For some time now Hyundai Motor Corp. has been involved with alternative energy vehicles. While this may be Hyundai's first "production" car to make it to Hyundai showrooms, they have been doing much more behind the scenes. The late 1990's and early 2000's there was a cultural push for alternative energy sources. Some companies saw potential and started doing their own R&D, Hyundai was one of them. While electric cars are not a new concept, I'll spare you the history lesson, bringing them to the masses is a different story.
Honda in 1999 gave us the "Insight" this funky 2 door hatch was the first to hit U.S. shores. While it did not sell the way Honda had hoped, it did kick the door open for other vehicles to come. Toyota was next and in 2000 we saw the "Prius" for the first time. Granted prior to 1999 there were a handful of cars that were all electric, most memorable is GM's EV1. What a shame, GM had a home run on their hands and they let big oil and lobbyist win. Shame on you GM.
Hyundai was working on its own electric vehicle. Hyundai introduced the Santa Fe in 2001, along with this introduction were 15 very special electric vehicles that made their way to the county of Honolulu. The 15 cars would be used as every day fleet vehicles. They had a range of 70-90 miles (sound familiar?) and worked flawlessly for their two year experiment. They had to pry the keys from their hands. Hyundai saw this as a success and continued with their research. Other car companies did the same and multiple hybrid vheicles have come out since then. A couple of years back while developing their new hybrid, Hyundai was looking even further into the future. Hyundai decided that their new "Tuscon" would be a good platform to add a fuel cell to and take a 28 day trip around the good ole USA. Even without refilling stations they were able to make it across the country. While the trip was for "Hope on Wheels" (a fundraiser to help raise awareness and treatment for childhood cancers). It also showcased Hyundai's ability to build a fully functional fuel cell vehicle. By 2015 Hyundai is hoping to have fuel cell technology in the hands of the masses, but with no infrastructure...how is that going to work out? Well as it turns out, Hyundai bought out a failing oil company in Korea and is transforming the gas stations to hydrogen fill stations. Problem solved in the home land but what about here in the USA? Hyundai has a fight on their hands, hopefully lobbyist won't win this time around and we will be able to utilize one of the greatest natural resources and take our dependance off fossil fuels.
Did I mention that Hyundai also turned a chunk of Chinese desert to a flourishing green meadow? Its true...look it up!
Enter the Sonata Hybrid. The Sonata is one of the hottest selling mid-sized family cars in the USA at the moment. Most dealership can not keep them on the lot and it has won more awards then I care to list. You can go to www.HyundaiUSA.com to look for yourself. I'll spare you the facts of the "normal" Sonata as this review is about its hybrid variant. It essentially has the same interior with the exception of the driver gauge pod (we will watch a video later about that) and some other minor tweaks. The trunk has a slightly less room in it due to the Lithium-polymer battery, we will learn more about that later. Other differences between the two cars are the front and rear fascias, headlights and tailights. The fascias are dramatically different and help the Hybrid be as slippery as possible. The Hybrid also sports non traditional wheels with low resistance tires and undertrays that aid in the aerodynamics of the vehicle to help it achieve it 40mph highway/35mph city EPA ratings. But is the $6000 price difference worth it?
Hybrid is a Hybrid, they all work the same...or do they?
Hyundai does use a four cylinder motor and a powerful electric motor to power the hybrid true, but that is about the end of the similarities. Hyundai's Theta II 2.4 motor has been designed to maximize fuel consumption, this means that the 198hp mark comes down to 166hp and the 184 ft/lbs of torque comes down to 154 ft/lbs. It is then coupled with a 30kWatt electric motor that makes 40hp and 151 ft/lbs of torque. In combination its like having a motor with 208hp and 193 ft/lbs of torque. The torque curve is almost immediate with the electric motor assisting and then the motor will take over at higher RPMs. The transmission is the standard 6 speed automatic from the normal Sonata. It also retains its shiftronic feature, which I'm not sure why, but its there. According to Edmunds.com the Hybrid will run to 60mph in 8.7 seconds which seems fair and will stop from 60 in a respectable 126ft.The Lithium-polymer battery makes it debut aswell. The battery is 25% lighter, 40% less volume, and 10% more efficient over its Nickel brethren. It also discharges slower to maintain charge 1.7 times longer.
This system is truly a parallel system. It can and will run entirely on battery power (EV Mode), together, or gas powered motor. Under normal driving conditions the car will switch to EV mode and the engine will sit dormant till its needed to either charge the battery or for acceleration. As a matter of fact, you can run EV mode all the way up to 74mph! I'm not sure any of the other vehicles in this class can do that. The Hybrid also utilizes regenerative braking, electric speed sensing steering, electric air conditioning, electric water and oil pump. The only thing that is belt driven really is the generator that is water cooled. The gauges will alert you to how the power is being used and where it is coming from (see video).
Does it work as a daily driver?
I picked up the car on Tuesday the 11th of October and had it for four days. I started with a full tank, so I zero'd out all of the information in the ecu. I started driving. It then became my primary mode of transportation. This meant that I had to install my son's car seat via the latch system (which by the way is the BEST way to install a car seat and I highly recommend you buy one that has this as a feature. We personally have used Britax car seats. They are up to European crash standards (70mph) not the American (35mph) standard...look them up, they are worth every penny!) and we were off. I was given the standard Hybrid model. There is only ONE upgrade and it costs $5000. The "Premium" package adds leather heated seats, 17" wheels, a huge moonroof and a bunch more. My initial impression was that the steering was light while in the parking lot and then tightened up while out on the road. Brakes seemed linear and stopped without any drama. The suspension is taut. It does not feel like a boat nor do you feel every bump in the road. I feel that great ride quality comes from Hyundai's SACHS Amplitude Selective Dampening shock absorbers. While handling is definitely not this cars forte, it took the corners nicely and was acceptable considering it had the smaller 16" rims with the low resistance tires. Even while on the highway with construction, it never once pulled and took the changing pavement well even while moving at a good pace. The motor and transmission are a good pair together. I actually never did feel the car shift once. What I did feel, and others have commented on it, is a slight hesitation while both modes of propulsion where in use. When it was in EV mode alone or gas mode alone, there was no hesitation at all and acceleration was smooth.
Is it worth it?
The simple answer is YES, this car will probably make to my garage with in the next year or so. My wife loved driving it and my son actually cried when we had to return it to the dealership. On several occasions I could see him watching the display checking out the cool graphics. He also liked the fact that I could put my MicroSD card (with USB adapter) into the USB port and play his favorite music. His Cd's reside in my wife's car. While this is a great family mover for the environmentally conscious, its just not my cup of tea. Although I must say that it did make me more aware of how my driving style affected my mileage. All in all, this would be for my wife who has always wanted a hybrid, but did not like how the others in the bunch worked or their really short warranties. The Sonata Hybrid fits the bill and I'm sure it will for you too.
Big thanks goes to Coastal Hyundai in Melbourne, FL
Turbo Fox Photography (pictures have logos on them) Thanks Andy!
More reviews to come! Show me some love and leave a comment below.