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2021 Hyundai Sonata Review

The Hyundai Sonata is entering the second year of its eighth generation. Because it’s still so new, this front-wheel-drive (FWD) 5-seat midsize sedan – a competitor for the likes of the Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry – is largely unchanged for 2021. It continues to be available with a 191-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder with 180 hp, or a hybrid gas/electric powertrain with a 2.0-liter gas engine and a combined output of 192 hp.

In September of 2020, the sporty 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line arrives, powered by a turbocharged 2.5-liter engine with 290 hp. We hope to learn more about this N Line sedan soon; we do know it will have a healthy 310 lb-ft of torque as well as several chassis and suspension modifications to support the extra power.

Hyundai provides complimentary regular maintenance on the 2021 Sonata for the first three years of ownership, and it backs the car with an excellent 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

What’s New for 2021?

Nineteen-inch wheels with Pirelli P Zero tires are available on the Hyundai Sonata SEL Plus. Additionally, the SEL, SEL Plus, and Limited models get Safe Exit Warning, and the SEL switches from a 4-way power-adjustable front passenger seat to one that’s adjustable in six ways. Other big news? The sporty Hyundai Sonata N Line makes its debut in September of 2020 as a 2021 model. See the 2021 Hyundai Sonata models for sale near you

What We Like

  • Excellent build quality
  • Good fuel efficiency
  • Several available models
  • Available smartphone as a key
  • Most safety technologies standard on all trims
  • Standard Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
  • Outstanding warranty

What We Don’t

  • No all-wheel drive
  • No radio-tuning dial
  • Blind-spot monitor not standard on base Sonata

How Much?

est $24,000-$36,000

Fuel Economy

The 2021 Hyundai Sonata SE and SEL use a 191-horsepower 2.5-liter engine with 181 lb-ft of torque. Sonata SEL Plus and Limited models come with a snappier 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 180 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. All 2021 Sonatas are FWD, and all employ a smooth 8-speed automatic transmission.

One exception: The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid uses a paddle-shift 6-speed automatic for its gas/electric powertrain, which features a 2.0-liter gasoline engine and a 51-horsepower electric motor. The combined output of the 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is 192 horsepower.

The upcoming new Sonata N Line will employ a turbo 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine making an estimated 290 horsepower.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (the EPA), the base Hyundai Sonata, the SE, is rated at 28 miles per gallon in the city, 38 mpg on the highway and 32 mpg in combined driving. Because the SEL is a little heavier and it does not have fuel-saving automatic stop/start, it’s rated at 27 mpg/37 mpg/31 mpg, respectively.

Powered by the turbo 1.6 with 180 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, the Hyundai Sonata SEL Plus and Sonata Limited models are rated by the EPA at 27 mpg city/36 mpg highway/31 mpg combined. These turbocharged models come with paddle shifters on the steering wheel.

The fuel-efficiency king is the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Blue model, which is rated by the EPA at 50 mpg city/54 highway/52 combined. With their additional comfort and convenience features, the other two Sonata Hybrid models, the SEL and the Premium, are rated at 45 mpg city /51 mpg highway /47 mpg combined. All 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid models are equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Fuel economy figures for the sporty Hyundai Sonata N Line, which arrives in September, have not been announced.

Standard Features & Options

The standard 2021 Hyundai Sonata is available in four grades: SE, SEL, SEL Plus, and Limited. If you want a Sonata Hybrid, it’s available as a Blue, an SEL, or a Premium. The performance-oriented N Line joins the Sonata lineup in September as a 2021 model, but we know very little else about this model. Sonata pricing for 2021 has not been announced, but we do know that all models will have a factory delivery charge of $930 (Hybrids are $975).

The Sonata SE ($TBA) comes with cloth seating, 16-in alloy wheels, electronic parking brake, nine airbags, LED headlights, taillights and daytime running lights, auto headlight on/off, remote keyless entry, 6-way manually adjusted driver’s seat, 4-way manually adjusted passenger seat, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, 60/40 split-folding rear seat, Bluetooth connectivity, 8-in touchscreen, 6-speaker audio system with USB port, HD radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. It also has the Hyundai Smartsense safety suite, which includes forward-collision avoidance, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high-beam headlights.

At the SEL ($TBA) level, the Sonata is equipped with 17-in alloy wheels, Safe Exit Warning, a twin-tip muffler, heated outboard mirrors with integrated turn signals, hands-free smart trunk, and an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar. The SEL also has a new 6-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, rear center armrest, a blind-sport monitor (with rear cross-traffic alert), and the Blue Link connected-car system with 3 free years of service.

The SEL grade unlocks four options packages. The Convenience Package includes a 12.3-in LCD instrument cluster, Hyundai Digital Key (smartphone as a key), wireless phone charging, auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a rear-seat USB charging port. The Premium Package (requires the Convenience Package) includes a 12-speaker Bose audio system, leather seating, and a heated steering wheel. The Panoramic Sunroof also includes LED interior lighting. And finally, the Driver Guidance Package includes 10.25-in touchscreen, navigation system, Highway Drive Assist, and the Blue Link Guidance Package with three years of free service.

Building on the SEL, the SEL Plus ($TBA) includes the SEL Convenience Package plus the 1.6-liter turbo engine, paddle shifters, 18-in alloy wheels, aluminum pedals and leatherette seating with faux-suede inserts. An available Tech Package includes a panoramic sunroof and a 10.25-in touchscreen with a 12-speaker Bose audio system and Highway Drive Assist.

The fully loaded Sonata Limited ($TBA) has LED Matrix-type headlights, memory for driver’s seat and outboard mirrors, ventilated front seats, a color head-up display, rain-sensing wipers, front/rear parking sensors, 360-degree Around View Monitor, Remote Smart Parking Assist, blind-spot view monitor, and rear parking collision-avoidance system. There are no options available for Limited.

The 2021 Sonata Hybrid continues in three different trims: Blue ($TBA), SEL ($TBA) and Premium ($TBA). The Sonata Hybrid SEL and Limited models are equipped with a Solar Roof as standard equipment. Solar panels are integrated in the roof, under glass, where they generate up to 205 watts of power. Hyundai says the Solar Roof increases the Sonata Hybrid’s range by about two miles per day, providing about 800 “free” miles over the course of a year.


Every Sonata boasts nine airbags and the Smartsense safety suite, which includes forward-collision avoidance, adaptive cruise control with full stop-and-go, lane follow assist, auto high-beam assist and a driver-attention warning.

At the SEL level, you get a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, a safety technology that we feel should be standard on all 2021 Hyundai Sonatas. What’s more, Highway Drive Assist is available in an option package on the SEL, as well as on the SEL Plus and is standard on the Limited. The Limited also adds head-up display, 360-degree Around View Monitor, front/rear parking assist, a blind-spot view monitor and a rear parking collision-avoidance system.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the Sonata its highest 5-Star Overall Safety Rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has named the Hyundai Sonata a Top Safety Pick.

Behind the Wheel

Inside the Sonata is a well-groomed interior with generous people room. We’ve sampled both an EL Plus and a Limited and have come away impressed with the overall style and quality of materials. The Sonata dash is uncluttered, and there are hard controls for the climate control and a volume control for the audio system (but unfortunately no knob to adjust the radio station). Moreover, we like how the touchscreen is integrated into the dash, not perched atop it.

On mostly straight roads, such as those we sampled in Arizona, the Sonata SEL Plus and Limited versions perform well. Hyundai has done a brilliant job mitigating noise and harshness, making the Sonata cabin quiet and comfortable, even during hard acceleration.

Acceleration with the 1.6L turbo is good but not breathtaking. The Sonata engine has plenty of grunt to pass slower traffic, and flipping the drive mode switch to Sport makes for more immediate response. The steering is quick, with decent feedback. Likewise, handling fulfilled our expectations for a midsize family hauler. The Sonata isn’t uber sporty, but the SEL Plus feels at home in the twisty sections.

All told, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is a really great car that does many things well. With only a few minor exterior tweaks (a rear spoiler, unique wheels) it looks especially sharp. It’s also one of the smoothest and quietest hybrids we driven, with Sport mode only adding to the fun.

Recall, too, that the new Sonata is one of Autotrader’s “Best Cars of 2020.” The Sonata Hybrid improves on that with brisk acceleration, excellent mpg, and a sophisticated overall driving demeanor.

We hope to drive the sporty Sonata N Line soon. We really like the Veloster N, so we have high expectations for the upcoming Sonata with the N treatment.

Other Cars to Consider

2020 Toyota Camry — The Camry continues to be strongly compelling, now offering AWD and a TRD trim with a specially tuned suspension, bigger brakes, and a cat-back exhaust.

2020 Honda Accord — Historically, the Honda Accord has been a top-selling midsize sedan. It’s a bit sportier than the similarly sized Sonata, with turbocharged engine choices.

2020 Subaru Legacy — Looking for standard AWD? The Subaru Legacy is a good choice. Its value, safety ratings, and reliability are all strong. Like Sonata, it was new for 2020.

2020 Nissan Altima — Offering AWD, the Altima provides two efficient engines, decent fuel economy, and a generous suite of standard safety and driver-assist technologies.

Used Hyundai Azera — Looking for larger sedan with more space, a relaxed V6, and good Hyundai quality? Consider a 2017 Hyundai Azera. It’s a bit of a sleeper, we know, but there are many low-mileage examples on for less than $20,000.

Questions You May Ask

What is Safe Exit Warning?

Safe Exit Warning, standard on the SEL, SEL Plus, and Limited Sonatas, warns the driver and passengers if traffic is approaching the vehicle after it has been parked curbside. It helps to prevent back-seat passengers from stepping out into dangerous traffic.

Is the Sonata Hybrid more fuel-efficient than a Toyota Camry Hybrid?

It depends on how you look at it, so let’s let the data do the talking. The Toyota Camry Hybrid is rated by the EPA at 51 mpg City/53 mpg Highway/52 mpg Combined. The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Blue is rated by the EPA at 50/54/52 mpg.

Where is the Hyundai Sonata built?

The 2021 Hyundai Sonata is manufactured in Montgomery, Alabama, alongside the Elantra compact sedan and the Santa Fe crossover SUV.

What is the warranty for the 2021 Hyundai Sonata?

The 2021 Hyundai Sonata has an excellent warranty.  The bumper-bumper warranty lasts for five years or 60,000 miles, and the powertrain warranty is good for 10 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first.

What is Highway Driving Assist?

When smart cruise control is activated, Highway Driving Assist will make small automatic steering corrections to keep the Sonata centered in its lane. It’s part of the Driver Guidance Package available on the Sonata SEL. Drivers must keep their hands on the wheel.

Autotrader’s Advice

With its satellite radio and standard blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, the SEL is the Sonata we like, also because it’s available with a Convenience Package that includes wireless smartphone charging, the Hyundai Digital Key, and the nifty 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Find a Hyundai Sonata for sale

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