$16,182 - $24,855

2017 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2017 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid was new.

Scorecard

Performance: 7.7

Drivers seeking a comfortable car for the daily commute will find a good companion in the 2017 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. It has decent power for driving in city traffic, though it's a bit underpowered on the highway. Fuel economy is great compared to the midsize class as a whole, but only average for a midsize hybrid. The Sonata Hybrid is easy to drive and maneuver and has a cushioned ride. It's not particularly agile, however.

  • "Befitting a car designed to carry people, the 2017 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid's ride is smooth on all manner of pavement, and the cabin is quiet at highway speeds. This is a car that will get you to your destination without wearing you out. It's not an exciting car to drive, certainly, but the Sonata Hybrid heads where you point it with no drama." -- Edmunds
  • "Hyundai engineers said that they had been aiming for a perfect blend of high fuel economy and driving performance. After about an hour behind the wheel, I wasn't particularly sure that they got either one right." -- Jalopnik (2016)
  • "My night with the Sonata was my first prolonged experience with a hybrid, and I really enjoyed it. I thought the car drove really well; it handled bumps and potholes better than I expected." -- Autoweek (2016)

Acceleration and Power

The 2017 Sonata Hybrid's powertrain consists of a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor that together generate 193 horsepower. The Sonata Plug-in Hybrid has a more powerful electric motor that boosts the combined output to 202 horsepower. All models come with a six-speed automatic transmission.

The base model gets up to 39 mpg in the city and 45 mpg on the highway. That's typical for a midsize hybrid, and excellent for the midsize class as a whole. Still, some hybrid rivals like the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid and Honda Accord Hybrid use significantly less fuel.

The Sonata Hybrid's powertrain is best suited for city driving, with the electric motor providing quick acceleration from a stop, and a seamless transition when the gas engine fires up. On the highway, you may want more power for overtaking other cars, so give yourself some extra room to merge. Many hybrids have continuously variable transmissions (CVT) that operate similarly to automatics. They're frequently described as unrefined and noisy, especially under hard acceleration. The Sonata Hybrid's traditional six-speed automatic transmission makes quick shifts without the unpleasant sounds of a CVT.

  • "The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and offers a nice alternative to the sometimes-droning continuously variable transmissions (CVT) that are the norm for hybrids." -- Edmunds
  • "The engine ignition and operation are quiet, though power is a little less than adequate in my eyes. I was pushing the pedal down more than halfway just to get going. There's really no point in jamming on it to pass someone, you'll just have to wait until the next gap." -- Autoweek (2016)
  • "The powertrains of both versions are commendably smooth, as well. Pure-electric power gets the Sonata off the line briskly, and the transition to internal-combustion propulsion is all but imperceptible." -- Car and Driver (2016)

Alternate Fuels/Charging

The Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid has a larger battery pack than the base hybrid model. This battery lets you drive up to 27 miles using electricity alone, getting 99 mpg equivalent. The only other plug-in hybrid in the class, the Ford Fusion Energi, can't match the Sonata Plug-in Hybrid's range or efficiency since it only goes 19 miles on a charge, and gets only 88 mpg equivalent.

Using a standard 120-volt outlet, it'll take nearly nine hours to charge the Sonata Plug-in Hybrid's battery pack, while charging time will fall to less than three hours if you have a 240-volt charging station. You can use the Blue Link smartphone app to remotely check the battery's charge level, or even to schedule charging.

Handling and Braking

The Sonata Hybrid has front-wheel drive, and is tuned for comfort and easy driving rather than sportiness. Rough patches of pavement are smoothed over by the suspension. The steering has little feedback, so if you're expecting fun performance, look elsewhere. Still, thanks to the light steering, it's easy to turn the wheel and maneuver the Sonata Hybrid in city traffic.

Where the Sonata Hybrid falls short of expectations is with its regenerative braking system. Hybrids all use regenerative brakes to recharge their batteries. They also have traditional friction brakes that engage when more braking force is needed. The Sonata Hybrid's regenerative brakes can feel like you slammed your foot on the brake pedal when you initially press it, then there's another rough transition from the regenerative brakes to the friction brakes. Most hybrid competitors have more natural-feeling regenerative brakes, including the Chevy Malibu Hybrid and Honda Accord Hybrid.

  • "Less impressive is the feel of the Sonata Hybrid's brake pedal. It's grabby when you first push on it, especially at highway speeds, which is followed by a long, disconcerting dead period as you press down harder. Actual braking performance is fine, but some other hybrids have a more natural feel to their brakes." -- Edmunds
  • The ride is great. It absorbed almost everything I threw at it. Bumps make a little noise, but if you just concentrate on the seat, there's barely any movement. Steering … is a little vague and numb. It's easy at least, and if you're not into corner carving, probably no big deal." -- Autoweek (2016)
  • "And the turning circle is tighter, so all of this extra efficiency is even easier to move around town." -- Autoblog (2016)

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