2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Starting MSRP: $26,000 - $30,100

Estimated MPG: 40 city / 44 hwy

2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Review

Looking for the greenest bang for your buck? Search no further than the completely redesigned 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. Its forward-thinking design, class-leading interior room, silky transmission and svelte cornering make the new Sonata Hybrid a top contender for those in the market for a fuel-sipping four-door that not only feels good, but looks just as good.

By Melanie Batenchuk
Last Updated 07/22/2016

Now in its second generation, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is based on the new-for-2015 gas-only Sonata in design, but this iteration gets mated to a hybrid drivetrain for maximum fuel savings. While the regular Sonata garners respectable fuel economy (28 mpg combined), the hybrid version goes the extra mile in this important category--and we do mean that literally.

Car shoppers may select from two main trim levels: SE and Limited. The base Sonata Hybrid SE comes generously stocked with features typically found on higher-priced vehicles competing with the Hyundai brand (really, the bang-for-your-buck quotient is quite impressive). The top-tier Limited trim gets additional standard features beyond the base Hybrid version plus an optional "Ultimate" package that adds beaucoup advanced safety tech features and a bigger infotainment system interface.

The 60/40 fold-down rear seats come in handy when carrying cargo (or your latest Ikea procurement). The seats lay nice and flat, and the opening into the trunk area is wide and accommodating. Be warned, however, that the depth of the trunk itself is reduced thanks to the lithium polymer battery hiding below.

The 2016 model gets an improved six-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic technology from Hyundai, making this 2.0-liter five-seater a breeze to drive in both urban and wide-open-road conditions. The revised transmission certainly makes a difference in the overall driving experience when compared with the outgoing model. Also, the transition between driving modes, such as Sport and Eco, did not seem to affect the smoothness of the engine's shift points.

Exterior

Exterior
9

Design wise, Hyundai's Sonata Hybrid gets a slightly different treatment than its gas-only sibling; the front and rear fascia and wheels have been designed with maximum aerodynamics in mind. This may or may not appeal to every buyer, but we think Hyundai did a nice job giving the Sonata Hybrid a unique look without ostracizing the mainstream.

On the front, high-density headlights flank a wide-open hexagonal grille (larger than that found on the current standard Sonata) and LED fog lamps accent the bottom corners.

Chrome accents continue from the headlights to the A-pillar and extend along the top of the doors, reaching a final destination of the vehicle's rear side window and wrapping around the base of the side windows, giving the exterior design a more premium look.

We tested the top model of the Sonata Hybrid, which comes with one of two exclusive exterior paint choices: Seaport Mist or Graphite Blue Pearl. Ours had the Seaport Mist exterior paint, which can best be described as a soothing seafoam green with a subtle metallic fleck. The Seaport Mist paint comes with the option for a coordinating Blue Pearl interior, which is a deep, slate blue leather with contrasting stitching that's implemented on the seats and the door panels. We found these color choices not only to be unique but also to be effective at elevating the appearance of the Sonata Hybrid, giving it a more sophisticated aesthetic.

Hyundai continues to impress us with its larger-than-life panoramic sunroofs. The Ultimate package gave us this expansive roofline on the Hybrid we tested.

We prefer most of the design updates to the Sonata Hybrid, such as the larger grille, fascia accents and updated lighting. It's a beautifully designed sedan; however, to maintain this vehicle's good looks, we'd prefer to stick with the less aerodynamic wheels from the gas-powered Sonata.

Interior

Interior
10

Hyundai continues to improve the quality of its building materials, fit and finishes, particularly in its higher-level trim models. The 2016 Sonata Hybrid Limited with the Ultimate package contained minimal hard-touch surfaces and instead was wrapped in the Blue Pearl leather accents mentioned earlier.

The interior roof gets lined with soft microsuede, which combines with the large sunroof to provide an open, airy feel inside. Controls, seats and side panels all feel sturdy and as if they are meant to last the life of the vehicle.

Hyundai has invested both research and resources into sound-dampening materials throughout the front of the cabin, giving the Sonata the quietness of a far more luxurious vehicle.

Visibility from the cockpit is excellent, and Hyundai's technology features only complement the smart design. Bucket seats for the driver and front passenger are supportive and quite cozy -- this is a car that's easy to become comfortable with after driving it only a short while. Thanks to the Sonata's class-leading interior space, all five passengers have plenty of head- and legroom to sprawl out as-needed.

Front seats come standard with heat and ventilation options, while back seats have only heaters. The driver gets an eight-way adjustable seat with lumbar support and the front passenger a six-way with lumbar support.

Typically, hybrids are short on cargo space due to the placement of the hybrid battery pack. Hyundai's Sonata Hybrid is superior in that its battery nestles beneath the rear seats and trunk in a way that enables both a flat-bottom trunk floor and the capability for 60/40 split fold-down rear seats (a feature that often gets sacrificed due to hybrid batteries).

While the trunk is a bit shallow cargo space remains plentiful, especially with the rear seats folded down. We took a day-trip with our furry copilots plus their gear. We found the Sonata roomy enough for two dogs, two crates, a cooler and all the makings for an outdoor picnic.

Performance

Performance
9

Hyundai's Sonata Hybrid is a pleasure to drive, whether in Sport, Eco or Normal mode. On urban jaunts, the Eco mode slows throttle response and alters the transmission's shift points in order to conserve further on gasoline. Open up the Sonata on country roads and shift into Sport mode with the press of a button and you'll be hugging turns and cruising around corners with ease.

Both the Sonata Hybrid and Hybrid Limited come with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with direct-injection, which is paired with an electric motor for a total output of 193 horsepower. A six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard.

Hyundai shores up the driving experience with MacPherson struts on the front-end and an independent multi-link design with coils in the back.

Fuel efficiency is sure to be a top reason for purchasers of the Sonata Hybrid Limited, and we think they'll be pleased with its 39/43 mpg city/highway fuel economy rating. The base Sonata Hybrid offers slightly better fuel economy ratings of 40/44 mpg. For comparison, the standard Sonata garners just 29 mpg combined.

Our only gripe, and the reason performance gets a nine rather than a 10, is with the brakes. The regenerative braking system causes braking to feel soft and delayed when compared with standard non-hybrid sedans of similar size. This is a typical byproduct of electrified cars and one we find customers could quickly adjust to; we simply felt it noticeable enough to mention.

Technology

Technology
10

We think you'll be hard-pressed to find a vehicle priced as loaded with technology in this price range. The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is chock full of standard technology features that make this affordable sedan ahead of its time.

Standard tech features on the base Sonata Hybrid model include dual-zone automatic climate control, a touch-screen audio system with a 5-inch display, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, satellite radio, proximity key with push-button start, Hyundai's Blue Link telematics system and a rearview camera.

If that's not enough technology for you, then simply upgrade to the Sonata Hybrid Limited with the Ultimate package for an extra $4,500. It will be well worth your extra dollars, as the overall price still comes out below $36,000.

Upgrade to the Limited and Limited Ultimate trim levels and you can also get blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control and navigation with an 8-inch display.

Hyundai has done well to provide a Bluetooth hands-free system that easily connects with both Google and Apple smartphones. Voice recognition is quite accurate with simple commands quickly responding to the user's request.

We enjoyed the larger navigation screen and easy-to-use maps integration on our Limited model with the Ultimate trim. Controls featured on the center stack also are easily accessible for the driver and front passenger, creating a comfortable ecosystem for each person, whether that includes adjusting the cabin temperature, inputting navigation or music selection.

Safety

Safety
10

Shoppers can rest assured that the 2016 Sonata Hybrid is one of the safest sedans on the market. All models come standard with seven air bags, including a new knee air bag for the driver, a backup camera, electronic stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes and a tire pressure monitoring system.

Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid a five-star overall safety rating, the highest available to 2016 models.

Optional equipment on the Limited and Limited Ultimate trim levels add more safety features, such as forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control.

Add just a bit more to your car buying budget and the Hyundai Sonata Limited will come stocked with a grocery list of safety features typically left for luxury brands at double the price. We'd say it's worth the investment.

Cost-Effectiveness

Cost-Effectiveness
10

The 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid starts at $26,000 for the SE model and jumps slightly to $30,100 for the Limited trim. Add $4,500 to the price tag for the Ultimate package (only available on Limited models) and you're still coming in at $34,600 before the $825 destination fee.

We think this year's Sonata Hybrid is one of the best green deals on the market when considering the space, functionality, performance and plentiful technology and safety features. 

We'd also recommend forking over the extra money for the additional tech and safety items in the Ultimate package.

As we said before, we think consumers would have a difficult time finding a better, more option-loaded hybrid sedan at this price point.

Overall

Overall
10

Few cars that we test can feel like our personal vehicles in such a short amount of time. The 2016 Sonata Hybrid Limited was just that for us -- comfortable. Its exterior design gives this Hyundai hybrid a sporty look without overdoing it with badging and chrome accents. The sophisticated style of the Sonata Hybrid carries on inside with an airy layout, well-bolstered seats and higher-end materials placed throughout the vehicle.

We prefer the updated design to the front and rear fascia, grille and headlamps and taillights. If we could improve anything, it would be the soft regenerative braking. 

When compared with other hybrid sedans on the market, we feel this Hyundai takes the cake. It looks good, drives great, and is overall the greenest bang for your buck out there.

If you're on the hunt for a hybrid four-door that seats five and gets up to 42 mpg combined, then make sure to put the 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Hybrid Limited on your list.