Tom Crosby: Hyundai Sonata Hybrid impresses with price, luxury, mileage

Tom Crosby

The 2016 Hyundai Sonata hybrid is a continuation of the Korean automaker’s 2015 seventh-generation makeover of its premier gas-only flagship sedan.

Now the 2016 hybrid incorporates those features with excellent mileage (we averaged 40 mpg in combined city/highway driving) and a highly touted Hyundai Blue Link telematics system that can search out gas prices at nearby stations. The combination preserves the wallet with a base price just over $30,000.

Our test-drive Limited (there is also a less expensive hybrid SE and more expensive plug-in) added a highly recommended $4,500 Ultimate Package bundling state-of-the art safety functions with navigation and information/convenience features.

The safety list: adaptive cruise control, rear camera assist, lane departure warning, automatic high beam assist, forward collision warning. The rest: panoramic sunroof, navigation on 8-inch dashboard screen, upgraded audio and a Sirius Travel Link for access to real time weather, traffic, stock and sports features.

A one-year Blue Link trial includes real time maintenance needs, automatic crash notification, a help button, driver monitoring (great for keeping in touch with a teen’s first driving forays) and voice recognition.

Outside, the look is European-style sleek with a rising beltline and subtle trunk spoiler. The hybrid rides on 17-inch aero-efficient Eco-spoke alloy wheels with low-resistance tires.

Inside, the lack of noise is soothing and the six-speed transmission flawlessly shifts battery and gas engines at any speed. The suspension system generation a smooth ride and integrated well with rack and pinion steering for precise handling in curves.

We drove mostly in Eco mode but drivers can select Normal or Sport for different driving feels. Inside, the ambiance is luxurious with generous space, as this five-seater sedan has grown bigger than its predecessor. Controls are easily reached, information screens legible even in sunlight. Voice recognition was adequate but required repetition for understanding. Comfortable front seats are heated/cooled; rear seats are heated with challenging headroom for taller occupants. Knick-knack spaces abound, the deep center console holds a coin tray and door map pockets accommodate soft drink bottles.

Drivers can receive feedback on energy use and review their driving style. Industry best cargo space expands with 60/40 fold-flat seats above a lithium-ion polymer battery pack. Tire sealant replaces a spare tire. The 2015 Sonata won top affordable, fuel-efficient and design awards and received top safety ratings in government and insurance crash tests.

BOTTOM LINE: Sonata hybrid competes in tough sedan market but gaining in sales

LIKE: Quiet, comfort, space, mileage, ride, handling DISLIKE: Rear headroom



Base price w/destination fee            $30,925 ($35,765 as tested)

Curb weight                                     3,560 lbs.

Wheelbase                                       110.4 inches

Length                                            191.1 inches

Width                                              73.4 inches

Engine specs (gas)                           2.0-liter, 4 cylinder, DOHC w/VVT

Horsepower                                     154-hp @ 5,000 rpm

Torque                                            140 lbs.-ft. @ 5,000 rpm

Electric Horsepower                         51-hp @ 0-1,770 rpm

Net Horsepower                               193-hp @6,000 rpm

Transmission                                   6-speed automatic w/SHIFTRONIC

EPA Rating                                      39 mpg city and 43 mpg highway

Range                                                      15.8-gallon tank, regular

Performance                                   0-60 just over 8 seconds

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.