The Hyundai Sonata entered its eighth generation for the 2020 model year, finally completing the transformation from econobox family sedan to something that looks luxurious and sporty. In fact, at a glance, it even looks a lot like the new Audi A7 or RS7 with a slightly tweaked front end. So, do the aggressive exterior design cues, sporty proportions, and upscale appearance actually push it into a position to leave the Honda Accord and Kia Optima behind as it starts to compete with brands like Audi, BMW, and Porsche? Well, after spending a week with eh all-new Sonata, we can comfortably say it isn’t quite there yet, but it’s not far off. This is what it was like to live with the 2020 Hyundai Sonata.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Driving Impressions

  • Ride quality could be better
  • Seat comfort not the best
  • Keeps pace with traffic decently with some encouragement
  • Firm ride leads to comfort issues on less-than-stellar roads
  • Steering, handling, and braking are okay, but the brake pedal pulses under light braking
2020 Hyundai Sonata - Driven Exterior
- image 912899

In all honesty, my initial driving impression of the Hyundai Sonata was one of disappointment.

When you first lay eyes on the Sonata, you expect it to be something that has a sporty nature to it, but it becomes quickly evident that it’s sporty aura only runs skin deep.

Not that the Sonata is a slug on the road, but keeping up with faster traffic and merging onto the highway can take some extra encouragement via the throttle in some cases. Steering and braking aren’t bad but aren’t noteworthy, either. I felt as if there was a real lack of tactile feedback that you come to expect from cars these days, regardless of their performance credentials. Again, it wasn’t bad but wasn’t great either.

The seats are comfortable to an extent but are rather firm. The tester I was driving was relatively new, though, with less than 6,000 miles on the clock, so it really hasn’t had the chance to be broken in properly. I’m under the suspicion that the seats will get more comfortable with time. Pair those firm seats, with the firm suspension, and less than stellar roads can get annoying quickly. It’s far from uncomfortable, but you will feel bumps and impacts that cars like the Accord, for example, mask out quite a bit better. The cabin is also a bit noisy, especially at higher speeds, but it’s not loud enough to ruin your day.

2020 Hyundai Sonata - Driven Interior
- image 912948

Overall, the Sonata isn’t a bad car to drive, and it did grow on me over the week I spent with it, but it took some time to get past the difference between its appearance and its performance. It provides decent enough power for a family sedan, but it certainly looks like it offers more. You might like the attention that you’ll get from its looks, though, and with decent fuel economy, you won’t break the bank driving it either. In the end, the overall impression is far from disappointing, but if Hyundai managed to come up with a little more performance, we’d be much, much happier.

Powertrain and Performance

  • 1.6-liter Turbocharged Engine
  • 180 HP
  • 195 LB-FT
  • 8-Speed Automatic Transmission
  • Up to 36 MPG On The Highway
2020 Hyundai Sonata - Driven Drivetrain
- image 912808

Int, the one thing that really holds the new Hyundai Sonata back, it’s a weak heart.

As of the time of this writing, the Sonata is available with either a 1.6-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder or a 2.5-liter, naturally aspirated four-banger, neither of which are impressively powerful.

The 2.5-liter is good for 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque, while the 1.6-liter is good for 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. Either engine will get you an eight-speed automatic transmission, which isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s also not the best in the business either.

And, that’s what brings me back to my previous point. With four-wheel independent suspension, 18-inch wheels, and a sporty appearance, the Sonata could have what it takes to compete outside its current class. But the two lackluster engine’s keep it too humble for its own good. You will get anywhere between 27 and 38 mpg depending on the engine, your driving routine, and how heavy your foot is, but you won’t get anywhere impressively fast.

2020 Hyundai Sonata - Driven Drivetrain
- image 912806
2020 Hyundai Sonata vs competition specifications
Hyundai Sonata Honda Accord Kia Optima (EX)
Engine 1.6-Liter Turbo-Four 1.5-Liter Turbo-Four 1.6-Liter Turbo-Four
Horsepower 180HP 192 HP 185 HP
Torque 195 LB-FT 192 LB-FT 178 LB-FT
Transmission 8AT CVT 7AM
Driveline FWD FWD FWD
Fuel Regular Regular Regular
Steering Electric Electric Electric
Suspension Four-Wheel Independent Four-Wheel Independent Four-Wheel Independent
Tires P235/45R18 All-Season P235/40R19 All-Season P205/65RH16 All-Season
Curb Weight 3,336 LBS 3,208 LBS 3,230 LBS
Fuel Economy 27/36/31 30/38/33 27/37/31

How Fast is the 2020 Hyundai Sonata?

2020 Hyundai Sonata - Driven Exterior
- image 912894

Hyundai has yet to publish any real performance times for the Sonata – with the 1.6-liter, turbocharged engine – managed to get to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds. It’s not bad for a car with 180 horsepower, but it’s much slower than it looks, and that could be a deal-breaker for some. We couldn’t test top speed during our time with the Sonata, but don’t expect to see it inch too far about the 130 mph range. It’s a family sedan, not a race car, silly.

Hyundai Sonata Fuel Economy

2020 Hyundai Sonata - Driven Exterior
- image 912881

The Hyundai Sonata with the 1.6-liter engine is rated at 27 mpg in the city, 36 mpg on the highway, and 31 mpg combined. If you op for the 2.5-liter engine, you’ll manage 27 in the city, 37 on the highway, and 31 combined, so there’s not a major difference in fuel economy between the two engines. Compared to the Honda Accord or Kia Optima, the Sonata is either on par or a little worse off as you can see from the chart below:

Hyundai Sonata Interior Design

  • Decent Quality Materials
  • Largest Infotainment Display In The Segment
  • Digital Instrument Cluster
  • Seats on the Firm Side
  • Cabin Louder Than Expected
  • Spacious
  • Low Roof Hinders Ingress and Egress
2020 Hyundai Sonata - Driven Interior
- image 912860

At a glance, the Hyundai Sonata’s interior falls in line with what you’d expect from upscale manufacturers, but that assumption doesn’t hold for too long.

The interior of the Sonata is attractive, especially for a car that starts out on the lower side of the $20,000 range.

However, once you get past the initial impression, there are little things that you start to notice. The large infotainment display and digital instrument cluster are a huge plus here, and far beyond what you usually find at this price point, but the pleasantries start to fade off from here.

The push-button shifter, for example, is a pain and even requires extra attention to make sure that you’re in the right gear. The seats are also fairly firm and, while they weren’t exactly uncomfortable, you realize that the sporty look of the exterior doesn’t translate to sporty, comfortable seating inside. The rear seating area is rather bland with nothing to write home about outside of a fold-down center armrest. The interior, in general, gets the job done, but outside of the awesome tech, you won’t mistake the Sonata for something that sits in a more luxurious class.

Is the Hyundai Sonata Spacious?

2020 Hyundai Sonata - Driven Interior
- image 912820

The Hyundai Sonata is rather spacious, even beating out the Honda Accord and Kia Optima in terms of front headroom and legroom. Otherwise, it’s about on par with its main rivals. That said, the cabin is spacious enough and has enough room for occupants of all sizes, but even those of average height (in my case, 5’9), you do have to duck slighting during ingress and egress, or you will knock your melon on the roof. This could easily be solved for front passengers with better seat adjustability. Here’s how the Sonata compares to the Honda Accord and Kia Optima:

2020 Hyundai Sonata vs competition interior dimensions
Hyundai Sonata Honda Accord Kia Optima (EX)
Front Headroom 40.0 Inches 39.5 Inches 39.8 Inches
Front Shoulder Room 57.9 Inches 58.3 Inches 58.1 Inches
Front Hip Room 54.6 Inches 55.3 Inches 56.0 Inches
Front Leg Room 46.1 Inches 42.3 Inches 45.5 Inches
Rear Headroom 38.4 Inches 37.3 Inches 37.8 Inches
Rear Shoulder Room 56.1 Inches 56.5 Inches 56.4 Inches
Rear Hip Room 54.4 Inches 55.0 Inches 56.0 Inches
Rear Leg Room 34.8 Inches 40.4 Inches 35.6 Inches

Hyundai Sonata Cargo Room

2020 Hyundai Sonata - Driven Interior
- image 912874

The Hyundai Sonata offers decent trunk space for a model its size, with a rating of 16.3 cubic-feet. That’s just 0.4 cubic-feet shy of the Honda Accord and an impressive 2.9 cubic-feet more than the Kia Optima at 13.4 cubic-feet. Overall, you should be able to carry two larger suitcases or groceries for a week with ease.

2020 Hyundai Sonata - Driven Interior
- image 912871

With that said, the rear seatbacks do fold down, but the pass-through area is quite small. You could load some longer items here in a jam, but the Sonata is clearly not designed with carrying larger amounts of cargo in mind.

2020 Hyundai Sonata vs competition cargo room
Hyundai Sonata Honda Accord Kia Optima (EX)
Cargo Room 16.3 CU-FT 16.7 CU-FT 13.4 CU-FT

Hyundai Sonata Technology

2020 Hyundai Sonata - Driven Interior
- image 912944
2020 Hyundai Sonata - Driven Interior
- image 912946

If there’s one place outside of looks that the Sonata really excels, it is in the technology department. The infotainment system is an absolute pleasure to use. It’s fast, responsive, has a decent resolution, and decent graphics, and it’s the largest screen available in this segment. Voice controls work admirably well too, with naturally spoken language being acceptable most of the time for stereo, phone, and navigation functions. Smartphone pairing worked flawlessly in our tester, but we were only able to test Apple CarPlay as we’re a bunch of Apple fanboys here. We did get to experience the widescreen CarPlay format, though, and it worked very well. Overall, the technology is very impressive and one of the more noteworthy things available in the new Sonata.

Hyundai Sonata Safety

2020 Hyundai Sonata - Driven
- image 912876

The Hyundai Sonata comes with a decent list of semi-autonomous and autonomous safety features, but what comes standard depends primarily on your trim level, and opting for something outside of what’s offered is practically impossible. Every model includes Forward Collision-Avoidance, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Following Assist, and Driver Attention Warning, among other things. If you want more high-end features, you’ll have to move up the trim range. The full offering of safety features can be seen in the table below.

Hyundai Sonata Safety Features
SE SEL SEL Plus Limited
Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection (FCA-Ped) S S S S
Lane Keeping Assist (LKA) S S S S
Lane Following Assist (LFA) S S S S
Driver Attention Warning (DAW) S S S S
Smart Cruise Control (SCC) with Stop & Go S S S S
Parking Collision-Avoidance Assist (PCA-R) - - - S
Rear Occupant Alert (ROA) S S S S
Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist (BCAA) - S S S
Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist (RCCA) - S S S
Blind View Monitor (BVM) - - - S
Parking Collision-Avoidance Assist (PCAA-R) - - - S
Rear Occupant Alert (ROA) S S S S
Highway Drive Assist (HDA) - - O S
High Beam Assist (HBA) S S S S

2020 Hyundai Sonata – It Looks Sportier Than It Is

2020 Hyundai Sonata - Driven Exterior
- image 912900
At first glance, the 2020 Hyundai Sonata is a thoroughbred sports sedan that could compete with the likes of similar sedans from Audi, Mercedes, and even BMW.

The short front nose and wide grille screams Audi, the corner vents scream BMW, and the hood is more muscular than we expected. The side profile is even dominated by bold body lines that are slightly curved to put an emphasis on the coupe-like roof structure. Thin concave side skirts help the sporty aura while the rear end doubles up on this feeling. The prominent taillights, built-in spoiler, and even the rear diffuser all peg this Sonata as a sports sedan.

2020 Hyundai Sonata - Driven Exterior
- image 912908

During our time with the Sonata, we experienced a lot of confusion. Most people thought it was a luxury vehicle at first until they see the Hyundai emblem. Some even suggested that they had no idea that Hyundai built a luxury or sports sedan.

"The Sonata stands out on the road well, as it does in parking lots, but not in a way that it comes off as pretentious or gaudy."

As you know by now, that sporty, luxurious aura only runs skin deep, but the Sonata is a head turner – especially for a family sedan – if you don’t mind the all-show-no-go mentality.

How Big is the 2020 Hyundai Sonata

2020 Hyundai Sonata - Driven Exterior
- image 912907

The Sonata is 192.9 inches long, 73.2 inches wide, and 56.9 inches tall. It also rides on a 111.8-inch wheelbase. To put this into perspective, it’s longer than both the Honda Accord and Kia Optima and only loses out in width by one-tenth of an inch to the Accord. It also features the longest wheelbase of the bunch, which is another slap in the face when you consider the lack of power available under the hood. In terms of garaging, the Sonata is better fitted for at least a 1.5-car garage. You can probably fit it in a larger one-car garage, but it would be a tight fit, and some might not be deep or wide enough to keep things comfortable. To see how it compares to the Accord and Optima in detail, check out the tables and charts below.

2020 Hyundai Sonata vs competition exterior dimensions
Hyundai Sonata Honda Accord Kia Optima (EX)
Length 192.9 Inches 192.2 Inches 191.1 Inches
Width 73.2 Inches 73.3 Inches 73.2 Inches
Height 56.9 Inches 57.1 Inches 57.7 Inches
Wheelbase 111.8 Inches 111.4 Inches 110.4 Inches
Front Track 63.5 nches 63.0 Inches 63.5 Inches
Rear Track 63.8 Inches 63.4 Inches 63.8 Inches
Curb Weight 3,336 LBS 3,208 LBS 3,230 LBS

Is the Hyundai Sonata Better Than the Honda Accord?

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The Honda Accord has been a continuous model in Honda’s lineup since it was introduced back in 1976, and it just entered its tenth generation for the 2018 model year. So, it’s spent two years on the market compared to the new Sonata, but that’s not enough to rule it out quite yet. In terms of turbocharged offerings, you can have a 1.5-liter four-cylinder that delivers a decent 192 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque. The standard transmission, however, is a CVT, so you’ll have to deal with that. The nice thing about the Accord, however, is that it doesn’t pretend to be a luxurious sedan or a sports sedan – it proudly proclaims that it’s a reliable family sedan that you can depend on without drawing too much attention to itself.

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The interior comes off as more upscale than you’d expect. It doesn’t have the largest infotainment display now is the instrument cluster digital outside of the small TFT display between the two gauges, but the quality of materials and fit and finish comes off as a little better than what you’d expect in a $25,000 vehicle. Fuel economy beats out all the models we’ve discussed here at 30 mpg in the city, 38 mpg on the highway, and 33 mpg combined. It’s not the funniest or most comfortable car to drive, but it does come off as more family-friendly than a lot of offerings in this segment. The entry-level Accord starts out at $24,020, and prices increase by trim level up to a maximum of $36,250 before options, taxes, and registration, among other things.

Hyundai Sonata vs Honda Accord
Hyundai Sonata Honda Accord
Engine 1.6-Liter Turbo-Four 1.5-Liter Turbo-Four
Horsepower 180HP 192 HP
Torque 195 LB-FT 192 LB-FT
Transmission 8AT CVT
Driveline FWD FWD
Fuel Regular Regular
Steering Electric Electric
Suspension Four-Wheel Independent Four-Wheel Independent
Tires P235/45R18 All-Season P235/40R19 All-Season
Curb Weight 3,336 LBS 3,208 LBS
Fuel Economy 27/36/31 30/38/33

Read our full review on the 2020 Honda Accord.

Is the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Better Than the Kia Optima?

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If you’re not aware, Hyundai and Kia are sister companies, and they quite often share powertrains, platforms, and many parts. The Optima and Sonata are practically the same vehicle with different designs (and a few other things to set them apart), but right now, the Sonata is ahead of the optima, which won’t arrive with a new design until 2021. Like the Sonata, the fifth-gen Optima will take on an overly sporty design with a real lack of performance credentials, but a performance model could be available sometime after launch.

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That said, you can expect the same general interior feeling with awesome technology but other drawbacks like seat comfort and simple functions like gear selection. Pricing for the 2021 model isn’t available yet, but with the current model priced between $23,390 and $32,190, you shouldn’t expect prices to climb to aggressively for the fifth-generation model. (Note that the table below includes specs for the current Kia Optima, no the 2021 model)

Hyundai Sonata vs Kia Optima
Hyundai Sonata Kia Optima (EX)
Engine 1.6-Liter Turbo-Four 1.6-Liter Turbo-Four
Horsepower 180HP 185 HP
Torque 195 LB-FT 178 LB-FT
Transmission 8AT 7AM
Driveline FWD FWD
Fuel Regular Regular
Steering Electric Electric
Suspension Four-Wheel Independent Four-Wheel Independent
Tires P235/45R18 All-Season P205/65RH16 All-Season
Curb Weight 3,336 LBS 3,230 LBS
Fuel Economy 27/36/31 27/37/31

Read our full review on the 2020 Kia Optima.

Philippe Daix
Obsessive and Compulsive Automotive Expert - phil@topspeed.com
Always on the lookout for the latest automotive news, Philippe Daix is our most senior editor and founder of TopSpeed.com. He likes to see himself as a consumer advocate with a mission to educate motorheads of all ages.  Read More
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