The Car Connection Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Overview
The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is a gas-electric version of the popular family four-door, mid-size sedan. It competes with hybrid versions of the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Kia Optima, and Toyota Camry sedans.
When it arrived in 2011, the Hybrid version of Hyundai's swoopy, sixth-generation Sonata was the brand's first U.S.-sold hybrid. It was updated for the 2016 model year with the newest generation of the Sonata, launched in gasoline-only form the previous year. Updates for the 2017 model year include a larger 7-inch touchscreen display, Android Auto and Apple Carplay, and a few new colors that will become available early in 2017.
For 2016, a Hyundai Sonata Plug-In Hybrid was introduced, with extended all-electric operation that takes on the Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid and possibly both the Chevy Volt and the Toyota Prius Prime as well.
MORE: Read our 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid review
The new Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
In the new version of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid that was introduced for 2016, Hyundai adopted its latest body style, and made slight improvements to motor power and battery capacity, as well as major improvements to its control software for clutching the gasoline engine in and out. The gasoline engine changed, too, from a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder in earlier models to a 2.0-liter inline-4 with direct injection and a long list of efficiency improvements. Fuel economy ratings were up—as high as 40 mpg city, 44 mpg highway. Hyundai also, in Hybrids, moved the battery under the cargo floor to facilitate flat rear seatback folding.
Hyundai introduced a new 2016 Sonata Plug-In Hybrid that offered a much larger 9.8-kwh battery pack, a somewhat stronger motor system, and 27 miles of electric-only operation—as well as a "Battery Charge" mode that makes it unique among mass-market PHEVs in being able to restore its battery charge while driving (at a cost of lower gas mileage during that time). Recharge times otherwise were less than three hours on Level 2 (240V) or up to nine hours on 110V (household AC).
The 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, which went on sale in July 2015, earns up to 40 mpg city, 44 highway in SE trim, or slightly lower mileage in other trims.
Hyundai Sonata Hybrid history
When first introduced, the Sonata Hybrid showcased an all-new lithium polymer battery pack co-developed with LG Chem. While the earlier Hybrid models provided reasonably good EPA fuel economy ratings (36 mpg city, 40 mpg highway), their drivability wasn’t as smooth or responsive as their mechanical arrangement promised.
Instead of the complex planetary-gear power-split configurations that are employed by some other mid-size hybrids like the Fusion Hybrid and Camry Hybrid, the Sonata Hybrid has a so-called Transmission Mounted Electric Device hybrid architecture that uses a motor that spins with the transmission input shaft to provide boost during moderate or quick acceleration, regenerative braking when needed, and light acceleration and electric-only operation under some situations.
Other than that, Sonata Hybrid models of this generation very closely followed their gasoline-engine counterparts. As with all models in this generation, the exterior was bold and flamboyant, although the interior was more plain. Seats weren’t quite as good as some in this class, but this Sonata was a very roomy, comfortable-riding sedan overall. There was plenty of trunk space, too, although the placement of the battery in these early models prevented flat-folding seats.