Used 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Review

Hyundai's Sonata Hybrid had been the dullard of its class, but no more. The redesigned 2016 Sonata Hybrid is better in every way than its predecessor and stands up well in comparison to its competition in all the key areas.




what's new

The 2016 Sonata Hybrid is a redesigned model with an updated and more elegant look inside and out. It features an upgraded hybrid drive system that finally makes Hyundai's hybrid a contender in the fuel economy race with a 10 percent boost in efficiency to a combined fuel economy rating of 42 mpg.

vehicle overview

Last year, we lauded the improvements Hyundai had made to its redesigned 2015 Sonata, but we were also disappointed that the company kept the hybrid version of its midsize family sedan unchanged from the 2014 model. For 2016, however, the Sonata Hybrid finally graduates to the new Sonata generation, meaning it gets the new model's stiffer platform, roomier interior, more grown-up styling and more refined driving experience. The Hybrid also gets some specific tweaks of its own this year. Put it all together and you're looking at an excellent choice for a hybrid family sedan for 2016.

The Sonata Hybrid, fully redesigned for 2016, gets improved looks, more interior and cargo room, and a better ride.

Fuel economy isn't just a big deal in the hybrid world -- it's the principal reason these cars exist. The 2016 Sonata Hybrid represents a real step up for Hyundai. Thanks to a revised powertrain, which now includes a smaller engine, a powerful electric motor and an upgraded transmission, the base Sonata Hybrid SE now boasts EPA-rated fuel efficiency of 42 mpg combined (40 city/44 highway). That's a noticeable leap from the 2015's subpar 38 mpg combined. Aero tweaks that include special alloy wheels, active air shutters behind the grille and a redesigned tail are also part of this year's changes.

Beyond the hybrid mechanicals, the hybrid is pretty much just like the regular Sonata, and that means it boasts a smooth ride, roomy interior and solid value. But if you want to look beyond the Sonata Hybrid, there are alternatives. The Honda Accord Hybrid, with its 47 mpg combined rating, tops everything else in the segment for fuel economy and is hard to beat. The Ford Fusion Hybrid is another alternative, and both the Fusion and Accord hybrids offer sportier performance than the Sonata Hybrid. Toyota's Camry Hybrid, recently rejuvenated, is a very close rival to the Sonata in terms of performance and personality and represents another great choice. Overall, though, we think the Sonata Hybrid is finally a match for the segment all-stars and worthy of your green-car consideration.




trim levels & features

The 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is offered in two trim levels, SE and Limited. The regular Sonata and the new 2016 Sonata Plug-In Hybrid are reviewed separately.

Standard equipment on the Sonata Hybrid SE includes 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition and entry, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Hyundai's Blue Link telematics and emergency communications, and a six-speaker audio system with USB and auxiliary inputs, a CD player and a 5-inch color touchscreen.

Leather upholstery and upgraded seats are part of the upgrades you get with the Sonata Hybrid Limited.

Stepping up to the Limited gets you 17-inch wheels, xenon headlights, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, leather upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, ventilated front seats, heated front and rear seats, an eight-way power driver seat, a six-way power front passenger seat, driver memory settings, wood-grain-look interior accents, rear vents for the climate control system, 60/40-split fold-down rear seats and manual rear window sunshades.

The Ultimate package for the Sonata Hybrid Limited includes added safety features (see Safety below), a panoramic sunroof, automatic high-beam headlight control, adaptive cruise control, an 8-inch touchscreen, upgraded Blue Link smartphone integration features, a navigation system and an upgraded nine-speaker Infinity sound system.



performance & mpg

Hyundai offers a single powertrain for its hybrid models, a new 2.0-liter engine mated to an electric motor. Together, they develop a peak output of 193 horsepower. Power is sent to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission and energy stored from regenerative braking is stored in a trunk-mounted lithium-ion battery pack.

The Sonata Hybrid's new powertrain helps it break the 40 mpg (combined) mark in both trim levels for the first time. The Hybrid SE is EPA-rated at 42 mpg combined (40 city/44 highway), a 10 percent increase from its predecessor, while the slightly heavier Sonata Hybrid Limited gets a 41 mpg combined rating (39 city/43 highway).

If the fuel economy numbers seem a little strange it's because the Sonata Hybrid is the only member of the hybrid family sedan class with better efficiency on the highway than in the city. That's due both to a hybrid system that uses a less powerful electric motor than the others, reducing city efficiency, and to the tall final gear ratios in Hyundai's six-speed automatic, boosting highway fuel economy. While the electric motor is powerful enough to allow the Sonata Hybrid to travel in all-electric mode at speeds up to 75 mph, Hyundai claims, the system is too small to hold that speed for more than a minute or two.

safety

Standard safety equipment on the Sonata Hybrid includes antilock brakes, stability and traction control, side curtain airbags, a driver side knee airbag, front seat side-impact airbags and a rearview camera. Hyundai's Blue Link telematics system, also standard, includes emergency assistance, automatic collision notification and remote access features. The Limited trim adds a blind-spot monitoring system. Add the Ultimate package option to the Limited and you get rear parking sensors, a lane departure warning system and a forward collision warning system.

Recognizing that some pedestrians cannot hear hybrids when they are operating in their virtually silent all-electric mode, Hyundai equipped the 2016 Sonata Hybrid with a "virtual engine sound system." It broadcasts the sound of a gas engine via front-mounted speakers when the car is operating in all-electric mode at speeds lower than 20 mph.

In government crash tests, the 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid earned five stars out of five for overall crash protection, along with five stars for both frontal-impact and side-impact protection.

driving

As befits a car designed to haul people, the 2016 Hyundai Sonata's ride is smooth on all kinds of pavement, the cabin is quiet at all speeds and the steering and suspension are set to get you there without wearing you out. It's not an exciting car to drive, but the Sonata Hybrid goes where you point it with no drama, and feels stable and secure around turns.

Quiet and smooth to drive, the 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid also returns 42 mpg according to the EPA.

We haven't yet put a stopwatch to it, but acceleration seems to be in the same range as the previous model and on par with other members of the hybrid family sedan segment. The six-speed automatic is smooth-shifting, and it could be a bonus if you find the constant engine rpm drone of CVT-equipped competitors annoying. The Hybrid's brakes feel more natural this year, too. There's still a bit of a delay in the handoff to gasoline power when a burst of speed is demanded while running under electric power, but that's certainly no reason to cross the much-improved 2016 Sonata Hybrid off your list.

interior

The 2016 Sonata Hybrid features the same interior layout introduced with the redesign of the standard Sonata in 2015. A practical, well laid-out dash and center stack replace the somewhat flashy look of the predecessor model. Materials quality and fit and finishes are excellent, and there is plenty of storage space for your personal items. The upgraded 8-inch touchscreen has crisp graphics and relatively straightforward menus, but some drivers might find it to be a bit of a stretch to reach easily. The only major change for the Hybrid is a hybrid-specific gauge cluster, which can display various hybrid system readouts and guide the driver for more efficient operation.

The new Sonata Hybrid's interior has a more conservative look, but the controls are well laid out.

As part of its redesign, the Sonata Hybrid's roominess and comfort increased substantially. The seats are supportive and nicely padded and the cabin is remarkably quiet. The passenger cabin offers plenty of front head-, shoulder and legroom and the backseat is roomy, although rear headroom is tighter than in competitors. The trunk can hold 13.3 cubic feet, which is above average for the class, and the Limited's folding rear seats provide additional cargo-carrying flexibility.

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.