Hyundai unveiled a redesigned version of its Sonata Hybrid sedan at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. This follows the implementation of a new design for the gas-powered version in 2014, which brought improvements in styling, comfort and ride quality. The icing on the cake is the introduction of a Sonata variant that can be plugged in—for greater efficiency and power.
The look of the Sonata’s hybrid versions—both with and without plugs—is very close to the base model. The gas-electric model carries a unique front and rear fascia, and aerodynamic wheels, which helps it achieve a low drag coefficient of 0.24. The plug-in hybrid version takes on a unique grille and a charge port on the front driver’s side. Other PHEV flourishes include special front fenders, front and rear lights, chrome side sill moldings, hybrid badging and new wheels.
Both models will arrive in dealerships later this year.
Sonata Plug-in Hybrid uses a six-speed automatic transmission with Hyundai’s Transmission-Mounted Electrical Device (TMED), a 50 kW electric motor, in place of a torque converter. The 50-kW electric motor is 32 percent more powerful than the motor used the in regular Sonata Hybrid and allows EV operation at higher speeds.
A 2.0-liter four-cylinder GDI engine coupled with the electric motor allows the Sonata Plug-in Hybrid to operate just like the Sonata Hybrid once the onboard battery charge is depleted. Sonata PHEV’s engine produces 154 horsepower and 140 lb. ft. of torque and the total system output is 202 horsepower at 6,000 rpm.
This gives the Sonata Plug-in Hybrid more oomph than any other plug-in hybrid on the market—handily beating the Volt’s 149 ponies, while beating the 188-hp Ford Fusion Energi and edging out the 195-hp Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid.
The 2016 Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid can travel about 27 miles purely on electric power, before the gas engine is called into service. Its 9.8-kWh lithium polymer battery pack—while significantly smaller than the Volt’s pack—is 40 percent larger than what’s offered in plug-in hybrids from Ford and Honda.
The Sonata PHEV is expected to deliver 93 MPGe combined in EV mode based on Hyundai’s estimates. After the battery is depleted, the vehicle still managed a very efficient 40 miles to the gallon.
Based on Hyundai’s preliminary specs, the Sonata Plug-in Hybrid (like its PHEV competition) uses a 3.3-kW charger. That’s fast enough to fill up an empty battery from a 240-volt source in about two and a half hours. However, buyers can get away without installing a 240-volt home charging station—and simply provided the provided cord set in standard 120-volt outlet. That pushes a full charge to about five hours, which on most days is completely adequate. Remember, if you don’t have time for a full charge, the car will still efficiently operate like a 40-mpg midsize hybrid.
Owners can manage the Sonata Plug-In Hybrid’s charging schedule via an exclusive Blue Link smartphone app. Drivers with attractive time-of-use electric rates can schedule charging to occur off-peak, when rates are the lowest.
The Sonata offers comfortable and spacious seating, front and back. Interior features are well designed, and intuitive. Bins and storage areas are thoughtfully arranged.
We expect only few interior changes in the plug-in Sonata. There’s a distinctive instrument cluster, providing drivers with additional EV information. In addition, a charge indicator is located on top of the dashboard to make it easy to see the state of charge from outside the vehicle.
Hyundai’s hands-free Smart Trunk is standard on the Sonata Plug-in Hybrid, as are an abundance of cutting edge infotainment features. The list of available options include an electronic parking brake with automatic vehicle hold, a driver memory seat, heated steering wheel, LED interior lights, ventilated front seats, power front seats with 4-way adjustable driver lumbar and Smart Cruise Control featuring full stop capability.
Official government safety ratings are not yet available. The 2016 Sonata Plug-in Hybrid comes standard with seven airbags, including a new driver’s knee airbag. Electronic Stability Control, Vehicle Stability Management, Traction Control, ABS and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System with individual tire pressure display, and a rearview camera are also standard. Projector headlamps are standard while HID headlamps are available.
Hyundai engineers implemented many standard active safety technologies—including Blind Spot Detection and Lane Change Assist—for the 2016 Sonata Plug-in Hybrid. Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning are also available.
Pricing for the Sonata plug-in hybrid starts at $35,400, including destination. The Premium trim, which adds high-tech driver assistance features, nicer appointments and upgraded audio brings the price to $39,400. Sonata PHEV buyers will be eligible for a $2,500 federal tax credit. Local incentives may also be available, for example, the clean vehicle rebate in California is an additional $1,500 and Sonata Plug-in Hybrid is eligible for California’s Green Clean Air Vehicle Decals that allow access to the HOV lanes.
The Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid will be available in California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont in late 2015.