2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid adds solar roof, challenges Camry Hybrid at 52 mpg

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Some healthy competition can do wonders, especially in the numbers-focused green-car arena. The latest 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, revealed at the Chicago Auto Show on Thursday, is a perfect example.

Just two and a half years after the current Toyota Camry Hybrid became the first mid-size sedan to earn a 50-plus mpg rating from the EPA (it\’s rated at 52 mpg combined), the Sonata Hybrid has arrived to rival the Camry’s 52 mpg. 

In the Sonata’s case, Hyundai claims an EPA-cycle (not yet confirmed) 52 mpg combined, with 50 mpg city, 54 highway—a mammoth 10-mpg improvement over the outgoing model\’s 42 mpg combined. If you need a big, roomy sedan but can\’t plug in, the Sonata Hybrid\’s 54 mpg highway rating is likely the best on the market.

That’s in its top-efficiency Blue version. Other versions of the Sonata Hybrid will come with a rating of 45 mpg city, 51 highway, and 47 combined. That puts them slightly behind the Honda Accord Hybrid\’s 48/47/48 mpg rating. 

The Sonata Hybrid\’s strength relative to other hybrids has always been in highway driving. It stems from its different layout, which Hyundai has apparently carried over. The layout features a conventional 6-speed automatic transmission, with an electric motor packaged between the transmission and engine. The 2.0-liter inline-4 from Hyundai’s latest Smartstream family makes 150 horsepower and 139 pound-feet of torque—with a total system output of 192 hp.

2020 Hyundai Sonata, 2019 New York International Auto Show

The new Sonata Hybrid has a 0.24 coefficient of drag, compared to 0.27 for the rest of the Sonata lineup. No simple task, the improvement comes from a bumper lip, front- and rear-wheel deflectors, and covers for the bottom of the engine bay, floor, and rear end. 

But it’s more than an updated powertrain and a smoother body. Various bits of technology that Hyundai has teased for a year or more have made their way into this high-mileage sedan. Together, they give it more eco-cred, even if it doesn’t have a charging port (a new Sonata Plug-In Hybrid is coming soon). 

The basic layout carries over, but the new Sonata Hybrid also gets Active Shift Control, which uses a separate sensor to more precisely match electric motor speed with engine speed—making the shifts smoother and 30% quicker. The system also adds to durability by reducing shift shock. Although Hyundai hasn’t confirmed it yet, Active Shift Control could aid efficiency. 

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

The U.S.-spec Sonata Hybrid also adds the Solar Roof System that was teased in October 2018. Unlike other solar roofs offered on the Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius Plug-In, this one actually charges the hybrid battery, not just the 12-volt accessory battery, with an output of up to 205 watts.

The solar feature can also help avoid battery discharge when owners use accessories without driving the car. In test form, Hyundai said it could add a 60% charge to the 1.56-kwh pack with a day of sunshine.

An option on the Sonata Hybrid lets owners say farewell to fobs. The smartphone-based (Android only!) Hyundai Digital Key uses Near Field Communication (NFC) and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology to allow unlocking and starting, by the owner or those approved by the owner, without a key. 

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Otherwise, the Hybrid comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility in an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system. A 10.25-inch touchscreen with cloud-based Blue Link speech recognition and bird’s-eye navigation views is available as a step up, and Qi wireless charging (with a cooling fan) and Bose audio are on offer. 

Like the rest of the 2020 Sonata lineup, the Hybrid should be even more pleasant to drive thanks to double-junction soundproof glass for both the windshield and front doors, as well as improved carpet and additional sound absorbing materials.

More about the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid lineup, including prices and features, is expected soon, as the car is expected to go on sale this spring.

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