Quick Spin: 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid car test drives reviews hyundai hybrids green scene green reviews greenreviews
Quick Spin: 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid car test drives reviews hyundai hybrids green scene green reviews greenreviews
2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Manufacturer’s web site
Hyundai Canada

Review and photos by Jonathan Yarkony

Photo Gallery:
2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is a bit of an oddity. It’s one of the rare hybrids that looks sportier than its conventionally powered brethren. With unique wheels, an entirely revised front grille and fascia, plus revised rear bumper with creased edges and contrasting rear diffuser, the Hybrid delivers on style in a way that few other hybrids, and few other mid-size sedans can match.

The overall Sonata design is a product of Hyundai’s ‘Fluidic Sculpture’ design philosophy shaping its sleek sheet metal. On the other hand, Hyundai’s value philosophy means it is also affordable at $28,999 with power seats, Bluetooth, proximity entry and push-button start, dual-zone auto climate control, leather seats, and a stylish interior to go along with its daring looks.

A Premium package takes the price up to $33,999, adding luxury-brand fare like heated rear seats, panoramic sunroof, backup camera, navigation system with high-res touchscreen and voice activation to go along with the seven-speaker Infinity premium sound system. Destination fees and A/C tax take the as-tested price to $35,664. However, I found headroom in the front seats limited with the sunroof, and the seat did awful things to my back—I just could not find a comfortable position.

The battery itself is constructed of a Lithium polymer, capable of 34 kW of power output with 5.3 Amp-hours of storage capacity. The 30-kW electric motor is rated at 40 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, that torque is conveniently available from 0–1,400 rpm.

Quick Spin: 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid car test drives reviews hyundai hybrids green scene green reviews greenreviews
Quick Spin: 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid car test drives reviews hyundai hybrids green scene green reviews greenreviews
Quick Spin: 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid car test drives reviews hyundai hybrids green scene green reviews greenreviews
Quick Spin: 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid car test drives reviews hyundai hybrids green scene green reviews greenreviews
2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

What advantages does Lithium construction offer? Higher energy density, which means it takes less battery to store an equivalent amount of energy, therefore taking up less space and using less weight than Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries.

Despite the high-tech battery, the Sonata Hybrid was a disappointment, both in its efficiency and as an overall driving experience. Hyundai has received its fair share of flak recently over surprisingly high real-world fuel consumption, and this Sonata Hybrid is no exception. While 7.2 L/100 km is impressive for a heavily featured mid-size sedan (and almost beat a Scion iQ we drove to 7.1 L/100 km recently—mostly highway driving, too), it is so far off the NRCan estimate of 5.5/4.6/5.1 L/100 km city/highway/combined, that it is a bit of a head scratcher. But perhaps more telling is that the Toyota Camry Hybrid, its chief competitor among hybrid family sedans, achieved a 5.7 L/100 km in similar use recently, and not nearly as far removed from its 4.7/5.1 NRCan estimate.

A shame, too, because many prospective customers that will be drawn to its sophisticated looks, luxurious interior, and long list of standard features will be able to ignore its clunky ride and uneven driving experience. We, however, could not. Whether taking off in electric vehicle (EV) mode on battery power alone, or engaging the engine from a heavy-footed start, the Sonata had uneven power delivery to go along with its unsorted ride and loose, uneven steering. Quite possibly the six-speed automatic was confused by the dual power sources.

However, once at speed, most of the hesitancy smoothed out, and the Lithium-ion battery was eager to take over full responsibility for moving this 1,641-kg sedan along. Come to think of it, the electric bits also did a great job moving the car from a stop without waking up the 166-hp 2.4L gas engine until the battery was near drained, and one doesn’t have to baby the throttle in order to keep it in EV mode. Just put your foot down moderately, as most of us normally do, and you’ll easily lurch up to 40–50 km/h in EV mode.

In the end, it’s a car you’ll pick for style and content, and to gain power while saving gas over other Sonata models, rather than to beat any fuel consumption records.

Price: 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
Base price: $28,999
Options: $5,000 (Premium Package: heated rear seats, panoramic sunroof, navigation system with high-res touchscreen and voice activation, backup camera, seven-speaker Infinity premium sound system, 17-inch wheels)
Destination: $1,565
A/C Tax: $100
Price as tested: $35,664

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