Now in its seventh generation, Hyundai’s mid-size Sonata is without a doubt a mainstay in their family of cars. Yet when it came to offering a hybrid, as Toyota and Honda had been for some time, Hyundai was conspicuous by its absence-the world did not see a Sonata Hybrid until 2013. While everyone agreed the last generation Sonata was by far the best one yet, the Hybrid was a mixed bag. Not that it was a bad car, but fuel economy-the measure by which all hybrids are measured-just didn’t stack up well against the competition. The Sonata Hybrid is all new for 2016. Let’s see if they’ve narrowed the gap.
The Sonata line was redesigned for 2015, but we had to wait another year to see the Hybrid take a bow. The last Sonata represented a massive styling departure from the ho hum cars that preceded it. The new Sonata is an evolution of that shape, but now the car has been to finishing school and is strikingly elegant. The Sonata Hybrid received a healthy share of compliments wherever I went. A svelte shape is key for maximizing fuel economy, so specially designed wheels, active air shutters behind the grill and redesigned rear end differentiate the Hybrid from other Sonatas, and contribute to a very slippery drag coefficient of .24 cD.
Inside, the Sonata Hybrid is surprisingly luxurious. Soft surfaces abound, pleasing textures and quality materials meet everywhere you place your hands and can see. Although our car was feature packed, the Sonata is a car you can simply jump in and go with no guesswork involved for any of the controls. An airy greenhouse is further enhanced with the available panoramic moonroof. Boasting comfortable seats and an even roomier interior than the outgoing car, the Sonata is a car you and your passengers can easily spend hours in perfect comfort.
Powering the Sonata Hybrid is a 2.0L four and an electric motor good for a combined 193hp. What sets the Sonata Hybrid apart from any other hybrid out there is the choice of transmission. Where the competition universally uses a continuously variable transmission, Hyundai opted for a conventional six-speed automatic. Why is this noteworthy? Not everyone is a fan of the CVT, known for droning while holding revs when the engine is called up for more power. Want a hybrid, hate CVTs? Here’s your car.
The Sonata Hybrid won’t be confused with a sports sedan. That said, its no slouch, getting around town and merging onto highway traffic without any drama. Comfort is key here, and its delivered in spades with a creamy but controlled ride. But what about fuel economy? According to the EPA, you can expect a combined 41MPG. This is an improvement over the outgoing car, but still not as impressive as an Accord Hybrid.
The Sonata Hybrid is available in either SE or top of the line Limited. Our test car was the Limited. Its interesting to note the heavier, feature laden Limited delivers 41MPG, while the lighter SE bumps that figure up to 42MPG. Standard equipment includes HID headlights, 17″ alloys, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seat, leather interior, heated steering wheel, and SiriusXM satellite radio. Our included the Ultimate Package, which adds a panoramic sunroof, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, automatic high beam assist, rear parking assist, smart cruise control, Infinity premium audio, and LED interior lighting. Including destination, our Sonata Hybrid has an MSRP of $35,765USD, which is reasonable for a hybrid packing plenty of high-end features. If you can do without the frills of the Ultimate Package you will save yourself $4,500.
While Hyundai took its time in offering a hybrid, the Sonata Hybrid is a unique offering. Arguably one of the most dashing mid-size hybrids available, here is rolling proof you can go green and look sophisticated doing so. And with the Ultimate Package, you are enjoying features often reserved for premium vehicles. The class exclusive six-speed automatic is also a strong selling point for buyers turned off by a CVT. While fuel economy has improved, it is not class leading, but this is no reason to overlook the stylish Sonata Hybrid.