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2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid: New King of Hybrid Sedans?

  • Against the competition, the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid makes a strong case.
  • In the more efficient Blue trim, the Sonata Hybrid returns 54 mpg on the highway.
  • The car is equipped with numerous tech features, including integrated solar panels.

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid was officially unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show recently. Obviously, it’s a semi-electric version of the eighth-generation Sonata, but it doesn’t look like a hybrid at all, does it? Granted the smaller wheels are a bit of a turnoff, but at least you get a smoother, quieter, and comfier ride – which are hallmarks of a modern hybrid sedan.

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is possibly the new king of hybrid sedans, and I say this with the Toyota Camry Hybrid and Honda Accord Hybrid firmly affixed in my line of sight. Hyundai had the pleasure of arriving late to the party, and it had all the time in the world to make it right.

Solar Panels? Why Not!

With so much information and content vying for our precious attention, new products need an edge, or at least something unique to set them apart from the rest. In the case of the 2020 Sonata Hybrid, the standout feature has to be that glorious full-width solar panel roof. Yes, we’re talking about solar panels that convert light from the sun into electrical energy, but no, the 2020 Sonata Hybrid is NOT a solar-powered car.

Hyundai calls their setup the Solar Roof System (SRS), and it’s purported to give up to 700 “free” miles of range per year, given enough sun exposure. According to Hyundai, the SRS has an electrical output of 205 watts and is directly wired to charge the 12-volt system and hybrid batteries. With this solar roof setup, you have enough juice for around 2.2 miles per day. The system also prevents battery discharge by feeding power to the HVAC and infotainment systems when the engine is off.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid with the Solar Roof System.
2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid with the Solar Roof System. Photo: Hyundai Motor America.

One Slight Caveat

However, there’s a catch. Most of the magic happens if the solar panels are exposed to direct sunlight for at least six hours – which is fine on those long road trips. But shorter trips around the city? Driving at night? Not so much. Is it worth the added cost and complexity over a conventional roof? Hard to say. But it’s there nevertheless, and it’s still a feature worth discussing. It should be noted not everybody is convinced this is the right move on Hyundai’s part either.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid: Engine & Drivetrain

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with direct injection. It provides 150 horsepower and 139 lb-ft. of torque. It also has a single 39 kW electric motor churning out an additional 51 horsepower and 151 lb-ft. of torque for a combined system output of 192 horsepower.

The engine is mated to an innovative Active Shift Control (ASC) six-speed automatic gearbox. Hyundai’s hybrid ASC transmission is equipped with a new shift logic control system. It works by constantly monitoring the engine and transmission as you drive, at a rate of 500 times per second. In fact, Hyundai was able to reduce shift times to 350 milliseconds from 500 milliseconds. And if you think about it, this new six-speed gearbox is just as fast as a dual-clutch transmission while being smaller, smoother, and less complicated than a conventional DCT.

“The development of the world’s first ASC technology is a remarkable innovation that incorporates precise motor control to an automatic transmission,” explained KyoungJoon Chang, Vice President and Head of Powertrain Control System Group, Hyundai Motor Group. “It will not only save fuel but also provide a more fun driving experience for our customers.”

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid on the open road. Photo: Hyundai Motor America.

Power Output Versus The Competition

It all sounds glorious, right? Hold your horses. Despite having a combined 192 horsepower output, the 2020 Hyundai Sonata is not exactly a nuclear powerhouse. By comparison, the 2020 Toyota Camry Hybrid is good for 212 horsepower while Honda’s Accord Hybrid is good for 208 horsepower. While more power is (generally) always good for a hybrid, there’s a big reason why the new Sonata Hybrid is still king despite the lack of brute force.

Fuel Economy Versus The Competition

The 2020 Sonata Hybrid may be short on power compared to its rivals, but it goes farther than anything you can shake a stick at. In the Sonata Hybrid Blue trim (the most efficient model in the lineup), Hyundai’s king hybrid achieves 54 mpg on the highway. Meanwhile, the Sonata Hybrid SEL and Limited are good for 45/51 city/highway and 47 combined mpg.

With active air flaps behind the grille; underbody cladding to reduce drag; and a redesigned rear spoiler, the Sonata Hybrid has a 0.24 drag coefficient – brilliant numbers for a midsize family sedan. All of these design cues help boost fuel economy.

In our opinion, the Sonata Hybrid Blue is the new king of hybrid parsimony. The chart below compares the Sonata Hybrid’s fuel economy against the Accord and Camry Hybrids.

Fuel Economy Comparison
2020 Model City Highway Combined
Sonata Blue 50 54 52
Sonata SEL & Limited 45 51 47
Camry Hybrid LE 51 53 52
Camry Hybrid SE & XLE 44 47 46
Accord Hybrid 48 47 48

Interior Space Versus The Competition

In terms of cabin and storage room, Hyundai engineers went the extra mile by optimizing the battery’s position. The result is an increase in trunk capacity by 2.5 cubic feet compared to the previous model, along with best-in-class front headroom and legroom compared to the Camry and Accord Hybrids.

However, we’re wondering why the Camry and Accord offer better rear legroom (38 and 40.4 inches, respectively) than the new Sonata Hybrid (34.8 inches) despite these changes. This is not exactly a deal breaker, but it’s an important thing to consider if you savor the feeling of lounging in the back seats.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid rear seat layout.
2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid rear seat layout. Photo: Hyundai Motor America.

Interior Technology

Being the king of hybrids also means having the latest tech wizardry. Top-end models of the Sonata Hybrid have a 10.25-inch center touchscreen with split-screen capabilities, and cloud-based speech recognition courtesy of Hyundai’s Blue Link system. Standard models get a smaller eight-inch audio display. Meanwhile, occupants get to stare at a new 12.3-inch digital instrument display.

Also on the standard equipment list: an electric parking brake; Qi high-speed wireless charging; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; Text-to-Speech via Bluetooth; and heated and ventilated front seats.

Standard Safety Technology

SmartSense is Hyundai’s comprehensive array of advanced driver assistance systems. In total, the 2020 Sonata Hybrid is festooned with three radar sensors, five cameras, and twelve ultrasonic sensors. Safety features include forward collision avoidance assist; rear cross-traffic collision; blind-spot collision avoidance; lane-keeping assist; and advanced cruise control with stop and go.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
Photo: Hyundai Motor America.

Pleasant Styling Features

We like how the hybrid version pretty much resembles the standard Sonata, albeit with a few differences. In addition to the smaller wheels, the new Sonata Hybrid also inherits the Korean-spec grille not found on the standard Sonata models. Other than that, it essentially has the aerodynamic fastback profile of the new Sonata along with those groovy daytime running lights in the front and C-shaped LED taillights in the back.

Hyundai also added a number of sound-deadening elements as well. The list includes new and improved carpeting; double-junction soundproof glass for the front doors and windshield; and thicker sound absorption materials for the wheel guards, trunk bottom, and door trim.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid: Pricing & Availability

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is set to go on sale this spring. Pricing has not been announced yet, although the 2019 Sonata Hybrid SE starts at $23,750.

Alvin Reyes is the Associate Editor of Automoblog. He studied civil aviation, aeronautics, and accountancy in his younger years and is still very much smitten to his former Lancer GSR and Galant SS. He also likes fried chicken, music, and herbal medicine. 

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Gallery

Photos & Source: Hyundai Motor America.

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