2020 Hyundai Sonata blue profile parked

10 Things You Need to Know About the 2020 Hyundai Sonata

Hyundai thinks the redesigned 2020 Sonata is an opportunity waiting to happen. The automaker’s competitors are abandoning the sedan segment at a faster rate than consumers are, orphaning current owners of their four-door models and hoping they’ll make the switch to heavier, less efficient, and more expensive SUVs. Hyundai believes that by making the all-new 2020 Sonata “better at what sedans do well,” it can conquest body style loyalists left behind. I drove the 2020 Hyundai Sonata in Arizona, and based on what I learned about the car, here are 10 things you need to know about it.

  1. 1. 'Hyundai Look' is different from 'Family Look.'
  2. 2. Its interior is inspired by the Stealth Bomber.
  3. 3. The new Sonata has world-first engine technology.
  4. 4. It's engineered to slide in a crash instead of pivot.
  5. 5. You can unlock and drive using your smartphone.
  6. 6. 'No highs, no lows, it's gotta be Bose.'
  7. 7. It doesn't have AWD or over-the-air updates.
  8. 8. Remote Smart Parking Assist is less useful than expected.
  9. 9. A performance-tuned Sonata N-Line is coming soon.
  10. 10, The Sonata Hybrid will return — but not the plug-in hybrid.
1. 'Hyundai Look' is different from 'Family Look.'

1. 'Hyundai Look' is different from 'Family Look.'

Many car companies have adopted what Hyundai calls a “Family Look” design philosophy. Like Russian nesting dolls, the products of this approach all look the same but are different sizes. The “Hyundai Look” styling ethos is different. It takes core elements of a visual language and combined them in different ways to create unique vehicles that share design flavor. As such, the new 2020 Sonata is distinctive and will remain that way.

2. Its interior is inspired by the Stealth Bomber.

2. Its interior is inspired by the Stealth Bomber.

With the 2020 Sonata redesign, Hyundai took inspiration from the Northrop Grumman B-2, also known as the Stealth Bomber. View this piece of military weaponry straight on, and you might see the connection when looking at the Sonata’s new dashboard. Traditionally, Hyundai is a fan of knobs and buttons. In the new Sonata, the company emphasizes minimalism to a degree of success. What’s missing from the available 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system is a radio tuning knob.

3. The new Sonata has world-first engine technology.

3. The new Sonata has world-first engine technology.

Equipped with continuously variable valve duration (CVVD), the Sonata’s available turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine boasts a world-first technology. Without getting too deep into the engineering weeds, CVVD extends the time that the engine’s valves remain open in order to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. Based on official EPA fuel economy ratings, CVVD helps the Sonata’s turbocharged engine nearly match the standard naturally aspirated engine in terms of fuel economy numbers. It gets 27 mpg in the city, 36 mpg on the highway, and 31 mpg in combined driving.  

4. It's engineered to slide in a crash instead of pivot.

4. It's engineered to slide in a crash instead of pivot.

To improve safety, Hyundai engineered the 2020 Sonata to behave differently in the small overlap, frontal-impact crash-test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The test, which tries to replicate the most deadly type of collision in the real world, typically causes a vehicle to pivot around the point of impact. Hyundai designed the Sonata to slide past the point of impact, taking a glancing blow and continuing forward until coming to a stop. According to Hyundai, this will reduce neck injuries suffered by Sonata drivers when such collisions occur.

5. You can unlock and drive using your smartphone.

5. You can unlock and drive using your smartphone.

If you have an Android-based smartphone with near-field communication (NFC) technology, you can use it to unlock, start, and drive the 2020 Hyundai Sonata. This capability is a part of the available Hyundai Digital Key system, which also comes with a credit card-sized key fob replacement that you can easily carry in your wallet. It works similar to a modern hotel room key to unlock, start, and drive the car. This is good for iOS-based smartphone users who cannot take advantage of the system’s phone-based operation. Hyundai says that until Apple is willing to open iPhone NFC compatibility to products beyond the iOS ecosystem, Digital Key technology is restricted to Android operating systems.

6. 'No highs, no lows, it's gotta be Bose.'

6. 'No highs, no lows, it's gotta be Bose.'

My co-driver in Arizona is an audiophile, and we both agreed that the 2020 Hyundai Sonata’s new 12-speaker Bose premium sound system with Centerpoint surround sound is underwhelming. The quote above is his, though I do agree with it. Previously, the Sonata offered an Infinity-branded sound system upgrade, a low-end Harman Kardon solution. Generally speaking, Harman Kardon-owned brands offer clearer highs and richer bass than do Bose solutions.

7. It doesn't have AWD or over-the-air updates.

7. It doesn't have AWD or over-the-air updates.

Because Hyundai wanted the new 2020 Sonata to be low and rakishly styled, the company elected to cross all-wheel drive off of the engineering “to do” list. In order to offer a traditional mechanical system, the car would need to sit taller, ruining the proportions. When asked about an electrified solution, a Hyundai spokesperson would only say, “stay tuned.” Meanwhile, updates for the new 10.25-inch infotainment system are made via USB port rather than over the air (OTA) via Wi-Fi. Hyundai says the capability to offer OTA updates certainly exists, but the company is concerned about security.

8. Remote Smart Parking Assist is less useful than expected.

8. Remote Smart Parking Assist is less useful than expected.

Citing crowded California garages as a use-case scenario for the 2020 Sonata’s Remote Smart Parking Assist (RSPA) technology — because homes around Hyundai’s North American headquarters in Orange County don’t have basements for storage — the automaker extolled the virtues of the technology. RSPA autonomously drives the car forward and backward, making it possible to tuck the Sonata into tight parking spaces. The driver stands outside within 30 feet of the car and uses buttons on the key fob (yes, the fob Hyundai Digital Key is supposed to let you leave at home) to operate RSPA. The RSPA system Hyundai offers in the new Sonata is not as sophisticated as the RSPA system in the company’s Nexo fuel cell electric vehicle, which can autonomously park that model in parallel and perpendicular parking spaces.

9. A performance-tuned Sonata N-Line is coming soon.

9. A performance-tuned Sonata N-Line is coming soon.

With no more than 191 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque available from its two launch engines, the 2020 Hyundai Sonata isn’t particularly powerful. However, in the fall of 2020, the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N-Line arrives to change that. Equipped with a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder making an estimated 290 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, the Sonata N-Line is more than just fast. It’s fun, thanks to a full steering, suspension, and braking upgrade and an eight-speed wet dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters. A brief drive in a camouflaged development car made it clear the Sonata N-Line will credibly compete with the likes of the Mazda6 Signature, Nissan Maxima, and Toyota Camry TRD.

10, The Sonata Hybrid will return — but not the plug-in hybrid.

10, The Sonata Hybrid will return — but not the plug-in hybrid.

Another version of the new Sonata that’s coming soon is a new hybrid model. Hyundai offers no specifics about the redesigned Sonata Hybrid, but the car will go on sale in 2020. Fans of plug-in hybrids might be dismayed to learn that the technology is unavailable for the new Sonata.