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2020 Hyundai Sonata Chicagoland Review By Larry Nutson

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2020 Hyundai Sonata With Smaht Pahk

By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

The timing couldn’t have been any better for my upcoming week. I would be driving the all-new 2020 Hyundai Sonata. Among the Super Bowl LIV tv spots was Hyundai’s “Smaht Pahk” Sonata commercial that went viral by hilariously spoofing Boston vernacular. And, later in the week at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show Hyundai would be making the global introduction of the new 2020 Sonata Hybrid.

I was surrounded by the Hyundai Sonata vibe.

And yes, I did the obvious. I went and tried out “smaht pahk” for myself. More correctly, it’s called Remote Smart Parking Assist. And it works just like the tv commercial shows. My Sonata parked itself between two parked vehicles, although it wasn’t as tight a space as shown on tv. I see a real everyday usage for the smart park assist by all of us who have a very crowded garage with all those kids toys and household yard tools. Just hit the clickah!

But, I have wondered about squeezing in a too-tight parking space. Why? How do the folks next to me get in their vehicles? That would be interesting to watch. Perhaps it could be the subject of a YouTube video.

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The Sonata has been completely redesigned with eye-catching new styling and a host of refinements. Sonata rides on an all-new platform and now sits on a longer wheelbase with corresponding longer length, but with reduced overhangs. It also is a bit lower overall. The low front hood falling into the wide grille, interesting character lines along the side that caught the sunlight in my Shimmering Silver Pearl test car, and the full-width rear taillight design with their interesting aero fins in top of the main light lenses all make for quite a shapely statement.

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Powering the Sonata Limited I drove is a 180-horsepower 1.6-L turbo driving the front wheels through an 8-speed automatic. I really liked this powertrain combo with plenty of good torque off the line and smooth shifting up and down throughout the gears. We’re seeing new variations in transmission gear selectors appearing in various new vehicles. I found the Sonata’s center console mounted push buttons easy to use. After a bit of familiarization and muscle-memory development, quick shifting between drive and reverse for tight maneuvering became second nature.

The 2020 Sonata is available in SE, SEL, SEL Plus and Limited trims. The 180-HP engine is equipped on the SEL Plus, as well as the Limited. The SE and SEL use a 191-horsepower 2.5-L four cylinder also with an 8-speed automatic. Don’t be misled by the higher power. The 1.6-L turbo, through hi-tech valve train design, makes more torque at lower RPM and therefore does the better job of getting you going.

The 2.5-L does have the better EPA fuel economy ratings at 32 combined mpg, with 28 city mpg and 38 highway mpg. The 1.6-L turbo is EPA rated slightly lower at 31 combined mpg, with 27 city mpg and 36 highway mpg.

The Limited trim I drove was loaded with features that really made getting around in a crowded city easier and more comfortable. LED headlights, forward collision assist, rear cross traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, a 360-degree camera system, and blind spot display all help you see and maneuver. On the inside, leather upholstery, power seats, heated and ventilated front seats, sunroof, a head-up display, 12-speaker Bose Audio, and a 10.25-inch touchscreen all making “living” in the driver’s seat a lot nicer.

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The blind spot display I mentioned shows the view to the rear on the left or right in the instrument cluster when you put on the respective turn signal. It is great for making a check for bicyclist before making a turn.

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The driver controls for various functions are a mix of mechanical and digital. I liked the well placed and easy to use HVAC switches and knobs at the base of the instrument panel above the center console.

A hands-free trunk, proximity key and the new digital key make for easy getting inside. The digital key lets you use your smart phone to open the car and it also stores driver profiles.

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The eighth-generation Sonata is on sale now. Prices start at $23,600 for the SE and go up to $33,500 for the Limited, plus $955 for shipping and handling.

Making its North American debut at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show, the Sonata Hybrid is powered by a 2.0-L 4-cylinder engine paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The gasoline engine is rated at 150-horsepower and mated to a 39kW electric motor for 192-horsepower total system output.

The Sonata Hybrid is all about low fuel consumption, especially in city driving. The Blue trim level has EPA ratings of 52 mpg combined with 50 mpg city and 54 mpg highway, for up to 686 miles of driving range. EPA ratings of 47 mpg combined with 45 city mpg and 51 highway mpg are for the SEL and Limited trims. Aerodynamic body and trim changes are used to gain in efficiency.

A unique Solar Roof System uses roof-mounted solar panels to charge the hybrid battery as well as the car’s regular battery. It can increase the driving range by a couple of miles after six hours of charging.

Sometime this year we are expecting the Sonata N-lime to return with a promise from Hyundai of having at least 290-horsepower, according to various reports.

Stay tuned. Meanwhile, visit to get a more complete look at the 2020 Sonata lineup.

© 2020 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy