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Ranking the Best and Worst Hyundai Models for 2020

Reviewing the 2020 Hyundai Lineup

2020 Hyundai Palisade

After a recent reorganization, which saw the flagship Equus sedan spinning off and setting in motion a plan that would give birth to the separate Genesis division soon afterwards, the largest South Korean automaker is still on the path of grabbing a larger market share in the U.S. This enterprise took a hard hit in 2017 when Hyundai’s U.S. sales dropped by 13.4 percent compared to 2016 while at the same time costing the company exactly 0.5 percent of market share which dropped from 4.38 percent in 2016 to 3.86 percent in 2017 – their lowest score since 2008. Results have remained at almost the same level in 2018 when Hyundai delivered 667,634 vehicles to U.S. customers.

Hyundai’s woes aren’t exclusive to the U.S. market though as their global sales also fell from 4.85 million vehicles in 2016 to 4.2 million units in 2017, only to recuperate in 2018 when the company delivered around 4.6 million vehicles worldwide. What does this mean for the South Korean automaker going forward? How will the 2020 Hyundai lineup fare in that regard?

It’s still too early to provide an accurate answer to that question, but based on Hyundai’s 2018 sales, a different approach might be necessary.

It’s probably safe to expect the Korean car maker will somehow manage to revert its sales slump by the time 2020 is behind us. The all-new three-row Palisade SUV should prove to be a major factor in achieving that goal. At the same time, they’re expected to give their larger sedan a full makeover but, given the segment’s declining importance, it’s still uncertain how much of an improvement they can expect from the intermediate.

It’s worth noting that the Sonata is actually a major culprit behind brand’s sales decline as the mid-size sedan alone cost the Koreans almost 70,000 units and accounts for more than two-thirds of their total losses between 2016 and 2017. Comparison between 2016 and 2018 is even worse since Sonata’s sales have almost halved during those two years. Let’s now finally take a look at what the future should bring to Hyundai.

Also, consider the Hyundai’s premium 2020 Genesis lineup as an extended arm of the official Hyundai selection for MY 2020.

What’s Hot in the New 2020 Hyundai Lineup

06. 2020 Palisade

As mentioned in the intro, the South Korean automaker is finally giving us a dedicated three-row crossover/SUV nameplate which replaces the Santa Fe XL. The large mid-size SUV with room for up to eight passengers nestles atop the Hyundai lineup and challenges well-established players in the family SUV field like the Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, and Honda Pilot. It also has a stablemate in the like of Kia Telluride.

Unlike the recently redesigned Santa Fe XL it’s replacing, the all-new 2020 Hyundai Palisade offers three-row-SUV-worthy dimensions thanks to an additional 4 inches in wheelbase and 3 inches in overall length. It’s also 3.6 inches wider than the outgoing Santa Fe and 2 inches taller. Needless to say, the Palisade is able to provide much more space for both passengers and their cargo than its predecessor.

The dedicated three-row SUV also sports a highly advanced cabin with an emphasis on technology and comfort. Almost a borderline luxury SUV, the all-new Palisade comes with a standard 8-inch touchscreen display, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. The range-topping Limited models, on the other hand, get a larger 10.3-inch screen. A host of advanced safety features including an adaptive cruise control are also standard across the board.

Although overseas markets will get to choose between a sturdy V6 and a 4-cylinder turbo-diesel, the U.S.-bound Hyundai Palisades are available exclusively with the petrol option. Capable of putting up 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, the 3.8L naturally aspirated V6 provides enough power to render the 4,000-pounder enjoyable to drive.

A mandatory smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic gearbox plays its part as well, and so does a driving selection rotary dial with no less than seven unique on and off-road driving modes. Front-wheel drive is standard across the board, but every Hyundai Palisade is available with an optional all-wheel drive as well.

The tech-savvy SUV starts from $32,500, while the range-topping Ultimate trim commands a sticker slightly higher than $46,500. However, top-tier models also provide a leather upholstery, faux wood veneers, a modern 12.3-inch TFT screen cluster, front and rear cross-traffic alerts, and many more convenience and safety features.


05. 2020 Sonata

The extremely sharp decline in Sonata’s sales I’ve mentioned above had to be countered sooner or later. The South Koreans have chosen to do it later, but that’s still better than never. The all-new eighth-generation Hyundai Sonata has finally arrived as a 2020-year model and it’s more beautiful than ever.

The new car borrows a few details from the Hyundai Le Fil Rouge concept car that made its debut at the 2018 Geneva auto show. In other words, the new Sonata is dramatically sportier-looking than the outgoing model and is simultaneously much nicer to look at.

Considering how competition in the segment is becoming increasingly tougher by the day, the intermediate sedan also offers a number of new features at no extra cost. Features like the all-new 12.3-inch virtual instrument cluster, Blind Spot View Monitor, or the Remote Smart Parking Assist which allows you to guide your car in or out of parking space by using a key fob. With that in mind, expect the new, more functional Sonata to retain its starting sticker in the low $20,000 range.

The entire powertrain range has been revamped as entry-level SE and SEL models now draw power from a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine good enough for 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. An optional 1.6L turbo four from the SEL Plus and Limited trims generates 180 ponies and 195 pound-feet. Both are paired with a modern eight-speed automatic transmission.

Finally, Hyundai will also be offering a more powerful turbo four option and a hybrid model further down the line. The latter retains the same 193-net horsepower 2.0L Atkinson cycle 4-cylinder, but gets a revolutionary solar roof to help with charging the batteries. This setup is currently exclusive to overseas markets but is expected to migrate to the U.S. at a later date.


04. 2020 Santa Fe

The recently redesigned Santa Fe offers a quiet and smooth ride, an abundance of active safety gear with automated emergency braking being standard from the get-go, and a class-leading warranty.

Stylishly executed, the new Santa Fe actually carries over from where the Santa Fe Sport had left off. The Former Santa Fe had been given the XL extension, but had remained basically unchanged otherwise, while waiting for the Palisade to come in and relieve it of its duties.

The smaller Santa Fe also gets a more refined cabin than its predecessor. Despite failing to offer class-relative cargo space, it still provides more than ample room for its passengers. With sales gaining momentum, the redesign is supposed to establish the nameplate as one of the major players on the market. The base versions retail for less than $26,000, while the range-topping models with a turbocharged engine go for more than $35,000.

Speaking of engines, the Hyundai Santa Fe offers two of them. The above mentioned turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder is exclusively reserved for the two top trims respectively named SEL and Limited. It generates 235 ponies and 260 pound-feet of twist and allows the mid-size crossover to tow up to 3,500 pounds.

Most models, however, will be confined to a somewhat sluggish 2.4L naturally aspirated four with 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque. The base engine can tow up to 2,000 pounds but provides up to 25 mpg combined if fitted with a front-wheel drive.

Both engines are paired with a modern 8-speed auto transmission and can be ordered with an optional all-wheel-drive setup. Although first introduced as a 2019-year model, the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe doesn’t offer any significant changes apart from the larger XL model’s departure. The mid-range SEL trim does benefit from a number of standard driving aids which were previously only available as options.


03. 2020 Veloster N

Hot hatches might not be the epitome of performance in the U.S. as much as they are overseas, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get them. There’s a very limited selection of hot hatches here, and with the Ford Focus RS’ departure, the Koreans saw an opportunity to cash in on the segment.

Enter the Hyundai Veloster N – the performance version of the compact 3-door kammback. The Hyundai Veloster N is only the first of many upcoming N-labeled Hyundai’s that are expected to play an important role in breaking the appliance car stereotype that so-often comes as part of the Asian cars’ package. It’s also arguably the best-handling Hyundai ever thanks to its special chassis tuning.

Yet, the Veloster N doesn’t compete against the most powerful hot hatches on the market like the Honda Civic Type R for instance, but slots between them and their slightly tamer siblings. It also doesn’t cost as much, with official prices starting from under $28,000.

The Hyundai Veloster N sports a heavily tweaked 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine which develops either 250 horsepower in conventional or 275 ponies in performance form. Its torque curve peaks at 260 lb-ft in both instances, however.

Aside from raising the power output by 25 ponies, the Performance Pack also adds another $2,000 or so to the final price tag. There’s only one transmission available for the model, and unsurprisingly, it’s a 6-speed manual which routes all the available power to the front via a limited-slip differential. That might soon change as Hyundai is apparently looking into adding a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission as an option.

Although it lacks the bite and two extra doors of the class-leading Honda Civic Type R and Volkswagen Golf R, the Hyundai Veloster N undercuts the two hot hatches by a vast amount when it comes to pricing. It’s almost $10,000 cheaper in its regular form but this also means that the Korean take on hot hatches won’t offer the same level of refinement and overall cabin practicality as its more expensive opponents.


02. 2020 Kona

The affordable subcompact crossover is one of the latest offerings from the South Korean brand and has established itself as one of the best-in-class vehicles already. Moreover, the conventional lineup has been expanded with an affordable EV version of the car for model year 2020. This provides a high level of versatility to an already capable crossover with lots of perks.

The Kona is a stylish and refined model with loads of available safety features and one of the best infotainment systems in its class. It falls short in the cargo space department, however, and also isn’t exactly the most fun-to-drive car in its class.

Yet, overall, Kona is definitely worthy of consideration if you’re in need of an agile city crossover that starts from under $20,000. The range-topping Kona Ultimate doesn’t cost more than $27,000, and the new all-electric model will set you back around $37,000 before incentives.

The conventional internal combustion Kona lineup consists of two fuel-efficient inline-fours. The basic 2.0L naturally aspirated four makes only 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque which translates to sub-par acceleration and lack of power on highways. The optional 1.6L turbo four that’s reserved for top trims rectifies the base engine’s biggest issue by providing 175 ponies and 195 pound-feet of rotational force. What’s more, it does so without sacrificing fuel economy which makes the $25,000 Kona Limited with front-wheel drive (the cheapest model with the turbo engine) a best buy in our book.

The new Kona EV is able to provide up to 258 miles of range on a full charge thanks to a 64-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The total system output amounts to 201 horses and 290 lb-ft of twist thanks to a large electric motor driving the front wheels. Hyundai also offers a 36-kWh battery pack version of the car that’ll be able to provide up to 186 miles of range but that version isn’t available stateside.


01. 2020 Ioniq

The compact liftback might not be an average car buyer’s first choice which is evident by the mere 15,000 units sold in the U.S. during 2018, but it’s one of the greenest nameplates on the market and it’s become even better after the recent mid-term facelift.

The 2020 Hyundai Ioniq now sports a new mesh grille flanked by new headlights and updated fog lights. Similar changes have been executed around the back, but the overall shape remains mostly intact. Still, any change is welcome after three years on the market – especially considering its main rival, the segment-defining and award-winning Toyota Prius, has been given an extensive overhaul as well.

The Ioniq comes in hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric forms, with the latter receiving a considerable bump in overall range for model year 2020. Their prices remain in place as even the most expensive Ioniq EV won’t break the $30,000 mark.

The mentioned Ioniq EV used to offer only 124 miles of range thanks to a smallish 28-kWh battery pack. The 2020 Hyundai Ioniq EV now sports a larger 38.3-kWh battery pack which allows it to traverse up to 150 miles on a single charge.

The hybrid and plug-in hybrid Ioniqs, on the other hand, retain their powertrain specs. Their 1.6L 4-cylinder engine and electric motor generate a total of 139 horsepower. The former sports a 1.56-kWh battery pack, while the latter boasts an 8.9-kWh unit and provides up to 29 miles of electric-only range.


What’s Not in the New 2020 Hyundai Lineup

02. 2020 Tucson

The compact crossover has only recently received its mid-cycle facelift, but the fact the third-generation models stem from 2015 doesn’t go in its favor. The Hyundai Tucson competes in the toughest segment on the U.S. market where mistakes are unacceptable and any downsides are easily exploitable by numerous competitors.

Despite having less cargo space than some of its rivals, lower fuel economy scores, and lower-grade cabin materials in base trims, Tucson still passes by as a quality compact crossover with refined ride and generous warranty among its main strengths. Tucson’s sales have more than doubled compared to last years of the previous-generation models, but at around 140,000 units a year (2018 record), they’re still far from being the class leaders.

A significant improvement can’t be expected prior to an extensive overhaul that’s probably due in 2021, but an improvement is expected nevertheless. After all, the SUV craze isn’t showing any signs of stopping. The Tucson for MY 2020 retains its current price levels which range from around $23,500 to $32,000. However, it gets a whole new palette of exterior colors.

Probably the biggest issue with the third-generation Tucson is the fact two entry-level trims still use an outdated combo of a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission. The setup yields 161 hp and 150 lb-ft of rotational force and can be coupled with either factory front or optional all-wheel drive.

The remainder of the Tucson lineup uses a slightly more powerful 2.4L naturally aspirated inline-four engine which develops 181 horses and 175 pound-feet of torque. It’s also paired with a 6-speed auto.

Regardless of the engine of choice, fuel consumption remains largely unchanged. The smaller engine returns up to 26 mpg combined in front-wheel drive or up to 23 mpg combined in the all-wheel-drive setup. The larger one takes a single point penalty if fitted with front-wheel drive, whereas the remaining numbers remain the same. The next-gen Tucson will surely rectify most of the current model’s issues, but we’ll have to wait at least another year for it to arrive.


01. 2020 Elantra

The Elantra competes against a number of compact sedans and hatchbacks (Elantra GT) with better reliability, value for money, and quality. The compact car has recently undergone a mid-cycle facelift, but much like the aforementioned Tucson, dates back to the late 2015. This means it’s already beginning to show its age and falling behind the competition in some crucial segments.

For starters, its base trim is extremely barren although it starts from around $19,000, which rectifies the issue to some extent. The range-topping Sport grade costs $24,000, on the other hand. Choosing a higher-end trim level goes a long way in making the Elantra a more contemporary and better-equipped car but that still hasn’t been enough to stop the bleeding, sales-wise. The GT hatchback elevates that to another level, but also comes at a higher price which easily surpasses the $25,000 mark prior to extras.

The Hyundai Elantra GT is also an enthusiast’s choice when it comes to engines. Available either with a 161-horsepower 2.0L naturally aspirated inline-four or a 201-horsepower 1.6L turbo four, it beats everything the sedan counterpart has to throw at it. Speaking of which, the base 2.0L 4-cylinder makes only 147 ponies in sedan. The only other choice is a fuel-efficient 1.4L turbo four which cranks up inadequate 128 ponies.

Transmission choices have been completely overhauled for 2020 which is a welcome move. However, instead of a 6-speed auto, most Elantra models now get a fuel economy-oriented CVT gearbox which bumps the ratings by 2 points combined (3 highway). The only other option is now a 7-speed dual-clutch which migrated from the Eco to the Sport trim.

The Hyundai Elantra GT seems to be heading in the right direction but there’s still much more to be done before the Elantra becomes competitive as a nameplate.


About Nikola Potrebić

Despite driving a piece of junk, Nikola still manages to survive the harrowing experience called "A road trip in a Yugo," day in, day out. On the other hand, precious few things move him as muscle cars do. Especially those from the bygone golden era, which makes him wonder why wasn't he born a few decades earlier? Well, at least he's been given the opportunity to enjoy the likes of the Pontiak Aztek, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Fiat Multipla, and other lovely millennials, right? Come to think of it, I'll stick with my Yugo. Thank you very much!