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BY Owen Bergwall, Green Car & Technology Contributor
Hyundai recently gave Be Car Chic the opportunity to drive its 2013 Sonata Hybrid along the beautiful back-country roads of Charlottesville, Va. The weather was picture perfect. I had a fully-optioned Sonata complete with the scenic panoramic sunroof. I didn’t see Monticello on the trip, but I had plenty of time to get to know the new Sonata Hybrid on Virginia’s lush back roads and smooth highways.
Exterior design presence
The Sonata Hybrid has a classy, swoopy set of lines, looking both more grown-up and a little sci-fi than other mid-sized sedans. Hyundai’s intense “fluidic sculpture” design has aged well with its Sonata. I found the design thoughtful and refreshingly cohesive throughout.
Hyundai distinguishes its Sonata Hybrid model through minor design tweaks, which apparently means chrome accents. On the top-end model I drove, chrome strips ran along the top and bottom of the doors, and chrome door handles, tail light housings completed the eager-to-be-high-end trend. Not a big fan of chrome trim? Selecting silver or white paint seemed to ease its presence.
The 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid design is fresh and attractively different.
While I was a big fan of the other-worldly, atomic-looking brake lights, I didn’t care for new stock wheel design on the Sonata that can best be described as a “food processor”. I recommend going with the larger ones that come on the Limited model.
Inside, soft touch materials abound, and everything is a little bit Star Trek. The Sonata has comfortable, supportive seats; plenty of leg and shoulder room for full-sized adults; and easy-to-use climate and sound systems.
I think the Sonata Hybrid competes well against the Ford Fusion; however, I prefer the new Fusion’s cleaner, more European-influenced interior. When selected, Sonata’s khaki interior helps battle against the low sloping roof, giving buyers some contrast, and a more luxurious, airy feel. The panaoramic sunroof with glass over the front and rear seats also helps enhance this feeling.
As for buttons, I enjoyed the three “body shaped” buttons for airflow, though I wasn’t sure precisely what the head shaped button did. Maybe it was the defroster, maybe it was just normal vents. Either way, it seemed to have ulterior Bond-movie motives.
The Sonata’s interior appears well thought out and it does well to carry the exterior design themes forward.
There are rear seat air vents for passenger comfort and a decent amount of trunk space, but you may miss the convenience of 60/40 split folding seats. A new, lighter and more compact lithium-polymer battery pack takes the trunk space from 10.1 cubic feet in the 2011 Sonata Hybrid to 12.1 cubit feet.
The only real challenge I had inside the Sonata were the buttons within the navigation system menu. They are difficult to understand at a glance and look a bit dated. The system in the new Santa Fe that we also tested has a much cleaner, more modern interface. Hopefully, the Sonata gets that newer software for its system soon.
Quick, efficient, and not boring
As for the drive, the Sonata surprised me. Its transition from electric to gas power were seamless, and the car was inclined to jump to electric as long as you used a light right foot.
The 2013 Sonata Hybrid drives smoothly and quietly. Because it has a normal geared automatic transmission (similar to the VW Jetta Hybrid), it didn’t seem to get fussy when pushed hard.
Though it was absolutely not fast, the sedan didn’t feel under-powered. Hyundai reduced the engine’s 206 net horsepower to 199, giving it just enough low- to mid-range punch, even for those accustomed to V6 power. The 2.4 liter Theta II atkinson-cycle petrol engine decreased from 166 to 159 horses in order to gain “more useable” power.
It feels solid across the road, and it can be thrown into corners. Yet, the Sonata is a hybrid that gets an estimated combined 38 miles per gallon (36 city/40 highway). While that mileage is not terribly impressive compared to the likes of a Prius, in the real world, it works great, gets excellent mileage, and has a huge warranty.
But will you like driving it?
Some hybrids just are not fun to drive. (Some non-hybrids have the same problem.) Hyundai has handled this challenge through its updated electric-drive system by adding torque whenever it is needed, which cuts gas consumption and increases power without reducing driving enjoyment.
If you are an average consumer but “new-to-hybrids” driver, then you will likely enjoy the Sonata Hybrid. It’s quiet, and it moves along just fine when asked. There’s no CVT rubber-band issues, and not much of a lack of power.
The 2013 Sonata Hybrid is a stylish, reliable, comfortable car that saves you money (especially when you drive it gently).
During my test drive, I averaged a real-life 35-36 mpg fuel economy, putting the car through both relaxed and more aggressive suburban driving. It’s worth noting that the as-tested Limited model’s highway mileage dropped from 38 to 37 mpg due to its heavier weight.
Hyundai’s guarantee will have you covered, even on the hybrid drivetrain
Lastly, where Hyundai will definitely close the deal with some shoppers is its warranty. They offer a standard 5 year/60,000 mile new vehicle limited warranty, 7 year/unlimited mileage anti-perforation warranty, 5 year/unlimited mileage 24 hour roadside assistance, 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty, and a lifetime/unlimited mileage warranty on the hybrid lithium-polymer battery system.
Although that last one is only for the initial buyer, it’s a huge comfort-zone item for first-time hybrid car buyers.
Sheesh. That’s a ton of warranty coverage. Way to stand behind your product, Hyundai.
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