Automorbit, Cars – The Verdict: With driving manners not much different from your typical gas-powered car — but significantly better estimated gas mileage — the redesigned 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid makes going green easy.
Versus the Competition: The 2020 Sonata Hybrid gets similar EPA-estimated gas mileage to its two main competitors — the Honda Accord Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid — but its top trim level, the Limited, feels more luxurious inside and is packed with more technology.
There’s never been a better time to buy a hybrid. There are now many models with EPA-estimated combined gas mileage of 50 mpg or greater, and many of the driving experience quirks from which earlier hybrids suffered have been eliminated. (Periods of low gas prices also tend to keep hybrid demand low and prices reasonable — and prop up the value of a thirstier vehicle you might trade in.)
The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, which is based on the dramatically styled 2020 Sonata (reviewed separately), embodies this phenomenon. Its hybrid drivetrain delivers a significant gas mileage bump — the base Blue trim level gets an estimated 52 mpg combined, while the mid-level SEL and top-of-the-line Limited trims are rated 47 mpg — without significantly diminishing the driving experience.
We tested the Sonata Hybrid Limited, which is packed with safety and technology features, including a solar roof that can charge the hybrid battery pack. The base Blue trim starts at $28,725, including a $975 destination charge, but the Limited is priced at $36,275 including destination.
How It Drives
The Sonata Hybrid’s 192-horsepower gas-electric drivetrain feels about as powerful as the normally aspirated gas four-cylinder engines that power many mid-size sedans. It’s quick enough at city and mid-range speeds, and it has modest reserve power for high-speed passing. What really stands out, however, is how well Hyundai has tuned the system; gas pedal response is immediate and consistent, without any hiccups when the gas engine kicks on.
Hyundai is one of the rare automakers that uses a conventional automatic transmission with its hybrid drivetrain instead of the more common continuously variable transmission. The decision furthers the Sonata Hybrid’s feeling of normalcy because you can feel the six-speed automatic upshift when accelerating, just as you would in a regular gas-powered sedan with a conventional automatic. The brake pedal is a tad spongy, but pedal response is predictable.
The Sonata Hybrid has firm suspension tuning that lets you feel bumps and potholes, but ride quality isn’t harsh. SEL and Limited trims have 17-inch alloy wheels and tires with slightly shorter sidewalls than those on the base Blue trim, which gets 16-inch alloy wheels.
That firm suspension tuning helps give the Sonata Hybrid great poise through fast corners, where the sedan does an admirable job resisting body roll. The steering, however, isn’t tuned to play along; it’s precise and responsive but lacks feedback.
Choosing the Sonata Hybrid instead of the regular Sonata doesn’t mean forgoing the gas-powered model’s many available high-tech convenience and safety features. The one advanced feature not offered on the hybrid is remote smart parking assist, and available features like a fully digital instrument panel and widescreen center display aren’t just tech features — they also give the interior an air of luxury.
The Limited’s heated and ventilated leather front seats reinforce that impression. The front seats are comfortable, but if you like to sit higher when driving you may find that your eyes are nearly level with where the windshield meets the roof.
The Sonata Hybrid has the same sleek, coupelike shape as the regular sedan, but even with this sporty design there’s enough space in back for taller adults to sit comfortably. The seating position is low, which helps with headroom, but the bench seat still offers decent thigh support.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity is standard. CarPlay started immediately when I connected my iPhone to the car, and the Limited trim’s responsive 10.2-inch touchscreen worked well with various apps. CarPlay doesn’t take full advantage of the widescreen display, however, leaving the right third reserved for a CarPlay icon or supplementary vehicle information.
Safety and Driver-Assist Features
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the 2020 Sonata Top Safety Pick status, but the designation applies only to Limited trim levels, whose headlights are rated good (out of a possible good, acceptable, marginal or poor). The headlights on other trims are rated marginal.
The Sonata received a good rating in all IIHS crash tests, and the car’s standard forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking system was rated superior (of a possible superior, advanced or basic). Other standard active safety features include adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, blind spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, automatic high-beam headlights and a driver-drowsiness monitor.
Optional active safety features include Highway Driving Assist, which can help keep the Sonata Hybrid centered in its lane and at a set speed or distance from a vehicle ahead of it. Other options include a 360-degree camera system, rear automatic braking and a blind spot monitor that displays an image of your left or right blind spot in the Limited’s digital instrument panel when the turn signal is activated.
The Sonata Hybrid’s trunk is the same size as the regular Sonata’s: 16 cubic feet. As part of its 2020 redesign, the Sonata Hybrid’s battery pack moved from the cargo area to underneath the rear seats, increasing cargo capacity.
A 60/40-split, folding backseat is standard, and there’s a decent-sized opening to the passenger compartment when the seat is folded. There’s a ledge between the trunk floor and folded backseat, but Hyundai has thoughtfully added hard foam under the forward part of the trunk carpeting to create a ramp between the sections.
Value in Its Class
When it comes to green cars, full battery-electric models easily generate the most buzz, but that doesn’t make them the right choice for every eco-conscious shopper. For those who regularly make long trips or don’t have ready access to a charging source, a gas-electric hybrid remains a good way to drive greener. We even named a hybrid our 2020 Eco-Friendly Car of the Year.
Gas prices may not be front of mind right now, with average prices considerably lower than they were a year ago, but if you’re concerned about them going up in the future — or just interested in using less fossil fuel — the Sonata Hybrid is worth a test drive.