2016 Wards 10 Best Engines Test Drive: Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

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Hybrids are a tough sell now given low gas prices, but that doesn’t mean the industry can stop innovating as the U.S. government mandates higher and higher fleet fuel economy.

That’s why, despite declining hybrid sales, Hyundai is back for round two with its Sonata Hybrid.

Whereas the first gen model had a 159-hp 2.4L 4-cyl., the second-gen gets a slightly less powerful 154-hp 2.0L four, but swaps port injection for direct injection.

While engine output declines, the Sonata Hybrid’s electric motor packs more power: 38 kW (51 hp) vs. the 35-kW (47-hp) motor in the outgoing model.

It can’t totally make up for the lower engine-only horsepower though, as total system horsepower falls to 193 from 199.

Still, you don’t really notice the gap on-road, where the new Sonata Hybrid delivers its power smoothly and quickly, imperceptibly switching back and forth from electricity to gas and vice versa.

Impressive is how often we find the car in electric mode, without even trying. The old Sonata Hybrid and new Sonata Hybrid have their top speed on electricity in common, 75 mph, although our highest observed speed on electric is 60.

The engine and motor updates, plus an 11.3% increase in energy captured from the regenerative braking system, the addition of a high-voltage electric oil pump for the car’s 6-speed automatic, and aerodynamic add-ons such as active front grille flaps, equates to better fuel economy.

The Sonata Hybrid now makes 41 or 42 mpg combined compared with 37 or 38 mpg in the previous generation.

Our best observed fuel economy after a weekend of driving was 39.5 mpg. However, one frigid morning sapped 15 mpg off that number. With careful driving, and limited heat, we managed to get it back above 30 mpg. Still, it shows how hybrids and really, any electrified vehicle, remain a technology best-suited to mild-weather locales.

In 2016 Wards 10 Best Engines testing, the Sonata Hybrid will go up against the new Prius, which may be too formidable a competitor given its rumored 50-60-mpg average.

Christie Schweinsberg

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