Drive in a hybrid-specific fuel-sipping manner, you will garner significant fuel savings. However, drive it conventionally, as I do all my cars, and a hybrid is little different than a conventional automobile of the same size and power. That’s in complete contrast to diesel-powered cars, which show a modest advantage when driven timidly but really shine if you have a lead foot.
I averaged, 8.4 litres per 100 kilometres in the Hyundai, a far cry from the 5.6/4.6L/100 km city/highway rating from Transport Canada. More specifically, it’s about half a liter more per 100 km than I averaged in a BMW 335d turbodiesel, which is faster and more powerful.
BH: David, did you do all of your driving on a racetrack, or just on the highway at some illegal rate of knots? I spent a fair amount of time motoring about the city, which is where hybrids really shine, and averaged 6.9 L/100 km during my week with the car. And I didn’t drive in a specific manner either.
That said, I wasn’t looking for scintillating acceleration, just a car that keep up with the steady flow of traffic without being a hindrance. The fact is, except for a few occasions when a heavier foot was called for – such as merging on to the highway – I drove the Sonata in Eco mode. It’s no dilettante – not with a net output of 206 horsepower from the combination of 2.4-litre gasoline engine and 40-horsepower electric motor.
DB: I have to admit the Sonata surprised me with its more-than-acceptable highway mileage (a typical hybrid soft spot). At 110 km/h, it was still metering out a totally credible 5.9 L/100 km. Moving up to a keeping-up-with-the-Jones 130 km/h, though it started sucking back close to eight litres for every 100 km. That’s not half-bad, but it’s about a litre more than the aforementioned 335d. Better, yes, than most conventional cars but still not as good as a simple diesel on the highway.
That said, the Sonata drives better than any hybrid I’ve sampled. The key really was Hyundai’s decision to stick with the conventional six-speed automatic transmission. In most circumstances, the Sonata Hybrid feels totally conventional. There is some throttle lag in some passing situations – as if the car is deciding whether it wants to let you consume that much gasoline. Nonetheless, it’s the most pleasant hybrid experience I’ve had.
BH: Agreed. There was a – dare I say it – sportiness to the Sonata I haven’t experienced with other hybrids. Hyundai makes much fuss over the fact the car’s Hybrid Blue Drive is the first and only system using lightweight lithium-polymer battery technology, rather than the nickel-metal hydride and lithium-ion setups used by competitors. According to the automaker, lithium polymer offers the benefits of lithium ion, but it adds robustness, power density and package flexibility. That remains to be seen, but the lithium-polymer battery pack does help make the Sonata Hybrid the lightest vehicle in the segment at just 1,574 kilograms. That’s more than 100 kg lighter than the Ford Fusion Hybrid.
DB: That feeling of conventionality also lets you notice that the basic Sonata platform is another giant step forward for Hyundai. From its almost radical good looks to the spacious cabin with a near-premium appearance, the Sonata has truly left the cheap and cheerful motif behind. I could do without the de rigueur green displays – a little digital tree monitors the environmental impact of your driving style – but the rest of the dashboard display is top-notch.
BH: Come on, David, those displays are the real reward for driving a hybrid. I absolutely geeked out on the Eco level scoring system, which acknowledges green-focused motoring with eight levels of sky colour ranging from grey to bright blue. That said I was disappointed there was no payout for accumulating points in Total Eco.