2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Sonata Plug-in Hybrid First Look
10-Percent More Efficient and a 22-Mile All-Electric Range
Not long after the redesigned 2015 Hyundai Sonata debuted in New York last year, the Korean automaker unveiled its hybrid counterpart at the 2015 Detroit auto show. Although the 2016 Sonata Hybrid's 10-percent improvement in fuel economy sounds like a pretty good deal for the eco-conscious, it gets even better. The automaker also revealed the 2016 Sonata Plug-in Hybrid, its first PHEV ever.
Starting with the 2016 Sonata Hybrid, the fuel-sipping car continues its visual differentiation from the regular car with styling cues designed with aerodynamics in mind. Compared with the regular Sonata, the Sonata Hybrid has a larger front grille and unique bumpers, fenders, and 19-inch wheels. Hyundai says the changes lower the coefficient of drag to 0.24, which is identical to that of the Tesla Model S. Inside, the Sonata Hybrid looks exactly like its gas-powered cousin, save for optional Blue Pearl leather seats. Also like the Sonata, the Hybrid comes with several available safety features such as forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert systems to name a few.
Underneath the hood, the Sonata Hybrid hides a downsized 2.0-liter I-4 instead of the outgoing 2.4-liter engine, though it still keeps the six-speed automatic transmission that's now more efficient thanks to a larger electric motor and electric oil pump. Like the outgoing hybrid, this one can also sail at speeds up to 75 mph in pure electric mode, but unlike that car, power is slightly down. The engine puts out 154 hp and 140 lb-ft of torque, and the 38-kW-hr electric motor produces 51 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, providing a combined output rated at 193 hp. Although power is down, fuel economy numbers are up 10 percent. Hyundai expects an EPA rating of 39/44/42 mpg city/highway/combined compared to the outgoing model's 36/40 mpg.
More improvements lie in the cargo and passenger space. The battery pack, which now has 13-percent more capacity, is stored underneath the trunk to create a flat space that increases cargo volume by 10 percent and passenger volume to 106.1 cubic feet.
As for the PHEV, it will benefit from a 9.8 kW-hr battery pack that is about five times larger than that of the Hybrid. This larger battery is expected to allow the PHEV to travel in all-electric mode for up to 22 miles, which is right on par with what we achieved in the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi PHEV and far more than the Honda Accord PHEV's 13 miles. Combined power is rated at 202 hp from the same 2.0-liter I-4 as in the Hybrid and a 32-percent more powerful 50 kW-hr electric motor. Hyundai expects the PHEV to deliver 93 mpge combined in EV mode and, once you've depleted that charge, 40 mpg combined. For comparison, the Accord PHEV is EPA rated at 115 mpge and a combined 46 mpg. Hyundai says that juicing the PHEV back up should take as little as 2.5 hours using a 240V Level 2 charging station. If you've got time to kill, then it should take 5 hours using a standard 120V outlet.
Although you'll obviously be able to tell the PHEV apart because of its charging port, it'll also have a unique instrument cluster. Otherwise, it looks just like the Hybrid. However, PHEV owners will be able to manage and monitor the PHEV remotely with the Blue Link smartphone app. Through the app, owners can set a schedule for charging times. Opting for the PHEV also means the blind-spot detection system comes standard. Like the Hybrid, the PHEV also comes standard with the hands-free trunk feature, and the 8.0-inch navigation display remains an option on both.
The Hybrid will go on sale this summer, and the PHEV will go on sale in select markets, including California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont, later this year. Buyers will be eligible for a $2,500 fixed federal tax credit and a variable federal tax credit based on battery capacity (also be more than $2,000). Local incentives may be available, as well. Pricing will be announced before the car's on-sale date.