Sedans are losing out to crossovers and SUVs in sales, in part because many car buyers seem to think a high-riding utility vehicle is cooler than a traditional four-door. Hyundai is setting out to prove them wrong with the 2020 Sonata, which hopes to win back buyers with a sleek new look.
The Sonata is Hyundai’s answer to the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, and this isn’t the first time Hyundai has tried to set it apart from the crowd with an evocative design. Like most of the Korean automaker’s other products, the Sonata initially emphasized affordability over style. But with the sixth-generation model (sold in the United States from 2010 to 2014), Hyundai took some major styling risks. The automaker then went back to a more conventional design for the current, seventh-generation Sonata. Now the pendulum is swinging in the other direction.
Hyundai says the 2020 Sonata has a “four-door coupe” silhouette, evoking cars like the Audi A7 and Mercedes-Benz CLS. That is why the new Sonata’s roof is lower and sleeker than a conventional sedan’s (which probably has a negative effect on headroom). The 2020 Sonata is also longer, lower, and wider than its predecessor, giving better overall proportions.
Changing the proportions or chopping the roof are design tricks used across the car industry, though. To give the Sonata a unique look — day or night — designers added sinuous LED daytime running lights that stretch from the headlights back across the hood. When turned off, they look like regular chrome trim, but when on, they produce streaks of light that look like something out of Tron. Not every Sonata trim level will likely get this feature, but it’s impressive that it made it to production at all. It’s too bad the taillights aren’t as distinctive: They look like they were stolen from a Honda Civic.
We’re focusing on design because Hyundai isn’t ready to release any technical details on the 2020 Sonata just yet. All will likely be revealed at the 2019 New York Auto Show in April. The current Sonata is sold with conventional gasoline, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid powertrains, and that mix will likely carry over to the 2020 model.
Despite the market shift toward crossovers and SUVs, automakers aren’t giving up on sedans just yet. In addition to the 2020 Sonata, updated versions of the Subaru Legacy and Volkswagen Passat will also launch later this year. Sedans remain a sensible choice, as their lower ride heights, lighter curb weights, and more aerodynamic bodies give them an advantage in handling and fuel economy over utility vehicles.
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