2020 Chicago Auto Show: Roadshow's favorite debuts

From efficient hybrids to hot hatches, here's a look at what we liked best from the Windy City this week.

CNET Cars staff
5 min read
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It wouldn't be the Chicago Auto Show without a new photo of this globe.

Steven Pham/Roadshow

Though it might not be the hottest event in terms of vehicle debuts, the Chicago Auto Show is extremely important for consumers -- you know, the people actually buying all these new cars. That's how the Chicago expo manages to claim its "nation's largest auto show" title, and there's still plenty of big stuff on hand to keep us busy.

Come with us as we look back at the past few days and pick our favorite debuts from the 2020 Chicago Auto Show.

Read more: 2020 Chicago Auto Show full recap

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is high fashion with low fuel consumption

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2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

We're already in love with the new Sonata here at Roadshow; its styling truly elevates the segment and it has plenty of tech and character to match. Now, with the release of the new Sonata Hybrid, it has economy, too. How much economy? Try 54 mpg from the 2.0-liter four-cylinder paired with an electric motor for a combined 189 horsepower.

If that weren't enough, the Sonata Hybrid gets an extra dose of cool factor thanks to a solar roof that promises 800 miles of all-electric driving annually -- assuming you live somewhere that gets sun.

And of course the new Sonata Hybrid mixes all that with Hyundai's solid infotainment services, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support, plus a comprehensive active safety system. No word on pricing, but with more efficiency than either the or , plus better looks, expect success.

-- Tim Stevens

Kia Cadenza quietly rolls into 2020 with small updates

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2020 Kia Cadenza

I love the Kia Cadenza, even if nobody else really realizes it exists. That's a shame, because this car is comfortable, loaded with features and decently affordable, and the updates for 2020 should keep that theme alive.

The aesthetics are pretty solid in this revision. The exterior now looks more like the also-new , which is definitely a good thing. But the real meat and potatoes of the visual refresh is inside, where the dashboard picks up some cool layering and more attention to detail in terms of finishes and materials.

Pair that all with a whole bunch of safety systems and one of my favorite infotainment systems in the industry (now featuring more interesting graphics!) and the case pretty much makes itself.

-- Andrew Krok

2021 Chrysler Pacifica S gets snazzy new looks

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2021 Chrysler Pacifica

The Chrysler Pacifica has been a legitimate alternative for the crossover- and SUV-averse for a few years now, but the latest update makes it even better.

To start, there's all-wheel drive. Even though it's not available for the hybrid model, that gives the Pacifica a lot more appeal -- especially to folks in cold-weather states. There remains a massive amount of space in the cabin for kiddos, gear or whatever else you want to throw inside.

While others on the staff aren't in love with the refreshed looks, I think it looks quite good. Sure, it's a tad more anonymous looking, especially up front, but the rear is a real home run. Pile on the latest Uconnect infotainment system and these updates keep the Pacifica super competitive.

-- Sean Szymkowski

Mercedes-Benz Metris Weekender is working for the weekend

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2020 Mercedes-Benz Metris Weekender

The outdoorsy #vanlife craze is enjoying a bit of a resurgence here in the US. And while a number of upfitters will help turn your van into a veritable home on wheels, no automakers are offering this kind of treatment straight from the factory. That's where the Weekender comes in.

OK, so it's technically built by Diverge Vehicle Innovations, which is a Mercedes-Benz partner, but it's sold through the German automaker's network of dealers. It's based on the smaller Metris van -- and this blue one is making us all nostalgic for our former long-term workhorse, the Wu-Tang Van -- and comes with a number of upgrades to help you enjoy life away from home.

The Weekender can sleep four, with a 2-inch foam mattress that folds down from the roof, and a platform behind the rear bench seat that helps support it as a bed. Windows let light and air in, there's a table in the back and the front seats can swivel around to turn the van's interior into a lounge. There's even an 8-foot awning so you can set up shop outside. This thing's putting off some serious camp vibes. I love it.

-- Steven Ewing

Toyota's sexed-up Highlander XSE debuts at the Chicago Auto Show

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2020 Toyota Highlander XSE

No, it's not the most exciting thing on four wheels, but the Highlander is a capable, safe and reliable three-row crossover. For 2021, Toyota is giving this family hauler an injection of style by debuting the new XSE model.

Unique rocker-panel trim, machine-faced 20-inch wheels and chrome-plated, dual-exhaust tips add some spice to this normally sedate utility vehicle. Black window moldings, mirror caps and roof rails also give it a rather sinister look.

Nothing under this Highlander's hood has changed, which means you still get a smooth-running 3.5-liter V6 with 295 horsepower. It's paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission that routes that giddy-up to either the front or all four wheels via a Dynamic Torque Vectoring all-wheel-drive system. Where engineers did the most work is on this vehicle's chassis. Stiffer springs, different shock absorbers and retuned power steering should make it noticeably more fun to drive.

-- Craig Cole

2020 Honda Civic Type R: A little goes a long way

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2020 Honda Civic Type R

The 2020 Honda Civic Type R is extremely minor as far as facelifts go, but the hot hatch is so inherently good to drive that it didn't really need anything. Styling changes amount to slightly different front and rear bumpers, and the steering wheel and shift boot are now wrapped in Alcantara.

There's newness under the skin, though. New dampers, stiffer rear bushings and some front suspension tweaks should make the Type R even more fun to hoon, while new two-piece brake rotors with upgraded pads will help stop that hooning when it gets too intense. The shifter's throws are shorter, the front grille opening is larger for better cooling and there's a new Active Sound Control system that will hopefully make the turbo four sound better -- even if it'll be fake noise.

But mostly it's the Type R's new Boost Blue color that won me over. The nonmetallic color is so bright and vibrant, and it's set off well by the car's gloss-black and red accents. I'm a fan of the Type R's ridiculous styling, so the louder the color the better, in my view. 

-- Daniel Golson

Watch this: 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid can get up to 54 mpg highway