The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

2020 Hyundai Sonata to the Great Smoky Mountains


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

A Covid-Era Road Trip Story from
A Shunpiker’s Journal

By Steve Purdy
Senior Editor
The Auto Channel

It’s early fall and we’ve been dealing with the scourge of a deadly virus for well over half a year. Sequestration has been our mantra, venturing out rarely and only when we can stay away from crowds while conscientiously masking. But, after serious consideration, we decided not to cancel a long-standing reservation at a resort near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in eastern Tennessee. Let’s see if we can do that safely.


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Our friends at Hyundai offered up a loaded example of the newest iteration of their popular mid-size Sonata sedan for the trip. This Alabama-built 2020 Sonata represents the eighth generation of the Sonata that originated as a Korea-only car in 1985. Early Sonatas struggled in the U.S. market but came into their own with the fifth and sixth generations sold here beginning in 2003 and 2010 respectively. Those brought dramatic advances in styling, engineering and content.


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

As frequent visitors to the Smokies, and being particularly averse to the tourist amenities, we have explored that scenic and diverse region over the years. We’re confident in our ability to have a safe, entertaining trip staying away from the usual crowds just outside the park. It’s also time for a visit to a sacred place in the park where the ashes of some of our revered family reside. (Our ashes may be there someday as well.)

Long hours of steady driving (therapeutic for me) gets us from the flat lands to the mountains relaxed and ready for adventure. A 600-mile jaunt down I-75 to I-40, then east to Tennessee Highway 66, will get us to the Smokies and our Sevierville condo in just under nine hours; and it is our introduction to the car. The Sonata gets its chance to make a first impression.


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

There was a time when driving though Ohio was like running a gauntlet through lurking Highway Patrolmen whose job was to tag miscreant speeders. I’ve developed a habit of caution over the years, abetted sometimes by the help of simple cruise control. This high-tech Hyundai adaptive cruise system takes some getting used to but makes itself useful most of the time. When considered with the lane-keeping function, buy the way, we’re at the first level of automated driving. We can go along quite happily for miles at a time without any driver input when those systems are engaged. A nanny within the system, though, will remind us to lay hands on the steering wheel when she feels no input for a specified time. These are part of a full suite of driver assist functions standard on all four trim levels of Sonata.


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Interstates in Kentucky and Tennessee move along briskly, interrupted a bit too often by left lane dawdlers. We found the 180-horsepower, 1.6-liter turbo under the hood and the 8-speed automatic transmission more than adequate for maneuvering through sometimes challenging traffic; and we can charge up steep slopes effortlessly. Throttle response is slightly dull, but we can select “Sport” among our four driving modes to encourage more willing downshifts. Good road manners, a quiet cabin and firm seats made for a gratifying drive.


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The 20 miles between our I-40 exit and the gate to the park takes us through the bustling tourist strips of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and, after a short gap of wilderness, the older resort town of Gatlinburg. It’s like a low-brow Las Vegas, focused on family entertainment – Go-Cart tracks, wax museum, Disney-like architecture – time-share sales, pancake houses, and best of all, BBQ! A particularly dense commercial complex called The Island swarmed with unmasked people so we kept the windows closed and got outa there.

Our plan is to enjoy a few days in and around the mountains interacting with as few other folks as possible exploring old haunts and perhaps discovering a few new. We began with an all-day loop drive - US 321, southeast from Pigeon Forge to Townsend and the southwest entrance to the park. Then into the park for 18-miles of twisties back to Gatlinburg and finally out to rural Cosby, northeast of Gatlinburg.


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Along the first leg we’ll see if our favorite little roadside BBQ joint along Cove Creek is open, a treasure discovered many trips ago. The kitchen and lobby appear descended from a single-wide house trailer. Drinks are in the cooler and potato chips racked on the wall, just like at the gas station. The chatty owners served a limited menu of typically good local BBQ - nothing special, just real good. Dining is all outdoors. Mismatched rustic decks overlook a small but dramatic waterfall making for a colorful local ambiance. We were disappointed to find it “temporarily” closed. We’ll hope to visit next time.

At Townsend we can choose the Foothills Parkway continuing southeast, with virtually endless scenic views, taking us all the way to Chilowee and the famous “Tail of the Dragon” scenic drive around the south end of the Smokies headed toward Cherokee. Motorcyclists and sports car fans from around the world come to drive that road.


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Scenic turnouts punctuate the Parkway every few miles where we pull in to wallow in the soft light of a misty morning – great light to admire the styling of the Sonata. Breaking new ground for Hyundai are the LED accent lights decorating each front fender flowing from under the headlight bezel into chrome trim pieces that flow naturally to the rear, around the side glass then back along the roof rejoining itself at the base of the A-pillar. A low nose and tail with modest bob, a fastback roofline and judicious body sculpting conform to up-to-date styling trends but are not brash enough to stand out from an already stylish crowd of competitors.


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Back into the Smoky Mountain park we take the 18-mile road that begins by winding back and forth across the rocky Little River heading for the visitors’ center near the park entrance at Gatlinburg. Along the way dozens of spots offer us the opportunity to pull over and sit by the river for some nature therapy, or perhaps do a little fly fishing, or have a picnic. But this time we just enjoy the drive.

These are the roads that reveal the driving dynamics of a car - twist and turn, fast and slow, all requiring lots of input from the driver and patience from the passenger. The Sonata’s chassis, suspension and steering are entirely conventional and calibrated just about right for a mid-size, main-stream sedan - tight enough to feel in control and gentle enough for comfort. The Sport mode referred to above is well designed to enhance the experience of this kind of drive. We can use the paddle shifters for a bit of extra control, if we like.


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Highway 321 heading north from the middle of Gatlinburg takes us out to the more rural foothills. We can catch the northeastern segment of the Foothills Parkway just beyond Cosby and that could take us all the way back to I-40. But, it’s much more fun to just shunpike our way back across the network of well-paved county roads to our condo. Somewhere out in this part of the county, as we discovered on a previous trip, is the Busch’s Beans Museum and Store. Worth a visit, we contend.

On the way back, along Highway 321 we discovered another little rural BBQ place, nearly as small as our old favorite, not as rustic, but simple and local. A Hispanic family run it and a charming pre-teen took our order. We were the only customers on a mid- afternoon Sunday when the restaurants along the strip had waiting lines. We ate at a weathered picnic table out back overlooking a little fishing pond with a few anglers trying their luck.


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Sonata comes in four trim levels beginning with the SE at $23,600. All include a good level of content: the driver assist stuff referenced above, 8-speed transmission, 8-inch touch screen, smart cruise control, lane keeping, alloy wheels - more stuff than you might guess. Our test car is the top-of-the-line Limited showing a sticker price of $34,365 and includes the turbo four-cylinder engine, a 10.5-inch navigation and multi- function screen, 18-inch alloy wheels shod with Michelin tires, leather, parking assist functions and plenty more. We can still say, as we have for some years now, that you’ll likely get more content for your dollar with Hyundai than most competitors.


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The EPA says we can expect up to 36 mpg on the highway and 27 in the city. I certainly wouldn’t claim to be driving in a style conducive to high mileage, but we managed just over 33 mpg. The 14.5-gallon fuel tank gives us a nearly 500-mile range. Hyundai’s new car warrantee covers the whole car for 5 years or 60,000 miles and the powertrain for 10 years or 100,000 miles.


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Cades Cove, high in the southernmost Smokies, was at one time a remote agricultural community with around a dozen families scratching a living out of this old mountain.

Now part of the National Park an 11-mile, one-lane road circles the cove passing a few preserved homesteads and churches and many popular hiking trailheads. At the far end of the cove the lane climbs a small hill making a left turn suddenly revealing a broad knoll where we overlook a substantial section of the lush valley. Once a beautiful maple tree presided over that knoll but lightning took it years ago. Now, a thriving little dogwood has established itself on that spot. That is where the ashes of some of our relatives reside. It has become a sacred spot for us.


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

So, yes – we were able to have a lovely, relaxing road trip without much risk. We indulged in a few restaurant meals at off-peak times but mostly ate off the groceries we brought along. The best part of the trip is spending time out in the countryside where most tourists don’t go.

Now, that’s the way to visit the Smokies.

The entry-level SE model comes with new features inside and out, including:

  • All-new Smartstream 2.5-liter engine with 191 HP (vs. 2019 Sonata SE with 185 HP)
  • Standard 8-speed automatic transmission and Shift-By-Wire selector (vs. 2019 Sonata SE’s 6-speed)
  • Combined MPG 32 (vs. 2019 Sonata SE’s 29 MPG)
  • 8-inch LCD monitor (vs 7-inch LCD monitor)
  • Electronic Parking Brake (new standard SmartSense feature)
  • Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (new standard SmartSense feature)
  • Lane Keeping Assist (LKA) (new standard SmartSense feature)
  • Lane Follow Assist (LFA) (new standard SmartSense feature)
  • Driver Attention Warning (DAW) (new standard SmartSense feature)
  • Automatic high-beam assist (new standard SmartSense feature)
  • Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go (new standard SmartSense feature)
  • LED Hidden Lighting Lamps (new standard SmartSense feature)
  • LED Daytime Running Lights
  • LED taillights
  • Laminated windshield


“With the 2020 Sonata, our focus was a no-compromise innovation approach allowing Sonata owners to have great style, comfort, technology and safety. This focus led to a set of attributes not seen in the midsize car category – attributes such as four-door-coupe looks, 32 mpg, phone as key technology, standard smart cruise control and a class-leading value position,” said Mike O’Brien, vice president, product, corporate and digital planning, Hyundai Motor America. “At Hyundai, we’re big fans of sweating all the details, and we have done that with the 2020 Sonata.”

The Sonata SEL is now equipped with even more design, comfort and convenience features for a value added saving of $750. SEL features include:


Exterior

  • 17-inch alloy wheels
  • Sport front fascia
  • Sport rear fascia
  • Twin-tip muffler
  • Heated side mirrors
  • Side mirror turn signal indicators


Interior / Convenience

  • Proximity key entry with push button start
  • Hands-free Smart Trunk Release
  • 4.2-inch color LCD instrument cluster display
  • Leatherette interior door panel inserts
  • Liquid chrome interior accents
  • Auto up/down front passenger window
  • Power driver seat (8-way)
  • Dual automatic temperature control
  • Heated front seats
  • Center rear armrest


Hyundai SmartSense Safety

  • Blind Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist with Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist


Multimedia / Technology

  • SiriusXM® satellite radio
  • Blue Link® Connected Car Services (3-years complimentary of Connected Care & Remote Packages)


SEL option packages provide customers with more choices and the lowest priced panoramic sunroof in the segment.


SEL Convenience Package - $1,200

  • 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster
  • Hyundai Digital Key
  • Wireless device charging
  • Auto-dimming mirror with HomeLink
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel
  • 2nd row air vent
  • USB charge port (2nd row)


Premium Package - $1,850 (Requires Convenience Package)

  • Bose® premium audio with 12 speakers
  • Leather seating surfaces
  • Heated steering wheel


Panoramic Sunroof - $1,000 (Can be added to SEL Convenience or Premium Packages)

  • Panoramic sunroof
  • LED interior lights


Drive Guidance - $950 (Requires Premium and Panoramic Sunroof Package)

  • 10.25-inch Navigation system
  • Highway Drive Assist
  • Blue Link Guidance Package (3-Year Complimentary Trial)


The SEL Plus trim is $27,450 and brings sporty exterior upgrades and a new Smartstream1.6-liter turbocharged engine producing 195 lb.-ft. of torque at a low 1,500–4,500 rpm.


SEL Plus Trim Highlights (SEL Plus trim builds off SEL trim with Convenience Package)

  • Smartstream 1.6T GDI 4-cylinder engine
  • Paddle shifters
  • 18-inch alloy wheels (machine / gloss black finish)
  • 235/45 R18 Michelin® or Pirelli® tires
  • Glossy black side mirrors and window surround
  • Hyundai Digital Key
  • Aluminum pedals
  • Dinamica® suede / leatherette seating surfaces


The price of the Sonata Limited is $33,300 and comes with these standout features:

  • Digital Key - Continuing to promote the latest advances in technology, the new Sonata supports Hyundai Digital Key via a dedicated smartphone app. Hyundai Digital Key utilizes Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, which exhibits a high level of security. The NFC wireless data communication takes place only when the device and the reader are within several centimeters of each other. The Hyundai Digital Key app also allows smartphones to control selected vehicle systems remotely. Using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) communication, users can lock and unlock the vehicle, activate the panic alert and start the engine.

    Not only does Hyundai Digital Key allow owners to leave traditional keys at home, it also allows secure sharing of keys with family and friends. The level of access to different vehicle functions can be tailored to each shared key user for a defined period. The vehicle owner can preset the duration of vehicle use or limit the use to only certain features when loaning the vehicle, and, of course, keys can be revoked remotely. For additional convenience in cases such as using a valet service or visiting a Hyundai dealer, Hyundai Digital Key also works with an NFC card, which will be provided with each vehicle. Each Sonata still comes with traditional keys. Digital Key is compatible only with phones using the Android operating system.

  • Color Head Up Display (HUD) - With a projected image size of eight inches and super-bright clarity (luminance of more than 10,000 candelas per square meter), the Sonata’s HUD provides improved visibility in different lighting conditions. The HUD can be adjusted in both angle and height to provide optimum visibility. The HUD supports driving safety by displaying information such as speed and navigation commands, as well as alerts from active safety and driving assistance features. 

  • Blind-Spot View Monitor with Blind-Spot Collision Warning (BCW) - The Blind-Spot View Monitor with the Sonata’s outside mirror-mounted cameras offers the driver an enhanced field of vision. The Blind-Spot Collision Warning (BCW) system scans for vehicles entering your blind spot. If the driver activates a turn signal, an image of the view from the corresponding wing mirror is displayed in the 12.3-inch cluster display. If a vehicle is detected in the blind spot, audible and visual alerts are provided. 

  • Remote Smart Parking Assist - In a first for its class, the new Sonata offers Remote Smart Parking Assist to help maneuver the car into or out of parking spaces, boosting convenience for customers. Before a driver attempts to load passengers or luggage, the remote parking function can prove particularly useful, bringing the vehicle out of a tight space. The driver simply uses the smart key to drive the car forward or backward, into or out of a parking space. 

2020 Sonata Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Pricing

Model

Base MSRP

Engine

Convenience Pkg.

Premium Pkg.

Sunroof Pkg.

Drive Guidance Pkg.

Tech. Pkg.

Total MSRP

SE

$23,400

2.5L

 

 

 

 

 

$23,400

SEL

$25,500

2.5L

 

 

 

 

 

$25,500

SEL

$25,500

2.5L

$1,200

 

 

 

 

$26,700

SEL

$25,500

2.5L

$1,200

 

$1,000

 

 

$27,700

SEL

$25,500

2.5L

$1,200

$1,850

 

 

 

$28,550

SEL

$25,500

2.5L

$1,200

$1,850

$1,000

 

 

$29,550

SEL

$25,500

2.5L

$1,200

$1,850

$1,000

$950

 

$30,500

SEL Plus

$27,450

1.6 Turbo

 

 

 

 

 

$27,450

SEL Plus

$27,450

1.6 Turbo

 

 

 

 

$2,750

$30,200

Limited

$33,300

1.6 Turbo

 

 

 

 

 

$33,300

Freight Charges for the 2020 Sonata are $930 and are not included in the above chart.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions