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Style, Fuel Economy Are Highlights of the 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Power Train Could Use Some Improvement


2012 Honda Sonata Hybrid

The 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid has a lot to offer in a very stylish package.

Photo: Hyundai Motor America

There are a lot of reasons to like the 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, not the least of which are its stylish exterior and its lifetime battery guarantee.

That latter point could grow in importance as automakers seek to sooth consumer fears over hybrid technology and its associated costs. Research has shown that one of the biggest stumbling blocks for consumers to make that first purchase of an electric or hybrid car is the very real concern that they don't understand the differences in care and maintenance of their potential new vehicle. There are a lot of stories floating around about the cost of battery replacement. Hyundai seems to be nipping the issue in the bud with its lifetime battery warranty available on the Sonata Hybrid.

Fuel Economy Coupled with Style

The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid has some excellent qualities to make it appear to be a strong contender in the mid-sized family hybrid sedan category. Among these are its high fuel economy, with a 35 city/40 hwy mpg rating. Safety is a primary concern for consumers shopping for a new family sedan and the Sonata gains high marks for its safety score. Coupled with a smooth ride and comfortable cabin, there is a lot to like about the Sonata Hybrid. So does this put Sonata toward the top of the short list when choosing a family sedan among hybrids? Read on to find out.

The 2012 Sonata Hybrid represents Hyundai's entrance into the hybrid sedan market and its stylish exterior and comfortable interior with optional leather package helps the Korean automaker put its best foot forward. Also optional on the 2012 model are heated front and rear seats and an auto-dimmming rearview mirror.

Roomy Interior

The interior style of the Sonata Hybrid looks very much like its conventional counterpart with straightforward controls, regardless of whether you step up to the Ultimate Option Package, which includes the touchscreen interface. One obvious difference between the Hybrid and its less green cousin is the gauge cluster, which includes displays to give assistance in green driving.

Sonata's exterior style continues on the interior, with comfortable seating and more than enough room to carry two adult passengers comfortably in the backseat, with space comparable to other vehicles in this class.

Power Train Technology

Every automaker that's serious about making a mark in the hybrid market is working hard on their hybrid power train technology. Hyundai's version utilizes a lithium-polymer battery pack that is actually lighter and more compact than the many nickel-metal hydride batteries found in many of Sonata's competitors. The electric motor has been located between the four-cylinder gasoline engine and a traditional six-speed automatic transmission. Drivers may prefer the driving experience over vehicles with a continuously variable automatic transmission.

If that were the end of the story, Sonata would be top list material. Unfortunately, for all its strong points, Hyundai's hybrid system isn't always able to meet expectations. The biggest concern is that in reality, it falls short of the promised 40 mpg highway. In addition, some drivers may not like the feel of the braking system.

The two power units combined rack up 206 hp and 193 lb.-ft. of torque. The only transmission available in the Sonata Hybrid is a six-speed automatic with manual shift control.

The Sonata Hybrid moves down the road well and handles with ease. It offers the smooth ride of a larger touring car. Accelerating is not a concern as the car pulls away with enough power to maneuver with ease. However, the Sonata doesn't measure up to the competition in situations that cause it to reduce to low speeds or alternate from low to higher speeds which causes the vehicle to lurch and sometimes shudder, seemingly as it searches for the correct gear.

Unfortunately, the same thing can happen when braking as the car moves between regenerative braking and mechanical braking. Though it is not unusual for hybrid cars to make less than smooth transitions, the Sonata seems to stumble more than its competitors. It will be interesting to see if Hyundai comes back with a 2013 model that addresses some of these quirks.

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