2016 Hyundai Sonata Jumps into the PHEV Ring

2016 Hyundai Sonata PHEV  - Introduced at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show

Written By: EightySix

Event: Detroit Auto Show (January 2015)

The 2016 Hyundai Sonata Plug-In Hybrid doesn't jump out at you. It's a nice-looking but somewhat unremarkable mid-sized sedan. When you see the Blue Drive logo on the charging port in front of the driver's door, you realize something new is up.

Hyundai's been making a Sonata Hybrid since 2011, but this is their first plug-in. It combines a 2.0 liter four cylinder gas engine with a 50 kW electric motor and a 9.8 kWh lithium polymer battery to produce 202 horsepower. Estimated electric range is 22 miles. Gas only MPG will be about 40.

The newly designed body is conservatively sedan-shaped. Without looking like a race car, however, it scores an impressive .24 drag coefficient. That's equivalent to a Tesla Model S and .02 better than a Nissan GT-R. The slipperiness is caused by more streamlined front and rear fascias plus more aerodynamic wheels.

The 22 electric miles are nothing compared to the 50 of the new Chevy Volt, but it beats the Toyota Prius PHEV (11) and the Honda Accord (13). The Sonata is neck-in-neck with Ford's Fusion and C-Max Energi.

And that's when the deja vu kicks in.

Is That a South Korean Fusion?

Perhaps, and in all the best ways. Based on the 2015 specs, it's nearly the same size. The Sonata is two inches shorter but with three cubic feet more passenger space. Both cars have a 2.0 liter engine. Electric range is the same, give or take a few thousand feet. The prices for each 2015 hybrid were within a thousand of each other.

They are a pair of four door sedans competing in the same niche with comparable specifications. Looking at them side-by-side, they even have a similar profile.

Not a bad thing for the Sonata. The Fusion Energi is a very solid automobile to emulate.

2016 Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle (Click on Images to Enlarge)

How is the Sonata Better?

But Hyundai steps ahead of Ford in some ways. The Sonata's drag coefficient is .04 better than the Fusion. You'll scarcely feel that though. The Sonata's combined 202 horsepower trumps the 188 of the Fusion. You will feel that.

Hyundai has accomplished something Ford has not: integrating the battery seamlessly with the car. While the Fusion's trunk space is crowded by the battery pack, the Sonata's wattage is stored under the trunk. Cargo space is undiminished.

Both vehicles are solidly built modern sedans. For you, it will come down to a matter of taste. Sit down and drive around. Which feels right? Which controls are placed just where you'd place them? Do you like the visibility? Which car is talking to you?

All the Modern Touches

The Sonata has an eight inch touch screen navigation display. Owners can monitor battery levels and schedule charging through the Blue Link smart phone app. Blind-spot detection and other safety features come standard.

Charging from a 240 volt Level 2 station will take around two and a half hours or five from a 120 volt plug.

When Can You Get One?

The Sonata PHEV will go on sale near the end of 2015. Unfortunately it will be only in California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Maine. The price has not yet been announced, but expect it to be in the $35,000 range like the Fusion Energi.

The Sonata will not blow you away with originality, but you may not want it. Some people like to make their green statements in a library voice rather than with a bull-horn.

If you want a reliable, comfortable car that will get you and four passengers twenty miles without a whiff of emissions, then consider the Sonata. For its first plug-in, Hyundai did an admirable job.