Hyundai redesigned its midsize Sonata sedan for 2015, dispensing with its "Fluidic Sculpture" philosophy for a more stately look. Now Hyundai has seen fit to extend that redesign to its Sonata hybrid, which gets the new look for 2016.
Appearance: Our tester came in Seaport Mist, a hue unique to the hybrid model that Lyra likens to a sea-foam gray or maybe putty. (Peter just calls it bland.) Hyundai's "Blue Drive" and "Hybrid" badges tell you this is not your average Sonata. Besides those badges, the hybrid's front fascia is different, with front-active air flaps and a trapezoidal grille that recalls Audi. There also is an integrated spoiler and rear diffuser to help make the hybrid more aero-efficient. Otherwise, the hybrid has the 2015 Sonata's less-busy exterior lines and gently sloping roof. It's almost as if Hyundai felt it had outgrown its wild design years and is aiming for a mature look. Our tester came with 17-inch Eco-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels.
Performance: The powertrain is a 2.0-liter GDI 4-cylinder engine coupled with a 6-speed Shiftronic automatic transmission with an upgraded hybrid drive system that includes a more powerful electric motor. Combined, the system puts out 193 horsepower. (The hybrid battery comes with a lifetime warranty for the original owner.) The estimated MPG is an impressive 39 city and 43 highway. Our tester came loaded with driver-assistance features such as lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning and rear parking sensors. So how does it drive? Peter drove it to Miami and was impressed with its smooth, controlled ride, as well as how responsive the smart cruise control was in highway traffic. The motor-driven power steering also provided good feel and feedback. In short, this car is a great cruiser.
Interior: Quiet and roomy. Peter especially liked the plush, perforated leather seats on his long drive. (The driver's side is a 10-way power seat and the passenger gets 6-way power.) The controls are an intuitive mix of dials, buttons and touchscreen controls on the upgraded 8-inch navigation screen. We especially liked the vivid displays for the car's hybrid functions. Our tester had the panoramic sunroof, which was part of an option package. For a hybrid, the Sonata has a fair amount of cargo space because the battery sits below the trunk floor. The rear seats are a 60/40 split and fold down for pass-through storage.
Our 3 favorites
Comfort: My back appreciated the good lumbar support.
Ride: Overall, a smooth and composed experience.
MPG: The Sonata is the unique hybrid that gets a better estimated MPG on the highway than in the city.
Peace of mind: Lifetime hybrid battery warranty.
Less is more: Simple exterior design signifies Sonata's maturity.
Best of both worlds: Good fuel economy with all the comforts.
The bottom line: We normally don't get too excited over hybrid versions of popular midsize sedans, but we both really enjoyed our time in the Sonata Hybrid, which seems more engineered for long commutes than city driving.