Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

August 19, 2011

Bottom line: The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, as presented for use for this column, is not ready for prime time. But Hyundai’s rivals would be wise to avoid trash talk here. The LG-Hyundai lithium ion gel polymer battery beats their batteries hands down.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Ride is good. Acceleration and handling are subpar.

Head-turning quotient: Exterior design is stunningly attractive. Interior materials and fit and finish are high-quality. It would be wonderful if the car drove as well as it looks.

Body style/layout: The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is a mid-size, front-wheel-drive family sedan with a gas-electric (front gas engine) hybrid drive system.

Drive system: The standard gasoline engine is a 2.4-liter, 16-valve, in-line four-cylinder model. It works in tandem with an electric power system (lithium ion gel polymer battery pack, electric drive motor). Net horsepower is 206. Torque varies with interplay of gas and electric power systems. Power is sent to drive wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission that also can be operated manually.

Capacities: There are seats for five people. Cargo capacity is 10.7 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 17.2 gallons of regular unleaded gasoline.

Mileage: You get the real-world equivalent of 35 miles per gallon in the city and 40 on the highway. With this one, the longer you stand still in traffic jams, the more you save . . . because the gasoline engine shuts off.

Safety: Standard equipment includes front and rear ventilated disc brakes with four-wheel anti-lock protection, emergency braking assistance, electronic brake-force distribution, rigid body construction, electronic traction and stability control, and side and head air bags.

Price: The base price on the 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid sedan is $25,795. Dealer invoice price on that model is $24,383. Price as tested is $32,045, including $5,500 in options (power panoramic glass roof, onboard navigation with high-definition backup camera, iPod and iPad connectivity, and a host of other goodies) and a $750 destination charge. Dealer’s price as tested is $30,108. Check for federal tax breaks and available rebates from manufacturer. Compare with Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry hybrid sedans.

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