I recently had the chance to drive the 2020 Hyundai Sonata, and I was truly fearful that I would have nothing to say. Here’s a nice, reasonably priced, reasonably roomy midsize sedan — what else really is there? I’ve reviewed a slew of fairly "normal" cars recently — the Mazda CX-30, the Toyota Highlander, the Mercedes GLB — and I’ve been fearful they’d run together, especially adding another mainstream, reasonable, normal car like the Sonata to my list.
Fortunately, I had nothing to worry about, because the Sonata is shockingly… interesting. In a world full of mainstream midsize sedans that don’t stand out, I’m thrilled to announce that the Sonata is quirky. Weird and quirky and likeable for more reasons than a long warranty, reasonable pricing, a decent interior and good technology, which are pretty much the reasons why anyone would like basically any midsize sedan.
Allow me to give you a few examples, some of which are specific to the well-equipped near-$35,000 Sonata Limited that I drove. For one, you can walk the Sonata. Yes, you can walk it. It has a feature called "Smart Park," which allows you to push a button on the key fob and move the car forward while you’re standing outside of it. You can also move it backwards. From the outside. I filmed a clip of this in a public park, and a man walked up to me, truly shocked, asking: "Sir, did you just remote control… your car?" Why, yes, yes, I did.
It continues. In the infotainment system, you can, of course, listen to your music or a podcast or the radio or whatever. Or you can listen to pleasing ambient noises. The car comes pre-loaded with sounds like ocean waves, an open-air café and a crackling fireplace, and you can pick any of them to listen to as you drive along, just in case you want to be soothed.
Here’s another quirk, this one not so good: The base engine actually has more power and better gas mileage than the optional engine. The base engine in the Sonata is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that makes 191 horsepower and gets 32 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving, or you can "upgrade" to a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 180 hp and returns 31 mpg in combined driving. Hyundai‘s banking on the fact that the 1.6-liter engine’s additional torque (about 15 lb-feet) will win over customers. I suspect it’s not likely, though a high-performance 290-hp "N-Line" model is on the way.
There are other quirks, too. The daytime running lights frame the headlights, then they start heading up the hood, fading out about a third of the way up as a character line then takes over and moves down the body of the car. It’s an unusual look, to say the least. The rear lighting is more luxurious-looking, with a light bar across the rear end, which is a high-end touch mostly reserved for modern luxury cars.
I could go on: There’s a feature that allows you to temporarily disable outside air from blowing into the cabin after you squirt the windows with washer fluid so that you don’t have to smell it. There’s a feature that tells you the current weather, at all times, inside the gauge cluster. You can record a voice memo while you drive and listen to it later. It’s glorious.
And oh, yeah, the Sonata drives pretty well, too. It’s comfortable, it’s reasonably nice inside and it’s, well, predictable. Acceleration is meager, handling is average. Of course, this car won’t win any awards for performance or excitement. But it’s a good midsize sedan that will attract buyers interested in a good midsize sedan. And they’ll get a surprising amount of quirkiness on the side. Find a Hyundai Sonata for sale