Motor Trend|March 2021
Updates on our long-term fleet

Arrival: 2020 Hyundai Sonata Limited 1.6T

“The new and improved Hyundai Sonata joins our long-term fleet. Will it stand the test of time?” Kelly Lin

EPA City/Hwy/Comb Fuel Econ 27/37/30 mpg

BASE PRICE $34,475 AS TESTED $34,630

The Hyundai Sonata is no longer just the value pick in its segment. Although the Accord is our overall favorite, the Sonata has a unique youthful appeal, boasting an eye-catching appearance and superior technology. Plus, its nimble handling makes it feel smaller than it is. We’ve driven multiple variants, but it’ll take further evaluation to know if the Sonata’s allure holds up over time. Is it reliable and affordable to own? Is all the fancy tech really useful? Is it comfortable on long road trips? This is what we aim to find out by the end of the year.

Our Sonata rolled into the MotorTrend garage wearing a Stormy Sea coat of paint, which looks more inviting than it sounds. Underneath its sapphire skin is an interior fitted with all the posh trimmings afforded by the Limited trim. Perched at the top of the Sonata lineup, this model comes standard with leather upholstery, heating and ventilation for the front seats, a panoramic sunroof, a 12-speaker Bose audio system, and a hands-free trunk. The cabin looks fresher than rivals thanks to its crisp 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and wide 10.3-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and navigation. This wide central screen responds quickly to touch, though the controls can be a little bit far from the driver’s reach.

To make driving easier, the Sonata Limited comes with adaptive cruise control that works even in stop-and-go traffic. The much-publicized “smart park” feature allows the car to park itself without the driver needing to be inside the vehicle. If you choose to DIY, the Sonata’s 360-degree camera provides an aerial view of your car pulling into a parking space.

Thanks to its interior materials and technologies, the Sonata feels like a luxury car compared to my previous long-term vehicle, the 2019 Toyota RAV4 XLE. And it’s only about $3,000 more expensive. With the aforementioned standard features, plus an extra $155 for carpeted floor mats, our Sonata rings out to $34,630. For what it’s worth, a loaded 2021 Accord will cost you $37,655.

SPECS VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan

ENGINE 1.6L/180-hp/195-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4

TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic

CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,316 lb (60/40%) 0-60

MPH 7.4 sec

ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 125/91 kWh/100 miles

CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.63 lb/mile

Under the hood, our Sonata packs the upgraded 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder mill. Making 180 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, it has less horsepower but more torque than the base engine. We’ll dive into its track performance to find out how it compares to rivals, but we already know this isn’t the car for speed fiends. More importantly, it accelerates smoothly from a stop, and we’ve had no problems merging or passing other vehicles. The EPA rates this engine at an adequate 27/36/31 mpg city/highway/combined. We’ll soon conduct our own test to discover Sonata’s real-world fuel economy performance.

How has our blue chariot treated us so far? On a COVIDconscious trip to Las Vegas, we enjoyed its smooth ride and a quiet cabin. More and more, we’re discovering that convenience features and tech are what will truly make or break your long-distance drive.

Fortunately, the Bose system provides crisp audio to keep us entertained. In future updates, we’ll explore how the smart cruise control system, though far from perfect, alleviates the stress of driving.

2020 Subaru Outback

Service life: 5 mo/5,398 miles Average Fuel Econ: 21.6 mpg

“We set out with a rooftop tent do Outbacky things. How did it go?” Carol Ngo

Avg CO2 0.90 lb/mi Energy cons 153 kWh/100 mi Unresolved problems None Maintenance cost $0 Normal wear cost $0 Base price $35,905 As tested $37,995 EPA City/Hwy/Comb Fuel Econ 23/30/26 mpg Real MPG 24.5 mpg comb

Overlanding is all the rage right now, and what better way to social distance ourselves than to leave the city for some weekend car camping?

We reached out to our friends over at Thule to see about testing their rooftop tents on our longterm Outback. They sent us the Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3 ($1,700), which seemed like an ideal way to do a few Outbacky things.

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