Hyundai's first attempt at a hybrid version of its Sonata sedan was pretty lackluster, delivering mileage only marginally better than the regular models. The company went back to the drawing board, and the result was a much-improved vehicle.
The 2017 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid model marks the second year of the current-generation model, meaning it shares the same improved platform and roomier interior that all Sonatas received in 2015. Styling updates have made the Sonata a bit less sleek-looking but translate into a handsome car that should age well. New for 2017 are some audio, entertainment and telematics upgrades, including a new 7-inch high-resolution touchscreen standard on all models. An optional 8-inch touchscreen is still available.
The whole point of a hybrid powertrain is improved fuel economy, and the base Sonata Hybrid SE delivers an EPA-rated 42 mpg in combined driving. The gasoline engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and combined with the electric motor, the tandem produces a combined 193 horsepower. Hyundai also offers a plug-in Sonata Hybrid that is equipped with a more powerful battery and a higher-voltage electric motor. The transmission for all Sonata Hybrid models is a six-speed automatic.
The price premium for the plug-in Sonata Hybrid is considerably more than the base-model Hybrid, but that may be a worthwhile investment for buyers who have a short daily commute that could be managed on electric power only, especially if they have recharging capability at work. Also, many states offer tax credits to help take the sting out of the extra up-front cost.
Every 2017 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid has a well-designed interior and solid ergonomics. Hyundais are also known for comfortable seats, quiet cabins, and quality interior materials for the price. The Hybrid shares those traits. We should point out too that Hyundai does offer a Sonata Eco model, which has a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and a seven-speed automatic transmission that manages an EPA-rated 31 mpg combined. It's more affordable, too. But the good news is that there are multiple choices for impressive fuel mileage. Use everything on Edmunds to help locate the perfect Sonata Hybrid for you.
To create its Sonata Hybrid, 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 them. 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 along with high fuel economy numbers. Some rival hybrids offer even better mpg numbers, however, so we 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 midsize sedan is a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain that features a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine producing 159 horsepower and 154 pound-feet of torque, combined with a 35kW electric motor. Together they produce a peak of 199 hp. Power is sent to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control.
The EPA estimates Sonata Hybrid fuel economy at 38 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. Meanwhile, its competitor hybrid sedans are substantially more efficient.
The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid has two trims levels: base and Hybrid Limited. Base standard features include 16-inch alloy wheels, a rearview camera, automatic headlights, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Blue Link telematics and a sound system with a USB/iPod interface. The Limited's added perks include 17-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, leather upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a navigation system and an upgraded sound system. The Hybrid Limited also offers an optional panoramic sunroof.
The Hybrid's interior is virtually identical to the regular Sonata's, save for the typical hybrid display that 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 most rivals due to the sloping rear roof line. The quiet cabin and quality materials add an upscale quality. But as with most hybrids, the powertrain's battery pack eats into the available trunk space, reducing it from 16.4 to 12.1 cubic feet.
The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid uses a modified six-speed automatic in lieu of a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that's common to other hybrids. Some drivers may prefer this, as it provides a more familiar feel as it works its way through the gears. Many hybrids have been characterized as having unusual, less-than-smooth acceleration, but the Sonata Hybrid's less advanced hybrid system (especially the six-speed automatic transmission) makes it feel more like a regular car. The brakes, on the other hand, require more acclimation than normal for a hybrid sedan and drivers may dislike the especially unorthodox feel. We've also found the Sonata Hybrid's ride and handling to be not as sophisticated as the class-leading hybrid sedans from Ford and Honda.
Used Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Models
The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid debuted as a 2011 model. The following year brought the Blue Link telematics system. Potential buyers should note that these earlier Sonata Hybrids were prone to occasionally shuddering while accelerating at low speeds as well as having an even more clumsy, uneven braking feel.
For 2013, those issues were addressed with upgrades to the powertrain and battery pack. That year also brought a bump in trunk capacity, from 10.7 cubic feet to 12.0 cubes. Other than slight feature differences, such as lacking a rearview camera and a touchscreen audio interface, these post-'13 Sonata Hybrids are similar to today's version.