Stylish Hyundai Sonata Hybrid offers comfort

Stylish Hyundai Sonata Hybrid offers comfort

2011 Hyundai Sonata featured

Hyundai’s Sonata Hybrid is a sharply styled family sedan with good mileage and a quiet, comfortable interior to haul four or five adults.

It takes a different approach than most hybrids, using a six-speed automatic transmission instead of a CVT, continuously variable transmission, to put the power to the road.

There is plenty of power. The 2.4-liter Atkinson cycle I4 delivers 166 horsepower and the electric hybrid motor another 40 hp, for 206 total. The sleek sculptured Sonata reaches highway speeds quickly. There’s even a Shiftronic feature to let the driver select the gears manually.

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The difficulty I had with the hybrid Sonata is that the car downshifts at least two gears to give you that burst and the accompanying groaning it exudes makes the car feel like it’s overworking to get to full speed.

Driving in the economy mode and not being aggressive feels smooth, but if you ask for more power, there is first some hesitation, then the downshift and accompanying noise. Sonata will accelerate to 62 mph on electric power, if needed, the most of any hybrid to date.

Otherwise the car is quiet and comfortable. Sonata handles well and its independent suspension front and rear delivers a well controlled ride befitting a larger sedan. The car rides on a 110-inch wheelbase and weighs 3,457 pounds.

Hyundai includes newer battery technology than you’ll find in most hybrids. Hyundai’s Hybrid Blue Drives use lithium-polymer batteries in a parallel hybrid system. These are lighter, smaller and supposed to be more durable. Still, they take up a bit of room and trim Sonata’s trunk space to 10.7 cubic feet, compared with 16.4 cubic feet in the gas-powered model.

Sonata delivers its best gas mileage on the highway. Most hybrids excel in fuel efficiency in city driving. Sonata is rated 35 mpg city and 40 highway. However, I came up with only 32.9 mpg in about 60% city driving.

The hybrid Sonata features extremely heavy steering. This feels like you’re driving a much heavier car.

Braking is excellent, coming from four-wheel discs with ABS, traction control and stability control.

Inside, the silver test car looked luxurious and was well laid out. Much of that luxury came from a $5,000 premium option package that included leather seats, gray in this case, along with heated front and rear seats and leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

The package also included a panoramic sunroof, over the front and the rear seat. There also is a tire and wheel upgrade to 17-inchers, up from 16-inch standard, plus a rear backup camera, navigation with a touchscreen, and fancy Infinity stereo with satellite radio including traffic, weather and sports.

The gauges look great and also are well laid out for easy use.

[![2011 Hyundai Sonata interior]( "2011 Hyundai Sonata interior")](, the silver test car looked luxurious and was well laid out.
The seats are mildly contoured and quite comfortable. These are power seats with power lumbar support. Rear seats are equally comfortable with good head and leg room.

The base price is $25,795. But with all the options the test car hit $31,650. The gas-powered SE I’d driven earlier started at $22,595 and with options came to $26,015. A base GLS with the gas-powered 198-horse I4 starts at $19,395 and is rated 24 mpg city and 35 highway.

Overall the Sonata is an attractive, quiet, comfortable family sedan. It’s your call on whether the hybrid system is worth the extra cost.

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