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2020 Hyundai Sonata Prototype First Test: Going for More

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When we first saw the 2020 Hyundai Sonata earlier this year, its impressive looks reminded us of Aston Martin, and the profile views were reminiscent of the Mercedes-Benz CLS and Audi A7. In a time when some automakers are discontinuing sedan models, Hyundai is taking a big risk with the 2020 Sonata. This attractive new midsize sedan won’t be on U.S. roads until the end of the year, but we had a chance to sample an early prototype at the manufacturer’s proving grounds this summer, which allowed us to get a first glimpse at its numbers and handling.

The 2020 Sonata we drove was a P2 prototype, the second of four stages in Hyundai’s prototype progression (P1, P2, M1, and M2). This means that some important details in our Sonata—like NVH, steering, and the infotainment system—weren’t tuned for final production, but the powertrain tuning and fit and finish were production-ready. Rest assured, we’ll have more impressions on this anticipated Hyundai sedan before long. But in the meantime, here’s how the 2020 Hyundai Sonata prototype performed in our battery of standardized tests.

Our 2020 Sonata was equipped with the optional 1.6-liter turbo-four engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. That turbo-four sends 180 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels. The base engine is a new 2.5-liter that’s good for 191 hp and 181 lb-ft, and although we drove it briefly in South Korea during the spring, we didn’t get a chance to test it this summer. The 1.6-liter in our 2020 Sonata Limited prototype, however, propels the car from 0 to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds and completes the quarter mile in 16.2 seconds at 87.8 mph. The new Sonata is slower on the 0 to 60 run compared to the more powerful 245-hp 2018 Sonata 2.0T Limited (7.1 seconds) and just a tad behind a 185-hp 2018 Sonata Limited (7.9 seconds). In terms of braking, the 2020 Sonata Limited 1.6T prototype came to a stop from 60 to 0 in 121 feet, which is a bit more than the 113 feet the 2018 Sonata 2.0T model needed but ties the 2018 Sonata 2.4 we’ve also tested.

On a winding road inside the proving ground, we were particularly impressed by the way the 2020 Sonata’s transmission downshifted in Sport mode; we didn’t have to use the paddle shifters. The 1.6 turbo likes to work with the eight-speed, and the powertrain feels refined even at low speeds. We do wish the engine had more power, though, particularly because this is the optional turbo engine. The 1.6T measured up fine compared with the Honda Accord’s 1.5-liter turbo base engine, but it felt underpowered compared with the Honda’s optional 2.0-liter turbo. It’s the same case with most of the competing midsize sedans, including the Toyota Camry and Mazda6, which use a V-6 and four-cylinder turbo, respectively, as their upgraded engines. Once you consider the $33,000 estimated price of our 2020 Hyundai Sonata Limited prototype, though, this midsize sedan regains an advantage.

The interior is one of the Sonata’s strongest points. Just like its exterior design, the interior feels upscale for a non-luxury car, and the cabin is spacious even for tall passengers. All of the interior elements—from the 10.3-inch touchscreen to the door panels with hidden door handles—give the Sonata an air of refinement. The gear shifter has been replaced by buttons, freeing up space in the center console, and the head-up display is bright and shows the speed limit and navigation commands when the nav system is active. Our tester was equipped with a caramel and black dual-tone interior, which added a stylish touch to the cabin.

Hyundai’s interior designers borrowed a lot of the Sonata’s cues from the new Palisade three-row SUV. For example, when the driver activates the turn signal, a side-view camera activates and an additional blind-spot view pops up in the all-digital instrument panel. Although the infotainment system in our model wasn’t finalized, we’re pretty sure it will be similar to the Palisade’s, which allows for a split-screen view and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.

Our tester also was equipped with all of the available safety technologies Hyundai offers, including adaptive cruise control, forward collision assist, lane keep assist, lane follow assist, and the new rear occupant warning that not only alerts the driver if someone or something is left in the back but also locks the rear doors when a car is approaching the Sonata. We didn’t have time to test these systems in the real world, so we’ll have to reserve our judgement until we get to drive the Sonata on public roads.

The 2020 Sonata’s pricing hasn’t been finalized, but Hyundai estimates our model’s cost at about $33,000. Given that this is the top-of-the-line Limited model, we don’t expect to see prices climb much higher than that unless you want a Limited Hybrid, and when you compare it with the prices of other top-trim midsizers, the Sonata still brings lots of value. We just hope it gets more punch.

Stay tuned for more 2020 Hyundai Sonata driving impressions of production models and the base 2.5-liter engine.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Limited 1.6T (prototype)
BASE PRICE $33,000
PRICE AS TESTED $33,000 (mfr est)
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE 1.6L/180-hp/195-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,317 lb (60/40%)
WHEELBASE 111.8 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 192.9 x 73.2 x 56.9 in
0-60 MPH 8.2 sec
QUARTER MILE 16.2 sec @ 87.8 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 121 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.85 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 29.1 sec @ 0.56 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON Not yet rated
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY Not yet rated
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB Not yet rated

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