Although the Sonata Hybrid's distinct face may have had more to do with wind-tunnel testing than the work of Hyundai's talented designers, I actually think I prefer it to that of the standard Sonata. It looks sporty and slightly futuristic, which suits a hybrid vehicle. (The Buck-Rogers-esque wheels, are really, really awful, though.) Plus, it eschews the Prius profile, so everyone doesn't instantly know that you're driving a hybrid. The EPA numbers aren't best in class, but they are better than the Toyota Camry Hybrid by 4 mpg (combined).
What I found most impressive about the Sonata Hybrid is how seamlessly it transitions between its two power sources. The shudder at startup and shutdown of the engine is almost imperceptible, and the noise is barely audible especially when the stereo is on. It's a bit sluggish at low speeds, but midrange power is excellent and it has no problem merging into traffic or keeping pace with highway leadfoots. The only negatives are its slightly busy ride -- a carryover from the standard Sonata -- and the brake pedal's complete lack of travel.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
Whether you're in Blue Drive mode or not seems to make a big difference in the Sonata Hybrid's acceleration rate. No matter the mode, though, this car feels like it's powered by a very laggy turbo engine, particularly when you want to quickly pull away from a stop. Wait, wait, wait, ZOOM!
If you keep an eye on the propulsion graphic, it's clear that the powertrain is shuffling its efforts almost constantly at times -- say, if you're cruising on a flat back road at about 60 mph. The gasoline engine seems anxious to turn off when you lift off the gas pedal, which obviously is very good for fuel economy. Another plus is that the electric motor is enough to keep the car rolling down long, slight grades at 60 mph. That graphic also revealed a somewhat dirty secret that the Sonata says it's in EV mode when the engine is running and charging the battery but not sending power directly to the wheels (perhaps this is how Joe Lorio saw the EV light while driving 80 mph).
Trunk space is diminished by the hybrid equipment but it still should be large enough for most day-to-day duties. The cabin features a nice dash-top covering that's firm, attractive, and good-fitting. I also like the silver door-trim accents. The Hybrid's cool taillights differentiate its exterior styling from that of the regular Sonata. The trapezoidal grille does, too, but I'm much less a fan of that. And unlike some of my colleagues, I think these wheels look cool.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor