The 2020 Hyundai Sonata is a design stand-out. We’ve covered that. But to take away sales from segment monarchs like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, the Sonata will have to do more than stand out; it has to excel. Numbers only tell part of the story—we’ll have to wait for a full comparison test between these three to see the full picture—but they can help us anticipate each car’s strengths and weaknesses.
Size – Interior and Exterior Dimensions
One of the elements Sonata designers pushed for was a longer wheelbase, and the platform engineers made it happen. Μore space between the front and rear wheels generally means more interior space, but it also leads to a car that rides better and feels more stable at speed.
The 2020 Sonata has a 111.8-inch wheelbase. That’s 1.4 inches more than its predecessor and edges out the Camry (111.2 inches) and Accord (111.4 inches) for longest in the class—save the discontinued Ford Fusion. The Sonata is also the longest car of the three, at 192.9 inches compared to the Camry’s 192.1 inches and the Accord’s 192.2, which could make it feel less maneuverable around town.
Inside and up front, the Sonata trounces Camry and Accord with 46.1 inches of front legroom (Camry and Accord have 42.1 and 42.3 inches, respectively), but it falls short in the back row. The Honda‘s 40.4 inches of rear legroom makes it stand out—a Camry has 38.0 inches of legroom in the rear, and the new Sonata has only 34.8 inches.
In terms of headroom, the Sonata has an advantage up front (38.4 inches compared to 37.5 inches in Camry and Accord), but it’s the Camry that comes out on top in the back row. It has 38.0 inches of rear headroom compared to 37.4 in the Sonata and 37.2 in the Accord. The Sonata is at a disadvantage as a result of its sloping roofline, but packaging engineers utilized thinner foam on the rear seats to maximize vertical space.
Performance – Engine, Horsepower, Torque, and Acceleration
The examples we’re examining here all have upgraded engines over their respective base models, so you’d expect them to have similar outputs, yes? Nope.
Toyota is the last remaining automaker in the segment to offer a V-6, which, in the case of the Camry, is a 3.5-liter unit developing 301 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with an eight-speed automatic, and the last V-6 Camry we tested hit 60 mph in 5.8 seconds.
Hyundai and Honda go the turbocharged four-cylinder route, but in different ways. In the Accord Touring, you get a 2.0-liter turbo-four that’s a detuned version of the engine in a Civic Type R. For duty in the Accord, it makes 252 hp and 273 lb-ft (less power but more torque than the Camry). Working together with a 10-speed auto, the 2.0-liter helps the top-spec Accord scoot to 60 in 5.7 seconds, according to our First Test.
Hyundai made a bold choice with the new Sonata by offering an upgraded engine with similar power output to the base powerplant. The 1.6-liter turbocharged inline-four makes 10 less hp but 14 more lb-ft of torque compared to the 2.5-liter non-turbo four-cylinder in lesser Sonatas, the selling point being the turbo engine’s similar efficiency and superior power delivery, not its total output. Peak torque arrives early at 1,500 rpm (compared to 4,000 rpm with the 2.5-liter), which makes the turbo car feel much quicker around town.
Because Hyundai deemphasized the turbo engine’s peak performance figures, it’s not nearly as quick as the Honda or Toyota. The 1.6-liter makes just 180 hp and 195 lb-ft—way less than the Camry or Accord. In our Sonata prototype review, the Sonata Limited took 8.2 seconds to complete the 0-60 run, leaving it far behind the more powerful Camry and Accord. For those looking for a stronger Sonata, the upcoming Sonata N Line will make at least 275 hp.
Efficiency – MPG and Range
Let’s talk efficiency. It’s one of the strongest arguments for choosing a sedan over a comparably sized crossover or SUV, and these three examples perform pretty well. Both the Camry and Accord return 26 mpg combined, which is pretty respectable considering their power and acceleration numbers. The Camry has a larger fuel tank (15.8 gallons vs. 14.8 in the Accord) so its range is longer, at 411 miles to the Accord’s 385.
Due in part to its smaller, less powerful engine, the Sonata is the most efficient car in the group. The EPA hasn’t yet published fuel economy figures for the new Sonata, but Hyundai is estimating 31 mpg combined. We don’t know exactly how large its fuel tank will be, but based on the previous generation’s 18.5-gallon tank, the new car will have an approximate range of 574 miles. That would leave the Camry and Accord in the proverbial dust.
Buying a Hyundai has long been a value play, but does the trend continue with the new Sonata? To be candid, we don’t know yet. Hyundai has yet to release official pricing for the Sonata, but the Sonata Limited prototype we drove had an estimated price of $33,000, an increase of $900 over a comparable previous-gen example.
The Camry and Accord have been on the market for some time, so their pricing details are no secret. A Camry XLE equipped with the V-6 will run you $34,500, and an Accord Touring will set you back $36,100. Is that price delta enough to justify a stronger powerplant and quicker acceleration? We’ll have to wait and find out.