Tuesday, May 26, 2015

First Drive: 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid & Plug-In Hybrid

I have to start off by saying that I really enjoyed the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid! I had the opportunity to drive the 2016 Sonata Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid on the roads of beautiful Southern California. The Sonata Hybrid is offered in SE, Limited and Limited Ultimate trims. The Plug-in offers Base and Limited versions. The Sonata Hybrid Plug-in has an all electric top speed of 75 mph and an EV range of approximately 24 miles.

The seventh generation Sonata receives a series of functional changes to the front and rear fascia for the 2016 Hybrid. The exterior changes allows the Sonata Hybrid to achieve a coefficient of drag to 0.24. The only other vehicle in its class tat has a 0.24 coefficient of drag is the Tesla Model S. The Hybrid receives a unique larger grille, front and rear bumpers, front fenders, front and rear lights, chrome side sill moldings, Hybrid badging, and new eco-spoke allow wheels.

The interior of the Sonata Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid is not as stylish as the exterior. Once inside of the vehicles I was able to find a comfortable seating position. The center stack has a clean design and everything is within reach from the driver's seat. The cabin features quality materials, and soft touch surfaces, which is always a plus. The infotainment system is not complicated and easy to use. The Sonata Hybrid offers best-in class cargo volume at 13.3 cu-ft. 60/40 split-folding rear seats are available thanks to the battery pack fitting under the truck floor.

There is no shortage of technology in the 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid. Now available is Hyundai's hands-free smart trunk, electronic parking brake, driver memory seat, rear window sunshades, heated steering wheel, LED interior lights, ventilated front seats, power front seats with 4-way adjustable driver lumbar and smart cruise control. Two of my favorite features are the ventilated front seats and the smart cruise control. While driving the Plug-in Hybrid, I set the smart cruise control system and was extremely impressed for the 30 mile drive. This was my first time using this type of feature in a vehicle and now I wish my current car had it.

The 2016 model comes standard with seven air bags, including a new driver's knew air bag. Also standard is Electronic Stability Control, Vehicle Stability Management, Traction Control, ABS, Tire Pressure Monitoring System, and a backup camera. Buyers can also get advanced safety technologies such as Forward Collision Warning, Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Change Assist and Lane Departure Warning System.

Charging (Plug-in Hybrid)
120-volt (Level 1): < 9 hours
240-volt (Level 2): < 3 hours

Under the Hood
The Hybrid is powered by a 2.0L Nu GDI 4-cylinder engine paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Hyundai wanted a nature feeling transmission, so a CVT wasn't an option. The 2.0L engine produces 154 hp and 140 lb-ft of torque. The electric motor produces 51 hp (38kW) for a combined output of 193 hp. The Plug-in Hybrid uses the same 2.0L engine, but a stronger electric motor that produces 67 hp. The combined output for the Plug-in Hybrid is 202 hp.

Behind the Wheel
The first thing I did once I got in the Sonata Hybrid, I opened the panoramic sunroof. Once on the road I was able to fully enjoy both models. Visibility out of the Sonata is quite good and the blind-spot system helped me out when I couldn't see vehicles on the side of me. The steering in the Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid was surprising good and I really didn't have any complaints about how the vehicles handled.  I was really impressed with how comfortable and smooth the ride in the Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid are. Performance was not the goal of the Sonata Hybrids, which are tuned for luxury. While on the highway, the cabin remains quiet with very little wind-noise. While the Sonata Hybrid and Plug-in are not sport sedans, acceleration was smooth and refined. After driving the Hybrid for about 30 miles, I was able to achieve 35 mpg out of the Hybrid (while in Sport mode for majority of the time). In the Plug-in I was able to achieve 43 mpg while using Smart Cruise Control and going 75 mph.

My time spent in the 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid was exciting and enjoyable. I like the Sonata Hybrid mainly because While my time in both vehicles were brief, I got a good sense of what Hyundai was looking to achieve. After driving both vehicles, I think that Hyundai has done a great job with the Sonata Hybrid siblings. Information on pricing is not available right now, but we will let you know once that information is released. The Sonata Hybrid goes on sale this summer nationwide, while the Plug-in Hybrid hits showrooms in California and Oregon this fall. The Plug-in will show up in other zero-emission vehicle states after. I look forward to getting the opportunity to spend more time in the Sonata Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid.

Disclaimer: Hyundai Motor America  provided The Green Light with hotel and travel accommodations to attend the media event.

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