2021 Hyundai Sonata Review
  • Car Review

2021 Hyundai Sonata Review

By Chris Teague | August 24, 2020

Quick Facts:

Pros:

  • Upscale interior.
  • Plenty of standard technology.
  • Good value compared to rivals.

Cons:

  • Can feel sluggish at times.
  • Ride can occasionally feel harsh.

Vehicle Type: Midsize sedan.

Price Range: The 2021 Hyundai Sonata's price ranges from $24,575 to $36,275, including destination but before options.

Powertrain: The new Sonata is available with two gas engines and a hybrid powertrain.

The base engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 191 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque.

There is also a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 180 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque.

The Sonata Hybrid comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a 38kW electric motor that combines for a system output of 192 horsepower.

Both models come with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Front-wheel-drive is standard.

More Photos

See more 2021 Hyundai Sonata photos here.


Overview:

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Hyundai completely redesigned the Sonata sedan for the 2020 model year, and the resulting vehicle is more advanced and modern than any other Sonata model before it. While this new generation of Sonata is not the most engaging driver's car in the segment, it does have a spacious and upscale interior, intuitive tech features, and decent handling to help it compete among some formidable midsize sedan rivals.

Beyond the redesign, the 2020 Sonata also got a round of new powertrain choices, one of which is a new hybrid system that uses solar panels in the car's roof to recharge some of its battery power. The Sonata's interior was also new for 2020 and sports a roomy and premium design that can carry four adults without issue.

The Sonata competes with the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and other similarly sized sedans. It's aimed at buyers who value Hyundai's lengthy new car warranty and want a roomy family sedan.

The Sonata is available in four trim levels: SE, SEL, SEL Plus, and Limited. The hybrid model is available in Blue, SEL, and Limited trims.

Two gasoline-only powertrains are available for the Sonata: a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 191 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque, or a 1.6-liter turbocharged four that produces 180 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The Sonata Hybrid pairs a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a 39kW electric motor for a combined 192 horsepower. The Hybrid also uses a six-speed automatic.

Overall Score: 8/10


Safety Features: 8/10

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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Hyundai Sonata a Top Safety Pick designation. That includes Good scores in all crash-test categories and Superior ratings for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention with the car's standard equipment.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rated the Sonata five stars overall with no other safety concerns listed.

Standard safety gear includes forward-collision warnings with pedestrian detection, and lane follow assist, driver attention warning, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, and rear occupant alerts.

Optional safety equipment includes parking collision avoidance assist, blind-spot monitors, and rear cross-traffic alerts. The Limited trim also comes with a parking assist system with front and rear monitors.


Value: 9/10

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The Hyundai Sonata starts at $24,575 after a $975 destination charge. That's an attractive price backed up by extensive standard driver assistance technologies and a long warranty that bests almost every other vehicle in the segment outside of Kia.

The Toyota Camry starts at around $1,000 more than the Sonata, and though it comes with many driver assistance features, the Sonata has better standard tech.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard and run on an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with HD radio.

All-in, the Sonata Limited tops out at just $34,475, which buys a car with high-end finishes, plenty of room, excellent fuel economy, and a long list of tech and entertainment features.


Tech Features: 8/10

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Standard features include an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with HD radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a rearview monitor with parking guidance, and an external thermometer.

Available features include Hyundai Digital Key, wireless device charging, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, USB ports for both rows, a Bose premium 12-speaker audio system, LED interior lights, a highway driving assistant, memory for seats and mirrors, a 10.25-inch touchscreen display, navigation, traffic information, SiriusXM radio, multiple device connections, remote smart parting assistance, a surround-view monitor, and Bluetooth.

Hyundai Blue Link is an innovative new feature that allows owners to connect with their vehicles through a smartphone app. The system can start the car and set climate controls, remotely lock and unlock, track service intervals and show vehicle diagnostics, find a destination to pre-load the navigation system, and find the vehicle remotely.


Practicality: 8/10

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The Sonata's cabin is spacious and well organized, making it ideal for families and parents who need the space to haul kids in car seats.

The Sonata sports 16 cubic feet of cargo space, which is average for the segment. Though it's not the best of the bunch, it's still enough to hold large suitcases and other equipment such as strollers in the trunk. That space is aided by a large opening and the Sonata's low overall height, making it easy to load and unload.

Hyundai made the Sonata's interior upscale but straightforward. There is space for plenty of small-item storage and areas to stow things like cell phones and purses.


Styling & Design: 8/10

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The updates that Hyundai applied to the Sonata in 2020 make it one of the most striking sedans in its class. The sloping nose and unique LED signature lights up front give it a distinct look that is both handsome and modern. The Sonata's shape is also smooth and graceful, which stands in contrast to competitors like the Toyota Camry, which have become sharper and more aggressive in recent years.

Inside, there's nothing that doesn't need to be in the cabin. The Sonata's dash and front cockpit area are organized neatly and intuitively, and the layout is easy to use, even in trims that come loaded with tech.

The Sonata has provisions for five people, but owners will find that space is better suited for four adults. That said, the back seat is spacious enough for kids in large car seats, and the car's gentle roof slope makes it easy to handle loading and unloading.

The Sonata's cabin feels like it came out of a car that costs much more than the Hyundai's reasonable price tag. Build quality is excellent, and the car does a good job of blocking out road and wind noises. The rear seat is generous on both headroom and legroom as well, making it much more practical as a daily driver.


Driving Experience: 7/10

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The Sonata's competition has been focusing on making sedans that are quick and sporty. While that's good for a portion of the population, many people still value comfort and efficiency. That's where the Sonata comes in, and though it doesn't offer a luxury-quality cushy ride, it's got the right stuff to be a comfy everyday family hauler.

The Hybrid powertrain is refined and provides excellent torque off the line, but the six-speed automatic can feel jittery and sputtering at times, especially in second and third gears.

The Sonata's ride quality can feel unsettled at times, especially over broken pavement and the car's optional larger wheels.


Fuel Efficiency: 8/10

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When equipped with the 2.5-liter engine, the Sonata is rated at 28/38/32 mpg city/highway/combined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). With the 1.6-liter engine, the Sonata returns 27/36/31 mpg.

The Sonata Hybrid is rated at 45/51/47 mpg city/highway/combined.

The Hyundai Sonata's fuel economy is competitive in the class, but rivals still outdo it from Toyota and Honda. On the hybrid side, the Sonata is on par with the Camry Hybrid, both in the high-40s range. The Camry Hybrid LE is rated at 52 mpg combined, which outdoes the Sonata.


What’s it Going to Cost Me?

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The base Hyundai Sonata SE has a starting MSRP of $24,575 after the destination charge. It comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, idle stop and go, drive mode select, hill start assist, 16-inch alloy wheels, forward collision warning, lane keep assist, lane following assist, driver attention warnings, smart cruise control with stop/go, rear occupant alerts, high beam assist, LED daytime running lights, LED headlights, automatic headlights automatic high beams, and LED taillights. Inside, it features cloth upholstery, six-way manual driver's seat adjustments, four-way passenger seat adjustments, folding rear seats, an eight-inch touchscreen, HD radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and an external thermometer.

The Sonata SEL starts at $26,675, and comes with 17-inch wheels, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, side mirror-mounted LED turn signal indicators, an eight-way power driver's seat, heated front seats, SiriusXM radio, Blue Link, dual-zone automatic climate controls, and a proximity key with push-button start.

The Sonata SEL Plus starts at $28,625. It comes with the turbo 1.6-liter engine, 18-inch wheels, leatherette upholstery, wireless device charging, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, a 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster, and Hyundai digital key.

The Hyundai Sonata Limited starts at $34,475 and comes with parking collision avoidance, full LED taillights, front and rear parking sensors, leather seats, power passenger's seat adjustments, ventilated front seats, a Bose 12-speaker sound system, a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen, SiriusXM Radio, remote smart park, a surround-view monitor, a heated steering wheel, a color head-up display, and 64-color ambient interior lighting.

The Sonata Hybrid Blue starts at $28,875. It comes with forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, lane following assist, driver attention warnings, adaptive cruise control, rear occupant alerts, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, high beam assist, automatic LED headlights, automatic high beams, and LED taillights. Also included are cloth upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, and an eight-inch touchscreen that runs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Sonata Hybrid SEL starts at $30,875 and has similar features to the Sonata SEL gasoline model.

The Sonata Hybrid Limited starts at $36,275 and is similar to the gas-only Sonata Limited.

If we were buying a Hyundai Sonata, we'd opt for the midrange SEL trim, which includes all of the advanced safety features and a premium leatherette interior without a significant jump in price tag.


More Photos

See more 2021 Hyundai Sonata photos here.