Review: 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
At one time, we were of the thought that a hybrid, any hybrid vehicle, was only suited to around town driving along an urban drive corridor, rather than a cross country trek. Leave that to the diesels or more traditional vehicles, we said.
That was until we came across the 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. With Hyundai Hybrid styling finally catching up to the newly (2015) introduced seventh-generation Sonata, all Sonata models are on the same page.
What is it?
The 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is the updated (Fluidic Sculpture 2.0) version of the sedan that was last available in the body of the 2014 version, that was first on the scene with its “Fluidic Sculpture” design ethos. Following some revised facial and side work, (think of going to your plastic surgeon for a mild off-season tune-up) the Sonata can now boast of a drag coefficient of 0.24 Cd in the wind tunnel, which puts it right up there with the Tesla Model S for lowest Cd in the class.
The Sonata Hybrid uses the Hyundai Nu 2.0 gas direct-injection engine, which produces 154 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque. That gas-burning engine interfaces with a Transmission-Mounted Electrical Device, (TMED) which is a fancy way of saying an electric motor and clutch assembly. It joins the six-speed automatic transmission (no CVT) and manages a combined 193 horsepower.
Observant readers will discover the 2.0-liter gas engine replaces the old Theta II 2.4-liter multiport-injected four-cylinder engine. Before any power users raise a ruckus, Hyundai engineers claim the smaller engine yields more than 10-percent efficiency over the outgoing mill. The EPA says to look for 39 city/43 highway with a 41 mpg average from this powertrain.
Regenerative and hydraulic braking are part of the mix, and combine to stop the car and replenish the battery as needed. It is coupled with the new ECO-foot guide system that pauses to learn your driving style, which may range from economical, normal or aggressive, and then adjusts to how heavy your foot may really be.
The 2016 Sonata Hybrid can be had in three available trim levels ranging from the base SE model to the middle-road Limited and the high-zoot Limited / Ultimate package as ours was. That Ultimate kit includes such niceties as Smart Cruise control, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, a panoramic sunroof, navigation, and an Infinity audio system.
In addition to the standard version Hyundai Sonata, the portfolio also includes a Plug-in Hybrid Sonata (PHEV). While the standard Hybrid version will be available everywhere, the Plug-in model will initially be sold in the 10 states that have Zero Emissions legislation. They are California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Regardless of which flavor of Sonata you choose, the vehicle continues to benefit from Hyundai’s 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain and lifetime battery warranties. In some cases, it might also benefit from state and federal rebates.
What’s it up against?
Everything. The Toyota Camry Hybrid, Ford’s Fusion Hybrid, Honda’s Accord Hybrid, Chevrolet’s Malibu Hybrid, and even its corporate cousin, the Kia Optima Hybrid. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of the ranks of more traditional gas-engined versions of these same cars.
How does it look?
The new-for-2016 Hybrids include updating of the front fascia and grille area to now include moveable flaps and shutters, as well as an air curtain style of tuning of the front-end to sweep airflow outside the front wheels and over the hood for improved aerodynamics. New Hybrid-specific alloy wheels do their part to prevent wind drag from excessively-stylized rims, while a trunklid spoiler and improved rear fascia, which is an inch longer than the one found on the standard Sonata, is now part of the mix to improve downforce and trim the Sonata’s aero profile.
In addition to utilizing the Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design language found on the 2015 Sonata, the hybrid also gets to take advantage of the newer model’s unibody, which went from 21-percent to more than 50-percent use of advanced high strength steel.
And the inside?
One of the quieter vehicles on the road, the 2016 Sonata benefits from the use of acoustic glass and extra sound-deadening material to truly offer a sense of solitude at the wheel. Familiarity with the interior of the standard Sonata will put you right at home in the new Hybrid version. Some unique features exist, including driving mode switches as well as gauges that cater strictly to the hybrid system. The available navigation system now includes an eight-inch touchscreen display with an array of additional apps and Apple Siri functionality.
More accommodating front seats allowed for longer stints behind the wheel. The rear seating area offered plenty of legroom, which in turn, provided adequate accommodations for those over six feet tall.
From a cargo standpoint, the Sonata hybrid betters the competition by placing batteries where the spare tire would normally be located. Sure, there are trade-offs, such as the use of an inflator kit rather than a spare, but in turn, buyers benefit by having the ability to expand cargo space via the 60:40 split of the folding rear seatbacks.
But does it go?
An extended road trip from West Palm Beach, Florida, to Savannah, Georgia, had us not knowing what to expect from our charge. We had heard horror stories about hybrid vehicles excelling in around town driving, only to fail during extra-urban excursions. This, thankfully, was not to be one of those stories.
Tip-in from a full stop felt like it would in any other car, especially one with a conventional (full gas power) drivetrain. Zeroing out the instantaneous mileage calculator saw the rating climb to an average of 34.3 miles per gallon after the first mile or so. It’s after that time that things get interesting. Merging into traffic on I-95 had us quickly flowing along at 80 mph. At that point, we noticed the readout steadily climbing to a high of 39.3 miles per gallon. We think skirting along at 80 mph, while sipping to the tune of nearly 40 miles per gallon is pretty okay in anyone’s book. Especially for a 3,560-pounder that can tick off a zero-to-60 mph time in a touch over eight-seconds.
Ride quality in the Sonata Hybrid was also very good, even with the low-rolling resistance tires that come as standard on this vehicle. Very little noise intrusion entered the cabin except under the most extreme conditions, such as a stretch of highway being prepared for repavement. Steering was spot on, with a rather direct feel that felt better than many other electric power assisted systems. We even managed to enjoy the adaptive cruise control, letting the system handle the acceleration and braking, except when we took matters into our own hands to pass some of the left lane leeches that refused to move out of the passing lane.
Leftlane’s bottom line
No longer a novelty, the 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid shows that it is possible to own a full-sized fuel-sipper that offers the complete package of looks and efficiencies. Gone are the days when you would arrive back home after dark, just so the neighbors wouldn’t see the weirdly shaped hybrid that resided in your garage. Hyundai now joins the ranks of some other manufacturers who actually offer a hybrid you would like to be seen in.
2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid base price, $30,100. As tested, $35,765.
Includes: Ultimate Package with Panoramic sunroof, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, Auto high beam assist, Rear Parking assist, Smart Cruise Control, Electronic Parking Brake, Navigation with eight-inch display screen, Infinity Speakers with Subwoofer and 400W amplifier, HD Radio, SiriusXM Travel Link and Satellite Radio, $4,500; Carpeted Floor Mats, $125; First Aid Kit, $30; All weather floor mats, $130; Wheel Locks, $55; Destination Fee, $825.
Photos by Mark Elias.
Review: 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Reviewed by Mark Elias on July 17 The 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid merges into the mainstream. Rating: 4