2020 Hyundai Sonata tries to win back former design glory with bold new look

The new mid-size sedan takes some styling risks

2020 Hyundai Sonata
2020 Hyundai Sonata / Image Credit: Hyundai
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Hyundai liked it when the whole world sang its praises for the revolutionary redesign it gave the sixth generation Sonata. Most of the industry did a double take when the attractive Sonata took the design risks it did, but Hyundai never followed up. Efforts have been made over the past couple years to liven the midsize sedan up and spark a second revolution, but nothing has stuck with consumers bent on buying anything with plastic cladding and slightly higher ground clearance.

This redesign for the 2020 model year aims to make the industry take notice of Sonata again. We're certainly paying attention, so let's dissect what Hyundai has done here. The first big change is in the car's silhouette. It's shaped less like a traditional sedan, and more like a sportback. It's no Audi A7, but the shape feels inspired by that car in particular. Hyundai retained a normal trunk with its sportback look, too.

There's a lot going on up front. Most notable is the DRL design that stretches up into the hood. This feels like one we'll have to see in person to decide if it works or not. Hyundai rolled out new technology to make it work that initially debuted on the Grandmaster SUV concept. The lights are disguised as a "chromic material" until they're turned on, ensuring there aren't any weird-looking, traditional light fixtures extending into the hood. This chromic light stops part way up the hood, but is met by similar-looking trim that extends all the way back into the window surrounds (this part doesn't light up). Get used to it, because Hyundai says this "light architecture defines the design identity of future Hyundai cars." The grille itself plays second fiddle to strong accentuating features like these lights and the beefy silver strip running from one side of the bumper all the way to the other.

As we move down the side of the new Sonata, it's worth mentioning that the car grows in most dimensions. There's a 1.4-inch stretch in wheelbase, 1.7-inch increase in overall length and it's 1-inch wider than its predecessor. In cooler dimension news, the Sonata gets a 1.2-inch reduction in height. One strong beltline moves across the upper portion of the doors, getting thicker as it leads into the striking taillight design. Boomerang shaped taillights extend up and into the trunk that has the smallest hint of a ducktail spoiler shape from the angles Hyundai gives us on the photos. An LED strip splits the trunk itself. This design is distinctive enough, and Hyundai appears to have modified the boomerang shaped taillights the right amount to not draw copycat accusations from the Honda Civic rear end.

The interior gets a full workover to look as modern and sleek as possible. We're particularly drawn to the strange four-spoke steering wheel design. Hyundai is well on its way to eliminating traditional gear levers — the Sonata gets a push-button gear selector now, too. All the air vents are diminutive in size but fit the interior well. This design looks good in the only photo Hyundai is giving us now, but we'll give it a full shakedown once we see it in person.

Speaking of the official debut, Hyundai will be revealing all the details come the NY Auto Show in April this year. We don't know anything beyond styling at this point, but expect similar powertrain options to those offered now — a naturally aspirated four-cylinder is standard, with a strong turbocharged four banger being the upgrade.

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