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 and 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 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 700 miles more than you would get without the roof. In a gasoline-powered car, that’s probably equal to two free tanks of gas per year.
That extra couple of miles is on top of some already impressive fuel economy for the size class the Sonata occupies, competing with the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord, both of which also offer hybrid models. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy estimate for the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is 45 mpg 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 mph will take approximately 8 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 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. 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 9-inch subwoofer, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
And except for $155 for carpeted floor mats and $975 for inland freight and handling, that’s it. The as-tested price of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited comes to $36,430, which 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 low fuel costs for family road trips – when we get back to those.