The 2016 Hyundai Sonata is a heaping helping of comfort food in the midsize sedan segment.
It has contemporary styling without trying to draw attention as a trendsetter — though it is. Its functional format maximizes driver sight lines, ease of entry and exit and seat comfort in both rows.
The Sonata is available with two choices of four-cylinder engines and a gasoline-electric hybrid, which is today’s test car.
The hybrid’s function is nearly transparent except for an initial adjustment to how the regenerative braking feels at the pedal. There’s just an inch or so of pedal travel before there is absolute braking response. But it is worth the 40.6 miles per gallon I was averaging on regular unleaded.
The hybrid model has special wind-cheating wheels and tweaked front and rear fascias to improve aerodynamics and stretch fuel economy. The body is sleek, with a 0.24 coefficient of drag (it matches the new Prius), but the car just seems to roll effortlessly with reduced drag and friction.
The power train is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine integrated with a 38 kW electric motor and 56 kW lithium-polymer battery pack for a combined 193 horsepower. Fuel economy ratings are 39 mile per gallon city, 43 highway and 41 combined on 87 octane. The six-speed automatic gives a much more enjoyable driving experience than the continuously variable transmissions that are often used in hybrids. Hyundai uses a “stepped” transmission for better mileage on the highway, rather than in the city, which is the forte of CVT.
The Sonata Hybrid is sold in two levels with starting prices of $26,835 and $30,935, including the $825 freight charge from Asan, Korea. (Gasoline-powered Sonatas are built in Montgomery, Alabama).
The top-line Hybrid Limited test car was $35,550, which included the Ultimate package ($4,500) and carpeted floor mats ($125). At this price, it is a mainstream car with luxury features, such as heated AND cooled seats, a heated steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, automatic high-beam assist, navigation and more. Safety upgrades in the Ultimate package include forward collision warning, smart cruise control with stop-start control and lane departure warning. Standard safety features include seven air bags, blind-spot detection and a rearview camera.
Performance is sharp enough for the daily commuting rush without fear of being overcome by trucks. The automatic keeps the power where it is needed –without blunted shift points or acceleration to achieve EPA mileage ratings.
The steering is light but tight and responsive, while the 35.6-foot turning circle is ridiculously small and nimble.
It is the attention to small details — and a bit more engineering — that make this car so enjoyable. The front seat has 40 inches of headroom — with the panoramic roof. The doors open wide and there are two grab points on the interior front doors for optimal leverage. The shifter console has two functional cup holders — deep enough for water bottles — and a separate slot to rest a phone. There is a large, covered charging bin with two 12-volt plugs, USB and aux-in line. The armrest console has deep storage and a removable tray. There are grab handles above all doors, bottle holders in all doors and front and rear reading lights.
While there is an 8-inch touch screen to access navigation, music sources and the rearview camera, there also are buttons and dials for various cabin controls. There’s even a driver-only adjustment for fan speed. These “old-fashioned” controls are so much safer to keep eyes on the road than the trendy but frustrating controllers and touch panels.
My phone connected with Hyundai’s Blue Link system almost instantly. Other appreciable extras include the classy fabric headliner, large and locking glove box, a power height-adjustable front passenger seat, sliding visors with lighted mirrors and the dot-matrix sunshade behind the rearview mirror.
The back seat has generous legroom (35.6 inches) and foot room with a full rear bench cushion, relaxed seat back angle AND seat heaters. The low center tunnel aid center seat accommodations and there are side sunshades, coat hooks AND jacket hooks.
The battery pack is stashed beneath the trunk area, which is still large at 13.3 cubic feet. The space has a wide opening and low lift over. There is no spare tire, but an inflator kit.
My biggest objection was the flat hue of the new Blue Pearl leather upholstery. It just didn’t work with the test car’s Eclipse Black paint. But the seats are fully supportive with perforated centers. It also seems petty to charge $125 for floor mats when Hyundai manages to throw in so much else at a value price.
Your Bunco pals will be happy to ride with you. “This is a Hyundai?” they will say.
“Yes,” you will reply, with much owner pride..
Mark Maynard is online at email@example.com. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage