Hybrids have been on the market over 15 years now and today they are often overshadowed by plug-in hybrids and full electric cars. At the other end of the spectrum, regular combustion-powered vehicles have caught up with hybrids in the MPG race, with models like the Honda Civic getting a very hybrid-like 42 mpg highway rating.
Luckily there are several choices in the hybrid segment and even Hyundai has plans to take on the segment leader – the Prius later this year. Today, Hyundai offers hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of its popular Sonata midsize sedan. The 2016 Sonata Hybrid marks the introduction of the new second-generation, which is now wrapped in the Sonata’s new Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 sheetmetal. The new Sonata Hybrid now looks a bit more refined than the last model and gets unique front and rear fascias that help it slip through the wind a bit easier than the standard Sonata.
Under the hood, the Sonata Hybrid is powered by a 2.0L direct-injection engine that generates 154 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque. Combined with the electric motor, the hybrid powertrain generates a total 193 horsepower – more than the standard Sonata 2.4L. Compared to other hybrids, the Sonata Hybrid doesn’t use an efficient CVT to send the power to the front wheels, but instead uses a six-speed automatic transmission. If you choose the base Sonata Hybrid SE, you’ll be able to get up to 40 mpg in the city and 44 mpg on the highway, while the Limited trim level is slightly less fuel efficient at 39/ 43 mpg.
How does it drive? If it wasn’t for the hybrid badges, you’d probably forget that you’re driving a hybrid. The transition between the electric motor and four-cylinder is seamless as the powertrain tries to decide which motor to use to keep the Sonata Hybrid moving down the road. It also helps that the Sonata Hybrid uses a six-speed automatic rather than a CVT, so the typical whiny CVT sounds aren’t there. As with almost every hybrid on the market, the Sonata Hybrid moves away from a stop in EV mode and once the speeds pick up, the gas engine kicks on seamlessly. In older hybrids, the electric motor and battery weren’t powerful enough to power the vehicle past around 25 mph, but in the Sonata Hybrid there were times that the small EV light would illuminate at highway speeds – further improving its efficiency. At the end of my week with the Sonata Hybrid I averaged around 39 mpg, which is respectable for a sedan that weighs over 3,500 pounds.
Looking for a spacious family sedan that gets fuel economy that’s on par with a compact sedan? The Sonata Hybrid deserves to be on your shopping list. On the styling front, the Sonata Hybrid looks almost identical to the standard Sonata, which is good if you would rather not drive a awkward looking hybrid. Inside the Sonata Hybrid’s interior is spacious, with the only penalty being less cargo capacity because of the battery. At the end of the day, what does it all mean? The Sonata Hybrid is no compromise spacious midsize sedan that gets great fuel economy and at the same time is one of the most stylish hybrids on the road.