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Autos

New Sonata hybrid delivers on several counts

Staff
Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 03:46 PM

So what if the midsize sedan market is packed and highly competitive? That hasn't deterred Hyundai from offering base GLS, sporty SE and luxurious limited trims of the Sonata. Not to be left behind, this year the Korean carmaker debuts with a hybrid version that touts EPA figures of 36 mpg city and 40 mpg highway. Compare those to the regular Sonata fetching 23/35 and you will be left impressed. We were.

The gas/electric hybrid is equipped with a 2.4-liter Atkinson-cycle, 4-cylinder engine developing 206 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 193 pounds-feet of torque. Two aspects make this Sonata stand out. Instead of the traditional continuous variable transmission, the car gets a 6-speed automatic. Also, out goes the usual nickel-metal hydride battery found in most hybrids to make way for a much lighter 270-volt polymer battery pack to open up trunk volume. You sacrifice nearly 6 cubic feet of trunk space, but the returns are worth it.

Coupled to the gasoline engine is a 30-watt kW electric motor, which enables the Sonata to run solely on pure electric mode at speeds up to 62 mph. During regenerative braking, the battery is recharged by the captured energy as the driver brakes or slows down. At stops, the gasoline engine shuts down for fuel savings and zero emissions. For the driver's convenience, a digital readout of the sedan's hybrid performance is located fittingly between the analog instrument gauges.

Base-priced at $25,795, the Sonata hybrid may be lacking in punch but it makes up the deficiency on several counts: ride comfort, safety, great value and fuel economy. And let us not forget bold styling, a trait missing in hybrids on the road.

SONATA HYBRID

Tires: 205/65R16

Wheelbase: 110 inches

Length: 189.8 inches

Suspension: MacPherson strut front; multilink rear

Steering: electric power steering

Fuel capacity: 17.2 gallons

Website: hyundaiusa.com/sonata

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