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2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited – socially responsible and fun to drive

September 13, 2015
The latest Hyundai Sonata is an elegant-looking machine

The latest Hyundai Sonata is an elegant-looking machine

Hyundai’s 2016 Sonata Hybrid Limited is a grown-up four-door, front-wheel-drive sedan that has panache, luxury, sophistication and is ecologically sound. All of those qualities don’t normally go together in hybrid cars, so this one is special.

Hyundai gave the Sonata a facelift in 2015 and its 2016 model is more evidence that the Korean vehicle maker is hitting the marks with each new rendition. Even more important, the driving qualities of the Sonata make it an excellent choice for those with a long commute or the desire to take road trips. After all, with fuel economy rated at 39/43/41 mpg from the large (for a hybrid) 15.85-gallon tank and using regular unleaded, one can expect nearly 600 miles of stress-free driving.

The trunk has more than 13 cubic feet of space

The trunk has more than 13 cubic feet of space

We drove this starlight silver (with complementary gray interior) 2016 Sonata in Denver for the NHRA Mile High Nationals in mid-July. As usual it was hot outside and our bodies had a hard time adjusting to the altitude, but there was no trouble adjusting to this machine. It has a 2-liter direct injection inline 4-cylinder engine that makes 154 horsepower at 5000 rpm, together with 140 lb-ft of torque at 5000. There is an electric motor with battery pack that supply another 51 horsepower much lower in the rev range (1770-2000rpm) together with an added 151 lb-ft of torque at 0-1770.

The Sonata hybrid has sufficient power for most anyone

The Sonata hybrid has sufficient power for most anyone

This mechanical combination allows the Sonata easy freeway merges and passing, together with hybrid use up to about 75 miles per hour on level surfaces. Nothing like it, other than its sibling, the Kia Optima hybrid. Hyundai uses a traditional (not CVT) 6-speed shiftable automatic transmission with excellent gearing to get the power going, and its suspension is also traditional, sporting MacPherson struts with coil springs at the front and independent multi-links to the rear. One can change drive modes from ECO to normal to sport; we stayed in ECO for much of the ride but had to test the sport settings a few times just because – it was grand fun but did bring mileage down a tick.

The Limited model of the 2016 Hyundai Sonata hybrid is filled with lots of extras that adds extra ballast to this car, weighing in at 3560 pounds. Not that we’d want to do without any of the goodies that increase the price of entry from $30,925 including freight to a total of $35,765. No, that wouldn’t do.

The office of this Sonata hybrid is an easy place to be

The office of this Sonata hybrid is an easy place to be

We love the panoramic tilt/slide sunroof that extends the length of the sedan and the high-gloss window surround. Some of the nannies like lane departure warning, forward collision warning we can do without much of the time, but they’re here to stay, whether we like them or not. The navigation system is excellent, as is the audio system that includes Infinity speakers with a subwoofer and amplifier. Sirius/XM is included as are HD radio, all part of the $4500 ultimate package that also brings soothing LED interior lights to the cabin.

The front seats are very comfortable and driver's seat retracts on entry, only to return to prior settings

The front seats are very comfortable and driver’s seat retracts on entry, only to return to prior settings

Hyundai’s smart cruise control with stop/start capability and rear parking sensors are fairly easy to live with – you can change the allowed space between the Sonata and the vehicle you’re following quite easily so as not to keep a quarter-mile gap. This, too is part of the ultimate package. Other options include carpeted floor mats, cargo mat and net, first-aid kit, all-weather floor mats and wheel locks for the broad 5-spoke alloys that hold 215/55R 17-inch Kumho tires.

Hyundai takes excellent care of its driver and four passengers in the 2016 Sonata hybrid with luscious creature comforts. Both driver and passenger have power controls (only the driver has lumbar support); the driver’s seat retracts at entry and exit and recalls the last setting. There’s lovely wood trim throughout the cabin that adds elegance to the vehicle, closed central storage with a tray, covered storage at the base of the center stack with a pair of 12-volt plugs, auxiliary and USB, open storage ahead of the two cup holders, together with cup holders in all four doors.

Relegated to the rear? No problem - it's comfy in the back seat

Relegated to the rear? No problem – it’s comfy in the back seat

The rear passengers have storage in the seatbacks, pulldown arm rests with cup holders, air flow and slightly elevated seats. There’s a 60/40 fold to those rear seats that enhance the volume in the class-leading 13.3 cubic foot trunk that feels bigger than it is. There is no spare tire but Hyundai provides an emergency puncture repair kit, pretty much standard these days.

The driver’s office in this car fits perfectly with all controls easily accessed. Many redundant controls are on the steering wheel with audio and easily paired phone controls on the left, cruise control and information on the right. The navigation system on this car is great – the view tightens to see local streets and retracts for freeway driving. There are heated/cooled seats for the front seat occupants and dual controls for heating, air conditioning and ventilation.

The steering wheel has redundant controls that keep hands firmly planted

The steering wheel has redundant controls that keep hands firmly planted

The seams on this Sonata are excellent and closures are excellent; the Sonata’s grille looks much like the far-more-expensive Genesis model and adds a familial touch. There are soft touch plastics around the cabin that add to the luxurious feel of this car.

After nearly a week enjoying the 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited I’m liking this newest iteration of Sonata, which has certainly grown up over the years. The car’s ride is exceptionally smooth without being mushy, the sight lines are excellent, seats as firm as Hyundai makes them and the cabin near silent when audio’s turned off.

If I were looking at a hybrid solution to my driving needs, it’s likely the 2016 Hyundai Sonata would be at the top of my shopping list. Try it out and it could make your driveway look ecologically sound and politically correct. Just don’t tell your neighbors how much fun you’re having – they could be jealous.

Words and Photos by Anne Proffit

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