For a segment supposedly on life support, family sedans are showing impressive signs of life.
The Crossover Era has clobbered sedan sales. So dire have been its effects that domestic makers have largely abandoned the segment, leaving it wide open to foreign makers.
Makers like Hyundai. The Korean company recently released the eighth-generation of its 2020 Sonata ($23,600) midsize sedan. The all-new five-passenger four-door is good enough to stand with the best-in-class.
The Sonata is that rare car that looks good from every angle. Longer and lower than before, it has a sweeping, coupe-like profile, bold character lines and just enough drama up front to draw a second look.
Its proportions are spot on, its presence polished and athletic.
Quiet, efficient cabin
Sonata’s cabin is noteworthy for the clean and efficient simplicity of its design and the soundness of its ergonomics. Extensive noise-suppression measures tame wind and road noise.
Its ride is too firm to be called plush but the Sonata’s suspension soaks up the impact of all but the largest potholes.
And, because it’s a Hyundai, the Sonata offers a deep roster of cabin tech and driver-assist features.
Sonata is available in four trims — SE, SEL ($25,799), SEL Plus ($27,650) and Limited ($33,300).
The two lower trims are powered by a 191-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. A turbocharged 1.6-liter four powers the remaining pair. Both engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that shifts quickly and decisively, unlike many competitive gearboxes tuned for efficiency.
The 2.5-liter earns combined EPA estimated fuel economy rating of 33 mpg; with the turbo, estimated combined mileage is 31 mpg.
Neither engine motivates the Sonata with gusto. The 1.5-liter is good for a 0-60 time of 7.3 seconds. The 2.5L needs 8.3 seconds.
Sonata is a front-wheel-drive sedan; AWD is not available.
With the launch of the Sonata, Hyundai releases two interesting pieces of tech. Remote Parking Assist eases the challenge of parking in a too-small space. Align the Sonata with the spot you want — either perpendicular or angled — exit the car and, using buttons on the key fob, move it into the spot. Remote Parking is available on the SEL and standard on the upper trims.
The Digital Key is a phone app that allows owners unlock, start and drive their cars sans key. At the moment, the app works only with Android Auto, but Hyundai says Apple CarPlay integration is coming. Digital Key is standard on the Limited.
Hyundai’s infotainment system continues to be one of the industry’s most capable and user-friendly. Its high-mounted, high-definition touchscreen lies within easy reach of the driver. Menus are logical and uncomplicated.
Instead of burying oft-used audio and HVAC controls deep in digital menus, Hyundai uses old-school knobs and buttons. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration are standard.
A 12-speaker Bose system is available.
Four six-footers will be comfortable inside, though the backseats are not sufficiently contoured to be truly comfortable. Despite its sloping roofline, there’s plenty of headroom back there. The trunk is large, well-shaped and nicely finished.
Handling a mixed bag
There are plenty of cabin-storage opportunities, some of it made possible by a new console-mounted push-button gear selector. Push buttons save space and reduce clutter, but they require more driver attention than a standard shift lever.
Ride and handling are a mixed bag. Sonata’s new platform is lighter and more rigid than before. Suspension settings seek to balance ride comfort with engaging dynamics.
The Sonata is settled and stable at speed but undulating and uneven surfaces can cause a momentary case of the jitters. Steering is quick, accurate and more communicative than many modern electrically assisted systems.
Every Sonata is equipped with drive-mode select; LED headlights, taillights and daytime driving lights; and an 8-inch Display Audio touchscreen, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Standard safety and driver-assist features include adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, lane-centering assist, and forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking.
There’s no denying the appeal of the common crossover. But there are also good reasons to hang with the sedan set; Hyundai has given us a fresh reason why.
Questions or comments? Contact Don at email@example.com.
2020 Hyundai Sonata Limited
Vehicle base price: $23,600
Trim level base price: $33,300
As tested: $34,365 (includes destination and handling)
Options: carpeted floor mats
EPA ratings: 31 combined/27 city/36 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified