Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

September 22, 2013

Sonata's hybrid gets a big mileage boost

The Hyundai Sonata has been one of the world’s hottest cars since it was redesigned in 2009.

It’s also been widely praised in the automotive press as a symbol of Hyundai’s resurgence. This is a brand that used to be known for cheap economy cars but, after a rapid climb in the 2000s, built one of the best family sedans in the world with this new Sonata.

For the past two years, though, the Sonata lineup has had a weak link - its hybrid version.

Introduced in 2011, the Sonata Hybrid didn’t quite match the gas mileage and overall refinement of other hybrids that had been on the market longer. The 2012 Sonata Hybrid, for example, was rated for 34 mpg in the city compared to, say, 41 mpg in the Ford Fusion Hybrid.

You can tell Hyundai is trying to address these issues with some tweaks it made to the 2013 hybrid version.

It gets better gas mileage, for starters.

Hyundai changed the hybrid system so that less power comes from the gasoline engine in comparison to the electric motors, so the mileage ratings are bumped up to 36 in the city and 40 on the highway. That’s an increase of 2 mpg city and 1 mpg highway. It’s not a massive change but still noteworthy.

The bigger difference is in the hybrid system’s feel. Engineers spent a lot of time ironing out the clunkiness that hybrids sometimes have when braking and transitioning between gasoline and battery power, so it’s got a smoother feeling this year. It can also run longer on purely electric power before the engine fires up.

Aside from that, the Sonata Hybrid still has the same features that make the regular Sonata so popular and praiseworthy.

To my eyes, it’s one of the best-looking family cars for sale today. It’s sleek, modern, highly styled and visually interesting at a time when most sedans have opted for more boring and conservative bodies.

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