The Future Is So Bright You Gotta Wear Shades – The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited with the solar roof.

Check out our YouTube Video on the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited Video

Hyundai, the South Korean Car company that has been selling cars in the US Market since 1986, and during that time it has grown to be a provider of high-quality vehicles at prices that often undercut their competitors.  With the built-in value of a 10-year, 100K-mile warranty, the brand has built a loyal following of owners. Add onto that advanced technology that makes the vehicles safer and more fuel-efficient and you have what every automobile buyer wants

The 2020 Sonata parked in downtown Washington DC in June of 2020.

For 2020, Hyundai updated the Sonata’s design with a sleek LCD lighting stripes up the hood from the headlamps. While that design accent caught attention, it is the technology side of the Sonata Hybrid Limited we found the most interesting, specifically because it uses roof-mounted solar panels to add power to the hybrids battery. After seeing this Sonata revealed at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show we put together a Queer4Cars First Look Preview Video.

The solar roof on the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid provides 2-miles of EV power per day in bright sunlight.

First-Hand Experience

Hyundai extended the opportunity to spend a week in the 2020 Sonata Hybrid Limited, with the solar roof.  Honestly, the first few miles driving this full-size four-door sedan were underwhelming.  Those were city miles and you could feel the weight of the battery driving along the bumpy streets.  Then in stop-and-go traffic on the beltway, at slow speeds, the Sonata was running on EV power, with the hybrid engine kicking in now and again. While we liked using just EV power, this ride experience was not as exciting as we had hoped. Though it was a chance to see how sensitive the solar roof is, while in the shadow of the tractor-trailers, and driving under overpasses. I watched the power display screen showing the electricity transfer from the solar panels to the LiOn battery.

Day two turned out to be an eye-opener. It was a road trip without stop and go traffic on the highway. Where this Hyundai Sonata turned into a rocket ship, not a dull and boring granola munching hybrid.  There is a muscle car hiding under a meek and mild-mannered four-door sedan exterior.  

The Power Transfer display on the Sonata’s center screen.

Give the accelerator pedal a touch on the highway and you are in the left lane in no time pushing the speedometer up, making a little muscle car noise, too. The combination of the electric drive train and the gasoline engine together gave a wonderful surge of power. Great for passing and moving out when needed. The sound insulation in the Sonata Hybrid is excellent at muffling that chipping wood noise found in hybrids when the engine is making electricity.

The interior of the Hyundai Sonata is well equipped with everything in its place.

Technology

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid has plenty of it. So much so that driving this car reminded me of a perfect song for the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited from back in the day. Timbuk 3 performing The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades.  Technology is what hybrids have been about since the beginning. Joining forces of an internal combustion engine, in this case, a 2.0-liter gasoline direct injection engine with a permanent magnet synchronous 39 kw-hr motor and 270-volt lithium-ion polymer battery and hybrid starter generator for a combine hybrid system power of 192 horsepower mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shift.  What does hybrid really produce? Really impressive fuel mileage, with a combined 47 mpg. We have been seeing 50 plus on our drive. This electrically assisted power-train, runs on all EV mode when necessary, and then uses the gasoline engine for power as well as combining both for even better performance and fuel economy

Solar Panels

While solar panels are nothing new, off-grid folks have been using them for years, you can buy them at harbor freight to power your cell phone, and even an expensive EV automobile company has used them. Heck, even some parking lots that double duty as solar farms have used them to provide shade and cover. You do not expect to find them in a mainstream consumer vehicle with an under $40K price tag. That is where this Hyundai Sonata is different from other hybrid vehicles is that the battery has the assistance of the power of the Sun, with solar panels on the roof. In the Summer while the sun is beating down we think to ourselves, about how hot our cars will be on the inside. With the Sonata, you want to see how much power those solar rays have added to your batteries’ charge.

According to Hyundai, this adds about 2 miles of charge to the batteries per day, if parked in bright sunlight. – Our car is showing 28782-Watt Hours Generated by these roof-mounted solar panels since this car was built on January 29, 2020, and first rolled out into the sunlight.

Inside and Out

A car is as useful as it is designed to be. While the Sonata may not be the flashiest looking four-door sedan out there, it is extremely well designed with all controls in the right place for both driver and passengers. And an enormous trunk area for carrying cargo. This is the perfect car for ferrying passengers and their luggage effortlessly and with a heck of a lot of safety.

The older model Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited (left) and the 2020 (right)

Safety Technology

We appreciated all the safety that the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid offers, from the blind spot collision assist, rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist,   forward collision avoidance assists with pedestrian detection, parking collision avoidance assist and around-view monitor and front and rear parking sensors. This means CAMERAS with the assistance of radar are helping you all along the way.The Sonata has the technology that shows the rear corner blind spot in a video display on the dashboard when you activate the turn signal. While this feature is not that common, it should be, it is really one of the most valuable ones in any car’s safety tool kit while on the road. You never know what is right down in that spot. A heads up display using the windshield in front of the steering wheel gives you a lot of information from speed to is there a car in your blind spot. Very clean and useful, and is something you will come to expect on any car.The 2020 Hyundai Sonata alerts you when you leave the vehicle, to check the rear seats for something left behind. While this is more for children being left in cars, it is also a good practice to remove any valuables from sight if you are leaving your car.The Two Tech Bits we really wanted to try out, but could not, were the wicked kool SMAHT PARK – touted this past winter, whereby using just the “khakis” alone you can inch the car forward or backward without anyone in the driver’s seat. A great way to slip into those tight parking spots. Turns out that feature is not on every 2020 Hyundai Sonata. Just the fully gasoline-powered ones. So that idea for a video on our YouTube Channel went into the Hoppah. The Hyundai Digital Key – Hyundai uses near field communication via an android phone, as an alternative to a regular key to lock and unlock the door. That was because the NFC card was not with the keys (which I can understand you do not want that sitting in the glove-box.)To activate it and connect it to an android phone you use the Wireless Charging Dock to wake up the card to transfer the credentials to the Android device.This leads us to another thing we really liked about this Sonata, is that it has a wireless charging dock. This time the phone is visible to the driver, unlike in other vehicle where the screen is turned away or hidden in a cubby.  If you leave the phone in the car when departing, the dashboard would give a gentle audible signal as well as an alert on the dashboard, Wireless Device left in the car.

Using Near field communications an Android device can be programmed as a key to the Sonata

Positives and Negatives

Positive 

  • Under $40K price tag for all this tech, and that is without any discounts that you may qualify for.
  • Quiet interior Space for passengers with USB outlets, comfortable seats, and storage for small things.
  • ENORMOUS Trunk Space that can be extended by lowering the rear seats.
  • Powerful road car, all the power you could ask for when passing.

Negative

  • Not a Flashy High-Priced Sedan
  • Not a soft cushy ride on city streets.
  • No Smart Park in the Hybrid

Overall Thoughts

While we found the ride on city streets a bit harsh, mostly because of the weight of the batteries. The Sonata does feel planted and secure – and it is a beast on the highway. Hybrids are meant to be driven. And this one offers high fuel economy in all three trim levels of the Sonata Hybrid.

Who will like this car?  Anyone who needs to present a professional image without being flashy, or anyone who spends time on the road.  Especially if you drive passengers and their luggage, as for bulky cargo, sedans are just not designed to carry that.

The decision is what trim level to pick out the Blue, SEL, or Limited.  I will say the features of the Limited are an excellent value for the cost. The only thing you really lose is the open-air sunroof. The Blue does have the highest fuel economy, but it lacks a lot of the niceties, and the SEL has pretty much everything except the solar panels, though it requires more options to bring it up to the Limited, though you can include a sunroof in the mix. 

Our Test model comes with a $36,430 MSRP that includes a $975 freight and handling and the only option of carpeted floor mats for $155.

Very few options are available, and most of them are dealer-installed.

Accessories

  • All-season fitted liners +$215
  • Auto-dimming mirror with HomeLink® and compass +$295
  • Cargo net +$50
  • Cargo Package (includes cargo tray, cargo side bins and cargo blocks) +$215
  • Reversible cargo tray +$115
  • Carpeted floor mats +$155
  • First aid kit +$30
  • Mudguards +$115
  • Rear bumper applique +$70
  • Wheel locks +$55
  • Winter Weather Package +$330

If you are indeed interested in a high-quality four-door sedan at a great price with fuel economy in the upper 40 mpg range, EPA says 47 overall. Then check out the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, and if you are willing to give up a sunroof for more economy then go with the Limited with the solar panel roof. We thank Hyundai Motor Company for loaning us this 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited and Drive Shop for providing fleet support of the vehicle. We received no compensation for this vehicle other than the use of it for seven days with a full tank of fuel.

Words and Photos by William West Hopper

Mr. Hopper is a long-time automotive enthusiast who has been writing about automobiles, auto maintenance and more since his early day. He is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association as well as the International Motor Press Association and is the President Emeritus of WAPA. He can be found on Twitter @wwhopper or on Instagram @DCCarGuy.

William West Hopper at the National Press Club in Washington DC William West Hopper opening a Washington Automotive Press Association Meeting at the National Press Club in Washington DC.


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