2020 Hyundai Sonata. Photo: Courtesy of Hyundai

This week I'm driving the 2020 Hyundai Sonata, a car that purports to park itself.

Reality check: The heavily advertised "Smaht Pahk" feature has limited capability. Sure, it can pull itself head-on into a tight parking space and back out too, but that's about it.

How it works: A driver outside the vehicle uses the key fob to lock the car, hit the remote start button (although the car is already running), then hit a third button to drive forward into the parking space.

  • To pull out, it's basically the same process.
  • The driver must first align the car with the parking space; it doesn't position itself.
  • It backs out straight, too, which means users are likely blocking other cars until they get in and drive away.

For the record: Tesla's Summon self-parking feature allows users to push a button and the car will back itself out of the space and come to the driver.

My thought bubble: Hyundai's Remote Smart Parking Assist technology would be useful in an urban parking garage or at my neighborhood Kroger, where the spaces are especially tight and it's easy to get blocked in — but I don't think I'd pay a lot extra for it.

  • Luckily, the Sonata is packed with technology for a value price.
  • The entry-level SE starts at $23,400 and includes standard driver-assistance features like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and emergency-stopping assist.
  • The premium Sonata Limited, which includes the parking assist technology, costs $33,300 and also lets you use your smartphone as a digital key to unlock, start and drive the car without a physical key.

The bottom line: The sensors that enable Hyundai's driver-assistance features are already on the car. Why not put them to work as parking valets too?

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