The Sonata Hybrid enters its third model year as the economy champ of Hyundai's mid-size sedan line. It's one hybrid that manages to stand out not by virtue of its efficiency -- although it's quite good -- but by power and price. The hybrid setup yields the same horsepower as the base gasoline engine and costs a few thousand less than key competitors.
How did Hyundai pull this off? Instead of developing an all-new powertrain, the automaker used parts already on hand, namely the conventional model's 2.4-liter four-cylinder and six-speed automatic transmission. The engine gets a boost from an electric motor juiced by a lightweight lithium-polymer battery pack.
The transmission has been modified for use with this system, but retains its six speeds, unlike the continuously variable units found on most hybrids. Total output is 199 horsepower, similar to Camry and a hair more than Fusion, and combined fuel economy reaches 37 mpg -- average for this class. The Sonata's transmission doesn't operate as smoothly as some, a tradeoff of using modified rather than unique mechanicals.
The rest of the car is stock Sonata, offering rather dramatic styling for this class, abundant standard features, a five-star crash rating and room for five adults. However, tall passengers might not be totally comfortable in the back as the sloping roofline cuts into headroom.
The only difference in the cabin is the addition of hybrid technology readings to the standard 4.2-inch color-display trip computer. As with all hybrids, the battery pack takes up trunk space, so there's only 10.7 cubic feet available for groceries and luggage, about what you would get in a compact sedan. The standard split-folding rear seatback is likely to get a lot of use.
All Sonatas benefit from useful standard equipment such as heated outside mirrors, a satellite radio, and Hyundai's BlueLink telematics system with turn-by-turn navigation and a speed governor for teen drivers. The Hybrid Limited receives the full luxury treatment, including leather, a sunroof and ride-biased suspension tuning.
Of particular interest to hybrid skeptics, Hyundai's outstanding warranty applies here too. All hybrid system components are covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles, and the battery pack carries a lifetime warranty.
The Sonata Hybrid features a higher level of standard equipment than the base gasoline model, which helps to justify its $5,000 price premium. All hybrids carry an automatic unlock system with push-button start, heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals, automatic headlamps, fog lights, heated front seats and dual automatic climate control. All of the usual Sonata standard features -- like SiruisXM radio, Bluetooth, and Hyundai BlueLink telematics -- are also present.
Outside, the hybrid distinguishes itself with aero-design bumpers, grille and side panels -- plus chrome trim for the door handles and lower body. To complete the look, there are 16-inch eco-spoke aluminum alloy wheels installed only on the hybrid.
Aimed at providing a near-luxury driving experience, the Limited offers a cushier ride and premium trim. Upgrades include leather seats with heat (front and back) and driver power, a 400-watt Infinity sound system with subwoofer, an HD radio, navigation with a 7-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera, an auto-dimming mirror with integrated compass, a Homelink entry system, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and special door sill plates.
The Limited also gets larger 17-inch wheels in the eco-spoke design, and gloss black door surrounds and side mirror housings. It's a comprehensive package that leaves room for only one option: a panoramic sunroof for $1,000.
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|Build & Price|
2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid$17,987 | 26,017 mi
2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid$18,996 | 24,361 mi
2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid$17,871 | 33,393 mi
2012 HYUNDAI SONATA HYBRID$17,950 | 36,850 mi
2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid$18,990 | 33,879 mi
2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid$18,995 | 32,972 mi
2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid$19,999 | 18,090 mi
2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid$21,900 | 18,843 mi
2012 HYUNDAI SONATA HYBRID$21,975 | 21,852 mi
2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid$21,000 | 25,829 mi
Better mileage, more standard equipment, higher price
Stellar reliability and quality, a bit dated and pricey
Efficient Eco version, nice price, fewer standard features
Outstanding efficiency, value-priced, one class down in size