The 2020 Hyundai Sonata burst onto the midsize sedan scene with a striking new design, exactly the kind of strategy that could stop a few Toyota- and Honda-loyalists from driving off in another new Camry or Accord. But to make any lasting impact, the Sonata’s gotta deliver substance, too, in a well-rounded package. We’ve already shared our love for the Accord, which won two comparisons against the Camry.
So keep reading for pros and cons on the 2020 Sonata against the Honda Accord, which currently holds the crown as the best car in its class.
2020 Hyundai Sonata Advantage: The Feeling of Straight-Line Oomph
Sometimes, the feeling of power and acceleration can be just as good as the reality. In the 2020 Sonata’s case, our Limited 1.6T tester surprised me by how peppy it felt. On the down side, you may feel a slightly non-linear surge of power if you’re especially sensitive. Also, expect the front tires to chirp if you give the car too much gas and simultaneously turn to merge. In a straight line, however, the car felt quicker than the 8.2-second time we clocked from an early prototype.
The turbocharged 1.6-liter engine (180 hp, 195 lb-ft of torque) is included on the SEL Plus and Limited. The lower SE and SEL trims get a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter engine with 191 hp and 181 lb-ft. With the Honda Accord, engine options on the top Touring trim now include a 252-hp 2.0T model and a 2.0-liter hybrid. Honda doesn’t offer the less expensive, more efficient 192-hp 1.5T engine with its top-trim feature content at the Sonata Limited’s sub-$35,000 price point.
2020 Hyundai Sonata Advantage: So Much Screen Space
More screen space isn’t always a good thing, but it works for the 2020 Sonata. Together, the 10.3-inch infotainment touchscreen and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster give the Sonata a tech-forward cabin that doesn’t feel overwhelming. We commented on the system’s sharp graphics and easy functionality in a recent 2020 Sonata Hybrid interior review. When it comes to enormous screens on non-luxury cars, I’d still give the edge in to Toyota’s 12.3-inch unit—but so far, that system is only being made available on more expensive models like the 2021 Venza and Highlander. For a midsize sedan, then, you can’t do better than the Sonata for screen space.
What’s great about these screens is that they’re not limited to the top Limited trim. If you want the 10.3-inch touchscreen instead of the standard 8.0-inch unit, it’s optional on the SEL ($5,000) and SEL Plus ($2,750) models (and standard on Limited). The 12.3-inch instrument cluster is standard on the SEL Plus and Limited, and available on the SEL ($1,200). One tip, Hyundai: Make it easier to adjust the digital instrument cluster’s design so that those who rarely switch to sport mode get another way to customize the display.
With the Honda, an 8.0-inch touchscreen sits at the top of the dash for all but one trim. A screen comprising part of the Accord’s instrument cluster gets the job done, but lacks the wow-factor of the Sonata.
2020 Hyundai Sonata Advantage: Ambient Lighting
You just don’t expect 64-color ambient lighting on a midsize sedan. With the 2020 Sonata, ambient lighting doesn’t refer to a single light that shines on the center console—we’re talking about slim lights that stretch across the dash and onto the doors. We wish the light could shine more intensely, but overall, this is a great Limited-trim-exclusive perk.
2020 Hyundai Sonata Advantage: Styling
Especially from the side and rear, the Sonata has some beautiful angles. When we first saw the car in Korea, we said “the Sonata reveals itself as a monumental achievement of proportion and linework.” Although the front styling may not work for everyone, the Sonata’s design is impossible to ignore, and we mean that in a good way.
2020 Hyundai Sonata Advantage: 360-Degree Camera System
The feature isn’t available on the Accord, but it’s standard on the Sonata Limited. Even if you never use the Sonata’s Remote Smart Parking Assist, 360-degree tech is very handy.
2020 Hyundai Sonata Advantage: Breathe In … Breathe Out
The Sonata’s 12-speaker Bose sound system is good enough that even those who can’t tell a 95th-percentile system from a 99th-percentile one will appreciate it. Then there are the looping nature tracks. Have a hard day at work? Put on the Calm Sea Waves track (or one of the five others).
2020 Honda Accord Advantage: Rear-Seat Space
As we’ve noted before about the Sonata, the Hyundai’s backseat definitely feels spacious, but it can’t compare to the Accord’s more cavernous rear seat. If this was by far your prime reason for getting a midsize sedan, stick with the Accord.
2020 Honda Accord Advantage: MPGs (Mostly)
If you’re looking to maximize mileage, the Accord may be the better pick. Comparing the mainstream affordable trims, most 2020 Accord 1.5Ts earn an EPA-rated 30/38 mpg city/highway. Except for the less efficient Sport 1.5T (26-29/35 mpg), those figures beat the 2020 Sonata 1.6T’s 27/36 mpg as well as the 2.5’s 27–28/37–38 mpg.
2020 Honda Accord Advantage: Smoothness
Where the Sonata uses an eight-speed automatic, the Accord 1.5T uses a CVT. In a comparison against a Camry 2.5, we lauded the CVT’s tuning overall, but pointed out it was a bit too relaxed for our tastes. The payoff for accepting that negative is everyday smoothness, whether you’re trudging to work in stop-and-go traffic or just going down the street to the market.
2020 Honda Accord Advantage: Center Stack Knobs
The Sonata Limited’s interior looks refined, doesn’t it? Having the heating and A/C controls on a slanted plane makes them easier to handle and is a nice touch. But no matter how refined that interior looks, there’s no getting around the interior’s lack of knobs. Yes, it sounds stupid, but Honda got the picture after years of our complaining.
Check out the Accord’s interior today, and you’ll find a knob for everything you need—volume, tuning, one for driver and passenger temperature, plus one for the volume of air. What this means: Over time, you can learn to adjust any of those controls without taking your eye off the road, because you’ll figure out generally where they are. The Sonata’s not bad here, but most models can’t accomplish the same task as easily for increasing the air or tuning the radio for when the passenger is the DJ.
Also, don’t miss the way the ring of light around the Accord’s temperature knobs change from blue to red or vice-versa, depending on whether you’re making it hotter or cooler.
So Which One Should I Get?
Until we match the Sonata against the Accord and other midsize sedans in a MotorTrend Big Test comparison, one thing’s clear: buyers comfortable with breaking out of their Toyota or Honda bubbles should consider the Sonata 1.6T. Soon after the bold 2011 Sonata entered the segment, it lost three straight comparisons to similar Toyota Camry and Volkswagen Passat models. Nearly a decade later, the Sonata again shows great potential, and we can’t wait to see how it matches up in a full comparison.
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