2020 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate Review

Hyundai Sonata has been in North American since 1988. It is the brand’s longest running, and most successful model. In a market that is heavily geared toward crossovers and SUVs, Hyundai sees the perfect opportunity to make a mark in the full-size sedan market. The 2020 Hyundai Sonata has been completely redesigned to showcase a bolder exterior, a significantly more upscale interior, and a comprehensive set of innovative technologies. Is it enough to make it the car of the year?

Thanks to Hyundai Canada, I was loaned the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate for one week to test drive. Let's find out.

The look of the 2020 Sonata is certainly attention grabbing. The new crops of Hyundai vehicles are so well made that there is no reason not to be proud of owning one. Aggressive curves and sharp lines deliver a sleek and futuristic exterior for the 8th generation Sonata. According to Hyundai, the new Sonata leads the way as the first iteration of Hyudai’s future design language.

The most stylish part of the 2020 Sonata is definitely the front. The wide six-sided grille is disproportionately large for an ultra-aggressive look. For a clean transition, the front hood comes right down to the top of the grille. It is not a feature you would normally see in a car at this price range. Inside the grille, gloss black plastic pattern hides the radar sensor and the front facing camera. The signature LED headlights are highlighted by strokes of LED daytime running lights that rise through the hood and transition into the upper chrome trims. The transition is gradual, thanks to the tiny holes drilled into the chrome trims to allow LED lights to bleed through. The effect is unlike anything I have seen before. It sets the Sonata apart from other cars on the road from miles away.

The same chrome trims continue to the sides of the car to encircle the daylight openings. Due to its unique shape, the designers at Hyundai called the chrome trim the “Dynamic Lasso”. We see more of this shape inside the cabin. The fastback silhouette makes the Sonata look more like a rear wheel drive coupe than a front wheel drive sedan. Hyundai engineers worked hard to achieve this proportion. The 8th generation Sonata is 1.8” longer, 1.2” lower, and 1.0” wider compared to the previous generation. It conveys the new “sensuous sportiness” design language that is further enhanced by sharp belt lines and fancy multi-spoke 18” wheels.

Considerable efforts are put into the design of the tail lights. They wrap around the rear corners and extend into the trunk lid. Vortex generators are added to the top of the light housings to increase aerodynamic efficiency. A long light bar spans across the entire trunk to connect the two trail lights. This gives the 2020 Sonata a rear profile that is as distinctive as the front.


The interior of the new Sonata is a step above the rest. Clean lines and premium materials are accompanied by logical layouts and impressive technologies. There is no gear lever, which makes the front cabin feel more spacious. While push button shifters are normally not my favorites, the one in the new Sonata is much easier to use than the ones in recent Honda vehicles. The 4 spoke steering wheel is highlighted by a ring of chrome trim. It resembles the “Dynamic Lasso” look of the exterior chrome trims. The same design ques can be seen on the door panels. The C-shaped chrome handles are visually extended by long trim pieces for Lassos-like shapes.

All but the 2.5L version get 8-way power-adjustable driver's seats with lumbar support. The tanned leather front seats are both heated and vented. They are very comfortable even for long road trips. The same leather surfaces can be found on the armrests and front dash. They contrast nicely with the black interior of the rest of the cabin. Optional interior ambient lighting, which is usually seen in higher end cars, shines the crash pad and door garnish areas with 64 available colors. While the brightness of the system is not as intense as the ones in Mercedes-Benz vehicles, simply having an ambient lighting system elevates the status of the interior.

Just like in a premium vehicle, the rear seats are heated. There is plenty of legroom and headroom despite the fastback roofline. The large panoramic sunroof is best appreciated by the rear passengers. Other premium features include dedicated air vents and power sockets in the rear cabin..

The infotainment system of the 2020 Sonata is much more modern looking than the previous generation. The main component is the touchscreen that is molded into the dash and slightly tilted toward the driver. While the standard 8.0” touchscreen is decently sized, the optional 10.25" touch-display looks much more impressive. The decision to replace some of the physical buttons with touch sensitive ones is unfortunate. I appreciate the slick look of these touch buttons, but I still miss the tactile feedback provided by physical buttons. Thankfully Hyundai engineers left a physical volume knob in place. With the 8.0” screen, there is even a tuner knob on the right hand side. The user interface of the touchscreen features sharp graphics and a horizontal layout that is user friendly.

The climate control unit is very similar to the ones you see in an Audi vehicle. The rotary dials serve dual purposes of setting and displaying cabin temperatures. Here, physical buttons are utilized to provide simple operations without the drivers ever needing to take their eyes off the road.

A fully digital instrument cluster with a 12.3” display can be viewed through the upper half of the steering wheel. It displays real time vehicle information, navigational instructions, and entertainment information. Two dedicated round dials show vehicle speed and engine RPM. When a turn signal is activated, the corresponding side of the round dial displays the blind spot video feed. The original information is cleverly reduced to a number hovering on top of the feed. This is my favorite implementation of all the blind spot monitoring systems. I only wish the camera angles could be adjusted manually.

The optional head up display is multi-color. It projects important information such as vehicle speed, system notifications, blind spot information, as well as navigational commands. Of course, just like all modern Hyundai vehicles, Android Auto and Apple Carplay are standard. Moreover, the Hyundai BlueLink connect app allows users to remotely set cabin temperature, locate the car, and even lock or unlock the doors. In the event of a collision, the system automatically call for emergency services.

The Sonata is the first Hyundai vehicle to feature a Bose Premium sound system. It comes with 12 speakers and delivers exceptional audio experience.

Safety and Driver Assistance
One of the biggest new selling points of the 2020 Hyundai Sonata is the remote smart parking assist. It is both fascinating and gimmicky at the same time. It allows users to move the car forward and backward without being in the vehicle at all. Remote start the car with the key fob and hold on to either the P-in or P-out button to move the car straight in or out of a parking spot. The Sonata automatically straightens the wheels when doing so to avoid hitting other cars. It also automatically stops the vehicle when an object is in its path is detected. The system is designed to make parking in tight spots easier. I don’t think I will ever trust other car owners enough to park in a spot that tight, but the system comes in handy if your parking space in the garage is restricted.

The 2020 Sonata also comes with a comprehensive set of safety and driver assist technologies. They include:

  • Vehicle Stability Management (VSM)
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Traction Control System (TCS)
  • Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA)
  • Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist (BCA)
  • Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist (RCCA)
  • Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) with Pedestrian & Cyclist Detection
  • Lane Keeping Assist (LKA)
  • Lane Following Assist (LFA)
  • High Beam Assist (HBA)
  • Rear Occupant Alert (ROA) - door logic type
  • Blind View Monitor (BVM)
  • Remote Smart Parking Assist (RSPA)
  • Highway Driving Assist (HDA)
  • Highway Auto Curve Slowdown
  • Parking Collision-Avoidance Assist - Reverse (PCA-R)
  • 360 Surround View Monitor

The 2020 Sonata is not yet rated by IIHS and NHTSA at the time of writing.

The new Sonata only comes with two engine options. The preferred trim, which is the base trim, comes with a 2.5L naturally aspirated engine that delivers 191hp of power at 6100rpm and 181 lb-ft of torque at 4000rpm. All other models get the 1.6L Turbo-GDI 4 Cylinder Engine that features Continuously Variable Valve Duration (CVVD) control. It delivers 180hp of power at 5500rpm and 195 lb-ft of torque at 1500-4500rpm. For those of you who are paying attention, you might be wondering why the lower trim Sonata gets a more powerful engine. Honestly, it bewilders me as well. One thing worth pointing out is that the 1.6L Turbo has more available torque at lower engine RPM. So the resulting 0-100km/hr time should be similar. On the other hand, you would assume that the turbocharged engine to be more fuel efficient. That is also not the case. The 2.5L engine has a combined fuel consumption rating of 7.7L/100km, identical to that of the 1.6L Turbo. The 2018 Sonata that we reviewed before had a 2.0L turbocharged engine that delivers 245hp of power and 260 lb-ft of torque. We know that Hyundai is planning on introducing a N-line model for the new Sonata. Maybe the bigger engine is reserved for that car.

Numbers aside, our 2020 Sonata doesn’t feel slow with the 1.6L turbo engine. 0-100km happens in roughly 8 seconds. That is by no means class leading, but the ample low end torque makes the Sonata feel quick off the line. All Sonatas are Front Wheel Drive. They are equipped with an 8 speed automatic torque converter transmission that is capable of Shiftronic Mode and Shift Lock.

Handling wise, the Multi-Link rear suspension and MacPherson Strut front suspension setup proves to be effective. It is slightly on the firmer side, but the car feels composed and relaxed on the road. The steering is precise and communicative. At the same time, body rolls are kept to a minimum in sharp corners.

Cargo Space & Storage
There is 453L (16 cu.ft.) of trunk space in the new Sonata. That is bigger than some of its biggest rivals like the Kia Optima and the Toyota Camry. The trunk lid features proximity-activated hands-free opening. Standing close to the trunk with your key fob for longer than a few seconds, and the trunk will pop open. The 60/40 Split rear seats can be folded to allow access to additional space in the rear cabin. The opening is slightly restricted, but still very practical.

In cabin storage options are above average. The storage compartment under the front armrest is large and deep. There is a dedicated phone slot between the two cup holders in the center console. It is a smart feature that I wish to see in more vehicles. Our tester comes with a wireless phone charger at the front of the center console. Rear passengers also enjoy a mesh pocket behind the front passenger's seatback.

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata marks a turning point for the Korean brand. Its bold styling may not be for everyone, but the premium interior and the standard set of latest technologies should impress even the harshest critics. I wish there is a more powerful engine option for the Sonata, but I take comfort in knowing that there is a N-Line model down the pipe. With the current drivetrain, I don't think the new Sonata is quite the car of the year. Nevertheless, it is an excellent sedan that offers tremendous value for the price. In many ways, it is the perfect antidote to the crossover fever.

Test Vehicle
2020 Hyundai SONATA Ultimate
$38,926.20 CAD
Stormy Sea


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