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2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid was new.


Performance: 7.8

Reviewers say the 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid returns good fuel economy with few sacrifices in terms of performance. Acceleration and power are good with its smooth six-speed automatic transmission. Handling and ride are soft, but sportier than what most other hybrids offer. Overall, reviewers say the performance on the Sonata Hybrid is great and most times, you can’t tell the difference between the hybrid and the gas-only version.

  • "The Sonata Hybrid is a comfortable cruiser with little to no tradeoff in terms of comfort or performance compared with the gasoline-only, four-cylinder Sonata." -- Cars.com
  • "… many drivers wouldn’t notice much difference between the Hybrid, with 206 horsepower (166 horses for the gas engine and 40 more for the electric motor) and the regular Sonata GLS. But they will notice the Hybrid’s stunning E.P.A. rating: 40 m.p.g. on the highway and 36 in the city." -- The New York Times
  • "With 206 horsepower from the engine-motor combo, acceleration is about the same as a regular Sonata’s. Pay close attention and you’ll feel, and hear, the engine take over from the electric motor, but it isn’t terribly noticeable." -- Wired 

Acceleration and Power

When it comes to power delivery in the 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, test drivers are impressed. The Sonata Hybrid has a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 166 horsepower and an electric motor that makes 40 horsepower, for a combined 206 horsepower. What reviewers really like is the Sonata Hybrid’s transmission. Most hybrids use a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which tends to be more efficient than a conventional transmission, but CVTs can feel slower and are noisy during hard acceleration. The Sonata Hybrid has a six-speed automatic transmission that reviewers say works well, getting power to the front wheels smoothly. The one part of the Sonata Hybrid’s performance that gets complaints is Blue mode, which increases fuel economy slightly. A few reviewers say Blue mode makes the car slow and increases engine noise.

The EPA estimates the 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid will earn 34/39 mpg city/highway. While this is good, Toyota’s hybrids have better overall fuel economy ratings. The 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid LE gets 43/39 mpg city/highway and the 2012 Toyota Prius earns 51/48 mpg.

  • "The Hybrid delivers very good power both in around-town driving and on the highway. The transitions between electric and gas-engine power are virtually seamless, though the transmission is slow to downshift when more power is needed. Some testers noticed annoying bogging and surging from the drivetrain in low- and moderate-speed driving." -- Consumer Guide
  • "What we can tell you is that at first blush, the Sonata Hybrid accelerates and shifts gears like a normal family sedan. By this we don't mean ‘normal for a hybrid’- it just gathers speed in an utterly familiar, drama-free fashion." -- Autoblog
  • "True to Hyundai’s claim, the Sonata Hybrid’s powertrain is quite to an enthusiast’s liking. Unlike ‘conventional’ hybrids, there’s no CVT but rather an automatically stirred 6-speed. What’s more, through clever finessing of engine, electric motor and transmission, there’s no need for an intermediate torque converter. The result is a more sporty response to your right foot, with nary a CVT sensation of engine rpm/road speed disconnect." -- Road and Track
  • "Once you engage Blue mode, though, everything changes. The transmission didn't seem to know what to do on steep inclines, and the engine whined unsettlingly on hilly roads. Then again, hilly terrain isn't where you'd engage this mode; it would be of most use in city traffic and in either congested or wide-open highway stretches." -- Cars.com

Handling and Braking

Auto critics say the 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid has handling that’s composed and comfortable. Test drivers like the Sonata Hybrid’s regenerative brakes, noting they’re strong without being grabby.

  • “Slightly more aggressive moves on twisting roads are handled with little drama. Others find Sonata not exceptionally agile, with numb steering that betrays the sporty feel Hyundai is trying to impart. One of the class's tightest turning circles aids close-quarters maneuvering." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Like its siblings, the hybrid is quiet at speed, and the firm ride is comfortable and controlled. It’s no sport sedan, but handling is safe and predictable, which, really is what most folks shopping for a mid-sized sedan want." -- Wired
  • "The regenerative brakes are progressive and feel just like what we expect stoppers to feel like. There's no danger of having your dental work ripped from your mouth thanks to an overly sensitive second pedal." -- Autoblog
  • "Braking, always a little strange in hybrid vehicles, is also close to ideal in the Sonata. Hard braking yields a straight, hard stop, with moderate-level pedal feedback from the ABS system. It feels just like any other car with four-wheel disc brakes and four-channel ABS." -- Popular Mechanics

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