Everybody’s brain works differently. When I hear the word “hybrid”, I think about the tree-hugging hippies I saw in Los Angeles. I also think of those YouTube videos where people line up their Prius’ next to 6.7L Dodge Rams with the Cummins; the traffic light turns green and a thick cloud of black smoke emits from the pickup’s exhaust pipes and the Prius is left behind in its dust. I decided to drive this 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid back-to-back with the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze 2.0TD to see if I prefer these new fangled hybrid contraptions over the old-school feeling and torque provided by a diesel engine.
My tester for the week was a 2013 Sonata Hybrid in base trim, powered by a 2.4L Atkinson Cycle inline 4-cylinder engine mated to a lithium-ion battery-powered electric motor. Painted in a Blue Sky Metallic, this Sonata with its catfish-like front end looks the part; efficiency is clearly what it’s meant to do. One of the only hybrids powered by a conventional automatic transmission instead of the dreaded CVT, Hyundai has put in a 6-speed automatic. This combination allows this Camry Hybrid-competitor to put out 199 horsepower and 154 lb-ft of torque. The electric motor’s added boost makes the Sonata feel a bit peppier than it actually is; the inner enthusiast in me isn’t completely disappointed.
It’s been a while since I have had the chance to vent my frustration with CVT transmissions; I was genuinely surprised at the lack of whining at high RPMs in this Sonata. The transmission shifts effortlessly and you’re on your way without any nonsense. Hyundai has clearly engineered this transmission very well; you can barely tell when it upshifts and downshifts. I’ll chalk it up to be the best of both worlds. Keeping up with traffic isn’t an issue with the Sonata Hybrid either; the Camry Hybrid and Cruze 2.0TD are both vehicles that feel lethargic for various reasons. The efficient 4-banger means this Sonata isn’t exactly as quick as the Genesis Coupes we’ve had around the last little while, but it moves along effortlessly.
Before I go on to discuss the stellar fuel economy I experienced with the Sonata Hybrid, I’d like to address a couple of quick issues I had with the car. I found that the brakes were a bit lackluster; the pedal seemed a bit squishy and touchy at the same time. Granted, it’s definitely due to the software which switches from regenerative braking for the hybrid system back to conventional friction braking. I do however have full confidence that the Hyundai gurus will remedy this in the next generation of Sonata (which we should be expecting any day now).
Secondly, I’m a strict user of Bluetooth. Even before the laws in Ontario prohibited use of handheld devices while driving, I was using hands-free toys to receive any calls I was forced to answer while driving. While using the handsfree system in the Sonata Hybrid, I was told by multiple parties that it was nearly impossible to hear my voice on their end. I will say though, the 6-speaker stereo in this car sounded brilliant at the price point. Hyundai has also stepped up their game: this system no longer requires the proprietary iPod cable, a standard Apple cable does the trick just fine.
The test car I was driving was a base model Sonata Hybrid, so the panoramic sunroof, navigation system, and leather interior were all absent, but I wasn’t exactly complaining. Current price adjustments and incentives mean that the 2013 model can be picked up for just over $25,000. From a value standpoint, this car absolutely wins. The base Sonata still comes with dual-zone automatic climate control, heated seats for our frigid Canadian winters, and an intelligent key system.
Best of all though, the Sonata Hybrid will please your wallet in the long term. I only had to fill the car up once during my test week, and that too, just before returning the car to Hyundai. I averaged a wonderful 5.1L/100km in combined driving, which I was very happy with. This is right in line with numbers we have observed from competitors such as the Toyota Camry Hybrid or even the Ford C-Max I drove this past winter. My daily commute involved being stuck in gridlock on the highway for kilometres on end, where the Sonata excelled by sitting in full EV mode for a significant period. Unlike any other hybrid I’ve ever driven, the Hyundai is able to engage EV mode at highway speeds as well.
Diesel engines have their benefits. It’s a proven technology, but affordable diesels lack the refinement of hybrids. Coasting to traffic lights and hypermiling techniques are all new to me, but I began to enjoy them. Driving a hybrid isn’t an experience – it’s a state of mind. It was a pleasant change to stay away from the sports cars we always seem to have around the Double Clutch garage and save some money for once. This car taught me that saving fuel and being conservative doesn’t always have to be a punishment. Driving this Sonata Hybrid showed me a new level of relaxation and nirvana, and it involved listening to some Vivaldi on the satellite radio.
2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Gallery