Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Road Manners: First Reviews

Before the end of this year, Hyundai will put its first hybrid on the market. As we’ve reported, the 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid represents another compelling high-mpg mid-size sedan for hybrid shoppers. The gas-electric Sonata stacks up against the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid. In fact, Automotive News today claimed, “A hybrid variant is the cost of entry in the mid-sized sedan segment these days.” We would have been shocked to see this statement even one year ago.

The most important information for those considering the Sonata hybrid is not yet available: Price. Autoweek is guessing mid-$20,000s. That matches speculation from Edmunds, which says Hyundai will try to will undercut the Toyota Camry Hybrid and offer a price of $24,900. Automobile magazine’s guess is $27,000.

The Fusion Hybrid and Sonata Hybrid both average about 39 MPG—with the Fusion getting slightly better mileage in the city, and the Sonata emphasizing highway efficiency. The Camry MPG stats are 33/34.

Hyundai predicts 5 percent to 7 percent of Sonatas sold will be hybrids, which means about 15,000 units a year. Right now, there is a capacity for 35,000 Sonata hybrids a year to supply the U.S. and Korean markets.

How Does It Drive?

There’s no confirmed price tag, but we do have new information in the form of first driving experiences by auto journalists at the Namyang Proving Ground in South Korea. Here are a few highlights:

  • Automotive News

    “Acceleration was brisk; cornering was not ponderous despite the added weight; and the switch between gasoline and battery power isn’t startling. If the goal is a seamless transition of driving styles, the Sonata Hybrid appears to have achieved it.”

  • Autoweek

    “The car felt perfectly fine by the standards of the midsize-sedan class, maybe even a touch livelier behind the wheel than the competition, though perhaps short of what engineer K. S. Lee called ‘powerful fun to drive.’”

  • Edmunds

    “The hybrid’s zest off the line was about what you’d expect, and the powertrain integrated the activity of the electric motors with the gas engine with less of the abruptness we’ve observed in other hybrids. The steering and the brakes in particular feel synthetic in the way that the regenerative brakes and electric tillers of most hybrids sometimes are, and are not as refined as they ought to be in production. To be fair, we were not driving the final product.”

  • Automobile

    “The gas/electric Hyundai provides the mechanical ebbs and tides of rpm, torque, and engine growl as the gears change. With that character, the Sonata joins the ranks of the Porsche Cayenne and the Honda CR-Z as hybrids that are enjoyable—even fun-to drive.”

The most consistent remark made by the journalists was about the Sonata Hybrid’s front grille. In an effort to make the hybrid stand out from the conventional version, Hyundai made a number of design changes. Reviewers characterize the hybrid’s hexagonal grille as “howling,” “gaping,” and “aggressive.” The hybrid also gets different tail lamps, five-spoke wheels, and a more aerodynamic design that drops the drag coefficient from .28 to .25. Unfortunately, the cargo capacity falls from 16.4 to 10.7 cubic feet to make room for the lithium ion hybrid battery pack. The Sonata Hybrid is the first production hybrid to use lithium ion, instead of the current nickel metal hydride technology.


  • guyverfanboy

    I’d like to see Hyundai release a diesel Sonata eventually too… :D

  • simon@syd

    Thats a pretty solid wack out of the cargo capacity. I was hoping a lithium battery might be smaller.

  • Charles

    The Sonata Hybrid has about the same trunk space as the Camry Hybrid. The Fusion is about 12 cubic feet, but no folding rear seat. Not sure about the Sonata’s rear seat.

  • JamesDavis

    Hyundai Sonata Hybrid… …That’s no hybrid! My 2005 Ford Mustang, when I clean my Fram Air Filter, gets 34 MPG. What the hell is the electric motor for? All hybrids should get over 100 MPG, or it shouldn’t be classified as a hybrid.

  • DownUnder

    100 MPG? It’s a long way to go. Get real.

  • Collin Burnell

    By the way, this car is Awesome! I could see 25% of a Sonata’s being Hybrids. Hyundai may have found the perfect solution… It’s the same car (reduced production costs), but it’s different (appealing, makes a statement)!

    If I decide to buy another Hybrid**, this will be at the top of my list!

    (**I think my next car will be the Ford Focus EV)

  • FamilyGuy

    When I bought my ’09 Altima Hybrid back in November ’08, I really only had a few choices for the hybrid: Altima, Camery, Civic or Prius. I’m happy that Ford has thrown the Fussion into the mix and now Hyundai is making the Sonata. Choices are good. Competition is good. My goal is to have the Altima last a total of 10 years unless something really awesome comes out. It’ll be good to know that in 8 or so years, there will be lots to choose from.

    Now, if I could just see a few more choices in what seats 6….

  • Anonymous

    Hyundai should kill the gas-engine only model and sell the hybrid for (almost) same price as the gas-engine model …

  • Luke

    Since cargo space is smaller, can you fold down the rear seats?

  • Collin Burnell

    OK JamesDavis. There is no way in (HECK) your 2005 Ford Mustang AVERAGES 34 MPG’s. Going down a hill in Neutral does not count!!! In FuelEconomy.gov the Best average MPG’s (V6, 5spd) was 23.6! Your saying you get 10MPG more? Paaleasse!!!

    :-) Just having a little fun (at your expense). Nothing personal!

  • Raj

    I want to know how many miles expected from one full charge of the batteries in normal city driving? Could the car be charged at home garage?

  • Gary Collins

    The batteries are lithium polymer, not ion.

    This will be the future standard when other manufacturers catch up.
    At least until the next technical evolution.

  • n troutt

    Agree

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