The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid can teach you to how drive. Thanks to a suite of safety tools, the car can be forceful as it tries to keep you in your lane. What I learned is that the car and I have wildly different ideas of what counts as driving too close to the lane markers.
As with most driver safety features, I did eventually get used to the suggestions the new Sonata made for me, slightly adjusting the position I would take in the lane. Was I safer than before? Not sure, but it did make the car happy.
And that’s kind of our life these days, isn’t it? Our phones beep to get our attention and so we turn to them to see what’s going on. Our smartwatches encourage us to complete this or that task. And now our cars are telling us how to drive better, and they sometimes won’t stop beeping unless we listen to them.
I know I could have turned this safety feature in the Sonata Hybrid off, but I wanted to see what it was like to drive with it for a week, and I think that Hyundai found a good way to encourage what it thinks is the safest place in the lane and a technological nudge to get me to follow it. So, if you like “learning” from your devices, this could be the car for you.
There’s a lot more that the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid offers, of course, and similar safety tech is available in other Hyundai vehicles as well as in vehicles from other automakers. As a hybrid, the main selling point of this Sonata is its improved fuel efficiency and the good-looking four-door sedan is part of Hyundai’s expansion of its green car line up from six today to 13 by 2022.
It’s difficult to really test drive a new vehicle during the coronavirus quarantine, since there just aren’t that many errands to run or places to legitimately go. Here in Michigan, visits to state parks are still allowed, so I put on a few hundred miles in order to visit the Lake Michigan shore and do some grocery shopping. You know, quarantine essentials.
The miles were unquestionably comfortable ones, especially in Eco or, well, Comfort driving modes. Along with the driver safety tech, there’s an emphasis in the new Sonata of the smooth quiet of a decently priced new hybrid sedan. The powertrain is a partnership between a 39-kW (51-horsepower) electric motor and a 2.0-liter gas engine that produces 150 hp and 139 pound-feet of torque, along with a six-speed automatic transmission. That smoothness shows in the way it’s difficult to tell when the car shifts between the gas and electric power sources, but when you put the car into Sport mode, you do feel a bit more energy going through your foot on to the wheels.
On paper, the 2020 Sonata Hybrid excellent fuel economy for a non-plug-in vehicle. The most-efficient Blue trim level gets 52 mpg combined, along with 50 in the city and 54 on the highway. I had a top-of-the line Limited trim, which even with the heavier solar roof (compared to a standard steel roof; it’s lighter than a panorama sunroof) it gets 47 combined mpg, 45 in the city and 51 on the highway. That’s all according to the EPA. My results were more along the lines of 43-44 mpg overall for the week.
It can be difficult to quantify the environmental benefits of the solar system in a few days, but Hyundai’s calculations show that there’s a lot of potential here for the right driver. The two-part solar roof system has a total power output of 205 watts, which can be used to power either the 310-volt traction battery or the 12-volt battery to keep it from getting discharged. Hyundai says that even a mildly conservative calculation of the roof’s annual energy production in a location like Los Angeles, California will get you 309 kWh, enough for around 1,200 “free” miles a year.
While the solar roof is a real giveaway, if you know what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to spot any of the new hybrid models among a fleet of standard 2020 Sonatas. That’s because the hybrid comes with unique wheels (either 16- or 17-inch alloys that are both engineers for better aerodynamics), a unique spoiler and a version of Hyundai’s “cascading grille” that’s unique to the hybrid.
Aside from a few different graphics, the interior of the Sonata Hybrid is mostly the same as other new Sonatas as well. Hyundai has emphasized the car’s high tech features, making plenty of safety options standard, including my friend lane keep assist as well as forward collision-avoidance assistance with pedestrian detection and smart cruise control with stop-and-go capability. While you do have to get the top of the line Limited trim for some of the safety features, like parking distance warnings (forward and reverse), blind-spot view monitors and highway drive assist, there’s a lot here in the “basic” package.
My favorite dashboard animation is the power flow, which shows when energy is moving from the roof to the battery pack and then on to the wheels. I know this only helps out a little bit – and if I’d wanted the most efficient of the new Sonata Hybrids, I’d have to get the Blue trim – but it’s still enjoyable to think of the car being pushed along a little bit by a sunny day.
The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid will go on sale soon. Pricing is not yet available, but is expected to be around $30,000.