Hyundai’s first Sonata Hybrid appeared in 2011 as a bold attempt to compete with the well-established Camry and Fusion hybrids. Much to Hyundai’s dismay, their new hybrid was roundly criticized for a lack of powertrain refinement, poor braking feel and mediocre fuel economy. Much to their credit, the company focused on those problems for the 2013 Sonata Hybrid. The result is a top-notch, fully competitive hybrid sedan that’s ready to take on the competition.
The same 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine carries over, but its output drops from 166 to 159 horsepower. The reduction in engine power is offset by a more powerful electric motor, rated at 47 horsepower instead of the last model’s 40. Add them together and you come up with a theoretical total of 206 horsepower.
The Sonata Hybrid has a conventional six-speed automatic in lieu of the CVT-type arrangement used by most other hybrids. Up- and down-shifts are smooth and barely perceptible. Best of all, the six-speed eliminates the buzzy drone and disconnected feeling that’s typical of CVTs, especially under hard acceleration.
Hyundai has made changes to the computer-controlled clutch that connects the gasoline engine to the drivetrain to smooth out the transition between gas and electric power source. They’ve also refined the software that controls the transition from regenerative braking to the conventional friction mode. Now, it’s hard to tell you’re driving a hybrid.
The 2013 Sonata Hybrid’s lithium polymer battery has a higher capacity, and is lighter and better packaged, creating a cargo space that increases from 10.7 to 12.1 cu.-ft.
Hyundai says this next-generation battery is capable of delivering the same power with 25 percent less weight, 40 percent less volume and 10 percent more efficiency. It also discharges more slowly to maintain available power up to 1.7 times longer than traditional batteries. When in pure electric drive, the Sonata Hybrid can drive electrically up to 75 miles per hour.
Our test car was equipped with 17-inch wheels and low rolling resistance tires a combination that usually results in a hard ride. Ride quality was certainly better than expected, especially on the winter-damaged roads of Vermont.
Our week-long test drive covered over 600 miles of winding mountain roads, a bit of open road driving and a lot of running errands around town. Our average fuel economy was an impressive 38 mpg, exactly what the EPA says it should be. That important fuel economy number is even more impressive when you consider that the 3013 Sonata Hybrid is a big midsize sedan with plenty of room inside, comfortable seats and high-quality materials throughout.
Our sky-blue Limited model never failed to attract attention wherever we went. Its attractive styling, leather seats, navigation, a nine-speaker Infinity sound system, heated front and rear seats and a massive panoramic sunroof create a feeling of near luxury.
In addition to its 38 mpg combined EPA fuel economy rating, the 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid stands out for its generous standard equipment list and available in-cabin technology. The 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is offered in base and Limited trim levels:
Standard equipment on the base model includes 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, LED running lights, foglights, heated mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, an eight-way power driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated front seats, Bluetooth, Hyundai’s BlueLink emergency communications system and a six-speaker sound system with CD player, satellite radio, an iPod/USB audio interface and an auxiliary audio jack. Hyundai doesn’t offer any major options on the base Sonata Hybrid, so if you want more amenities, you need to check out to the new Limited model.
The Sonata Hybrid Limited comes with 17-inch wheels, leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, power driver seat with lumbar support, heated rear seats, a navigation system with a 7-inch touchscreen, rearview camera, an upgraded Infinity audio system with nine speakers and HD radio, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Pricing starts at $26,445 (including $795 delivery fee) for the base Hybrid and increases to $31,345 for the Hybrid Limited. The only option is a $1,000 panoramic sunroof on the Limited model.
Hyundai’s updated Sonata Hybrid removes all the short-comings of the previous model, and demonstrates the company’s ability to do something that previously the Japanese had been known for: continuous improvement.