The Korea Herald


New Sonata hybrid a pleasant surprise

By Korea Herald

Published : Dec. 28, 2014 - 21:47

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The new Sonata hybrid was a pleasant surprise to drive, defying all the skepticism people might have about domestic hybrid cars.

Hyundai Motor’s ambitious new hybrid version of one of the country’s best-selling midsize vehicle was satisfying, with high fuel economy ― its combined gas mileage stood at 17.7 kilometers per liter for the 17-inch wheels ― power and driving comfort.

The test drive was held on Dec. 23 on the roads between Mayfield Hotel in Gimpo, Gyeonggi Province, and Incheon Hyatt hotel.

I noticed that the engine was quieter than previous models, while the accelerator was very responsive. Braking was also effortless.

In EV mode, the car sustained a speed of over 40 kilometers per hour, which is better than many of its rivals ― possibly thanks to the 6-speed automatic transmission. Hyundai said the car could reach a speed of 120 kilometers per hour due to its permanent magnet synchronous motor. 

Even in gasoline mode, the engine remained soundproof, which was perfect since unlike some drivers, I am all for quiet engines. The car, however, offered some excitement in sports mode, when the engine let out a loud roar.

The driving was smooth, and I barely noticed that I was going 100 kilometers per hour.

What most impressed me about the Sonata was its coasting guide system, which directs drivers when to take their foot off the accelerator in situations like cornering and merging onto the highway. This helps drivers maximize their fuel economy because it lessens the chances of having to use the brakes. The new Sonata hybrid is the first Hyundai model with such guidance.

Power was also on the car’s side, as the 2.0 GDi engine is capable of 156 horsepower. Its 270V-lithium ion polymer battery has a warranty of up to 200,000 kilometers or 10 years ― a reflection of Hyundai’s confidence.

The world’s fifth-largest carmaker expects to sell 55,000 units of the model worldwide next year.

“This is Hyundai’s answer to the future environmentally friendly car era,” said Kim Sang-dae, a marketing executive of the company.

There is one flaw with the Sonata hybrid ― it is far from attractive, at least in my view.

There are simply too many details ― part of what Hyundai describes as its aerodynamic style ― though the current trends are all about going simple.

But at the end of the day, the low cost helps compensate for the bad design, as it makes sense to fork over 28.7 million won ($25,900) for a reasonably safe and sound car.

By Bae Ji-sook (