2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited - Review by David Colman +VIDEO
The Best Hybrid Yet
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
Hyundai stylists have done a remarkable job of making a thirty thousand dollar car look like one that should cost sixty thousand. The one word that best sums up the exterior appearance of the latest Sonata is stunning. Particularly well thought out are the flanks of this sedan. Just below the beltline runs a continuous panel Hyundai calls the Lightning Stripe. This subtle sweep unifies the side view much like those chrome spears Detroit favored back in the Fifties. As if to pay tribute to the Motor City's favorite metal, Hyundai also embedded a thin chrome strip which runs above the beltline all the way from the back of the greenhouse to the top of the grill. In direct contrast to the discordant styling that mars the looks of so many affordable cars, the Hybrid Limited Edition Sonata hits the good looks pitch right out of the park.
Since beauty is as beauty does, the Sonata Hybrid posts fabulously low wind resistance numbers, with its .24 Cd (Drag Coefficient). That's a number most Le Mans teams would be thrilled to match on the 200mph Mulsanne Straight. Unlike the run-of-the-mill standard gas engine Sonata, the Hybrid utilizes semi-complete underbody sheathing to cheat airflow beneath the chassis while directing cooling air through slots to the hot running Hybrid drive. I clambered under the Sonata with a flashlight to take a look at the underpinnings, and they are indeed impressively streamlined, with semi-flexible cladding sheets running as far back as the eye can see from the front grill to the tail. This kind of attention to unseen detail results in a vehicle that currently tops the mileage charts for Hybrid sedans in the Midsized class, with a rating of 45MPG City/51 MPG Highway, and 47 MPG Overall. In a solid week of driving we barely nudged the fuel gauge off the full mark. The Hybrid package includes a very high tech looking solar panel roof that will add about 2 MPG to your total after a sunny day soak.
The hits keep on coming when you open the door and step into the spacious and gracious interior. The Limited's jewel-like level of fit and finish belies its economical roots. The steering wheel is a such a highly evolved piece of equipment that you'll cradle it lovingly in your hands even when sitting still at a red light. Particularly enticing are the two aluminum-clad lower spokes. Artfully incorporated into the top of the dash is a 10.3 inch touchscreen for the infotainment system which trumps the 8 inch screen of more basic Sonata models. This highly legible unit is relatively easy to operate, even while underway. We particularly liked the pause/rewind feature available for instant tune replay. Okay, so we listened to the same Dusty Springfield tune five times in a row. Each time it sounded better than before thanks to a standard 12 speaker Bose Premium Audio augmented by a 9 inch subwoofer.
The driving dynamics of the Hybrid are not in the same league as the looks or the accommodations. Ride quality verges on harsh. This is surprising, given that Hyundai has equipped the sedan with Michelin radials (215/55R17 Primacy A/S) that are neither ultra low profile, nor ultra wide treaded. Hyundai offers a variety of driving experiences ranging from comfort to sport to eco, available at the flick of a button. We found the normal setting to be more acceptable than the more rabid throttle response provided by the sport option. None of the choices, however, tamed the rock hard ride, so some shock absorber retuning might be in order for a less rigorous ride.
The Hybrid powertrain twins a 150hp, 2.0 liter direct injection gasoline engine with a 51hp electric motor generator to provide a combined output of 192hp and 210lb.-ft. of torque. This power supply, which is fed through a paddle shifted 6-speed automatic transmission, proved adequate for most acceleration needs. The 3,500lb. Sonata takes 8 seconds to achieve 60mph from a standing start, 22 seconds to reach 100mph from rest, and 16 seconds to complete the standing start quarter mile. Under full acceleration, the Hybrid emulates the whine of a BART train accelerating to top speed.
Hyundai provides the Sonata Limited with a rather too-full bevy of safety measures. Some of them we really found innovative, like the inclusion of lane traffic warnings in the head-up display. With this information available in your direct line of sight, you don't need to look for it in your mirrors (where it is duplicated). Some nannies were a little over the top, like the warning buzzer that alerts you to the proximity of every large rock in your driveway. All in all, though, the Hybrid Sonata is a torrid deal for the money.
2021 HYUNDAI SONATA HYBRID LIMITED
ENGINE: 2.0 liter inline 4, direct injection plus Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 45MPG City/51MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $36,464
HYPES: Best Hybrid Yet
GRIPES: Re-Valve the Shocks
STAR RATING: 10 Stars out of 10