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2019 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2019 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid was new.


Performance: 7.1

The 2019 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is a fine daily driver, but its performance won't wow you. It rides smoothly and handles pretty well, though the Sonata Hybrid can't match the athleticism of competitors. Available as either a hybrid or a plug-in hybrid, its powertrains move the car well enough, but this sedan can struggle if you want to overtake other vehicles at highway speeds. Fuel economy is a bit behind other hybrids' ratings, but this Hyundai still gets outstanding gas mileage compared to nonhybrid midsize cars.

  • "No matter what trim you select, the powertrain is the same. It's a 2.0-liter gas I4 mated to an electric motor that puts out a net 193 horsepower. Thanks to a lithium-ion battery that's 9.0 percent larger than before (1.76 kWh versus 1.62), fuel economy is up by 1 mpg in both city and highway driving to 40 and 46, respectively." -- CNET (2018)
  • "Befitting a car designed to carry people, the … 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 (2017)
  • "Both the Sonata Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrids were the type of alternative vehicles we could actually live with. Steering has been firmed up to give more road feel, without the numb, dead spot that tends to live on center. We found a normal tip-in that didn't make us feel that we were putting all our foot into the accelerator before we were able to get underway." -- Left Lane News (2016)

Acceleration and Power

The Sonata Hybrid features a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor that combine to produce 193 horsepower. There's also a Sonata Plug-In Hybrid, which features the same gas engine and a more powerful electric motor, giving it a total system output of 202 horsepower. Both powertrains are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. That's rare for a hybrid; most are paired with a continuously variable transmission.

You may be wondering about the difference between a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid. A typical hybrid uses its electric motor to assist the gasoline engine at certain times, thus reducing the gas engine's burden and improving fuel economy. Plug-in hybrids, also known as PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles), take things a step further, as they're also able to run entirely on electric power for a limited range. However, they require you to plug in your car so the battery can fully recharge (hence the name).

The Sonata Plug-In Hybrid can go up to 28 miles using only electric power, and it charges in 8.7 hours when plugged in to a 120-volt outlet. Using a 240-volt outlet reduces charging time to 2.7 hours.

With either powertrain, you get a quick little jolt of acceleration off the line. At higher speeds, however, there's not as much power and acceleration available to you, so you'll need lots of room to overtake slower vehicles on the highway. The transition from electric to gasoline power is virtually seamless.

According to EPA estimates, the Sonata Hybrid earns 39 mpg in the city and 44 mpg on the highway. These are great numbers for a midsize sedan, though some rival hybrids get better gas mileage. The Sonata PHEV gets 99 MPGe under electric power and 39 mpg city/highway combined under gasoline power.

There is a nonhybrid Hyundai Sonata, which we cover in a separate review.

  • "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 (2017)
  • "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)

Handling and Braking

The Sonata Hybrid is responsive and composed. While it can hold its own on a winding road, many rivals are still more agile. More importantly for many drivers, this Hyundai rides smoothly even when the pavement gets rough. The regenerative brakes hit a sour note, however, as they feel a bit unnatural and even grabby at times. Front-wheel drive comes standard.

  • "Last year, Hyundai updated the Sonata's suspension to improve handling and reduce body roll. While the ride is firmer and better controlled, it's not at the expense of comfort." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "On the road, the Sonata Hybrid offers surprisingly peppy performance -- unusual for a hybrid midsize sedan -- with a good cornering feel and communicative steering. Indeed, we'd consider these models to be the driver's choice among fuel-efficient midsize sedans, outshining even the excellent Honda Accord Hybrid. With that said, the Accord Hybrid gets better gas mileage. Despite its driver-focused feel, the Sonata Hybrid is quite comfortable over bumps and jarring road surfaces." -- Autotrader (2018)
  • "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 (2017)

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