When you think of hybrids and electric vehicles, Hyundai is probably not the first brand that pops to the top of your mind. Yet, the last-generation Sonata Hybrid was the equal of its competitors, and if you travel to California often, you have likely seen the Tucson hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The test of Hyundai's power may be the 2016 Sonata Hybrid that's working to fortify its parent's electric credentials.
Let's just get to the stuff you care about. The mechanical portion of the car's powertrain consists of a 2.0-liter direct-injected four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission. Teeing off for the electric side are lithium polymer batteries, motors, and regenerative brakes that recapture energy during deceleration. Sport, Eco, and normal driving modes adjust the powertrain on a continuum of performance-oriented to economical motoring. All in, the system delivers 193 horsepower to the front wheels and achieves 39/43-MPG city/hwy.
Only styling details alert you to the advanced powertrain within. From the front, the Sonata Hybrid looks like other Sonatas with its Genesis-derived trapezoidal chrome grille, HID headlamps, and LED running lights. The side profile is sleek, highlighted by Sonata's trademark chrome strip running from the front fender through the length of the car. Low-rolling-resistant tires shod with flush 17" wheels to balance handling, ride quality, and fuel economy. Out back, check the subtle lip spoiler and smoked-affect LED taillamps. It all looks upscale, but with just enough flourish to tell you it's something special.
Same inside. The styling is pleasant enough with woodgrain on the dash, stitched dash covering, and large center control stack, but it could just as easily be in a Camry or Subaru. Being Hyundai, though, there's a full load of luxury features to pack in value. Heated and cooled leather seats, heated steering wheel, and booming Infinity audio system are just a start. There's also a full-length panoramic glass sunroof, push-button starting, navigation, Bluetooth phone/audio connection, and automatic climate control. Four passengers ride in full-size comfort. Baby seats couldn't be easier to install. The touchscreen takes forever to load and advance, and seats are stiff, but that's the worst of it.
Our test car was loaded with a suite of safety technology. Lane Departure Warning, Forward collision Warning, Blind Spot detection, and Rear Cross Path intervention systems were included. I almost backed into a car leaving a parking spot before the systems detected it and automatically applied the brakes. Likewise, Adaptive Cruise Control will adjust speed automatically to keep a safe distance on the highway and can bring the vehicle to a complete stop if traffic slows. No mid-size family car is better equipped.
Back under human control, the Sonata Hybrid offers a comfortable ride and handles corners as well as expected, but this isn't a car you're going to weekend autocross. Accelerating onto freeways gives little pause, even with just 193 ponies. Driven reasonably, the car performs reasonably and pinches pennnies while doing it.
The 2016 Sonata Hybrid doesn't get me all jittery with excitement, but does its job of boosting Hyundai's electric personality. Handsome styling, luxurious interior, and compact car fuel economy makes it fully competitive with the Ford Fusion Hybrid (non-plug-in), 2016 Chevy Malibu Hybrid, and VW Passat TDI diesel. Prices for the Sonata Hybrid start at $26,000, but came to $35,765 as-tested.
Be sure to check out Casey's video review of the 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and follow him on Twitter: @AutoCasey.
2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
- Five-passenger, FWD sedan
- Powertrain: Li-Polymer batteries, 2.0-liter I4 - 193hp
- Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
- Wheels f/r: 17"/17" alloy
- Brakes f/r: regen disc/disc
- Must-have features: Luxury, MPGs
- Fuel economy: 39/43-MPG city/hwy
- Assembly: Asan, Korea
- Base/as-tested price: $26,000/35,765