Used 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Review

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is a well-executed hybrid family sedan, but it lacks the regular Sonata's improvements this year, and its EPA fuel economy ratings are a bit below average.




what's new

Although the regular Sonata has been overhauled, the Sonata Hybrid carries over unchanged from last year.

vehicle overview

What if you could enjoy the space, features and safety of a family sedan along with the fuel economy of a tiny city car? That's the idea with the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. The Sonata Hybrid Limited gets the same 37-mpg-combined EPA rating as the itsy-bitsy Scion iQ runabout, yet it gives you all the luxury and peace of mind that come with a high-end Sonata sedan. Moreover, the base Sonata Hybrid is priced lower than rival hybrids from Ford, Honda and Toyota.

So what's not to like?

Well, for one thing, the hybrid is still based on the Sonata's older design. The conventional Sonata has been rejuvenated for 2015, sporting new styling inside and out, improved ride and handling characteristics and a fresh feature set. But the battery-assisted version wasn't ready in time, so 2015 turns out to be a zombie year for the Sonata Hybrid -- it's the same car as last year, carrying over the previous styling and so forth. If you don't care about having the latest and greatest, this could be a solid buying opportunity, but we'd be curious to see what 2016 has in store.

Another drawback is the Sonata Hybrid's competitive standing in terms of fuel economy. While its EPA ratings are remarkable on their own merits, the Hyundai is actually the only car in this class that gets less than 40 mpg combined. Additionally, we've had difficulty reproducing the Sonata Hybrid's EPA numbers in real-world driving. We do, however, appreciate the responsive six-speed automatic transmission, which is a welcome respite from the drone-producing continuously variable automatics (CVTs) in other hybrids.

Overall, the Sonata Hybrid is too good to count out for 2015, but the arguments against it are strong enough to give us pause. If you're shopping for a hybrid midsize sedan, you should definitely check out the 2015 Ford Fusion Hybrid and 2015 Honda Accord Hybrid. Both deliver better fuel economy and higher levels of refinement for not much more coin. There's also the new 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid, which is redesigned for 2015 with improvements that Hyundai won't be able to counter until next year.

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid still makes a lot of sense, but savvy shoppers have some mitigating factors to consider.

trim levels & features

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is offered in two trim levels: base and Limited. The regular Sonata is reviewed separately.

Standard equipment on the base Sonata Hybrid includes 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, LED running lights, foglights, LED taillights, heated mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, LED interior lighting, dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, a trip computer with a hybrid-specific status display, heated front seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with auxiliary controls, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Hyundai's Blue Link emergency communications system, a rearview camera and a six-speaker sound system with a 4.3-inch touchscreen, satellite and HD radio, iPod/USB and auxiliary audio inputs and a CD player.

The Limited steps up to 17-inch wheels, perforated-leather seating surfaces, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, an eight-way power driver seat and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

The sole option on the Limited is a Premium package that adds glossy exterior trim, a panoramic sunroof, a navigation system and a nine-speaker Infinity audio system with a 7-inch touchscreen. There are no options for the base model.

performance & mpg

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is motivated by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and an electric motor that's fed by a lithium-polymer battery pack. Peak system output is 199 horsepower, which is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. In Edmunds performance testing, a Sonata Hybrid Limited hit 60 mph in 8.4 seconds, a competitive result for a mainstream hybrid sedan.

EPA fuel economy estimates for the base Sonata Hybrid stand at 38 mpg combined (36 city/40 highway). The slightly heavier Limited drops a notch to 37 mpg combined, even though its city and highway figures are unchanged. In our real-world testing of a Sonata Hybrid, we had difficulty matching the EPA's numbers.

safety

Standard safety features on the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid include antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. Also standard is Blue Link, Hyundai's emergency communications system, which offers roadside assistance, crash response, remote door lock control and monitoring features for parents with teenage drivers (including speed limits, curfew limits and geo-fencing).

At our test track, a Sonata Hybrid Limited needed 122 feet to stop from 60 mph, an average performance for a hybrid midsize sedan.

In government crash testing, the Sonata Hybrid earned an overall rating of five out of five stars, with four stars for frontal impacts and five stars for side impacts. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the non-hybrid 2015 Hyundai Sonata its top rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. In the agency's small-overlap frontal-offset test, the 2015 Sonata received the second-highest rating of "Average." Its seat/head restraint design was rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.

driving

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid's acceleration is a pleasant surprise. A 0-60 time of over 8 seconds generally doesn't get our blood pumping, but the electric motor's instant-on torque makes the Sonata Hybrid seem stronger than the numbers suggest. Another factor is the conventional automatic transmission, which feels more responsive than the CVTs found in other hybrid sedans -- and does a better job of keeping engine noise in check under heavy acceleration. Matching the Sonata Hybrid's EPA fuel economy numbers requires a focused effort and favorable conditions, but owners should expect to get 30 mpg or better on a consistent basis, including stop-and-go city driving.

The hybrid Sonata provides an agreeable ride on most roads, and cabin noise generally stays within reasonable limits. Around turns, the Sonata feels stable and secure, though the low-rolling-resistance tires and near complete lack of steering feel conspire to keep the fun in check. If you're looking for a hybrid sedan with a sporting flavor, the Fusion or Accord will likely be a better fit.

The Sonata Hybrid's biggest dynamic drawback is its unusual brake pedal response. Most hybrids are a bit odd in this way due to their regenerative braking systems, but the Hyundai's quirks are more apparent than usual, including a small but noticeable delay between when you press the brake pedal and when you actually get the desired braking force. Still, our testing showed that the car has ample braking power for repeated hard stops, so this is more of an eccentric personality trait than a genuine concern.

interior

The 2015 Sonata Hybrid's cabin may not be Hyundai's freshest design, but it's still plenty stylish, with respectable materials quality and straightforward, intuitive controls. Both the base and Limited trims feature a touchscreen electronics interface; the Limited's is larger and crisper, however, and adds a navigation system as well. The slick-looking gauge cluster is unique to the Sonata Hybrid and includes a separate LCD display designed to promote a fuel-efficient driving style. In total, the Sonata Hybrid's dashboard has aged well, but the refreshed layout in the regular 2015 Sonata is more contemporary in both form and function.

The Sonata Hybrid's front seats are nicely shaped and well-padded for long journeys. If there's one aspect we'd change, it's the bottom cushions, which are too short to provide full thigh support for longer-legged occupants. The backseat offers plenty of space for two adults unless they're tall, in which case headroom may be inadequate. All hybrid sedans sacrifice trunk capacity due to intrusion from the battery pack, and the Sonata Hybrid is no exception, providing a modest 12.1 cubic feet. That's a 20-25 percent drop from conventional family sedans, but roughly par for the course in this class.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.