2020 Sonata

Style

The 2020 Sonata will be dramatically styled for a sportier appearance. It has the looks of a four-door-coupe with a fastback profile. The redesign will help correct the middle-of-the-road design from past years. The hood is raised and elongated. And in a new flair, there’s a strip of lighting that runs from the base of the windshield to the headlights.

With the redesign, the Sonata increases its length by 1.7 inches and its width by 1 inch. At the same time, the sleeker new Sonata drops its height by 1.2 inches. The beltline gets stronger, and there’s a new striking taillight design accented by a redesigned spoiler.

The look of the Sonata’s hybrid versions—both with and without plugs—is very close to the gas-powered model. If the 2020 model sticks to the script, the Sonata Plug-in Hybrid will have unique front and rear fascia and more aerodynamic wheels. Other plug-in hybrid flourishes from the past include distinctive front fenders, front and rear lights, chrome side sill moldings, hybrid badging, and new wheels.

Performance

The Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid uses a six-speed automatic transmission with Hyundai’s Transmission-Mounted Electrical Device and a 67-horsepower electric motor in place of a torque converter. The stepped transmission provides a conventional feel of shifting. The 50-kW electric motor is 32 percent more powerful than the motor used in the regular Sonata Hybrid and allows EV operation at higher speeds.

A 2.0-liter four-cylinder GDI engine coupled with that motor allows the Sonata Plug-in Hybrid to operate just like the Sonata Hybrid after the onboard battery charge is depleted. The Sonata Plug-in Hybrid’s engine produces 154 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque. The total system output is 202 horsepower at 6,000 rpm.

This gives the Sonata Plug-in Hybrid more oomph than any other plug-in hybrid car on the market under $40,000, except the 212-horsepower Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid. The pluggable Sonata handily beats the sluggish Prius Prime, which manages 121 horses.

Still, the plug-in hybrid Sonata is not a speed demon based on taking 7.7 seconds to reach 60 miles per hour. At any speed, the Sonata Plug-in Hybrid offers a quiet ride and seamless transitions between internal combustion and electric power.

Efficiency/Range

The Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid can travel about 28 miles purely on electric power before the gas engine is called into service. Its 9.8-kWh lithium-polymer battery pack is smaller than the Honda Clarity’s 17 kilowatt-hour setup. But the Sonata virtually ties for second place with all other plug-in hybrids, even expensive German models.

The Sonata Plug-in Hybrid delivers an estimated 99 MPGe combined in EV mode. After the battery is depleted, the vehicle still manages a very efficient 39 miles to the gallon, which helps the vehicle provide a total driving range of 600 miles.

The only real indication of what’s going on with the propulsion—electric, gasoline, or a combo of the two—is the graphic display on the dashboard readout, with little arrows flowing back and forth. This is similar to other hybrids and plug-ins. It’s mildly entertaining to track system activity. It could even be perceived as an alternative element of behind-the-wheel fun. And it is useful for those who are serious about exploiting the Sonata’s ability to operate with minimal dependence on petroleum.

Charging

The Sonata Plug-in Hybrid (like its competition) uses a 3.3-kW charger. That’s fast enough to fill up an empty battery from a 240-volt source in about two and a half hours. However, buyers can get away without installing a 240-volt home charging station—and use the provided cord set for a standard 120-volt outlet. That pushes a full charge to about five hours, which on most days, is entirely adequate. Remember, if you don’t have time for a full charge, the car will still efficiently operate like a 39-mpg midsize hybrid. But plugging in is the key to boosting efficiency to the equivalent of 99 miles per gallon, and keeping trips to the gas station to a minimum.

Owners can manage the Sonata Plug-In Hybrid’s charging schedule via the Blue Link smartphone app. Drivers with attractive time-of-use electric rates can schedule charging to occur off-peak when rates are the lowest.

Passenger/Cargo Room

The Sonata offers comfortable and spacious seating, front and back. Interior features are well designed and intuitive.

The 2020 Sonata upgrades its cabin design with a large infotainment screen and climate controls that integrate into the dashboard. The interior feels like a more expensive luxury vehicle, although the steering wheel with a low grip bar is a little odd.

The new Sonata also gives up a traditional shifter, replacing it with a multi-button approach. The center console is larger, with trays for storage and deeper cupholders. The Sonata features a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster.

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata comes standard with an 8-inch audio user interface, equipped with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Bins and storage areas are thoughtfully arranged. There’s a distinctive instrument cluster, providing drivers with additional EV information. Also, a charge indicator is located on top of the dashboard to make it easy to see the state of charge from outside the vehicle.

The list of available interior options include an electronic parking brake with automatic vehicle hold, a driver memory seat, heated steering wheel, LED interior lights, ventilated front seats, power front seats with 4-way adjustable driver lumbar and Smart Cruise Control featuring full-stop capability.

One downside of the plug-in hybrid Sonata is diminished trunk space. Making room for the battery pack shrinks trunk storage from 16 cubic feet in the standard Sonata and 13 in the hybrid to only 10 cubes in the plug-in hybrid.

Safety

We don’t yet have official safety ratings for the 2020 Sonata Plug-In Hybrid. But in past years, Sonata earned a perfect score of five stars across the board in tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Good (the highest rating) across the board for IIHS testing.

Moreover, Hyundai vehicles are highly regarded for being packed with standard and add-on state-of-the-art safety equipment such as Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist, Forward Collision Warning, and Lane Departure Warning. The continuous beeps keep drivers fully aware of driving hazards.

Price

Pricing for the Sonata plug-in hybrid starts at $33,400, including destination. Even as a base model, it comes loaded with features such as hands-free smart trunk release, foldaway power side mirrors, automatic headlights, LED Daytime Running Lights, LED taillights, and Proximity Key entry with push-button start and power windows, locks, and driver’s seat. There’s a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel.

The powertrain on the $39,000 Premium trim is identical. But you get enhanced features including leather seats, a chrome side sill molding, LED headlights, 6-way power passenger seat, navigation, and 8-inch touchscreen navigation instead of 7 inches.

Plug-in buyers are eligible for a $4,919 federal tax credit.

The Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid is available in all 50 states.

Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid specifications

Availability: Now
Base MSRP: $33400
Est. tax credit: $4900
Technology: Plug-in Hybrid
Body type: Sedan
Seats: 5
EPA Range: 28 miles electric + gasoline
Battery size: 10 kWh
Charging rate: 3.3 kW

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