In view of soaring fuel prices, hybrids are becoming more commonplace on LA streets. Hybrids can be had ranging in size from compacts to SUVs. Midway between the two extremes sits the Sonata Hybrid, a midsize sedan comparable in dimensions to the Standard Sonata but with distinctive styling. On February 20, Hyundai Motor America announced that the improved 2013 Sonata Hybrid achieves better fuel economy and is priced $200 less than the outgoing 2012 Sonata Hybrid. In addition, Hyundai will continue to offer an industry-exclusive Hybrid Lifetime Battery Warranty on this year’s Sonata Hybrid. The vehicle is also equipped with a larger, lighter 47 kW Lithium Polymer Battery Pack and a higher output electric motor.
The base price of the 2013 Sonata Hybrid is $25,650. It includes an impressive collection of goodies for the price. For those that demand a bit more luxury, the Sonata Hybrid Limited can be had for $30,550. Hyundai notes that the 2013 version increases fuel efficiency and operates in all-electric mode more often and for longer periods of time; this improvement is due to an advanced version of the brand’s Hybrid Blue Drive architecture. The improved architecture optimizes electric-only driving by adding a larger capacity 10.5 kW Hybrid Starter Generator (HSG), higher output 35 kW electric motor, a more powerful 47 kW Lithium Polymer battery pack and an optimized hybrid operating strategy. These upgrades are paired with a 2.4-liter Theta II four-cylinder engine that now runs on a more efficient Atkinson cycle and an enhanced transmission to generate 206 HP. The new Sonata Hybrid Blue Drive system offers greater fuel efficiencies by increasing the overall amount of available electrical drive power, allowing drivers to go further between fuel stops.
As in previous Sonata Hybrids, the 2013 Sonata Hybrid features a clutch to decouple the gasoline engine from the drivetrain. When in pure electric drive, the Sonata Hybrid can drive electrically up to 75 miles per hour. Hyundai claims that by maximizing electric-only driving results in higher fuel efficiency, which is the leading factor car buyers look for in a hybrid vehicle. Hyundai engineers aimed to increase the overall amount of available electrical drive power and improve the efficiency of the Hybrid Blue Drive operating system in the 2013 Sonata Hybrid. Hyundai notes that by using a higher output 35 kW electric motor and the more powerful 47 kW Lithium Polymer battery pack, the Hybrid Blue Drive powertrain maximizes electric-only driving. The improved operating system takes advantage of newly developed driving pattern detection and engine on/off optimization logic. The availability of more battery energy allows for greater flexibility in running the gasoline engine at optimum efficiency, which saves fuel. Better kinetic energy recovery and increased charging efficiency powers the Sonata Hybrid in all-electric mode more often and for longer periods of time, increasing fuel economy.
The 2013 Sonata Hybrid utilizes the all-electric mode at optimal moments such as highway driving, then saves the gasoline engine start-up for roads that require a heavier dose of power. All of this translates to money saved for the driver. One negative that many notes when comparing the standard Sonata to the Hybrid is the decreased trunk volume mandated by the battery pack. For 2013, Hyundai has improved on that shortcoming. The new kW lithium polymer battery pack is not only is it more powerful and more energy dense but also weighs less and takes up less trunk volume. The weight of the pack has gone from 92.4 pounds to 87.8 pounds while trunk volume has increased from 10.7 cu. ft. to 12.1 cu. ft. Hyundai stresses that the improved efficiency of the battery pack is key to recovering more kinetic energy from braking and charging from the engine, when needed, to help propel the vehicle. The newly optimized system allows the battery to store more usable energy, allowing more all-electric driving, cutting both fuel consumption and emissions.
If you are considering adding a hybrid to your stable, check out the Sonata Hybrid. It may not be the mileage leader among hybrids but in return you get a real car—a comfy mid-sized sedan with many outstanding features.