2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Preview

Hyundai’s Sonata Hybrid has seen a significant response to its trendy styling, class-leading horsepower, and impressive economy, and Hyundai intends to update the car for this model year.

Unfortunately we cannot at this writing tell you anything of substance about the 2013 refresh, and neither can anyone else, as Hyundai is keeping decidedly tight lipped about it. Following will be some idea of what to expect based on what we know of the 2012 car, and assuming the 2013 will be improved in some ways, as Hyundai has said.

UPDATE: We’re leaving this in for archive purposes, but since posting, the 2013 Sonata Hybrid has been updated, and we’ve written an overview with most of the details here.

Based on the limited info we received speaking with Hyundai, we surmise much of the 2012 model will be carried forth, and it would be reasonable to assume aspects of its hybrid powertrain will be updated given public relations snafus Hyundai has faced in recent months.

In short, claims were made against Hyundai – and Kia for its Optima Hybrid – for unrealistic EPA estimates. Class action was taken against it, and Hyundai and Kia responded with humility and grace by coming clean, and setting up a fund to compensate dissatisfied drivers. The 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid’s official EPA estimate was also reduced by 1 mpg across the board to 34 mpg city, 39 highway, 36 combined.

Undoubtedly Hyundai is hoping its fully forthright attitude will put this episode behind it, and beyond that, the 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid remained a strongly competitive contender.

Its styling and six-speed automatic transmission – instead of a sometimes-criticized CVT – is meant to impart the idea that hybrids can be fun too. And indeed, the 2012’s 2.4-liter Atkinson-cycle engine merged with electric motor and 1.4-kwh lithium-polymer battery are cutting edge stuff.

The stalwart in this category, the conservatively styled Camry Hybrid makes close to the same power with its 2.5-liter engine, but relies on heavier, less-expensive nickel metal hydride batteries, and it weighs several hundred pounds more.

The Hyundai’s curb weight undercuts also that of the Ford Fusion Hybrid – which is also a handsomely executed car – and the Hyundai boasts the best power-to-weight to go along with those sporty creases and lines in its sheet metal.

In the past couple years especially, Hyundai has aggressively postured itself to try and take market share from its rivals and shown itself willing to borrow styling elements from the best out there available to be copycatted, such as cars from Mercedes-Benz.

One aspect of note in the Sonata Hybrid’s case is its radically raked windshield drawing the eye to a gracefully arched roof that gives the car a “four-door coupe” profile, a cue from European luxury sedans such as the Mercedes-Benz CLS.

The 2012’s aerodynamic profile is a honest-to-goodness wind-cutting 0.25 coefficient of drag. This is an astonishingly low figure positioning it below the 0.27 of the Camry Hybrid, and matching that of the top-selling hybrid of them all, the Prius Liftback.

Inside the 2012 car, the cockpit is sporty and purposeful as well. The quality is a couple notches above the average mid-size family car in its class, intelligently crafted from expensive looking materials and smartly laid out. Rear seating offers more than adequate headroom considering the coupe-like roof. However, the 10.7 cubic feet of trunk volume is nearly three cubic feet less than the 2012 Camry Hybrid and, unlike the Camry, the rear seat does not fold for additional cargo room.

Driving manners for the 2012 Sonata Hybrid do live up to the styling and available power. The vehicle is quiet, well-damped, with reliable road manners, predictable steering, and all around well balanced.

It can also travel in all-electric mode up to 62 mph (100 kph) and can make it in EV mode for a mile or two at lower speeds of around 40-50 mph.

In speaking with a Hyundai PR manager we were told we will be impressed with what the Korean engineers are doing to upgrade the new 2013 model and changes will be “significant,” if not specified at this time.

We would therefore advise to either seek a super bargain on a leftover 2012 – and we’re told these have been available – or wait and see what the new model holds.

No date certain was given in the development of the yet to be revealed car already well into its stated model year, and this is a bit unusual, but understandable.

We were told we might hear something by early March or April, but this is anyone’s guess.

The 2012 started at a base price of $25,850, just $50 less than the Camry Hybrid.

Hyundai’s warranty is also the best available in America. Basic coverage is 5-years/60,000-miles bumper-to-bumper and 10-years/100,000-miles powertrain. Owners also receive 24-hour roadside assistance at no extra charge for 5-years/unlimited mileage.

Given the car was already so competitive, it may be worth waiting for if you can. We shall see also whether pricing is much affected, and exactly what changes are made.

For more info on the 2012, please also read our full review.

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