We are no strangers to high-mileage driving. With our ownership of a Golf TDI, we have found ourselves slowly developing strategies to push that mpg reading ever higher. So with our new found love of hypermiling, we were extra excited when Hyundai gave us a chance to test out their new Sonata Hybrid.
Big changes for the 2013 year are based around improving drivability. Now, please give us a chance to explain their reasoning before you get upset, but the total horsepower has actually gone down from last year. They have cut total horsepower from the engine to drive the power band lower into the rev range. That means that maximum horsepower comes on 500 rpms earlier. The result is supposed to a more responsive throttle at the bottom end where you spend most of your time. Now while they didn’t have an older Hybrid on for a direct comparison, we can say that the new Sonata Hybrid felt peppy enough.
Our time with the car was spent on a short loop through downtown Charlottesville, VA and through a little bit of the University of Virginia college campus. We didn’t have enough time to really test real world mileage, or to see how we far we could stretch the fuel economy number, but we can at least report on how well the new car drives.
Like all good hybrids, the new Sonata is invisible in its transition from gasoline to electric power. Despite our best efforts we were never able to accurately predict when we were burning petrol or cruising on pure electron power. Of course, the car will tell you with a fancy on-screen graphics display. We found the display to be very nicely rendered and the graphics were crisp, but we still feel that with so much concerned around distracted driving, this screen is an accident waiting to happen.
Apart from the batteries in the trunk, the car feels and drives like any Sonata. The extra heft from the battery back mounted low in the chassis lowers the center of gravity and gives the Sonata Hybrid a slightly better handling balance when the going gets twisty, but the majority of drivers won’t notice.
We do wish we had enough time to really push the fuel economy of the new Hybrid, but as it stands we will hold our final judgment. We can say that we feel the new Sonata Hybrid is a very viable alternative to the Prius, but until we get some lengthy seat time there is no way to know which is going to give you the better fuel economy.
While we try to track down a longer loan with this new hybrid, why don’t you peruse this HUGE gallery of shots we took for you.