2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid at the 2010 New York Auto Show

2011sonatahybrid
  • Competes with: Ford Fusion Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid
  • Looks like: The Sonata got a major nose job
  • Drivetrain: 2.4-liter gasoline engine and 30-kW electric motor with 209 hp combined; six-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive
  • Hits dealerships: Late 2010
If the all-new Sonata’s design and highly efficient gas engine weren’t enough to signal Hyundai’s arrival as a major player on the automotive landscape, its just-announced Sonata Hybrid shouts it from the mountaintops.

The 2011 Sonata Hybrid, set to go on sale at the end of this year, combines a 2.4-liter Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder with a 30-kW electric motor for a total output of 209 horsepower, which is nominally more than the base four-cylinder Sonata’s output. Hyundai says overall gas mileage will be 37/39 mpg city/highway; that puts it ahead of the Toyota Camry Hybrid’s 33/34 mpg and just short of the Ford Fusion Hybrid’s 41/36 mpg.
 
A litany of visual changes versus the regular Sonata include a large, hexagonal front air dam, unique headlights and taillights, new side sills and the requisite hybrid badges. Hyundai will call its hybrid technology Hybrid Blue Drive, which is a marketing parallel to Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive.

Inside, an LCD screen bounded by the gauges shows energy flow between the various drivetrain components, as well as indicators for electric mode, battery charge and gas mileage. Get the optional navigation system and it shows a more robust version of all this. It wouldn’t be complete without some hokey way of diagramming your efficiency, though: The Fusion Hybrid does this with pictographic Efficiency Leaves, and Hyundai’s answer is an Eco Level scoring system. It displays a sky that turns an earth-happy blue if you drive more efficiently. Lead-foot around too much and the sky reverts to a smoggy gray.
 
A couple mechanical details are worth pointing out. First, the Sonata Hybrid uses a conventional six-speed automatic transmission instead of the CVT-like electrically variable transmissions most competing hybrids use. This isn’t to say the Sonata Hybrid is a “mild” hybrid like the erstwhile Chevy Malibu Hybrid. Rather, like the Camry Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid, it can accelerate on electric power, engine power or a combination of the two, spokesman Dan Bedore said. Hyundai says the Sonata Hybrid can move at speeds up to 62 mph on electric power alone. That beats the Fusion Hybrid’s 47 mph top EV speed, but we suspect that, like in other hybrids, achieving such conditions requires featherweight pressure on the accelerator — and a line of peeved drivers behind you.
 
Second, the Sonata Hybrid uses a lithium-polymer battery that’s 40 percent smaller and 10 percent more efficient than the nickel-metal-hydride batteries used in virtually all other hybrids, according to Hyundai. Like many hybrid batteries, Hyundai’s sits at the forward section of the trunk, and it cuts trunk volume some 35 percent. Trunk volume is 10.7 cubic feet, down from 16.4 cubic feet in the non-hybrid Sonata. That’s competitive with the Camry Hybrid; the Fusion Hybrid’s trunk is a slightly larger 11.8 cubic feet.
 
Other hybrid fare includes regenerative brakes, engine shutoff at idle and more efficient electric air conditioning. The hybrid marks the third — and presumably final — engine for the redesigned 2011 Sonata. Others include a 2.4-liter four-cylinder base engine offered at the car’s launch, as well as a turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder for drivers who want V-6-like oomph. The turbo hits dealerships about the same time as the hybrid.
 
No pricing information is available yet, but expect Hyundai to price the Sonata Hybrid competitively with the Fusion Hybrid ($27,950) and Camry Hybrid ($26,150). One advantage: Hyundai has yet to sell any hybrids, so whatever federal tax credit the Sonata Hybrid qualifies for will be long-lived. Under current legislation, any automaker can sell 60,000 hybrids before its tax credits phase out. Toyota’s hybrid credits phased out long ago; Ford’s credits will do so, as luck would have it, tomorrow.
  Headlight Front Rear Gauge Front Badge Side detail Badge Badge Taillight Headlight Interior Dash Dash
By Kelsey Mays | March 31, 2010 | Comments (7)

Comments 

Focused

OK ... A little less then expected. With the compitition being well established, and knowing what you had to beat numbers wise, I had hoped to see better mpg.

At 45/38 it would have been news, at 37/39 it's only a shoulder shrug.

It does show better design guidance for Hyundai but in order to do anything but flounder in 3rd, they will have to make it up in price.

If Hyundai can put this on the lot for say $3000 under the Fusion for shock & awe effect, and to stay well enough under when Ford rolls out some $1500 insentive, they will draw a much larger group of couriousity seekers.

Keep in mind all the new cars coming to market next year, with Hwy mpg hitting 40 without Hybrid help.

At $24,900 or lower MSRP, and with added tax credit, Hyundai’s hybrid can make them a must concider name for the first time.

If they come to market any closer to Ford's Hybrid price wise, they will not be able to pull buyers from Ford's growing brand loyalty and quility reputation.

I am such a person, I discovered my Focus in 2006 and have a hard time justifing anything but the new 2012 Focus. But if a Hybrid can prove itself, in it's launch year, and makes financial sense, i'll switch.

If i'm dropping 3-5K more to go Hybrid, thats alot of gas, and my break even would be about when the car gets paid off. Humm 37/39 *Shrugs Shoulders.

Liger

Why do hybrids always have such ugly wheels?

I want the turbo Sonata. What a sweet looking car. I have driven last generations V6 Sonata several times; the V6 always felt more potent than its ratings suggested.

Derrick G

Comparing this car's fuel economy to a Focus doesn't make a whole lot of sense. This is a mid-sized car; the Focus a compact. Yes, if you don't need the room, this doesn't make a lot of sense. But this is a family sedan. It beats any other family sedan on the highway and comes reasonably close in the city. This car will have little trouble beating Camry Hybrid and for those who need the room and/or do a lot of highway driving, it'll be more than able to compete with the Fusion.

Nic

What the heck is that? No amount of cool lighting can make up for that horrible design.

Focused

Sorry if I was unclear. I was'nt comparing mpg of my Focus to the Sonata Hybrid. In fact the 2011' Sonata SE I drove a couple hours ago has a 22/35 epa vs. my 23/31 epa. I'm just thinking of people weighing economic benifits of high mpg gas vs. hybrid.

My point, if missed, was that the mpg numbers did'nt blow me away.

I felt, with the benifit of a new system, and knowing what they had to beat, I was expecting more like 43/38.

I think the Sonata is best designed to take on the Fusion but will have to do so on price.

As gas driven Sonatas' start under 20K, a Hybrid around 25K sould be possible and paired against a 28K Fusion would move these cars well.

and Nic.. The 2011 Sonata is a very attractive car in person, I don't care for the color choice for above pics, but on the lot, Hyundai has come a long way in design and is a coin toss with the Fusion in fit & finish as well as, well thought out ammenities. You should really see one in person. :)

ermatthe

wow, in my opinion the first Hybrid to look better than the original. EVER.

I like the front end better than the regular sonata.

Mike

Nice car, I am wondering though, in cold climates, how the lithium batteries will perform. When the weather in St. Louis gets cold the lithium batteries in my cordless tools are next to useless. But when the weather isn't cold they run circles around the ni-cads and NiMhs.

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