THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: Outstanding mileage for a mid-size, non all-electric sedan.
- What’s Worst: Not much.
- What’s Interesting: The first and only hybrid with a battery pack below the cargo floor so it does not compromise passenger or cargo volume.
Covering more than 600 km at 5.7L/100 km in a 2016 Hyundai Sonata is the best hybrid fuel consumption I have ever attainted.
Now that does not include all-electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf, Kia Soul EV or the extended range Chevrolet Volt.
Nevertheless, it shows what is possible in a “mild” hybrid and certainly makes owning one an increasingly attractive proposition, because this is a real world mid-size sedan, not a peanut on wheels.
My route included a 555 km round trip to my friend’s home near Strathroy, Ont.
My previous best over the same route was a 6.1L/100 km tie between a Mazda6 and a Mazda CX-3, both with the brand’s Skyactiv technology.
For the record, the route is primarily Highway 401, not crawling along in cruise, but at the flow of traffic.
When I picked up the Sonata, it was showing 6.9L/100 km, fair for a hybrid.
One of the great advantages of a mild hybrid is you can get it up to 120 km/h, and if on a flat road surface, have the engine shut off and cruise on the battery alone.
Every time you coast or use the brakes, the battery is fed regenerative power.
Combining all of these and driving strictly in “Eco” mode (more on modes below) I was able to get it down to 6.2L/100 km by the time I got to Strathroy.
On the way back, Lady Featherfoot (aka my good wife), without using cruise, got it down to 5.7L/100 km – quite an achievement.
The next day I did about 60 km more, using every trick in the book and actually saw 5.3L/100 km.
Official NRCan ratings are 5.9/5.3/5.6L/100 km city/highway combined for the Base model. The Limited (as tested) and Ultimate are 6.0/5.5/5.8L/100 km. Reason for the higher numbers are the weight of the added equipment.
How the Sonata does it is by using a 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder that replaces the 2.4-litre in the outgoing model. It is combined with a 38 kW motor inside the six-speed automatic transmission housing where it replaces the torque converter.
Hyundai calls its system Blue Drive with the engine producing 154 hp and 140 lb/ft of torque with the motor’s 51 hp and 151 lb/ft of torque there is a combined 193 hp. Hyundai does not release torque figures, but my guess is about 250-260 lb/ft.
Energy is stored in a lithium-ion battery that uses polymer construction which helps make it smaller, but more energy dense. In fact, it is 13 per cent more powerful than the outgoing model.
These factors allow it be placed fully below the cargo floor instead of behind the back seat.
This is the first time I have witnessed this. It results in a 10 per cent increase in cargo volume to 380 litres, which Hyundai claims is class leading.
It also is just about the only hybrid you can buy with a 60/40 split/fold back seat and that leads to ample rear legroom because the battery pack doesn’t cut into passenger volume.
There are two ways of seeing which way the energy is flowing by either the 4.2-inch display on the main instrument cluster or the eight-inch infotainment monitor at the top of the centre stack.
The Sonata Hybrid is also styled subtly differently to reduce the co-efficient of drag down to 0.24. One way Hyundai does this is by using special wheels with slate-like spokes to push air away from the wheel wells when moving.
The Hybrid does not scrimp on safety features, which include Electronic Stability Control, Vehicle Stability Management, Traction Control, ABS and a rearview camera also comes standard. While projector headlamps are standard on the Sonata Hybrid, powerful Bi-Xenon HID headlamps with automatic High Beam Assist (HBA) are available.
Also available are Forward Collision Warning, Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and a Lane Departure Warning System.
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A luxury car touch on the Hybrid is Hyundai’s proximity-activated automatic “Smart Trunk” opening system as standard.
I mentioned modes above and the Hybrid has “Normal” and “Sport” in addition to “Eco” that provides a power/gearing selection that covers most bases.
Luxury touches extend to an electronic parking brake with automatic vehicle hold, driver’s Integrated Memory System, heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, power front seats with four-way adjustable driver lumbar and Adaptive Cruise Control featuring stop-and-go capability are available on the Hybrid. The Sonata Hybrid Limited I drove also had the optional panoramic sunroof and rear side window sunshades.
With Lady Featherfoot in the back, the front passenger seat fully forward, the door shades in place and the panoramic roof open, she had a wonderful time reading the weekend paper cover-to-cover, while I had a wonderful time because she not commenting on my driving.
A good time was had by all!
Bottom line is the 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid combines all you expect from a “normal” mid-size sedan with the added bonus of exceptional fuel economy.
2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid at a glance
BODY STYLE: Mid-size hybrid sedan
DRIVE METHOD: front engine, front-wheel-drive, six-speed automatic transmission
ENGINE: 2.0-litre DOHC 16-valve inline four-cylinder engine (154 hp, 140 lb/ft of torque); electric motor (51 hp, 151 lb/ft); combined 193 hp, (estimated) 250-260 lb/ft
CARGO CAPACITY: 380 litres.
FUEL ECONOMY: Base, 5.9/5.3/5.6L/100 km city/highway combined; Limited (as tested) and Ultimate, 6.0/5.5/5.8L/100 km
PRICE: Base, $28,499; Limited, $30,699; Ultimate, $34,499