Range on the Roof: The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited

When you think about it, most car roofs have one of two functions---both having to do with the sun. One is to keep the sun off of you. The other is to let the sun onto you, either with a convertible roof or a sunroof.

Now, there's a third way for the roof of a car to be useful.

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid now has an available solar roof (optional on base-level Blue and mid-level SEL models, standard on Limited). It's the first of its kind available in the U.S. (the Toyota Prius prime has a solar roof available in some overseas markets, but not here).

Under optimal conditions (parked in direct sunlight), the roof recharges the batteries to allow an extra 2 miles of driving range per day, according to Hyundai. That doesn't sound like much, but over a year, it's an extra 700 miles you're not getting without the roof. In a gasoline-powered car, that's probably equal to two free tanks of gas a year.

That extra couple of miles is on top of some already impressive fuel economy for the size class the Sonata occupies, competing with Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, both of which also offer hybrid models. The EPA fuel economy estimate for the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is 45 city/51 highway. That's aided, no doubt, by the Sonata's incredibly slippery body shape.

The 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and electric motor combined make a total of 192 horsepower, which is fed to the wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. The effect is adequate, not overwhelming. A standing start to 60 miles per hour will take about eight seconds.

And while the Sonata Hybrid does have adjustable driving modes, even the "SPORT" setting doesn't deliver much of that. This is not a car that's comfortable with spirited driving on winding country roads. There are skinnier tires out there than the standard 215/55R17s, but every curve tells you that these would much rather be rolling in a straight line on a city street or freeway.

Once you and the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited are on the same page about goals, however, this can be a deeply rewarding family sedan, with room for people and things and a high level of feature content for (as is typical with Hyundai) a lower-than-expected price.

The base price of our top-of-the-line Limited model is $35,300. The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see the full list, but among the standard equipment at that price is smart cruise control, heated and ventilated leather front seats, navigation, and a 12-speaker Bose premium audio system with a nine-inch subwoofer, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

And except for $155 for carpeted floor mats and $975 inland freight and handling, that's it. The as-tested price of the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited comes to $36,430, and includes Hyundai's legendary 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty.

The bottom line is a fuel-sipper with a neat conversation-starter (the solar roof), and very low fuel costs for family roadtrips---when we get back to those.

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