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HEELS ON WHEELS: 2011 HYUNDAI SONATA HYBRID REVIEW


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2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Is the 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Your Perfect New Car Match?

HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

INTRO TO THE HYUNDAI SONATA HYBRID VEHICLE
The all-new sixth generation 2011 Hyundai Sonata is impressive enough with a head-turning redesign, but add in a hybrid system that gets an EPA-estimated 37-MPG at a base price of $25,795, and you’ve got a sedan that makes the competition seem both archaic and overpriced.

I drove a 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid that uses a 2.4-liter DOCH inline 4-cylinder engine with Hyundai’s Direct Hybrid Blue Drive system for a total output of 206 horsepower. The vehicle is also paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission with SHIFTRONIC. Base price is a reasonable $25,795. My test drive came with the optional $5,000 Hybrid Premium Package, which included a panoramic sunroof, leather seating, heated seats, navigation system, rear backup camera, HD Radio and XM NavTraffic and NavWeather.

If a hybrid system like the Direct Hybrid Blue Drive – which is Hyundai’s special term for the more universal Atkinson Cycle hybrid system as seen on Toyota Hybrids and the like – is still a foreign concept for you, here’s how it works minus all the engineering terms: A regular four-cylinder gas-powered engine is combined with an electric motor that has a regenerative battery. It’s a self-sustaining system that switches from pure electric power to a combination of the two, maintained by a battery that finds its moments to recharge during stops and braking.

A few things make the Direct Hybrid Blue Drive unique – for instance, the Sonata Hybrid delivers speeds up to 62 miles per hour in electric-mode only. This is because Hyundai created a battery pack that is lighter and smaller than a competitor’s like the Toyota Camry Hybrid. And like any other electronic item; ironically, lighter and smaller always seems to pack in more advanced performance.

HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

Stylish But Comfortable Results: As stated with the gas-powered Sonata review, the interior is impressive with Volvo-style climate control buttons, a large sunroof, amble legroom and a simple but classy display screen in the center console. You’ve also got power-adjustable driver seat with lumbar support and a 4.2-inch LCD screen with hybrid technology display. I like that Hyundai offers this one, fully-loaded optional package, and doesn’t try to disguise the parts and pieces into a series of additional extras (and each with their own price tag) – the honesty is a refreshing tactic.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid “Good” ratings in all crash test areas. With The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the 2011 model earned five-star ratings in side crash and rollover, and four-stars in frontal crash.

Cost Issues: This is an excellently priced hybrid at $25,795 for base, and a stylish one at that. Don’t be afraid of that $5k optional package – it comes with everything you need to set this ride over the top.

Activity & Performance Ability: The Sonata Hybrid’s engine offers a surprising punch, but the power isn’t entirely smooth and even. It also took me some time to get used to the steering feel and brakes. The fun factor in driving this hybrid is mostly in the various technologies that help you save a ton of gas money. The trip computer helps you drive more efficiently by showing your average speed, average and instant fuel consumption, and miles to empty.

The Green Concern: The Sonata Hybrid gets an EPA-estimated 37-MPG driving; that’s 35-city and 40-highway driving. Compared to the nickel-metal hydride battery used in many other hybrids, the Sonata Hybrid uses a polymer gel as the electrolyte in its battery, which makes it weigh 25% less and has 40% less volume – but is more efficient.

FINAL PARTING WORDS
Hyundai uses straightforward selling tactics to cast the stylish Sonata Hybrid into a likable, refreshing and sustainable light. Driving characteristics aren’t refined, but all aside, you’ll find few complaints regarding this reasonably priced hybrid sedan.

MORE HYUNDAI INFORMATION - Hyundai Buyers Guide

©2011 Katrina Ramser