The Hyundai Sonata shows that sedans aren’t dead

BOSTON — I have been known to say that no one buys sedans anymore. And that’s true, to a point. Sales of crossovers and SUVs and trucks have grown significantly over the past few years, while sales of sedans has fallen.

But reports of the death of the four-door car are greatly exaggerated. A few weeks ago, I reviewed the new all-wheel drive Toyota Camry. That car sells more than 300,000 units per year. Between the Accord and Civic, Honda sold almost 600,000 sedans in 2019. Then there’s BMW and Audi and Mercedes and Volvo, who all continue to sell sedans.

To be sure, the American car is on its way out, in favor of trucks and SUVs. Ford and GM are bailing on the sedan business almost entirely, while FCA has the Dodge Charger and not much else. 

This week, I’m reviewing the Hyundai Sonata. Last year, Hyundai moved more than 87,000 Sonatas (and 200,000 of its other sedans, including the Elantra and Ioniq). And it’s really, really good. It might be the best non-luxury sedan you can buy today. Let’s dive into why.

I drove a 2020 Hyundai Sonata Limited, landing at $34,365. Thanks to a company-wide streamlining process, the only option on this Sonata is carpeted floor mats for $135. They want to make it easy to buy, without a mind-boggling array of option packages to get what you want. It’s refreshing.

The new Sonata is built at Hyundai’s Montgomery, Alabama facility, with a hefty chunk of parts (40 percent) brought over from Korea, where Hyundai is headquartered. It gets EPA-estimated fuel economy of 27/36/31 city/hwy/combined. Mine was a lovely dark grey that reminded me of a dark and stormy afternoon sky.

And so we should start with the outside. Hyundai’s press release announcing the new Sonata is filled with absurd design language, noting that the car has a “distinct tension on the side” with a “harmonious blend of two sharp character lines and pure volumes.” It has concave and convex forms that are “carefully orchestrated to provide a sexy, coupe-like character.”

I can guarantee you that Hyundai’s PR and marketing teams had at least one meeting to decide whether they should use the word “sexy” to describe their new Sonata.

As much as I want to make fun of the press release puffery, I can’t argue with it. This car is really, really pretty. The front has an Aston Martin-esque quality to it, though not the knock-off look that the Ford Fusion has. It’s sensual and swoopy, and it’s instantly recognizable. 

The headlights in particular are striking, with an almost indescribable daytime running light that runs inward beneath the main headlight, then running back to join the chrome strip at the edge of the hood that runs back along the entire doorline of the car and then envelopes the windows. It’s subtle, but it defines the entire car. Hyundai says it “effuses a flowing and refined charm.” I don’t know about that, but it’s very striking.

The lovely design continues inside, with a large center screen, easy to use controls, a fully-digital dash, and a gigantic sunroof. The roof itself is a little lower than I would have liked, though I have a tall torso, and the large center console eats into legroom a little bit. But rear seat room is spacious, and visibility is excellent in all directions.

The tech is where the Sonata really shines, however. Interior lighting is excellent, including ambient mood lighting across the dash and doors. The large infotainment screen, with CarPlay and Android Auto plus a remarkably decent standard system (which is hard to find these days) is excellent.

The safety suite is particularly good, with the hands-free lane-centering system about as good as you can get this side of a Tesla. Between that and the digital side-view mirrors — activate the turn signal and cameras in the side mirror will send a video signal to the dash screen to show you a clear view of your blind spot — that come over from the Hyundai Palisade (and are also in Santa Fe, review to come), you’ll have plenty of trick features to show your friends.

There’s a digital key, so you can use your phone to open and start the car. It has an excellent heads-up display, remote start via app, and, of course, the Boston-favorite “Smaht Pahk”, which I actually used to get in and out of a tight spot, once. If you’re one of the million-or-so Americans who plans to buy a sedan this year, give the Sonata a look. It just might surprise you.

Photos courtesy Hyundai
About Jordan Golson 56 Articles
Jordan Golson is North State Journal's automotive reporter. He covers cars - both foreign and domestic - from around the globe.