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2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Review By Larry Nutson

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2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
More MPG and more HP

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

As I look back some months at early February 2020 it seems like I was in a different life compared to today and the realities of what the coronavirus pandemic has brought.

Back then I was, purely by coincidence, 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 that week at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show Hyundai would be making the North American introduction of the new 2020 Sonata HEV (hybrid electric vehicle).

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And now nearly four months later I’m driving and writing about that new 2020 Sonata HEV. This too was influenced by the Covid pandemic. Hyundai’s original plan was for a cadré of auto writers to drive their new Sonata HEV around the Hollywood hills in mid-March. Well, Covid caused that plan to be scrubbed.

The Hyundai team, working together with the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) of which I am a member, produced a webinar to brief us on the ins and outs, intricacies and features of the Sonata HEV. Hyundai also shipped cars to Chicago for us to drive.

Hybrids are all about low emissions and low fuel consumption. Low emissions, more accurately I should say zero emissions, occur when the gasoline engine is not needed to power the vehicle and the electric motor takes over the task. And of course, with the engine off no gasoline is used.

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The Sonata Hybrid is powered by a 2.0-L 4-cylinder engine and an electric motor 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 non-hybrid Sonata has a 180-horsepower as its standard engine.

Low fuel consumption (higher MPGs, that is) is especially good in city-type, lower speed driving. The Sonata HEV in its 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 SEL and Limited trims.

My recent time driving was is the Sonata HEV Limited trim. An example of the great fuel economy is evident in a 39.6 mile trip of mine. For my 1 hour:14 minute little jaunt (average speed of 32mph) I got 64.1 mpg in the Sonata Hybrid.

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Now that’s impressive. The Sonata HEV delivers better economy and also more horsepower.

Aerodynamic body and trim changes are used to gain in efficiency. Compared to the non-hybrid Sonata there is a unique grille, front bumper, wheels and rear spoiler. The grille features active air flaps to improve aerodynamic air flow. Underbody aero skirting and panels are also used to improve efficiency.

The Limited trim is equipped with a Solar Roof System using roof-mounted solar panels and sunlight to charge the hybrid battery as well as the car’s regular battery. It can increase the driving range by a couple of miles per day after six hours of charging. It also prevents battery discharge from infotainment or HVAC systems when the car is off. Hyundai says to think of it as providing “up to 700 free miles a year.”

The Blue trim is priced at $27,750, with the SEL at $29,900 and the Limited at $35,300, plus $975 for freight.

The Sonata HEV is just as nicely equipped as its non-hybrid sibling. There’s a long list of infotainment and driver assist safety features to be had including the smartphone-based Hyundai Digital Key access system.

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A favorite of mine is the blind spot display that shows the view to the rear along the left or right side 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.

You can listen to sounds of nature like ocean waves, rain, a crackling fire through the audio system.

Performance is quite good with decent acceleration from the hybrid engine. I especially liked the 6-speed automatic and in not having a CVT instead. The Sonata uses what Hyundai calls active shift control technology to deliver smoother gear changes and quicker shift times.

The center console mounted transmission gear selector push buttons are easy to use. A "smart” driving mode provides eco, comfort or sport driving modes.

A “virtual engine sound system” alerts pedestrians to the presence of the Sonata HEV when operating at low speed in the quiet electric mode, for example while backing out of a parking space.

More details on the 2020 Hyundai Sonata HEV can be found Side By Side Hybrid Face Off and in our at 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Content Archive or at For my review of the non-hybrid Sonata go here. HERE.

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More and more car shoppers are considering HEVs, PHEVs, and BEVs for their next vehicle. Some auto makers are beginning to offer new models only as HEVs. Interestingly, the cleaner air due to reduced driving during the Covid pandemic has folks realizing electrified vehicles make a lot of sense. Yes there is an increase in purchase price but that is offset by fuel cost savings.

HEV sedans are on the market from others like Honda, Nissan and Toyota. We’ll be seeing an ever increasing number of hybrids and a decline in pure gasoline engine only cars and SUVs. Hyundai expects to offer a total of thirteen by 2022.

© 2020 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy