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Mainstream sedans with hybrid powertrains are nothing new. The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid fits right into this group, yet manages to distinguish itself from the rest.
Where other manufacturers develop complex and unique hybrid systems, Hyundai started with a modified version of the Sonata's conventional four-cylinder engine and six-speed transmission, then sandwiched an electric motor in between. Supplying electricity is a lithium-polymer battery pack that's lighter and more compact than traditional nickel-metal hydride batteries. The result is lively performance, with fuel economy numbers that, on paper at least, are pretty much equal to other midsize hybrid sedans.
Another fortunate byproduct of the Sonata's off-the-rack hybrid approach is that it costs significantly less than a number of its rivals. It still costs thousands more than a regular Sonata, however, and in testing we've found its hybrid power delivery and braking unrefined and still a work in progress.
The Sonata Hybrid is an impressive first effort, and it's about as good a reason as any to break from the crowd. But we still suggest checking out a couple other midsize hybrid sedans before you make a final decision.
Current Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
At the core of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain that features a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine producing 166 horsepower and 154 pound-feet of torque, combined with a 30kW electric motor. Together they produce a peak of 206 hp and 193 lb-ft of torque, which is sent to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control.
The EPA estimates Sonata Hybrid fuel economy at 35 mpg city/40 mpg highway and 37 combined. However, in Edmunds fuel economy testing of both the Sonata Hybrid and the mechanically similar Kia Optima Hybrid, we found that both fall a few mpg short of these estimates.
Standard equipment includes 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, keyless entry/ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, full power accessories, Bluetooth, satellite radio, BlueLink telematics and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and USB/auxiliary audio input jacks. An available Leather package adds leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The Ultimate includes the Leather package plus 17-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, a touchscreen navigation system, a rearview camera and an upgraded nine-speaker Infinity sound system with HD radio.
The Hybrid's interior is virtually identical to the regular Sonata's, save for the typical hybrid display that both monitors the gasoline-electric powertrain and coaches the driver on how to drive in a more fuel-efficient manner. Both front and rear seats offer adult-sized legroom, although there's slightly less rear headroom than normal due to the sloping rear roof line. The quiet cabin and quality materials add an upscale quality. And as with most hybrids, the powertrain's battery pack eats into the available trunk space, reducing it from 16.4 to 10.7 cubic feet.
The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid's modified six-speed automatic, in lieu of a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) common to other hybrids, gives the powertrain a familiar feel as it works its way through the gears. In low-speed driving or quickly changing traffic conditions, however, the Sonata Hybrid shudders and lurches while hunting for the correct gear. It is similarly indecisive under braking, as the transition between electronic regenerative braking (which helps recharge the battery pack) and mechanical braking is clumsy and unpredictable.
Used Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Models
The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid debuted as a 2011 model. That introductory year lacked the BlueLink telematics system, but otherwise the car has gone on unchanged.
Read the most recent 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Hyundai Sonata Hybrid page.