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2021 Hyundai Sonata

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 10/23/2020 Motor Trend Staff

Pros

  • User-friendly tech features
  • Hybrid model's fuel economy
  • Great ride

Cons

  • Hybrid model's grabby brakes
  • Certain safety features limited to higher trims
  • Divisive exterior design

When the 2011 Sonata arrived, it attracted a new generation of buyers to the Hyundai brand with its bold styling and good value. Now, a decade later, the new-for-2020 Sonata turns heads with an avant-garde exterior complete with cool LED light strips integrated into the metal accents on the hood. Available in multiple flavors ranging from an efficient hybrid to a powerful N Line model, every version of the offers slick, user-friendly technologies.

What's New

  • Performance-oriented N Line trim joins the lineup
  • The SEL Plus trim gets 19-inch alloy wheels as standard
  • A six-way power front passenger's seat is now standard on the Limited grade
  • SEL and higher trims now get the safe exit warning, which can alert you of an oncoming vehicle and lock the doors

What We Think

Hyundai has transformed the Sonata from a dull, average midsize sedan to a roomy and stylish cruiser packed with tech. Stable handling means you can confidently drive through winding roads, though the ride may be a little stiff on models with larger wheels. The available 1.6-liter turbo-four offers plenty of power while the responsive transmission drops gears promptly when you put your foot down. One small issue with the 1.6T engine: Stab the accelerator pedal too much at once, and the tires mighy struggle to gain traction.

If you need your stylish midsize sedan to be supremely efficient, try the Sonata Hybrid. Even though it's not the most powerful option, the Sonata Hybrid still offers good power and cruises quietly. The six-speed automatic, however, isn't smooth at low speeds and causes some head tossing. The brake calibration is also grabby; the initial bite is too immediate.

A well-packaged interior means there's plenty of space inside despite the sloping roofline. Even average-sized adults will be comfortable in the rear seats. Hyundai continues to lead in the infotainment department with easy-to-use systems, responsive displays, and clear graphics. Even with the addition of an available large main touchscreen and digital gauge cluster, the Sonata's infotainment system remains one of the simplest to learn.


Gallery: 2021 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye (motor1)

All of these improvements elevate the Sonata into a really solid performer, though some editors might still go for a Honda Accord. Nevertheless, consumers who still want a sedan instead of an SUV, the compelling Sonata is worth considering.

Performance and Fuel Economy

The 2021 Hyundai Sonata is available with four powertrain options including a hybrid. Every variant comes with an automatic transmission.

Model: Sonata SE, Sonata SEL Engine and Transmission: 2.5-liter I-4 - eight-speed automatic Power: 191 hp/181 lb-ft of torque EPA-Rated Fuel Economy: 28/38 mpg city/highway (SE); 27/37 mpg (SEL)

Model: Sonata SEL Plus, Sonata Limited Engine and Transmission: 1.6-liter turbo I-4 - eight-speed automatic Power: 180 hp/195 lb-ft EPA-Rated Fuel Economy: 27/37 mpg

Model: Sonata Hybrid Blue, Sonata Hybrid SEL, Sonata Hybrid Limited Engine and Transmission: 2.0-liter I-4 + electric motor - six-speed automatic Power: 192 hp combined EPA-Rated Fuel Economy: 50/54 mpg (Blue); 45/51 mpg (SEL and Limited)

Model: Sonata N Line Engine and Transmission: 2.5-liter turbo I-4 - eight-speed dual-clutch automatic Power: 290 hp/311 lb-ft

Safety

NHTSA: 5 Stars (out of a possible five stars)

IIHS: 2020 Top Safety Pick

The Sonata scored Good in all IIHS crashworthiness categories, except the headlights test where the standard units only got a Marginal rating (Good is the highest possible score). In the front crash prevention tests, the Sonata got a Superior rating on the vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian evaluations (Superior is the highest rating).

All 2021 Sonata models get forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, cyclist detection, front automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams as standard. Moving up to the SEL grade adds blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and safe exit warning. The range-topping Limited model adds rear automatic emergency braking and an enhanced blind-spot monitoring system that uses cameras on the side mirrors to show what's on the left and right of your vehicle. Hyundai's Highway Driving Assist system, which bundles together enhanced adaptive cruise control, improved lane centering, and traffic jam assist, is standard on the Limited trim and part of the Tech package on the SEL Plus.

Technology

Hyundai's infotainment system is available in two versions in the 2021 Sonata. The SE and SEL models get an 8.0-inch touchscreen and a six-speaker audio system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. A 10.3-inch touchscreen is optional on the SEL Plus and standard on the Limited trim. That larger screen is bundled with built-in navigation, a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, and a 12-speaker Bose audio system. Other tech features include the ability to use your mobile device as a key (Android only for now), wireless charging, and a 360-degree view parking camera system.

Cool Features

The range-topping Sonata Limited has a remote parking assist feature that lets you park the car into tight spaces using the key fob. How does the system work? You simply turn the car on via remote start and press the forward or back button on the key fob to move the vehicle. If you can't get out because the person next to you doesn't know how to park, line up the Sonata with the space, press the remote parking assist button just behind the push-button gear selector, get out, and use the forward or back buttons on the key fob to squeeze the car into the spot.

Read more about how remote parking assist here.

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