By ditching V-6 engines in favor of improved four-cylinder engines, Hyundai's clearly making fuel economy a chief priority with its 2011 Sonata -- but customers who want the utmost in fuel savings will likely look past the standard sedans and shop the new 2011 Sonata Hybrid, which makes its debut at the 2010 New York auto show.
Contrary to many hybrid variants of existing models, Hyundai has actually made quite a few visual changes to the Sonata Hybrid's exterior. Among the list of equipment unique to the hybrid version of the Sonata are the headlights and taillights, bumper fascias, rocker panels, front grille, 'eco-spoke' wheels, air dam and side sills, badging and paint color. Sure, some of those changes are purely cosmetic, but Hyundai says that many are functional, making the Sonata Hybrid more aerodynamic and lowering its drag coefficient to a slippery 0.25 -- the same as the Toyota Prius.
The 2011 Sonata Hybrid marks the first production use of Hyundai's Hybrid Blue Drive technology -- a proprietary platform that we've seen in prototype form for some time now. As a full parallel hybrid drivetrain, Blue Drive can operate independently on either its 169-horsepower 2.4-liter gasoline engine or its 40-horsepower electric motor, with total overall power listed at 209 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. In sharp contrast to most of competition which employ CVTs for their hybrids, the Sonata Hybrid utilizes the automaker's in-house compact six-speed automatic transmission with electric oil pump, which Hyundai says offers similar economy while retaining a more conventional shift feel that resonates better with customers.