Hyundai’s current 2015 Hyundai Sonata sedan got a rather extensive makeover for the 2015 model year. Its exterior, interior and powertrain were basically all new, though sadly, the hybrid model was left out of the fun like the dorky kid in a schoolyard game of kickball. The analogy grows ever more convincing when looking at the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid’s odd face. It’s one only its mother could love. But that’s all changed for 2016. It’s like the dork went to summer camp and pumped iron, started fire with his bare hands, and learned how to flirt with the ladies.

The new Sonata Hybrid now enjoys all the same features that made the 2015 Sonata a fantastic car. It’s got the suave looks of a gentleman, an interior that makes luxury offerings from five years ago look like rental cars, and Hyundai’s new 2.0-liter gasoline direct-injected four-cylinder and six-speed automatic transmission that afford some Prius-like fuel economy numbers.

I recently got the chance to sample the new 2016 Sonata Hybrid for a week. It came decked out in the range-topping Limited trim with the exclusive Ultimate Package. Besides a self-driving mode or perhaps a built-in refrigerator, this car seemed to have every bell and whistle imaginable on a modern sedan.

Even with its optional equipment and hybrid drive system, its price didn’t shock the system. At $35,765 as tested, the Sonata Hybrid solidifies itself as a fuel-sipper that thinks it’s a luxury sedan.

Continue Reading for the full driven review

  • 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid - Driven
  • Year:
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
  • Transmission:
    six-speed automatic
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    193 @ 6000
  • MPG(Cty):
  • MPG(Hwy):
  • Torque @ RPM:
  • Displacement:
    2.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    7.5 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    110 mph (Est.)
  • Layout:
    front engine, FWD
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:

The Walk-Around


2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid - Driven Exterior Test drive
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2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid - Driven Exterior Test drive
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2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid - Driven Exterior Test drive
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As mentioned above, the 2016 Sonata Hybrid now sports an all-new look that matches the 2015 Sonata’s styling. The car enjoys the six-sided, chrome-laced grille, HID headlights with LED daytime running lights, and LED turn signals.

The headlights are pushed out wide on the car’s nose and flow nearly halfway to the A-pillar.

The headlights are pushed out wide on the car’s nose and flow nearly halfway to the A-pillar. The sloping hood with its nicely raised accents ties in the design. A sharp character line runs just above the door handles and intersects the top of the LED taillights. That line corresponds well to the other accent line that comes off the headlights and runs along the bottom of the window trim.

Around back, the hybrid has a different diffuser but otherwise enjoys the same looks as the conventional Sonata. Clear lenses cover the taillights and help brighten the tail. At a glance, it almost looks like chrome, matching the window accents, bright wheels, lower door trim and handles, and the Hyundai badge. Speaking of those wheels, they’re not my favorite design on the market today, but they are handsome.

As part of the Ultimate Package, my tester came fitted with the large panoramic sunroof that extends over the entire cabin. From the outside, the tint is so dark, it appears the Sonata’s roof is painted an accent black.


2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid - Driven Interior Test drive
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2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid - Driven Interior Test drive
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2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid - Driven Interior Test drive
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For the new Sonata, the outside is only a precursor of the goodness that lies on the inside. Slide into the power-operated driver’s seats with memory function and you’re instantly greeted with soft-touch materials on every surface. Wood accents bring a natural element into the sharp, angular cabin.

Slide into the power-operated driver’s seats with memory function and you’re instantly greeted with soft-touch materials on every surface.

The driver’s controls are all very intuitive and well-positioned. The steering wheel buttons control the radio and the information screen in the gauge cluster. The cluster itself offers an analog speedometer and a nifty gauge that reads the percentage of engine power being used. The same needle shows hybrid functions as well.

Both the driver and front passenger have use of the eight-inch infotainment screen, its redundant hard-key buttons down below, and the well-designed HVAC controls below that. The infotainment system features Hyundai’s intuitive software that makes short work of navigating menus and all but eliminates a learning curve for most buyers. Sadly, Hyundai’s promise of Apple CarPlay is noticeably absent. Those HVAC controls left nothing for wanting, however.

Dual zone temperature controls are matched by heated and cooled front seats. There’s also a heated steering wheel. For those times when the passenger doesn’t want air flow, a “driver only” button turns off the passenger side blower. There’s also an “Econ” mode for the A/C that allows it to run in a more efficient manner for those times when it’s not blisteringly hot outside. In my experience, however, I never felt the A/C’s performance was hindered by the Econ mode, even in Florida’s summer sun.

Rear-seat passengers also get air vents mounted in the center console. A folding center armrest and side-window sun shades round out the comfort amenities. Of course, that’s if you don’t count the heated leather seats for outboard passengers and enough legroom to rival a BMW 5 Series. And when it comes time to pick up groceries or haul some luggage, the trunk offers a decent amount of room, though it is compromised over the standard Sonata’s trunk space due to the hybrid equipment.


2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid - Driven Drivetrain Test drive
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Under the hood lies Hyundai’s new 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder with direct fuel injection and variable valve timing. The all-aluminum engine features a high 13.5:1 compression ratio and runs on regular-grade pump gas. It pumps out 154 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque, both at 5,000 rpm.

Combined, both the combustion and hybrid systems offer up to 193 horsepower.

The parallel-type hybrid system uses a lithium-ion battery rated at 1.6 kWh and an electric motor rated at 38 kW. Combined, both the combustion and hybrid systems offer up to 193 horsepower.

In practice, the Sonata Hybrid’s powertrain offers plenty of grunt for moving the 3,497-pound car. The sprint to 60 mph comes in roughly eight seconds – and what feels like a half-second faster in Sport mode. Yep, the Sonata Hybrid offers selectable drive modes. They include Eco, Normal and Sport, and the differences between the three are stark. Throttle response is the most noticeable difference, with Eco mode providing a nearly pillow-soft reaction to inputs, while Sport mode becomes sports-car sensitive.

Backing up the transversely mounted four-cylinder is a traditional six-speed automatic transmission. No CVT or complicated dual clutch here.

Obviously the main point of the Hybrid powertrain is to conserve fuel. Well, it does that quite well. The EPA rates the car at 39 mpg city, 43 mpg highway, and 41 mpg combined. My overall average came to 38.2, but achieving 40-plus mpg was very easy. I chalk my somewhat low overall average up to spurts of Sport mode driving and excessive idling during photo shoots.

Driving Impressions

2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid - Driven Exterior Test drive
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Behind the wheel, the Sonata Hybrid behaves like a proper sedan. The steering is tight but not too heavy and its on-center feel is spot-on. When in Eco mode, the throttle is linear and pushes the car smoothly forward.

It’s just a shame I lacked the time to pursue a cross-country adventure.

The brakes are some of the best regenerative stoppers I’ve sampled, with a constant and linear progression. Body roll is well managed through moderate turns and brake dive is minimal. Torque steer is also well managed, though ripping away from stoplights is not this car’s forte anyway.

A good driving position is easy to find thanks to the comfortable seats. Large side mirrors and an open greenhouse make for easy viewing of the outside world.

Padded armrests, heated and cooled seats, SiriusXM radio, navigation, radar cruise control, automatic headlights with high-beam assist, and blind spot monitoring made my tester perfect for a long road trip. It’s just a shame I lacked the time to pursue a cross-country adventure.


2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid - Driven Emblems and Logo Exterior Test drive
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Hyundai still maintains its value-driven sales proposition and that clearly shows through on my loaded-out tester. My Limited trim level came packed with the Ultimate Package option, which checked nearly every option box conceivable.

Though a standard Sonata Hybrid can be had for under $27,000, my Limited trim level tipped the scales at $30,100. Then the Ultimate Package added $4,500 to the price and a long, long list of features that included the panoramic sunroof; Lane Departure Warning; Forward Collision Warning; Auto High Beam; Rear Parking Assist; Smart Cruise Control system; Electronic Parking Brake; Navigation on the eight-inch touchscreen; Infinity 400-watt sound system; SiriusXM and HD Radio; and LED turn signals.

A few odds and ends like carpeted floor mats, a first aid kit, and wheel locks – along with the $825 destination charge – pushed the MSRP to $35,765. That’s not a bad deal at all for a large sedan that gets 43 mpg on the highway and comes with far more equipment than a similarly priced luxury car.


2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid

2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid High Resolution Exterior
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The Ford Fusion Hybrid is one of the Sonata Hybrid’s closest competitors in both size and efficiency. Like the Hyundai, the Fusion Hybrid is based on its gasoline-driven, full-size sedan sibling but offers a more efficient, gasoline-electric powertrain. In the Ford’s case, it’s a 2.0-liter four-cylinder running the Atkinson cycle. Combined with its electric motor, the system puts out 188 horsepower and achieves an EPA-estimated 44 mpg city and 41 mpg highway.

Prices for the Fusion Hybrid start at $25,185 and top out around $37,800 for a comparably equipped model as my tester.

Read our full review here.

2015 Toyota Camry hybrid

2015 Toyota Camry Exterior
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It’s hard to consider any hybrid sedan to be sporty, but the Camry Hybrid is just that in comparison with the Fusion and Sonata hybrids. Packing 200 horsepower and a 7.2-second sprint to 60 mph, the Camry’s performance is a bit surprising. Power comes from its 2.5-liter four-cylinder running the Atkinson combustion cycle, and a torquey electric motor. A CVT makes power delivery smooth, though NVH starts becoming noticeable when the engine reaches higher revs thanks to the lack of gears.

Regardless, the Camry Hybrid provides a respectable 40 mpg city and 38 mpg highway. Though those aren’t the best EPA estimates, the Camry’s performance is a good trade-off.

Pricing for the Camry Hybrid starts at $26,790 and tops out in the mid $30,000 range.

Read our full review of the Camry here.


2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid - Driven Exterior Test drive
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The updates Hyundai have brought to the Sonata Hybrid for 2016 have pulled the otherwise outdated sedan into the mainstream pack. The upgraded looks, huge interior, more efficient powertrain and reasonable price make the car a strong competitor in the segment.

Though the Sonata Hybrid wasn’t designed exclusively to be a hybrid car, Hyundai has somehow turned the Sonata sedan into a fantastic example of what a gasoline-electric car should be. Skip on the Ultimate Package, and the Sonata Hybrid in Limited trim still offers plenty of tech and comfort items for $30k. That’s not bad.

Through and through, Hyundai has turned itself into an automaker worthy of respect.

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    • * Still no Apple CarPlay
    • * Reduced trunk space
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