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First Drive Review: Next-Gen 2020 Hyundai Sonata sings a high-tech song

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata is chocked full of high-tech features and new engine technology that makes it even more fuel efficient.

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Hyundai's most family-friendly sedan is singing an updated song; its lyrics encompass a more sensuous design, with new body architecture, powertrain elements, safety and technology features.

The eighth-generation 2020 Hyundai Sonata (only seven have been sold in the U.S.) slots into the small-but-significant midsized segment and competes with the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima.

This Korean automaker remains bullish on sedans and the Sonata saying that they Hyundai expects an equilibrium in the marketplace, with a shift in trends in the coming years. Their research shows that 59 percent of sedan owners say they will stay in the segment.

2020 Hyundai SonataThe rear of the Sonata is more familiar to brand enthusiasts than its new face.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

The 2020 Sonata was designed to appeal to a spectrum of younger, tech-savvy buyers, who appreciate the low cost of ownership and improved fuel economy the sedan offers. The model front-wheel drive-only sedan is available in four trims; SE, SEL, SEL Plus, and Limited.

Sonata benefits from Hyundai's new four-door coupe silhouette design, which gives the exterior a next-gen, fastback appearance with a longer wheelbase, shorter overhangs and rear spoiler. The company's digital pulse grille adorns the front, punctuated by state-of-the-art lighting; standard on the Limited is a ribboned-chrome line that brings a light path of eye candy that slingshots from the winged mirrors though the beltline and angles back to the front hood and headlamps. Wheels range from 16- to 18-inch alloys.

2020 Hyundai SonataThe Sonata's headlights features a new design that you won't see on any other cars sold in the U.S.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Sonata is the first model to benefit from Hyundai's third-generation vehicle platform that is engineered with an improved front and rear suspension for more refined driving and an optimized undercarriage for safety and efficiency.

Two four-cylinder engines include a naturally aspirated, retooled 2.5-liter on base models that brings 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque and a new 1.6-liter turbo with 180 horsepower and 195 pound-foot of torque (reserved for SEL Plus and Limited trim levels). Both engines are paired with have an eight-speed automatic transmission and all models have four drive modes- Smart, Normal, Sport and Custom, for individual steering, throttle, and transmission mapping.

2020 Hyundai SonataThe Sonata delivers a smooth ride and it has balanced handling.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Sonatas powered by the 1.6 go on sale soon now and will likely appeal to buyers looking for more vigorous turbo power; 2.5-liter models go on sale in December and will bring slightly better fuel economy. Available the spring, a hybrid version will attract city dwellers and others looking for more fuel-efficient driving.

Crafted with a "Beautifully Smart" theme, Sonata's interior has more premium materials and amenities than in its previous generation, such as available powered front leather seats, with heating and ventilation. A slimmed dashboard and recessed center stack keep driver attention on the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and the road ahead; a head up display adds safety and eyes-up ease.

2020 Hyundai SonataApple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all but base models.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

A wide-aspect ratio, split-10.25-inch infotainment touch screen integrates audio, video and optional navigation functions. Wireless charging speed has been boosted by 30 percent in the new model. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and three years of Blue Link connectivity are standard on all but the Sonata base model. A 12-speaker Bose Premium sound system is available.

The Sonata is spacious, especially its third row, and the available panoramic sunroof emphasizes that fact. The roomy trunk swallows gear and goods with ease.

Hyundai's standard Advanced Driver Assistance System bundles forward collision-avoidance assist, lane keeping and lane follow assist, driver attention warning, automatic high beam assist, forward collision avoidance, advanced smart and cruise control.

2020 Hyundai SonataThe Hyundai Sonata is filled with high-quality materials, especially in higher trim levels.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

A first-in-class remote parking assist feature maneuvers the Sonata into or out of parking spaces to load passengers or luggage. Accessed through the smart key, it allows the vehicle to move independently up to 30 feet.

On the surface, it is compelling. Sonata's standard equipment, quiet ride, good road manners, and innovative new features, along with competitive pricing, an industry-leading warranty, and high marks in J.D. Power's Initial Quality surveys give buyers a reason to take it for a test drive.

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The Hyundai Palisade got a mild refresh for 2023.

Hyundai

Earlier this year, Hyundai announced changes to the Palisade for 2023. The list includes a new front fascia, an updated grille with new headlights and daytime running lights, a 12-inch touchscreen with navigation, and more. A new XRT trim joined the lineup as well, bringing brawny off-road styling and dar exterior trim. Today, Hyundai announced pricing for the SUV, which starts at a little more than $32,000.

2023 Hyundai PalisadeA new XRT trim adds rugged styling. Hyundai

The Palisade's powertrain carries over from 2022, which includes a 3.8-liter V6 that makes 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive. Inside, the SUV got several new and updated technology features, including a more powerful wireless device charging pad, an updated digital key system, and a larger infotainment display.

As Hyundai's flagship SUV, the Palisade edges on luxury territory, with plush leather upholstery and a serene cabin that offers excellent noise cancellation and comfort. Captain's chairs and seven-passenger seating are available, but a second-row bench comes standard and brings eight-passenger capacity to the SUV.

Muscular SUVs are more popular than ever before, so Hyundai gave the posh Palisade an outdoorsy treatment with its XRT trim. The new Palisade XRT builds on the SEL trim with 20-inch wheels, a more rugged bumper and lower body cladding, a sunroof, and leatherette upholstery. To be clear, XRT is an appearance package that does not improve off-road capability to a large degree.

2023 Hyundai PalisadeTop trims border on the quality and design of some luxury brands. Hyundai

Standard safety equipment is generous, and includes forward collision warnings with avoidance, lane keep assist, lane following assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, driver attention warnings, high beam assist, and adaptive cruise control.

Pricing for the base Palisade SE starts at $36,245, which includes a $1,295 destination charge. The top Calligraphy AWD model starts at $52,095 after destination. All-wheel drive is available for all trims as an added-cost option.

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The N Line forms a midpoint between the standard Kona and the Kona N.

Hyundai

Hyundai has a lot going on, with new EVs hitting the market, but the brand has been on a surprising run with performance models lately. The Veloster N is an excellent, rowdy hot hatch, and the brand followed that act with the Kona N and Elantra N. Hyundai’s Kona N takes the hot hatch formula to the next level with an incredible powertrain and useful space, but it’s too much for many people. The mid-point is Hyundai’s N Line, which borrows styling cues from the hottest N variants but lacks the all-out grunt of those vehicles.

2022 Hyundai Kona N LineThe N Line gets aggressive styling cues from its sportier N counterpart. Hyundai

The styling works for the Kona N Line, as it does with the Kona N, but the powertrains couldn’t be more different. Where the Kona N gets a 286-horsepower four-cylinder, the N Line comes with a milder turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 195 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which adds a layer of engagement not found in the continuously variable transmission that standard Kona models get.

That modest output lends the Kona N Line modest performance, with more noise generated than expected. In motion, the powertrain feels decently responsive, but it lacks the razor sharp nerves of steel that the Kona N brings. Shifting into sport mode changes the gauge cluster to a bright red and hastens the vehicle's responses, but again, it's important to temper expectations for a milder experience here.

2022 Hyundai Kona N LineThe digital gauge cluster responds to drive mode changes. Hyundai

Styling is more aggressive than the standard SUV, with 18-inch wheels and mean-looking exhaust tips. The Kona’s front-end design is still busy and will still be polarizing, but the dark trim and sporty aero bodywork help the situation. The N Line’s all-black interior gets red stitching and accents that help break up the otherwise monotonous color scheme. The seats are supportive and comfortable, but could be deeper for better body-holding during spirited driving sessions. There’s plenty of room up front and a surprising amount of space in back, aided by the Kona’s large-ish rear door openings. Parents will find an easy time loading kids, and older children can ride in relative luxury with plenty of legroom.

A 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster is standard, which offers configurable colors and legible information. It’s paired with a standard 8-inch touchscreen, but a 102.5-inch screen with navigation is available. Hyundai’s excellent infotainment software runs flawlessly on both units, and offers an intuitive and straightforward way to interact with the vehicle. A Harman Kardon eight-speaker stereo also comes standard.

2022 Hyundai Kona N LineRed accents liven what is otherwise a dark, monotone interior.Hyundai

The Kona N Line, while not as hot as the Kona N, offers a reasonable styling upgrade for people wanting a small SUV with sporty looks. Enthusiasts should look at the full-on N model for thrills, though, because the N Line should be viewed as more of an appearance package than a performance model.

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