Hyundai Sonata Hybrid delivers on performance and helps the environment

Posted: Tuesday, September 25, 2012  By Mary Welch for The Crier

I'm as much of a tree-hugger, environmentalist as the next person -- well as long as it really doesn't affect my comfort and style of living. And, that is why I'm excited about the Hyundai 2012 Sonata Hybrid.  The Hyundai Sonata offers incredible gas relief while not sacrificing comfort, style and power.

So how does it stack up? Unless one looked at the gas gauge (which hardly moves) and the eco-verbage on the dashboard, one wouldn't know it was a hybrid. The car features all the standard comforts found in a Hyundai, including power driver seat with power lumbar support, dual automatic temperature control and rear seat vents and a terrific sound system, which includes Sirius XM. The car is roomy on the inside and sleek on the outside.

The Sonata Hybrid also delivers the highest net horsepower in its class, and, thanks to Hyundai's Blue Drive hybrid powertrain, it gets up to 35 mpg city/40 mpg highway/37 mpg combined. Its Blue Drive's advanced battery technology relies on polymer gel electrolytes instead of the usual nickel-metal hydride setup, which means that the battery is 25 percent lighter, takes up 40 percent less space, delivers 10 percent better efficiency and can maintain available power for 1.7 times longer than traditional hybrid batteries. It is the first non-plug-in hybrid and offers, what the company says, is the first lifetime battery warranty.

The car features start and stop regenerative brake technology, which means it charges the 30-kilowatt electric motor every time you put your foot on the brake. However, it also tends to give the car a jerky feel when you accelerate from a stop position. It does get better as you become more acclimated to driving the car; it's similar to the jolting starts that come with learning how to drive a standard. The real attraction of the hybrid version of the increasingly popular Sonata is its gas and environmental performance. With a combined horsepower of 206, this 2.4 liter, 4 cylinder mid-size sedan delivers. The gas mileage is terrific. After a week of driving around town, the gas meter hasn't even hit the one-quarter empty mark. Even with declining gas prices, that's a big positive. The company estimates that driving 15,000 miles at $3.70 per gallon, the estimated annual fuel cost would be $1,498 -- not bad at all.

In comparison with other hybrids, the Sonata Hybrid is slightly ahead of the Toyota Cambry Hybrid, which gets 31 miles per gallon in the city, 35 on highway, and a little behind the Ford Fusion Hybrid, which scores a 41/36 mph. It can go from 0 to 60 in 9.5 seconds, according to Hyundai. And, of course, you're helping the environment. In terms of its environmental performance, the California Air Resources Board grades it a whopping 10 on a 1-10 scale in its global warming score (the average car a gets a 5) and it receives an 8 on the smog scale (again, the average is 5). It is also a certified Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle, which again sounds -- and is -- really impressive. With a list price of $25,850, it's easy to make a great case for the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. Looks great. Acts great. Helps the environment. It's like George Clooney with four doors.

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