Can't put solar panels on your house? Well, how about your car? Better yet, just let Hyundai do it for you. You'll find them on the roof of this weeks test drive, the 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited, a stylish, fuel-efficient midsize sedan that received a fantastic redesign for the 2020 model year. It's my third time behind the wheel of the 8th-generation Sonata. This year is a carryover with no changes with the exception of the new for 2021 performance-minded N Line I recently reviewed.
The 2021 Sonata is less a sedan and more a sporty fastback thanks to its coupe-like sloping roof. My Limited model in Calypso Red sports 17-inch wheels, a wide, glossy black mesh grille and side rocker panels along with chrome trim and body tone and chrome door handles. The Limited is equipped with LED matrix-type headlights. Graduated LED Daytime Running Lights are cleverly hidden in a chrome strip until turned on. In back, a continuous LED tail light bar stretches across the tail end and a spoiler topped with aero fins gives it a sporty look.
For me, a big story is whats on top. Two solar panels on the Limiteds roof turn the suns rays into energy. They produce 205W of electricity which Hyundai says increases mileage about 2 miles a day -- adding up to about 700 miles a year. The panels also help recharge the battery and prevent battery discharge when the car is off. But you do give up a sunroof for the feature.
The Sonata's modern and tech-forward two-tone interior impresses but seems geared more towards a younger driver, as opposed to say the 2020 Toyota Camry XLE that my 75+ something parents own. The cabin features a leatherette dash and leather-trimmed seats that are on the firmer, sportier side. The driver's side is 8-way power with power lumbar, the passenger seat is 4-way power. A leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel with paddle shifters houses easy to use controls for voice command, safety and infotainment features.
The center stack houses large dials for dual zone climate and switches for the heated/ventilated seats. A slim glossy black console houses your cup holders, push-button gear selector, as well as controls for your drive modes, auto brake hold, parking sensors and 360 camera.
Rear seat passengers have their own A/C vents, center armrest with cupholder and they even have manual sunshades. The rear seats fold down in a 60/40 split. My model has optional $169 carpeted floor mats.
The hands-free smart trunk release opens to 16 cubic-feet of cargo space, plenty spacious for my pet supplies.
Technology shines in the Sonata. A fully digital driver gauge display animates and changes colors when you switch between drive modes. Blind Spot Monitor cameras will also display within the gauges, which is a really terrific feature.
A 10.25-inch multimedia touchscreen is all-around impressive as its quite responsive when you swipe between screens. Voice Command is excellent, so too, is navigation/mapping. The backup camera resolution is also a standout feature and that goes for its 360-degree camera view as well. The 10.25-inch setup includes a really superb 12-speaker Bose stereo system.
A feature called Sounds of Nature pipes in certain sounds in the cabin, ranging from beach waves, a rainy day and lively forest to a wintry day and even an outdoor cafe.
Connectivity tech includes dual USB ports and wireless charging. You can start the engine remotely using the key fob.
The Sonata hybrid no longer offers the most horsepower in the Sonata lineup. That honor now goes to the sporty new 290-horsepower N Line model. The Limited hybrid delivers 192-horses that feels like more, thanks to the hybrid system electric motor paired to a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. A six-speed transmission comes with paddle shifters and offers four drive modes: Custom, Eco, Smart and my favorite, Sport mode, which sharpens responses.
Ride and Drive
The Sonata is one of the more engaging rides in its class with a sportier ride and drive. Im most impressed with the hybrid models off-the-line acceleration, especially in Sport mode using the paddle shifters. Its suspension is on the overall stiffer side, but I have to say it handled potholes quite smoothly. Steering is responsive but not super tight and the Sonata is certainly easy to drive and maneuver. As I noted in my 2020 review, the cabin was a bit noisy during highway driving.
The Sonata comes with great standard safety tech that includes Blind Spot Collision Avoidance, Forward Collision-Avoidance with Pedestrian Detection, Parking Collision Avoidance. Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Follow Assist, Rear Occupant Alert, Driver Attention Warning, and Smart Cruise Control with stop and go. I also love the automatic shut off feature.
The Limited is also equipped with semi-autonomous Highway Driver Assist, Blind Spot View Monitor, a Color Head-Up Display and rear parking sensors.
The Sonata Hybrid Limited is a modern, tech forward sedan geared towards a younger midsize sedan buyer with a focus on sportiness and technology, including a solar roof. It's well-equipped for its $36,464 price point. I'd love to see Hyundai add optional all-wheel drive to the lineup.
2021 Hyundai Sonata Limited Hybrid
- What I liked most: Impressive off-the-line acceleration. Bose sound system. Technology.
- What I would change: Offer it with AWD. Reduce highway cabin noise.
- MSRP: Base price, $35,300. as equipped $36,464.
- Fuel Economy: 45 city/51 highway/47 combined.
- Official Color: Calypso Red.
- FWD/AWD: Front-wheel drive.
- Odometer reading when tested: 1,959 miles.
- Weight: 3,505 3,530 lbs.
- Spare Tire: Temporary spare.
- Length-Width-Height:192.9 long/73.2 wide w/o mirrors/56.9 high.
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 13.2 gallons.
- Towing Capacity: N/A
- 2021 Hyundai Sonata Limited Hybrid: A technology standout in its class with impressive acceleration.
- Final Assembly Location: Asan, Korea.
- Warranty: 5 year/60,000 mile new vehicle limited warranty; 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain; 10-year/100,000-mile hybrid powertrain; 7-year/unlimited miles anti-perforation; 5 year/unlimited miles 24-hour roadside assistance.
- Manufacturers website: Hyundai