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Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, 2011: car review

Its lithium polymer battery technology was first showcased at the Los Angeles Auto Show three years ago. And the result is the 2011 Hyundai Sonata, the South Korean manufacturer’s first hybrid.

The Sonata Hybrid, which debuted in February, features a 2.4-liter engine with six-speed automatic transmission, a 30kw electric motor and lightweight lithium polymer batteries.

Like many of its siblings, the Sonata Hybrid had an impressive arrival. With its new sloping design and other innovations, the Sonata was among five finalists for the 2011 Green Car of the Year.

Yet, despite gaining substantial acclaim from publications ranging from the New York Times to Edmunds.com, the Sonata Hybrid’s first five months have been unheralded.

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, 2011: car review 1
Images © James Raia

Reasons are two-fold: the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt, both plug-in electric vehicles, have overshadowed the Sonata via huge advertising campaigns.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

Like other new cars, the Sonata Hybrid received its share of onlookers. The new styling, dark-blue insignia and soft light blue exterior stand out.

But driving the Sonata Hybrid provides plenty of reasons for additional attention. It’s a smooth and quiet operator.

Like the hybrid versions of the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic, the Sonata hybrid has an initial acceleration lag. But once it reaches an estimated 30 mph, in my test drives at least, its performance increases. Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, 2011: car review 2

Likes:

Superior styling, especially the innovative headlight design.

Superior gas mileage, joining the still-elite 40 mpg club.

High-resolution navigation screen clarity.

Panoramic sunroof.

Exterior color: Blue Sky Metallic. It’s handsome.

Best-in-the-industry warranty.

Dark blue exterior lettering.

Dislikes:

Slight acceleration lag.

Soft braking.

It’s good the Elantra and Sonata Hybrid both get 40 mpg in highway driving. But it’s odd the cars get the same highway mileage, specifically since the Elantra costs about $13,000 less.

Facts & Figures: 2011 Hyundai Sonata (hybrid)

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 9.0 seconds.
Airbags: Front, front side and side curtain
Antilock brakes: Standard.
First aid kit: Not available.
Fuel economy: 35 mpg (city), 40 mpg (highway).
Government Safety Ratings: Frontal crash: Driver, five stars; passenger, four stars; Side crash: Front seat, five stars; Rear seat, five stars; Rollover, five stars.
Engine: 2.4-liter, 4 cylinder, hybrid
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $25,795.00
Price as tested: $31,650.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 5 years/60,000 miles; Powertrain, 10 years/100,000 miles; Hybrid system, 10 years/100,000 miles; Corrosion, 7 years/unlimited miles; Roadside assistance, 5 years/unlimited miles.
Manufacturer’s website: www.hyundaiusa.com

What Others Say:

“This isn’t a small step forward for the South Korean company; the made-in-Alabama Sonata is a thumping bound to the front of its class.” —- New York Times.

“The Sonata Hybrid is a well thought-out, well executed, and progressive hybrid.” —- Motor Trend.

“Hyundai’s first hybrid is impressive in almost every way. I certainly wish it drove better in its thriftiest mode, which owners of competing hybrids generally use. However, in nearly every other area the hybrid version of the Sonata is just as impressive as the regular sedan is in its segment.” —- Cars.com.

What The Wife Says:

“It’s nice that Hyundai added the small rear windows for further visibility.”

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

The Hyundai Sonata hybrid is a fine automobile, another of the South Korean manufacturer’s success stories. But there’s one problem. Its biggest competition may be its smaller but equally economical and far less expensive sibling, the Elantra. The latter is likely a front-runner for end-of-the-year honors.

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