2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — With a rolling bed of on-board advanced technologies, Hyundai Motors first took the wraps off of the all new 2016 Sonata hybrid and its sister product, the Sonata Plug-in hybrid, earlier this year at the Detroit International Auto Show. The 2016 version is here now and will soon go on sale representing the seventh generation of the award-winning and attractive sedan, and by far the most fuel efficient.

To briefly recap, the 2015 Sonata “gasoline version” was a complete makeover both “inside and out” except for the fuel stingy hybrid version, which was carried over. This all changes with the 2016 hybrid.

The new Sonata Hybrid SE is expected to achieve an estimated 40 mpg in the city, 44 mpg on the highway and have a combined EPA rating of 42 mpg, which is more than a 10 percent improvement from the 2015 model.

So how do we differentiate the regular gasoline model of the Sonata from the hybrid? To start, both versions of the hybrid will have unique wheels, exclusive exterior paint colors, and front and rear outer body air management fascias that are engineered to allow improved aerodynamics.

Additional visual changes to the Hybrid’s exterior include a unique yet larger front grille, the use of a rear deck wind spoiler, specially designed front and rear bumpers as well as special front fenders, signature front and rear lighting, and alluring chrome lower body side moldings. The outer badging also reflects that it in fact is a hybrid.

The Hybrid also has a brand-specific dash-mounted gauge cluster assembly. Using Hyundai's global engineering resources, the duel technologies (hybrid and plug-in hybrid) offered in Sonata will allow the car to be powered by either a compelling gasoline engine and/or an electric motor (powered by batteries) or the combination of both working in concert with each other.

The system switches seamlessly between a gasoline engine and an electric motor to deliver efficient power to the front drive wheels. The gasoline engine hands off the primary charging energy for the lithium polymer batteries while the regenerative braking system captures the energy created during braking and converts it into electricity.  Of course, this helps re-charge the hybrid’s on-board batteries.

Electronically governed components as well as mechanical hardware help makeup the drive-line system for the most part. The end game for consumers is a very contemporary automobile that gets exceptional mileage. Both models us a 2.0-liter high pressure gasoline direct injected four-cylinder engine which is rated at 154-horsepower. Its nicely paired with a significantly upgraded automatic transmission. When combining the horsepower from the engine with the power output of the electric motors, the performance output on the hybrid rises to a net 193-horsepower.

On the plug-in model, the horsepower elevates slightly to just over 200. The flat battery pack is stored under the trunk floor therefore cargo carrying capabilities wasn't greatly impacted. After a full electric charge, it gets an average driving range of approximately 24 miles without the use of the gas engine.

Under the heading of safety, this model comes standard with seven airbags which includes newly developed driver’s knee airbag. Electronic stability control, vehicle stability management, traction control, ABS safety brakes and a tire pressure monitoring system with individual tire pressure display and a rearview camera system are also standard. Projector-style headlamps are included while HID headlamps are available.

Also, advanced safety technologies such as forward collision warning, blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert, lane change assist and a lane departure warning system are all available, in this midsize sedan. Hyundai’s hands-free “smart trunk open system” is now available as an option. Additional options include; an electronic parking brake, driver memory seat, rear window sunshades, heated steering wheel, LED interior lights, ventilated front seats, power operated front seats plus 4-way adjustable driver lumbar support.

Radar guided smart cruise control is offered, which also has automatic full stop capability. All 2016 Sonata Hybrids come standard with iPod/USB and auxiliary input jacks, SiriusXM satellite radio and Bluetooth phone connectivity with phonebook transfer and voice-recognition. Available upgrades include an 8.0-inch navigation system with downloadable apps, HD radio and Infinity premium audio system with next-generation Blue Link telematics.

Pricing is expected to be parallel to the 2015 model.The Plug-in hybrid will be sold in select markets, however the regular hybrid model will be offered across the country. The car itself competes with other hybrids such as the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and the Ford Fusion.

— David Finkelstein