Review: Hyundai 2011 Sonata Hybrid

Like the Fusion Hybrid, the Sonata has a handy display that, among other things, encourages efficient driving by turning it into a game. Show some restraint and drive with a measure of eco-friendliness and you’ll earn points while watching a little globe turn green and blue. Mash the accelerator like a lunatic and it’ll turn brown. You also earn points that accumulate as long as you own the car. You won’t win any prizes, but you can brag to your Prius-driving friends about it.

With 206 horsepower from the engine-motor combo, acceleration is about the same as a regular Sonatas. Pay close attention and you’ll feel, and hear, the engine take over from the electric motor, but it isn’t terribly noticeable. The Sonata hybrid has the grabby, regenerative brakes common to hybrids, but you quickly get used to it.

Like its siblings, the hybrid is quiet at speed, and the firm ride is comfortable and controlled. It’s no sport sedan, but handling is safe and predictable, which, really is what most folks shopping for a mid-sized sedan want.

The interior features the same low-gloss plastics, soft-touch dash, plentiful storage nooks and comfortable seating as the rest of the Sonata line. There’s a standard USB port and Bluetooth, as well as power windows and doors, push-button ignition and a six-speaker audio system. The “premium package” adds leather, navi, a sunroof, a better stereo system and heated front and rear seats. This is a car you can live with daily and with all the gadgets and excellent fuel economy, it actually makes a good road-trip vehicle.

Hyundai hasn’t released pricing, if Hyundai stays true to form it’ll undercut the Camry and Fusion hybrids — both of which play in the $28,000 ballpark — by a couple thousand dollars. And that might be the final knockout punch that puts Hyundai’s competitors down for the count.

Keith Buglewicz is an occasional contributor to and editor in chief of Family Car Review

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