2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid LimitedPosted on October 12th, 2015
Green car meets sport sedan
By Nina Russin
It’s rare for environmentalists and car enthusiasts to see eye-to-eye on anything. But both with find a lot to love in Hyundai’s newest Sonata Hybrid sedan: a stylish package that delivers on all fronts without compromise.
While hybrid sedans are nothing new, the Sonata is in a league of its own. Power comes from a fuel-efficient two-liter gasoline engine and electric motor with 195 combined horsepower. The sedan can run at speeds up to 75 miles-per-hour on pure electric power. Average fuel economy for our test drive was 42 miles-per-gallon: slightly higher than the EPA 41 mpg estimate.
A compact lithium polymer battery is positioned under the trunk, so unlike most hybrid sedans, cargo space is the same as for gasoline-powered models. Buyers can also opt for 60/40 split folding rear seats to extend the cargo floor for larger items.
Base price for the upscale Limited model is $30,100, excluding the $825 destination charge. Options on the test car include a panoramic sunroof, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, automatic high beam assist, , adaptive cruise control, navigation, satellite radio, high-definition radio, LED interior lamps and floor mats, bringing the final MSRP to $35,765.
Test drive in Phoenix
The test drive route included surface streets in Chandler, Arizona, a section of the I-10 freeway between Phoenix and Tucson and some surface roads through the Gila River Indian Community south of town. With seasonal monsoons in the rearview mirror, the weather was perfect for driving: warm and dry.
Although its hybrid technology is not invisible to the driver, his interface with the car is essentially identical to a traditional gasoline-powered car. Displays on the gauge cluster tell the driver when the vehicle has transitioned into pure electric mode and enable him to track real-time fuel economy.
The sedan’s appearance, while similar to that of the gasoline model, is slightly modified. Unique front and rear fascias are more aerodynamic. The hybrid sedan also features a unique front grille and wheels.
Hybrid cars have an advantage over gasoline-powered cars when it comes to performance, since the electric motors develop peak power at extremely low speeds. The Sonata Hybrid has exceptional acceleration off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging into high-speed traffic.
The Sonata’s traditional step transmission differentiates the sedan from competitive hybrid models, with crisper, more linear shifting. The driver can use a manual gear selection mode to hold onto gears for more aggressive performance.
The electric power steering system is speed sensitive, giving the driver more assist at low speeds for maneuverability with a pleasantly heavy feel at higher speeds. On-center response on the highway is positive, adding confidence during emergency evasive maneuvers.
Visibility around the exterior is quite good, thanks to standard blind spot monitoring and a rearview camera. At night, standard high-intensity discharge headlamps project long, bright beams that are closer to daylight than halogen. Daytime running lamps make the Sonata more visible to other drivers on winding canyon roads or in low light situations.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup in the rear. Stabilizer bars on both axles keep the chassis flat in the corners.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the sedan in firm, linear fashion. The Limited grade comes with 17-inch wheels as opposed to the 16-inch rims on the base hybrid model for a fatter more stable footprint at speed.
Hyundai is known for its value-driven product strategy. The premium Sonata sedan provides buyers with amenities typically associated with luxury models at a more affordable price.
Standard convenience and active safety features on the test car include heated leather seats and steering wheel, a power driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth interface, Hyundai Blue Link telematics, a rearview camera, push button start, six-inch color touchscreen center stack display, blind spot monitoring, high intensity discharge headlamps and daytime running lamps.
Hyundai’s gauge cluster displays have evolved significantly over the past few years. Former displays on blue backgrounds were difficult to read, especially after dark. The display on the new Sonata Hybrid is bright and easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions. Ditto for the center stack screen: it is properly shielded from the sun so drivers don’t have to worry about the image washing out in bright light.
We found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust, with adjustable lower lumbar and enough height variation to give smaller drivers a clear forward view. Controls for the audio system and information screens in the gauge cluster are easy to access and intuitive to figure out.
The second row easily accommodates two adults and can hold three for short trips around town. The sedan’s spacious trunk has plenty of room for luggage, groceries and small camping equipment. Cyclists will be better served with one of the automaker’s crossover vehicles that offer taller cargo bays.
The Hyundai Sonata comes with front, side, side curtain and driver’s knee airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, tire pressure monitoring, a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, high intensity discharge headlamps and daytime running lamps.
The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid received a five star crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The all-new Hyundai Sonata Hybrid sedan is on display at dealerships nationwide.
Like: A stylish, sporty sedan with exceptional fuel economy.
Dislike: Options such as adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning are only available as part of an expensive package.
Model: Sonata Hybrid sedan
Base price: $30,100
As tested: $35,765
Horsepower (gasoline engine only): 154 Hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque (gasoline engine only) 140 lbs.-ft. @ 5,000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 39/43 mpg city/highway