The 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is a gorgeous family sedan, with lots of room, distinctive styling, strong performance, and excellent fuel economy. Opening at an MSRP of $25,795 and returning an average 35 mpg city and 40 highway, this is one of the strongest offering for the model year in the hybrid genre.
Hyundai has made interesting technology choices, for instance pairing an advanced battery pack with a plain (but smooth) six-speed automatic transmission, but the combination works. Some reviewers have reported the Sonata Hybrid can reach 62 mph on electrical power alone. It's the perfect choice for start-and-stop city traffic with stretched of highway thrown in.
And, to make the Sonata Hybrid even more attractive, its price tag is less than the Ford Fusion Hybrid, the Toyota Camry Hybrid, and the Nissan Altima Hybrid. In a highly competitive sector of the automotive package, an automaker that was once the brunt of jokes has improved its line by leaps and bounds, with the Sonata Hybrid leading the pack.
There is only one trim, but it as a good set of standard features: a six-speaker stereo, traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes, Bluetooth, and a USB port among others. Most buyers will want to opt for the premium package to get leather seats if nothing else. For the extra money, you also pick-up heated seats front and rear, navigation, and a sun-roof.
Under the hood, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder works in tandem with a 35 kw motor to produce 209 hp and 195 lb. ft. of torque. The Sonata's battery pack is comprised of lithium polymer cells that are smaller and lighter than the "standard" nickel-metal hydride batteries in most hybrids on the road today. Because the lithium polymer cells are easier to cool, they should have a longer operation life and hold their charge more efficiently.
Reviewers have no love for regenerative braking, which is often described as "jerky" or "grabby." The Sonata Hybrid's brakes escape most of those problems, and although initially the feel is soft, drivers report getting used to it quickly. It's worth noting that some of these complaints will go away when the "new" wears off this sector, which it's doing rapidly. Hybrids will have a different drive feel, but so does a truck over a sedan. These cars are a class unto themselves, and they do have unique handling characteristics.
Most of the swooping external design decisions, while sporty and good-looking, were actually made in the name of aerodynamics. Consequently, the Sonata Hybrid has the same measure of wind resistance (coefficient of drag) as the iconic Toyota Prius. (Just as a fun touch, the tail lights light in a star burst pattern, an elegant little touch.) The interior not only looks good, it works well, with a thoughtful layout and sound attention to ergonomics. The seats are supportive, roomy, and comfortable. (Thanks to the battery back, trunk space is limited to 10.7 cubic feet.)
In government safety testing the Sonata Hybrid earns a five-star overall rating. The car has not been tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but the gas-only Sonata is a Top Safety Pick for 2011. All the standard ad comprehensive safety features are preset.
Plain and simple, Hyundai has a winner on their hands with the 2011 Sonata Hybrid. It marries style and comfort with hybrid technology for maximum fuel efficiency, offers a high safety profile, and escapes many of the handling foibles of its hybrid siblings. High value for the dollar and an all-around excellent machine.