A stylish and fuel-efficient sedan – the Sonata Hybrid is a winner.
Looking for a great all-around family sedan? Start your search with the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. This stylish four-door ticks all the appropriate boxes: fuel economy, comfort, technology, and price. It even offers some features you won't find elsewhere in the segment, like an innovative solar roof. And it's all available for just $36,430 as tested.
But for the sake of nitpicking, there are a few things we think Hyundai could do slightly better. For one, there are more dynamic options in the class, plus the transition between gas and electric should be smoother. And for as much as we like having the solar roof, Hyundai only offers it on the range-topping Limited model, which could price out some interested customers.
Hyundai actually has two different versions of the Sonata Hybrid, both powered by the same turbocharged 2.0-liter hybrid setup, but with varying fuel economy. The base Sonata Hybrid Blue is the most efficient, returning 50 miles per gallon city, 54 highway, and 52 combined thanks to some aero enhancements and smaller wheels with narrower tires. Those figures put it near the top of the class for all hybrid sedans, besting the Honda Accord Hybrid (48 mpg combined) and matching the Toyota Corolla Hybrid, Camry Hybrid, and Honda Insight, all of which achieve 52 mpg combined.
The Sonata Hybrid also comes in better-equipped SEL and Limited trims (we tested the latter). Unfortunately, larger wheels and added features mean this version is slightly less efficient than its bare-bones base sibling, but it still gets a pretty-good 45 mpg city, 51 highway, and 47 combined.
Even with a heavy foot and a healthy mix of city and highway driving during our week with the Sonata Hybrid Limited, we averaged over 41 miles per gallon. And we also give this car bonus points for the optional solar-powered roof, which acts as a trickle charger to both the conventional battery and the hybrid system. Hyundai says it could add as much as two miles of additional range per day in the right light.
The Sonata hybrid lacks sportiness, but it more than makes up for it with supreme on-road comfort. We put 200 miles on this Sonata Hybrid, driving to the west coast of Florida and back, and found it an exceptional highway companion; this car is quiet and relaxed, and it employs an advanced adaptive cruise control system that makes long stretches even easier.
The turbocharged 2.0-liter hybrid engine isn't wimpy, either, like you might expect in some hybrids. The 192-horsepower and 151-pound-foot setup makes for easy highway passes and allows for spirited around-town driving. The Sonata Hybrid doesn't feel underpowered in the slightest, and it even has a Sport mode button that improves throttle response and utilizes more of that onboard 39-kilowatt electric motor on the front end.
A lot of hybrid sedans suffer from efficiency-first styling, and that's sort of true of the base Sonata Hybrid Blue. The entry-level hybrid has tiny 16-inch aero wheels, fewer features (for less weight), and very basic styling comparatively – even though the Sonata design as a whole still looks great.
But the other Sonata Hybrid trims, specifically the Limited model tested here, forgo some of those hybrid tropes in place of more style – and it's better for it. Our car rocks a nice set of 17-inch multi-spoke wheels, gets more aggressive front and rear elements, and offers standard features like LED headlights and taillights. It’s just a handsome car all around.
A Bit Boring
There's certainly nothing offensive about the way the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid drives, but it is probably one of the least dynamic sedans we've driven lately. When you compare it to hybrid alternatives like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, both of those cars feel a bit more dynamic, though still not overtly athletic. And while we find little issue with the Sonata Hybrid's power output, the Camry and Accord are also more powerful. The Honda produces 212 hp and the Toyota produces 208 hp, versus the Sonata Hybrid's 192 hp.
For as competent and comfortable as the Sonata Hybrid is for the most part, the transition between gas and battery power proved a bit clunky. The gas engine is harsh and loud, and there's a delay when you put your foot down, as if the electric motor and gas engine aren't exactly sure what to do. Plus the six-speed automatic isn't the smoothest transmission out there, even though Hyundai touts “Active Shift Control,” which utilizes the electric motor in an attempt to make gear changes smoother. In this case, we might actually prefer the smoothness and response of a continuously variable transmission, which Hyundai does well in other vehicles.
Solar Roof Limited To Limited
That Hyundai even offers a solar roof option on the Sonata Hybrid at all is impressive, and it's the only hybrid in the US that has it as an option. The solar roof acts as a trickle charger, sending juice to the standard 12-volt battery and the hybrid's 1.6-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. And with the right amount of sunlight, Hyundai says the solar roof alone can add an extra two miles of range.
But the problem with the solar roof isn't its functionality, but the fact that Hyundai only offers it on the range-topping Limited model. The solar roof is standard on that trim at least, but you will have to dish out $35,000 for that specific model if you want the feature. We'd like to see the solar roof option on other trims, too – even if it costs extra.
2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited