a crossover SUV. You will be uttering to yourself, “Is it possible a hybrid sedan could be parked in my garage?”
The front-wheel drive Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, producing 150 horsepower (hp) and 139 pound-feet (lb.-ft.) of torque. The 39-kilowatt (kW) electric motor and the 56 kW lithium-ion battery add 29 hp and 151 lb.-ft. Don’t ask why, but you can’t do simple math adding the horsepower, but it comes out to a total system 192 hp.
The shift-by-wire six-speed automatic, which is engaged by pushing buttons on the center console, has a Shiftronic mode and paddle shifters. The Drive Mode Select helps you get the most performance from the engine, offering choices of Smart, Normal, Sport and Custom. Opting for Sport (note how the dash gauges turn red in Sport) for those freeway onramps, the torque comes in smoothly at the low rev range, and will pull a 0-60 time around 8.4 seconds. This is ample power to get up to speed, but don’t be fooled into thinking the Sonata is a sports sedan, as it is designed to save fuel. Out on the freeway we stayed in Smart or Eco to get the best fuel economy. Hyundai has a new technology, Active Shift Control, that smooths-out shifts, with claims of 30-percent quicker gear changes.
The EPA estimates fuel economy to be 45 mpg city/51 highway/47 combined for the Limited trim (Blue tops out at 50/54/52). When Clean Fleet Report sees estimated fuel economy numbers in the forties and fifties, we begin to drool. This is where efficiency is headed, and we are always pleased to drive a car that is a serious fuel sipper.
During our week in the Sonata Hybrid we drove 253 miles throughout Southern California, averaging 48.4 mpg. In a 150-mile all-freeway run with the adaptive cruise control set to 65 mph, we achieved 52.6 mpg. The slippery aerodynamics are partially due to the 0.24 coefficient of drag, with air deflectors, smooth underbody panels that block air going to the engine when in electric mode and rear lamp fins to improve air flow. Since this is not a plug-in hybrid the Sonata Hybrid doesn’t have a dedicated EV mode. But you are rewarded for a light touch on the accelerator pedal, as it runs in electric mode when cruising and much of the time when driving in town.
Fuel economy reported by Clean Fleet Report is non-scientific and represents the reviewer’s driving experience. Your numbers may differ, but we feel confident you may better our experience.
The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid weighs in at 3,530 pounds, which gave a solid and confident ride on the 17-inch wheels and the 215/55 all-season tires. The ride is comfortable, with little wind noise, and only the harshest road imperfections transmitting sounds to the cabin. The cornering was capable when pushed, but not sporty, so searching-out mountain corners should be replaced with hitting the open road. The power-assisted steering was direct and gave good road feedback; the brakes had a progressive feel producing straight and true, with no brake fade, stops.
The regenerative brake system puts electricity back into the battery when coasting or stopping. Overall, with the anti-lock brakes the system worked well.
Seductive Silhouette. These areHyundai’s words, along with saying the Sonata Hybrid is practical. While practicality is true, it probably is the furthest thing you will be thinking when first looking at the all-new Sonata Hybrid. All new for 2020, don’t expect it to look anything like the outgoing model. The seamless hood, raked front end, and fastback coupe design makes it look like nothing seen from Hyundai previously.
The cross hole grille is framed by distinctive LED headlights, edged by a very unique and compelling daylight running light strip. The light strip runs up the fenders from beneath each headlight, then becomes a chrome strip that extends to the outside rearview mirrors. The complete strip appears to be chrome during the day and then at night, lights-up.
One of the most interesting features and technology on the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is the solar panel roof, which is standard on the Limited trim line. The roof charges the 12-volt and hybrid batteries, producing two miles of electric driving range for every six hours the car is left in the sun. Over the course of a year this could add more than 700 miles of driving range.
Clean Fleet Report’s tester was painted in stunning Calypso Red. The sans-chrome sides are smooth and the swept-back coupe-look leads to the most distinctive and dramatic rear end on any sedan. Stretching from edge-to-edge of the trunk lid, the horizontal line is actually an LED strip connecting the brake lights, which have those small air flow fins. Hyundai’s use of LED lighting technology has opened a new world of design possibilities, making the Sonata Hybrid a true head-turner.
Clean, Refreshing Interior
A calming and pleasant design with clean lines is the theme in the Sonata interior, which is handsome and refined. The camel and chocolate interior color scheme had an upscale look with soft-touch leather and even a pleasant feel of the grain on the plastic surfaces. The Limited, which is the top trim level, comes standard with leather-trimmed, power heated and ventilated front seats with driver memory.
The low slung dash has a nicely placed 10.25-inch horizontal color touchscreen that houses the navigation and the Bose premium audio system. The 12-speaker system has a nine-inch subwoofer for SiriusXM and AM/FM/AUX, and USB ports. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, with smartphone integration via Bluetooth, complete the audio system. The leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel has controls for audio, telephone and cruise control. For ease-of-use, we would have liked to see a channel-sector knob to accompany the volume knob.
If you are stressed and need a respite from the challenges of the road, there are soothing sounds that can be played through the Bose system. Choices are Calm Sea Waves, Rainy Day, Open Air Cafe, Warm Fire Place, Snowy Village, and Lively Forest. Similar to a white noise machine, these calming sounds will help you get to your end destination relaxed.
Other interior features are a 12.3-inch color LCD instrument cluster that included easy-to-read gauges with white backgrounds and black numbers, a proximity key with push-button start, dual automatic temperature control, a color head-up display, heated and power side mirrors with turn signals, rear vents and USB charge port and wireless phone charging. The cabin was quiet with Hyundai adding double-junction soundproof glass on the windshield and front door windows, thicker carpet, and sound absorption materials throughout the car.
Rear seat access was excellent with the comfortable rear seats having sculpted seat backs, and ample head and leg room. The rear window privacy shades were a nice touch. By placing the batteries under the seat, the trunk room was spacious with a low lift-over for easy loading of your gear. That battery placement also earned the Sonata Hybrid best-in-class front headroom and legroom.
Technology features continue with the Hyundai Blue Link app, which provides access to vehicle systems including remote start, and the Digital Key providing extra convenience and safety. The Homelink auto-dimming rear view mirror is an integrated transceiver (a transmitter and receiver) that can be programmed to activate radio frequency (RF) devices such as garage doors, estate/community gates, entry door locks, home/office lighting, security systems or other RF devices. Make sure to check-out the four different ways to open the Smart Trunk.
Safety and Warranties
The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid comes with an extensive list of standard safety features. They include nine airbags (front, knee, side), along with lane keeping assist, blind spot detection, forward collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic avoidance assist, hill start assist, around view monitor with parking sensors, tire pressure monitoring system, and electronic stability control. One very cool feature is, when using the right or left turn signal, a camera comes on showing the front and side views of the Sonata, depending on which direction is being turned.
The 2020 Sonata Hybrid has not been rated by the National Highway and Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
The 2020 Sonata Hybrid comes with these warranties:
- Hybrid Systems – 10 years/100,000 miles
- Powertrain – 10 years/100,000 miles
- New Vehicle – Five years/60,000 miles
- Complimentary Maintenance – Three years/36,000 miles
- Roadside Assistance – Five years/Unlimited miles
- Anti-perforation – Seven years/Unlimited miles
The 2020 Sonata Hybrid comes in three trim levels, with these base prices that include the $975 freight and handling fee.
- Blue $28,725
- SEL $30,875
- Limited $36,275
Clean Fleet Report’s Sonata Hybrid Limited, with $155 in options and the $975 freight and handling fee, had a final MSRP of $36,430.
Observations: 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited
I don’t usually use a word like fantastic, but the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited makes me smile. My grins began with the sleek, sexy, windblown design, which is the reaction Hyundai was aiming for with their Sensuous Sportiness design philosophy.
Introducing a new focus on “creating emotional value using proportion, styling and technology,” Hyundai has re-envisioned the Sonata Hybrid from just another midsize sedan into a sporty, eye-catching four-door coupe. It looks nothing like any Hyundai before it, and it won’t be confused with any other sedan on the road. From the ground up, Hyundai has created a new vehicle platform, a new design language and a strengthened commitment to the sedan.
The Sonata Hybrid is not alone as it has stout competitors with the Honda Accord Hybrid, Kia Optima Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid. All good cars that seat five and get in the range of 50 mpg. But there is nothing like competition to raise quality, which is why Hyundai has stepped-up so strongly with the all-new Sonata Hybrid.
Hyundai’s Sonata also plays in the next rung up in efficiency—the plug-in hybrid, although that model is still awaiting an upgraded style. Competition there includes the Kia Optima PHEV and Ford Fusion Energi PHEV.
Go into a Hyundai dealer for a lengthy test drive and see how a hybrid sedan will fit your lifestyle. Make sure to have the sales associate walk you through the outstanding and inclusive warranty, and show you the cool solar roof. These are only two elements on the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid that, for about $36,000, makes it such a good value.
Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!
Story and Photos by John Faulkner.
Make sure to opt-in to the Clean Fleet Report newsletter (top right of page) to be notified of all new stories and vehicle reviews.
Related Stories You Might Enjoy—Midsize Sedan Competitors
Road Test: 2020 Toyota Camry Hybrid
Road Test: 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid
Road Test: 2020 Volkswagen Passat
Road Test: 2020 Hyundai Sonata (non-hybrid)
Road Test: 2017 Hyundai Sonata PHEV
Road Test: 2019 Ford Fusion Energi PHEV
Road Test: 2018 Kia Optima PHEV
Road Test: 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid
Road Test: 2020 Subaru Legacy
Road Test: 2016 Nissan Altima
Road Test: 2018 Mazda6
Road Test: 2018 Buick Regal Tourx (not a sedan, but there’s a sedan version)
Road Test: 2019 Chevrolet Malibu
Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at email@example.com.