Making a Case to Consider a Sedan
Great style. Drives as well as it looks. Gets
more than 50 mpg. Now in its second year, the 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid sets
the bar high for five-passenger sedans. With the coupe-like design, the sleek
lines will cause you to pause about buying a crossover SUV.
Hyundai can rightly claim the Sonata Hyundai
Hybrid looks like no other sedan, highlighted by a distinctive LED headlight
design, which is edged by a very unique and compelling daylight running light
strip. The light strip runs up the fenders from beneath each headlight, then
becomes a chrome strip that extends to the outside rearview mirrors. The strip
appears to be chrome during the day, but lights-up at night.
The 2021 Sonata Hybrid comes
in three trim levels of Blue, ES and Limited. Clean Fleet Report was
driving the highly optioned Limited, which had the standard solar panel roof
that charges the 12-volt and hybrid batteries, producing two miles of electric
driving range for every six hours the car is left in the sun. Over the course
of a year, Hyundai says it could add more than 700 miles of driving range. The
solar roof means getting a sunroof is not possible, but we feel it is a good
tradeoff for this added level of high-tech wizardry.
Clean Fleet Report’s Sonata Hybrid, which Hyundai
says has a “seductive silhouette,” was painted in Calypso Red; the smooth sides
had a tasteful chrome strip around the windows. The swept-back coupe-look leads
to a distinctive rear end design dominated by a LED strip, stretching from
edge-to-edge of the trunk lid. This horizontal lighting connects the brake
lights, which have small air flow fins. The advent of LED lighting has opened a
new world of design possibilities for Hyundai.
Upscale is a term tossed around loosely at times
when it comes to interior design. In the case of the Sonata Hybrid, the word
fits perfectly. The clean lines are handsome and refined. Our black on black
interior color scheme had soft touch materials, with some of the plastic
surfaces having a pleasant grain feel. The Limited, which is the top trim
level, comes standard with leather-trimmed, heated and ventilated front seats
The driver’s seat has eight-way power adjustments with lumbar and memory while
the passenger gets four-way power adjustments, lacking one to raise the seat
Rear seat access was excellent, with the comfortable
rear seats with sculpted seat backs and ample head and leg room. The rear
window privacy shades were a nice touch. By placing the batteries under the
seat, the trunk room was large with a low lift-over for easy loading. Oddly,
the trunk lid did not have an inside handle, which meant, when closing, your
hand would get dirty touching the paint.
The low slung dash has a 10.25-inch horizontal color
touchscreen housing the navigation, surround-view camera and the Bose premium
audio system with 12 speakers. This great-sounding system has SiriusXM, AM/FM/HD
radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Bluetooth, aux and USB ports complete
the audio system. The leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel has controls
for audio, telephone and the adaptive cruise control. For ease-of-use, we would
have liked to see a channel sector knob to accompany the volume knob.
Other features are a 12.3-inch color LCD instrument
cluster that includes easy-to-read gauges with white backgrounds and black
numbers, a proximity key with push button start, dual automatic temperature
control, a color head-up display, heated and power side mirrors with turn
signals, rear vents and USB charge port and wireless phone charging. The cabin
was quiet with Hyundai adding soundproof glass on the windshield and front door
windows, thicker carpet and sound absorption materials throughout the car.
Technology features continue with the Hyundai Blue Link app, which provides access to vehicle systems,
including remote start, and the Digital
Key providing extra
convenience and safety. The Homelink auto-dimming rear view mirror is an
integrated transceiver (a transmitter and receiver) that can be programmed to
activate radio frequency (RF) devices such as garage doors, estate/community
gates, entry door locks, home/office lighting, security systems or other RF
devices. Make sure to check-out the four different ways to open the Smart Trunk.
The front-wheel drive Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine producing 150 horsepower (hp)
and 139 pound-feet (lb.-ft.) of torque. The 39 kilowatt (kW) electric motor and
the 56 kW/270-volt lithium-ion battery adds-in 29 hp and 151 lb.-ft. of torque,
for a total system 192 hp.
The shift-by-wire six-speed automatic, which
is engaged by pushing buttons on the center console, has a Shiftronic mode and
paddle shifters. The Drive Mode Select helps you get the
most performance and fuel efficiency from the hybrid system, offering choices
of Smart, Normal, Sport and Custom. The system defaults to Normal when
restarting the engine so, for the most performance opt for Sport, where the
steering effort is increased and there is added responsiveness of the engine
and transmission. Smart mode will give you the best fuel economy while
compromising slightly on performance.
The torque comes on smoothly at a low 1,800
rpm, giving unexpected spirited acceleration with 0-60 times around 8.0 seconds. This is ample
power to get up to speed, but it is not a sports sedan, even though the hybrid
system is peppy and the handling is quite good for a five-passenger car
weighing in at 3,530 pounds.
The EPA estimates fuel economy to be 45 mpg city/51
highway/47 combined: numbers that make Clean Fleet Report smile as we
are happy to drive a car that is a serious fuel sipper. During our week in the
Sonata Hybrid we drove 210 miles through Southern California, averaging 48.6
mpg. Our freeway fuel economy test loop of 160 miles, traveling round trip from
Dana Point to the San Ysidro Mexican border crossing, averaged a very
impressive 55.8 mpg. We got this stellar number by setting the adaptive cruise
control to 65 mph, which is the posted speed on Interstate 5.
The slippery aerodynamics are partially due
to the 0.24 coefficient of drag, with deflectors of smooth underbody panels
that block air going to the engine when in electric mode and tiny rear lamp
fins to improve air flow. Since this is not a plug-in hybrid, the Sonata Hybrid
doesn’t have a dedicated EV mode. But you are rewarded for a light touch on the
accelerator pedal, as it runs in electric mode when cruising on the highway,
and much of the time when driving in town. Fuel economy numbers reported by Clean
Fleet Report are non-scientific and represent the reviewer’s driving
experience using the dash gauge computer. Your numbers may differ.
The Sonata Hybrid has a solid and confident
ride on the 17-inch wheels and the 215/55 all-season tires. The ride is
comfortable, with little wind noise, and only the harshest road imperfections
transmit sounds to the cabin. Cornering was capable when pushed, but not
sporty, so searching-out mountain corners should be replaced with hitting the
open road. The power-assisted steering was direct and gave good road feedback,
while the regenerative brakes (the system that puts electricity back into the
battery when coasting or stopping) had a progressive feel, producing straight
and true stops.
A safety feature on the Sonata Hybrid is the
whirring sound made when stopping, and when driving at very slow speeds. This
sci-fi sound is there to warn pedestrians that a completely silent vehicle is
approaching. It works exceptionally well at crosswalks and in shopping center
parking lots. Plus, my neighbors gave me a “what the heck!” look when coasting
into my driveway in full EV mode.
The Sonata Hybrid comes with an extensive list of standard
safety features. They include nine airbags (front, knee, side air curtain)
along with lane keeping assist, blind spot detection, forward collision
avoidance, rear cross-traffic avoidance assist, hill start assist, surround
view monitor with parking sensors, tire pressure monitoring system, and
electronic stability control. One very cool feature is, when using the right or
left turn signal, a camera comes on showing the front and side views of the
Sonata, depending on which direction is being turned.
The 2021 Sonata Hybrid earned a Five Star, its highest
safety rating, from the National
Highway and Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Insurance
Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the Sonata Hybrid its
Top Safety Pick.
The 2021 Sonata Hybrid comes
with these warranties:
Systems – 10 years/100,000 miles
– 10 years/100,000 miles
Vehicle – Five years/60,000 miles
Maintenance – Three years/36,000 miles
Assistance – Five years/Unlimited miles
– Seven years/Unlimited miles
The 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid comes in three
trim levels, with these base prices that include the $1,005 freight charges.
- Blue $28,775
- SEL $30,805
- Limited $36,305
Clean Fleet Report’s Sonata Hybrid
Limited, with $155 in options and the $1,005 freight and handling fee, had a
final MSRP of $36,460.
Observations: 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited
Clean Fleet Report
doesn’t have a ranking system for the cars, crossovers, minivans and trucks we
review. However, if we did, I would like to go on the record as saying the 2021
Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is my favorite four-door, five-passenger sedan. As noted
earlier, the 2021 Sonata Hybrid Limited makes me smile, from the sleek slippery
design to the excellent interior, the well-earned safety ratings, and of course
the stellar fuel economy. And all of this for a base price under $29,000.
Summary: Affordable and efficient with a long list of standard features.
Go into a Hyundai dealer for a lengthy test drive and see
how this hybrid sedan fits your lifestyle. Make sure to have the sales
associate walk you through the outstanding and inclusive warranty, and show you
the cool solar roof. These are only two elements on the 2021 Hyundai Sonata
Hybrid that should put it at the top of your list.
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Story by John
Faulkner. Photos by John Faulkner and Hyundai.
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles
from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are
based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address
issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition,
we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or
technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation,
lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of
vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in
their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids,
hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that
are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer
reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle
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