The new 2020 Hyundai Sonata offers up a wealth of tech-packed amenities in an updated and strikingly good-looking four-door coupe-style body.  While we won’t see the striking new silhouette in showrooms until the end of the year, we got a chance to test drive it for the first time in and around Seoul, Korea.

How did Sonata help to launch Hyundai in the U.S.?

First launched in 1985 by the Korean company, Hyundai, the Sonata was the first car that Hyundai exported to the U.S.

The second generation of the Hyundai Sonata, launched in 1988 and was the first Hyundai to reach western shores. The previous generation Sonata only was available in Korea, New Zealand and Canada.

By the time Hyundai created the fifth generation, the company had opened plants in the U.S. The company’s manufacturing plant is located in Montgomery, Alabama. More than half of the Sonatas sold in the U.S. are built there.

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata is the eighth generation of the four-door sedan and Hyundai execs say that it will be a “brand shaper” for future models from the Hyundai family. While executives admit that the sedan segment is dying in the United States they still believe that it is well worth fighting for.  Last year alone Hyundai says that they sold more than 1.5 million sedans worldwide.

Estimates for the future of the sedan market are rather grim as SUVs and crossovers become more and more popular. Some believe that just 1 million sedans will be sold in the U.S. by 2023. Just five to six years ago, more than 2.4 million sedans were sold.

The U.S. is the main market for the 2020 Hyundai Sonata.

2020 Hyundai Sonata: Not a Car but a tech-laden “smart mobility device”

2020 Hyundai Sonata Digital Key System

Hyundai is marketing the 2020 Sonata not so much as a car but a “smart mobility device.” While that may sound like marketing speak, there is some truth to it as it is loaded with some pretty interesting technology.

What does that mean? As Hyundai recognizes that sedan sales are headed down, they want customers to reimagine their cars as a personalized tech gadget that can help get you from point A to point B.

To that end Hyundai has included a suite of technology features in the 2020 Hyundai Sonata including:

  • Semi-autonomous features like adaptive cruise control and lane tracing
  • The ability to use your smartphone to unlock and lock your car by placing it near the door handle. You can even use your smartphone as a key to start the car.
  • Share your smartphone key digitally to allow friends and family to borrow or use your car for a set amount of time.
  • Use the digital key to open, close, and lock and unlock the trunk so that packages can be delivered and picked up from your car.

The system is called the Hyundai Digital Key and it is an app you download on your phone. You pair the app with your 2020 Sonata to access the tech offerings.

Hyundai has also said that as the car-sharing trend grows they will eventually offer a way for owners to “rent out,” their 2020 Sonata without having to meet the person they are loaning the car to. The owner can also set speed limits and distance limits with the Digital Key.

Additionally, Hyundai has added features to the 2020 Hyundai Sonata that make it even easier to personalize your driving experience. You can create a personalization profile for your Sonata and each time you get in it will automatically:

  • Adjust your seat position
  • Play a specific welcome sound
  • Adjust your side mirror
  • Personalize the head-up display
  • Set your preferred driving mode (Sport, Normal, Eco)
  • Bring up your favorite places to navigate to for quick selection
  • Tune to your favorite radio station
  • Set up the mood lighting inside the Sonata to your personal preference (choose from 64 different color signatures)
  • Immediately connect to your Bluetooth device

In addition to these technology features, the 2020 Hyundai Sonata also comes with a remote parking assistant for those tight parking spots. The driver can pull in front of a spot, get out, stand in front of the car and use a button on the key fob to back the car into a narrow spot. When it’s time to leave, the driver can stand in front of the car and push the parking assistant button again and the car will creep forward until there is enough space to climb into the driver’s seat.

This is a feature that is mainly geared towards the Korean market since parking can be so difficult in places like Seoul, but in big cities like Los Angeles and New York where parking is at a premium, it’s a helpful feature to have.

2020 Hyundai Sonata: Complete with Self-Driving and Safety Features

2020 Hyundai Sonata Interior

Driving around Seoul, Korea is a lot like driving in New York City and having self-driving and safety features that make the experience less stressful are a fantastic addition to the 2020 Hyundai Sonata.

In and around Seoul, merges are short and quick, though the overall speed of traffic in the bustling metropolis is slower than you’ll find in most major U.S. cities. Drivers are aggressive, though polite and rarely use their horns.

Inside the Hyundai Sonata, these features make driving in traffic like this much less stressful. Here’s how:

  • The digital dash of the 2020 Hyundai Sonata uses cameras at the sides of the car to help you merge or change lanes.
  • When you activate the turn signal, the gauges on the right or left (depending on which way you are merging), show video of the side of the car to make moving over that much easier.
  • Self-driving features for highway driving.

When we tried the adaptive cruise control on the roads around Seoul (in stop and go traffic) the system was impressive. It was able to take corners at 40-50 miles per hour without needing the interference of the driver. In fact, the driver could completely take their hands off the wheel for long periods of time without any warning signals going off.

The version of the 2020 Hyundai Sonata that we drove in Korea was the Korean-spec vehicle. It had a smaller engine – only a 2.0-liter, naturally aspirated, inline four-cylinder with just 158-horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. Additionally, because of laws in Korea, the system that we experienced was set up for the Korean market. In the U.S. we don’t expect to have the same amount of self-driving leeway as we saw on the Korean Sonata we drove. We do however expect that the U.S. Hyundai Sonata will get some measure of the same technology and self-driving features.

2020 Hyundai Sonata: What’s it like to drive?

While we spent a majority of the drive in the Korean-spec (and very under-powered) version of the Hyundai Sonata we did get a very short drive of the U.S. version around the test track at the Hyundai/Kia Design center about two hours outside of Seoul. The U.S. version of the 2020 Hyundai Sonata will get a more powerful engine. It had direct steering and felt quick in the few minutes we were able to drive it.

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata will get 191-horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque and the top of the line SEL trim will get a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine with 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. There may also be a plug-in hybrid and a more powerful turbo version of the 2020 Hyundai Sonata as well.

2020 Hyundai Sonata: Based on the Le Fil Rouge Concept Car

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata gets more technology as standard, sits on a brand-new platform that improves safety, efficiency and power, and it is one of the first vehicles to be designed under the guidance of Sang Yup Lee, the head of the Hyundai Design Center.

Lee was formerly the Chief Designer for iconic brands like Lamborghini, and under his design guidance at Hyundai the brand has put out some striking concepts like the Le Fil Rouge concept. The Sonata is based on that concept car. The Le Fil Rouge was first shown in Geneva in 2018.

2020 Hyundai Sonata: An innovative but polarizing look

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata has a lower more aggressive look and added chrome and light details that make it look strikingly in motion while standing still. Some however, may find the incorporation of daytime-running lights that disappear into a chrome line around the car a bit polarizing.

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata is the first vehicle to employ what Hyundai has named the “Sensuous Sportiness,” design language. While it is technically a mid-size sedan, Hyundai likes to refer to the Sonata as a four-door coupe.

Coupes have historically referred to two-door vehicles and not four-door cars, but most manufacturers today are trying to capitalize on the marketing around coupes and grand tourers (or GTs) and they continue to name four-door vehicles coupes. While that naming is confusing for shoppers, the 2020 Hyundai Sonata is, in fact, a four-door mid-size sedan.

Outside the 2020 Hyundai Sonata has been significantly updated. The front overhang, or the space in front of the front wheels has been shortened making the nose look lower and meaner.

2020 Hyundai three quarter rear view

The rear of the 2020 Hyundai Sonata gets a raked, almost hatchback-like look, giving rear passengers plenty of headroom. Outside the car, a rear spoiler gets a line of LED lights that connect the two brake lights. On the road, the 2020 Hyundai Sonata’s brake lights look similar to that on a new Volvo.

The new Hyundai Sonata is 1.8-inches longer, and 1.0-inch wider than the previous model.

The most striking and polarizing aspect of the new Sonata is its lighting signature. It starts at the front of the car with the grille that Hyundai calls the “Digital Pulse Cascading Grille.”  New daytime running lights form what look like pointed parentheses around the headlights and then disappear around the top of the hood under a chrome highlight line that stretches back to the rear window of the car. Sang Yup Lee says that to get that special treatment they used a laser perforation to create the gradation from the light to the chrome strip.

While it’s a really neat manufacturing process and it gives the 2020 Sonata a very unique look, it could quickly look dated and some aren’t a fan of the Vulcan eyebrow look.

Will the U.S. get an AWD Hyundai Sonata?

There is a possibility that the 2020 Hyundai Sonata could get all-wheel drive in the U.S. when it comes to showrooms at the end of this year.

During a press briefing in Korea, executives alluded to the idea that because of the demands of the U.S. market (and it’s variety of weather), they were “reviewing the need for all-wheel drive,” though they did say that they didn’t believe that the “midsize sedan market doesn’t necessarily need it.”

The platform that the 2020 Hyundai Sonata sits on is the same that also underpins some of Hyundai’s other SUVs, so it makes sense that there may be an AWD Sonata available in the U.S.

If the Hyundai decides to offer the Sonata with all-wheel drive in the U.S. it would be a first for the brand.

How much does the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Cost?

At the time of the press drives in Seoul, Hyundai would not disclose the possible cost of the 2020 Hyundai Sonata.  Stay tuned to find out what the cost might be when the Hyundai Sonata goes on sale.

When will the 2020 Hyundai Sonata go on Sale?

Hyundai executives told us that we can expect to see the 2020 Hyundai Sonata in showrooms by the end of 2019.

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata offers a tech-packed vehicle in a very good looking package.

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2020 Hyundai Sonata: Good Looking and Tech Packed
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2020 Hyundai Sonata: Good Looking and Tech Packed
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The 2020 Hyundai Sonata will be one of the most tech-integrated cars ever made, but why release it in the sinking US sedan market?
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Contributing writer for Autoweek magazine, Forbes, Arstechnica.com, Motor Trend, TheDrive.com, and Fortune. Abigail Bassett is an Emmy winning journalist, video content producer, and manager who has covered a wide range of events including everything from breaking news and world events to premiere launches and unveilings over the last 15 years.  Abigail spent more than 10 years as a Senior Producer at CNN in New York and she currently lives and works as a freelance writer in Los Angeles. Her clips have appeared in Autoweek Magazine, Forbes, Arstechnica, Motor Trend, TheDrive, Fortune, and a number of other top-tier outlets.

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