2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid: Makin’ MPG Moves

Competes with: Toyota Camry Hybrid, Honda Accord Hybrid, Ford Fusion Hybrid

Looks like: The standard Sonata with a new grille and wheels

Powertrain: A 150-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine, 51-hp electric motor hybrid combination (192 net system hp); six-speed automatic transmission; front-wheel drive

Hits dealerships: Spring 2020

Hot on the heels of Hyundai’s wildly styled new 2020 Sonata mid-size sedan comes the first variant — a hybrid model capable of impressive fuel economy while still maintaining a cavernous sedan interior and a more usable trunk than it had previously. Hyundai took the wraps off of the new car at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show, but no pricing has yet been announced — look for that to appear closer to the car’s on-sale date later this spring.

Related: More from the 2020 Chicago Auto Show

Exterior

The exterior changes to make the Sonata into a hybrid are subtle, but according to Hyundai, the updates add up to some significant aerodynamic improvements. There’s a new grille up front with active aero flaps, a spoiler out back and new aerodynamic wheels all around that all add up to a new 0.24 coefficient of drag for the car. Up top, Hyundai has fitted a new solar roof panel capable of generating 205 watts of electricity, which the company says is enough to add about 2 miles of range to the car per day. It charges the 12-volt and hybrid batteries directly, and Hyundai claims it can add about 700 miles of total range to the car on average over the course of a year.

Interior

Visually, the interior of the hybrid isn’t any different than that of a normal Sonata. But from a content standpoint, there are a few changes that come with the electrified powertrain. First is the optional smartphone-based Hyundai Digital Key, which uses a dedicated mobile app, near field communication and Bluetooth Low Energy systems to allow a user to unlock, start and drive the car using their smartphone as a key — provided your smartphone is an Android device. You can even “virtually share” the key to the car with family and friends of your choosing, provided they have a compatible smartphone (there’s a specific NFC card you can give to a valet, and the car still will come with a traditional key fob). The app lets you preset a bunch of functions tailored to individual operators.

Other interior changes include “best-in-class” front headroom and legroom, thanks to a revised hybrid battery placement, Hyundai says. It also allowed Hyundai engineers to improve trunk capacity by 2.5 cubic feet compared with the old 2019 model. Other standard features include an electric parking brake, hands-free trunk opening, Qi high-speed wireless smartphone charging, standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, heated and ventilated front seats, and split, folding rear ones. A 10.25-inch touchscreen with premium Bose audio and Blue Link Multimedia navigation is optional and an 8-inch display is standard.

Under the Hood

Powering the sedan is a revised 2.0-liter gasoline direct-injection four-cylinder engine making a rather tepid 150 horsepower and 139 pounds-feet of torque. It’s mated to an electric motor that puts out 51 hp and 151 pounds-feet of torque via a hybrid six-speed automatic transmission. That gives the car a net system output of 192 hp — slightly less than competitors like the Toyota Camry Hybrid (202 system hp) and Honda Accord Hybrid (212 system hp).

But it does enable the Sonata Hybrid to claim the EPA fuel economy crown for highway mileage, with a purported 50/54/52 mpg city/highway/combined, at least in the Sonata Hybrid’s base “Blue” trim level, while the SEL and Limited trims are only rated to 45/51/47 mpg, which is still competitive with the higher trims of the Camry and Accord. Meanwhile, the new Sonata Hybrid bests the outgoing version’s best mileage considerably, with the 2019 model managing just 40/46/42 mpg in EPA estimates. Total overall range is 686 miles for the Blue trim level, according to Hyundai.

Hyundai has also refined the motor controls for the hybrid system, adding something the automaker calls Active Shift Control technology that’s designed to both smooth out the operation of the system through better management of the electric motor and transmission, and to improve its long-term durability.

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Safety

The company has decided to load the Sonata Hybrid up with a bunch of standard safety equipment as part of the SmartSense advanced driver assistance system, which employs input from three radar sensors, 12 ultrasonic sensors and five cameras to keep the vehicle safe. Standard equipment includes forward collision avoidance assist, blind spot collision avoidance assist, lane keeping assist, lane follow assist and automatic cruise control with stop-and-go. Highway driving assist is optional, as is rear parking collision avoidance assist, a blind spot view monitor that appears in the digital instrument cluster screen, around-view monitor and front-and-rear parking sensors.

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