Hyundai boosts Sonata hybrid with a solar roof

Hyundai swings for the hybrid fences with its 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. The Korean car maker promised a hybrid variant of the Sonata when it released the redesigned 2020 Sonata late last year. Well, here it is, and it was well worth the wait. For the most part, the core of the hybrid system is unchanged from the previous hybrid, but HyundaiHYMTF, -6.16%  performed sufficient magic to enhance the system and boost the estimated mileage and range.

The 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, 6-speed automatic transmission and electric motor still make up the central powertrain system. What is different is that Hyundai tinkered with the shift programming, inserting its new Active Shift Control. ASC monitors the engine and transmission rotations 500 times per second, and it aligns the electric motor with the rotational speeds of the engine and transmission to reduce gear shifts by 30%. ASC also ensures smoother and quicker shifts.

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Although this new tech reduces the combined horsepower by one pony from last year’s hybrid, the trade-off is a significant improvement in fuel economy. The last-gen hybrid delivered a government-estimated 41 miles per gallon in combined driving. The 2020 Sonata Hybrid improves upon that by a maximum of 12 mpg in the new Blue trim. Hyundai is keeping mum for now about exactly what the Blue trim brings to the table, but it will likely have less equipment and low-rolling resistance rubber. All this will contribute to an estimated total range of 686 miles.

Other versions won’t match the fuel numbers of Blue but are still ahead of last year’s model by 6 mpg in combined driving for 47 mpg.

If the idea of capturing the sun’s power to help charge your hybrid excites you, the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid fills the bill. Putting out 205 watts of electricity, the solar cells implanted in the roof constantly charge the 12-volt and hybrid batteries, even when the car is turned off. This minimizes the battery drain from the heating and cooling system and the infotainment systems when the car is off. It might be a small number, but Hyundai says that the solar roof will increase mileage by about 2 mpg per day. Every little bit helps, right?

Several exterior design elements also contribute to the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid’s mileage — things such as the 0.24 drag coefficient achieved by managing the airflow around the car. Active air flaps behind the grille increase aerodynamics by closing when less engine cooling is required. Other design elements — such as the front bumper lip, front and rear wheel deflectors and undercovers for the engine bay, center floor and the rear of the car — also contribute.

Hyundai promises a range of safety and driver-assist technologies supported by three radar sensors, 12 ultrasonic sensors and five cameras. The suite of features is called SmartSense. This group of advanced driver-assistance systems will include forward emergency braking, blind spot alert with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control with stop and go.

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Hyundai is also offering its available Digital Key, which allows the car to be unlocked, started and driven via a smartphone and without a physical key. Sonata’s Digital Key also allows secure sharing of virtual keys with family and friends.

We don’t know yet. Hyundai will release pricing closer to the hybrid’s on-sale date in the second quarter of 2020.

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