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Sunday Drive: 2021 Hyundai Sonata proves it can stand the test of time

By Craig and Deanne Conover - | Sep 18, 2021

Morgan Segal

2020 Hyundai Sonata

A week in the mid-summer heat of July proved to be perfect timing for an opportunity to drive the new eighth-generation 2021 Hyundai Sonata. The all-new-in-2020 sedan is Hyundai’s longest standing and most successful model, and after a week, we were completely impressed with its looks, design and technology.

On a Saturday in July, we had the opportunity for a longer drive and headed south on Highway 89 through Sanpete County, eventually ending up in the Capitol Reef National Park area. We wanted to get in some hiking in the Richfield area.

2020 Hyundai Sonata. (Photo courtesy Morgan Segal)

We were convinced on the ride down that it would be next to impossible to come up with a similarly priced vehicle that could compete head-to-head with the new Sonata. The sedan was loaded with technology, LED screens and safety features that we had previously seen only in vehicles priced at $60,000-plus.

The day was perfect with a crystal blue sky and temperatures heading into the 90s, so the approximately 160-mile drive to the park was a complete joy, with the Sonata taking over most of the heavy lifting. Our Sonata was equipped with a Highway Driving Assist package that kept the new sedan centered in the lane and spaced appropriately from the vehicle in front of us, making driving it oh so easy!

The technology worked perfectly, even when the lane lines were hard for us to make out on some of the winding mountain roads. For the short drive on Interstate 70 at 80 mph, it worked flawlessly, as we only had to keep a hand on the steering wheel and an eye on the road as the Sonata steered itself.

Our test ride came with the smaller engine new this year: a 1.6-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder power plant. We were a little skeptical at first of this smaller-sized engine in a full-sized sedan; however, it proved to be way more powerful than we expected at 180 horsepower and 195 foot-pounds of torque.

After our day of driving 300-plus miles on mostly the backways of Utah, we ended with a 37.5 mpg average and a 36 mpg average for the week. This proved to be better than even the EPA would have expected as they put the Sonata at a 31 mpg combined total.

Another awesome feature is what Hyundai is calling a “Digital Key.” This system allows the owners to download a smartphone app that becomes the key for their car. No longer does one need to carry a key, even in one’s pocket. With the app open, placing the smartphone within a few inches of the door handle will open the Sonata automatically.

This is accomplished through a technology called Near Field Communications, and for those who think this may be a little over the top, it has proven to exhibit a great deal of security. The digital key will also start the car once it is inside the vehicle, and it allows the owner to assign digital keys to different people. The key can be geo-fenced so a person can only go certain places within the fence, and it can be revoked at any time.

Think of being able to stop your kids from driving to certain locations while also making sure they are home on time (or their key will stop working). Boy, we could have used this kind of technology back in the day!

The Limited Edition comes standard with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that proved to be completely customizable to the driver and had a cool factor that was hard to describe. We have come to love a completely digital dash and have only seen it in much higher-priced vehicles. Being able to arrange the dash and create a unique look made it feel like our own personal space, kind of like painting and designing one’s home.

The infotainment screen is also a huge 10.25 inches across. It’s centered high in the dashboard, making a quick glance very easy for the driver, and it can be split into two sections, one for navigation and the other for music or other uses.

Interior of the 2021 Hyundai Sonata. (Courtesy David Dewhurst)

The system was tied to a new Bose CenterPoint surround sound stereo that would make sitting anywhere in the vehicle seem like sitting in the center of the concert. Audio and EQ settings were made automatically according to the speed we were traveling, enhancing the ride and giving us the best sound possible.

That, of course, was not the end of the technology in the new Sonata, as the Limited also came with a full-color, heads-up display for the driver. An image size of 8 full inches and the fact that it was customizable made it one of the most intuitive HUDs we have used to date.

The interior ambient lighting was also customizable from a color palette, allowing the occupants to choose pretty much any color they wanted for after-dark driving. We loved this feature as it would really set the mood; in the winter, when the sun sets earlier, it could really help keep the owners happy, no matter what the weather was like!

Interior of the 2021 Hyundai Sonata. (Courtesy David Dewhurst)

Outside, the Sonata has great lines, giving it an almost coupe-like appearance. It looked awesome in our driveway during our test drive week and attracted many compliments from the neighbors. The new look is very distinct, with the designers doing a great job of setting it apart from the Sonata of yesteryear.

The Hyundai Sonata turned out to be one of our favorite models this year. For the price, you can’t go wrong, as it includes features that are mostly found only at a much higher cost. Our week, and especially our Saturday drive, provided nothing but comfort and enjoyment.

Base price: $33,850

Destination: $975

Price as driven: $34,980


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