2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
2.4L L4 DOHC 16-valve + electric motor
206 @ 6000
195 @ 4500
5.5 / 4.6
Let’s start off by playing a game:
The work you need to think of is: HYBRID.
What did you just think of by reading that word? Green? Zero emissions? Money savings on gas?
Well, here is what I thought of that word: heavy, boring, geek engineering, sexual reputation gone..
Truth be told, if you were to buy a hybrid and wanted to preserve your status as a sexually active person that is hot and attractive on top of cool, you wouldn’t be buying an affordable hybrid like Camry, a Prius or an Insight. If you did, who would you be able to call and brag about your new purchase to? Um, no one right? It’s just not cool.
When I went to Hyundai to pick up the Sonata Hybrid, I just knew that I was going to have a dull week driving around in another boring hybrid and then I would have to waste my time writing about that experience. I even thought that disguising myself would be a good idea so I wouldn’t be seen driving a “green” car. Approaching the press lot, all the variations of the Sonata where parked right next to each other and immediately my eyes got locked on the most attractive one and I thought to myself, “damn, why didn’t I at least ask to drive the turbo one”, convinced that the one I was looking at was the fastest one. Once close enough to read the decals on the vehicles, to my surprise, the best looking one was the hybrid!
It’s very interesting that while trying to reduce the drag coefficient on the beautiful to begin with Sonata, Hyundai created a masterpiece. Beautiful cars earn my respect on the spot and that was the first point earned by the Sonata Hybrid.
The exterior is even nicer than the sportiest turbocharged Sonata, with the front massive grill and the wider body kit setting it apart. Details like LED lights all around are hints of hi-tech under the hood, but make this car look really cool. The 17” alloys are nice too. The detail I loved the most though, was the chrome line under the side doors, a very nice touch of elegance.
The catchy design continues inside, with a ‘Y’ shaped console and lots of room for the passengers. The air flow selector is the first thing you will notice. You may have seen it before on a Volvo but this implementation I must say is a lot better. The very appealing dash is covered with soft to the touch materials on the top and the finish overall is quite good. In the centre console, one will find the multifunctional screen, through which you can operate the radio, the sat-nav or get seriously distracted by the Hybrid operation interface which shows the driver what is happening under the hood in real time. The climate controls are placed right in the middle which is great for the ergonomics and finally, at the bottom, there is a great storage compartment that includes a useful double 12v outlet and USB/AUX port to connect your media. Visibility is excellent towards all directions and getting use to driving this car is a matter of minutes. In the centre, right next to your gear lever, you also get two cup holders capable if fitting cups with handles. The rear seat is wide enough to fit three adults, as long as they are not above 6 ft tall, as the roof due to the design, is quite low in the back. The biggest difference between the Hybrid and the rest of the Sonatas, is the cargo space. Due to the high tech lithium polymer batteries being placed behind the rear seats, you only get 304lt volume and no folding seats. There is at least a ski trap for loading longer items.
Under the hood, a 40bhp electric motor, complements the 166bhp Theta II 2.4lt 4-Cylinder engine. The combined power is 206bhp and 195 lb.ft of torque, but only up to 119km/h, which is the cut off point for the electric motor. All this is combined with a 6-speed automatic transmission which also supports sequential mode.
In a nutshell, how this Hybrid system works is: put your foot down and as long as you don’t push too hard the electric motor will get you going until the batteries run out of juice. Give it a boot-full and the gas motor will kick in to get you moving faster. For as long as the gas engine is running, the electric motor acts as a generator and recharges the batteries. When the batteries are low, the gas engine might run idle just to provide electric power. As usual, step on the brakes and the energy regeneration system will charge up the battery pack. In action, the transitions between gas and electric motors are not as refined as in some competitors, but it’s nothing you won’t get used to.
Drive it like a hybrid and you will easily achieve 7.5lt/100km in the city and about the same on the highway. Nowhere near the numbers Hyundai claims but not bad at all for a 206bhp mid-sized sedan what weighs 1.580 kg.
The steering provides little to no feedback being all electric and the brakes feel very sluggish and soft but they do stop the car well and recharge the batteries at the same time, so no huge complaints there. The suspension is fully biased towards comfort and does an excellent job keeping the cabin comfy and quiet, but push hard in the bends and you will find that the extra weight of the hybrid system on the soft setup causes more body roll and understeer compared to the “regular” Sonata. Once the traction limits are exceeded, the car remains progressive and by lifting off the gas you can replace the nose to the desired direction with no drama involved. Keep the stability control on and drive it sensibly and disappointed you will be not, as the ride is rewardingly smooth and families will be kept happy.
Overall, I need to admit that I would very happily agree to drive this car on a daily basis and this coming from a petrol head like me should tell you something. The options you get with this car are phenomenal, the value is unbeatable and it has a top of the class safety rating. Yes, maybe there are better hybrids out there at this price, but they all look like ****.
Let me put it this way: forget it’s a hybrid, drive it like any other car and enjoy the 206bhp. Let it idle when stopped and smile when you see 7.5lt/100km. Tell everyone you got a 6-speed auto gearbox with sequential shift and not a scooter-like CVT. Drive alone in the HOV lane and let them all stare at you. At least they will be looking at something gorgeous!