The sloped hood and widened grille, with its thin ribbons of chrome, give the car an athletic appearance. Photo: Hyundai

Hyundai’s sweet-looking midsize sedan hits a high note

Although the Sonata appears somewhat larger, there are no significant changes in length, or width

The new-generation Hyundai Sonata deserves more than a passing glance and a shrug as buyers head over to the utility-vehicle side of the showroom.

Connoisseurs of the traditional family four-door — and there are still thousands of them out there despite soft sales and category abandonment by some major automakers — would be well served to check out what Hyundai has wrought with this latest model.

The sloped hood and widened grille, with its thin ribbons of chrome, give the car an athletic appearance. At the opposite end, a thin LED band extends across the rear deck between the brake lights and tapers into an integrated spoiler. This is what sweating the details looks like.

The Sonata is the first Hyundai model to be built on a new platform that’s claimed to be stronger and more capable of absorbing energy from collisions. The suspension has been revised with the aim of providing an improved ride and greater steering precision.

Although the Sonata appears somewhat larger, there are no significant changes in length, or width. The distance between the front and rear wheels, however, has increased by about five centimetres and the roofline is lower by about 2.5 centimetres. Trunk space remains the same as before.

The interior is also where Hyundai seems bent on proving that it’s serious about creating an upscale environment. The standard 20-centimetre screen rises partially above the dashboard, while the same panel area frames the optional 31-centimetre screen.

A similarly sized LCD gauge cluster behind the steering wheel (also optional) contains other key info and can be configured to suit driver preferences. For the transmission, clearly marked pushbuttons have replaced the traditional shift lever.

Serving as the base engine is a new 2.5-litre four-cylinder that produces 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. Optional is a carryover 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet.

An eight-speed automatic transmission with available steering-wheel paddle shifters is standard. The previous turbo 1.6 was connected to a seven-speed automatic.

Fuel economy for the non-turbo engine is guesstimated at 8.4 l/100 km in the city, 6.5 on the highway and 7.1 combined.

Although both engines make adequate power, you get more muscle from the class-leading Honda Accord and Toyota Camry sedans with either of their base or available engines. To counter that, Hyundai says it’s readying the Sonata N, which gets a 275-horsepower turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder. As well, new Sonata hybrid models — plug-in as well as non-plug-in — are expected to be available within the next few months.

At an estimated base price of $28,000 in Canada, including destination fees, the base Sonata SE keeps the content level to a minimum, but does include numerous active-safety features such as lane-keeping assist and a system that warns if the driver is not paying sufficient attention. Autonomous emergency braking is also standard.

The SEL comes with dual-zone climate control, power-adjustable driver’s seat, hands-free trunk release and fancier interior trim. The SEL Plus adds upgraded suede and leatherette seat covers, the big gauge cluster and 18-inch alloy wheels (16s are standard).

The top-of-the-line Sonata Limited comes with a panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, navigation, Bose-brand audio and Remote Smart Parking Assist. This feature uses a phone app to remotely start, park and un-park the Sonata, which is especially handy in tight spots.

It’s obvious that Hyundai has invested considerable time, effort and expense to build a sedan with class-leading style and content. If this doesn’t get utility-vehicle shoppers at least thinking twice about returning to their sedan roots, then perhaps nothing will.

What you should know: 2020 Hyundai Sonata

Type: Four-door, front-wheel-drive midsize sedan

Engines (h.p.): 2.5-litre DOHC I-4 (191); 1.6-litre DOHC I-4, turbocharged (180)

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Market position: The shift to utility vehicles has thinned the sedan ranks. Some automakers — such as Ford and Chevrolet — have cut back their offerings, but Hyundai has doubled down with a much-improved Sonata.

Points: Arguably the most attractive sedan in its class. • First-rate interior appointments are leading-edge in and user-friendly. • Non-turbo and turbo engine lineup is shy on power, but Hyundai intends to change that with a performance model. • New hybrid models are on the way, but there’s no official word as to an all-wheel-drive option.

Driver assist: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (opt.); active cruise control (std.); emergency braking (std.); lane-keeping assist (std.)

BY COMPARISON

Toyota Camry

Base price: $28,400

Updated hybrid and non-hybrid models are joined by the sporty TRD for 2020

Honda Accord

Base price: $30,300

Well turned-out sedan has peppy base and optional Turbo I-4s. Hybrid is opt.

Ford Fusion

Base price: $29,800

Reportedly, it’s the Fusion’s last year. Hybrid models are still available.

If you’re interested in new or used vehicles, be sure to visit TodaysDrive.com to find your dream car today!

-written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media

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The loaded up models get a configurable digital gauge cluster as well as a larger screen above the centre stack. Photo: Hyundai

The standard display uses buttons and knobs, and it artfully blends into the dashboard. Photo: Hyundai

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