Do you remember the first time you experienced a public toilet flushing itself? Ellen DeGeneres had a funny line about it, indignantly observing, “I’ll take care of that, thank you very much!” So what’s the connection to the all new Sonata Limited? Like the self-flushing toilet, this sedan is designed to eliminate you – the driver – from so many operational functions that you’ll be thinking, “If it’s all the same to you, I’ll take care of that!”
The first such “feature” that prompted me to delve into the Sonata’s printed owner’s manual was the “Easy Access Function” which automatically slides the driver’s seat back and forth upon entry and exit. Since this annoying valet slide was unlisted in the owner’s manual table of contents, I stumbled upon it only by accident, after a time consuming search of the whole book. But translating the manual’s written information to the car’s menu system proved even more time consuming, since the various screen icons fail to indicate the presence of unseen drop down menus.
While deep diving the intricacies of this system, I came across numerous similar “features” I also opted to delete, including beeps, and chimes for everything but breathing, plus unwonted interventions for auto door locking, headlight high beam assist, and something mysteriously termed “highway auto curve slowdown.” This one, which isn’t even mentioned in the owner’s manual, is briefly identified on the Driver Assistance menu screen as an aid which “automatically decelerates in a highway curve zone.” I voted to delete it just on principal. Those of us who enjoy driving tend also to enjoy setting our own speeds through highway curve zones without robotic intervention.
Of course, even if you’re not a computer freak you can still just hop in the Sonata Limited and drive it without so much as reading a paragraph, touching a button or tweaking a setting. The shape of the new Sonata is bewitchingly beautiful, especially in profile. From the side, upper and lower indentations impart a sleek grace that was markedly absent on the previous Sonata. The same stylistic innovation holds true for the striking twin chrome strips that run all the way from the top of the headlights to the base of the A-pillars. This re-imagined Sonata is a visual jewel.
The inline turbocharged 4 cylinder engine connects to an 8-speed automatic gearbox. This powertrain drives only the front wheels. The 1.6 liter engine makes 180hp and averages 31MPG in overall driving. We noticed that power delivery can be jerky at low speeds as the boost rises quickly. We also discovered that the engine can be caught napping when called on for instant acceleration at highway speed due to turbo lag. The gearbox provides paddles at the steering wheel to micro-manage engine output. Unfortunately, the paddles’ usage is time limited to a few seconds, after which the system reverts to fully automatic behavior.
Handling of the Sonata is a strong point. Even on all-season Michelin Primacy Tour radials (235/45R18), the Sonata is sure footed, especially in curves that would baffle a cumbersome SUV. While I wouldn’t go so far as to classify the Limited as a true sports sedan, it has strong leanings in that regard. In fact, Hyundai will soon introduce an “N” version of the Sonata with a 290hp, 2.5 liter inline 4. I particularly appreciated the excellent traction control system, which negated wheelspin on wet pavement despite full throttle application. But Hyundai needs to provide the Sonata with a solid dead peddle to help brace the driver in aggressive cornering maneuvers.
This newest addition to the Hyundai car line makes a strong case for the rebirth of the sedan. This vehicle does a lot of things very well. Its amply endowed with a long list of thoughtful comfort and convenience inclusions like rain sensing windshield wipers, LED head and tail lights, proximity key entry, push button start, and a 12 speaker stereo system with a 9 inch subwoofer. The dash display is a work of art. Whenever you engage a turn signal, depending on the direction of turn, the right or left instrument face displays the proximate roadside image on the TFT screen. This is a winning safety measure. When you switch from normal to sport drive mode, the instrument display explodes in a pyrotechnic shower which morphs from blue to red. Even the tachometer face of the Sonata is unique, with a counterclockwise sweep to redline.
The Sonata Limited is a remarkable bargain at its all-inclusive base price of $33,300. If you can get over the unnecessary complexities of the programming required for operating satisfaction, this newest and best looking ever Hyundai will win you over in short order.
2020 HYUNDAI SONATA LIMITED
ENGINE: 1.6 liter inline 4, gas direct injection, turbocharged
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 27MPG City/36MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $34,365
HYPES: Stunning Architecture, Loaded Benefit List
GRIPES: Too Difficult to Program, No Dead Pedal, Peaky Turbo
STAR RATING: 8.5 Stars out of 10