2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Matt Tierney

The Sonata hybrid is unusual in that does not employ a CVT but uses a six-speed automatic instead. This makes for much more conventional, and more pleasant, response when accelerating. It also helps the hybrid powertrain recede into the background.

Interestingly, it appears that the Sonata hybrid can dip into EV mode even at highway speeds (I had the EV light come on when cruising just under 80 mph).

This has to be one of the worst traction-control programs I've seen in a while. I had to jump out into traffic in the rain, and it very abruptly swung back and forth between killing the power and letting the front wheels spin.

What most surprised me about the Sonata Hybrid, though, was the suspension. As much praise as has been heaped upon the Sonata, one noted weakness has been the chassis tuning. One might expect the hybrid version to be worse, what with the extra weight of the batteries and the electric motor. Certainly with the Camry Hybrid, we noticed more body motion at the rear of the car. But the Sonata Hybrid seemed impressively tight. It also thwacked (loudly) over bumps, but the ride remained quite serene. I'm guessing part of the credit for the excellent ride quality goes to the sixteen-inch wheels wrapped in 65-series tires. Those high sidewalls make for pretty lazy turn-in, but they go a long way toward taking the sharpness out of impacts.

The interior is a mix of good and bad. The former includes the excellent, clear switchgear and the overall spaciousness. The latter refers to the vast expanses of hard and semi-hard grained gray plastic as well as the bizarre, wavy-gravy seat upholstery.

Joe Lorio, Senior Editor

The hybrid's 2.4-liter engine is so refined and quiet; even under heavy acceleration it felt much quieter to me than same-size engine in our Four Seasons nonhybrid Sonata. The Sonata Hybrid uses a six-speed automatic transmission, unlike every other hybrid in its class, which all use a CVT. The automatic in the Sonata desperately wanted to go straight to sixth gear and stay there; it was slow to kick down and was abrupt in its gearchanges, almost as though it was scolding you for not being eco-minded at all times. It's really too bad that the transmission is so poorly sorted, as the rest of this Sonata has been upgraded over the regular model, with a high-grade information display, more attractive gauges, and LED exterior lighting -- Hyundai obviously put its all into making the Hybrid the cream of the Sonata crop.

Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor

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Having recently driven a 2012 Sonata SE Turbo, I suspect the handling and braking ills you incurred are due to the taller, skinny tires and the more loose suspension. I found the standard tires worthy of an upgrade. I also suspect an enthusiastic driving style was not to the hybrid's liking! Go Turbo!

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