The Hyundai Sonata has proven itself a worthy competitor to the benchmark Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Both these vehicles have hybrid powerplant options, and so does the Sonata. The new engineering in the Hyundai version seems to be a cut above the competition when it comes to technology. Where the Sonata really shines in its bladder-busting capability between rest stops: a 686-mile range! The Hyundai even includes a solar roof panel that can help supplement the power to the hybrid battery.
Assistance from the Sun
The Sonata Hybrid has a slick, clean look without looking too much like a fuel-efficient jellybean. The wheels help set off the car by providing both good aerodynamics and good looks. Although you can’t have a sunroof with the solar panel roof, it looks really cool when you get up close. You then realize it is a functional design cue Elon missed out on. The solar roof directly charges the 12-volt and hybrid batteries with up to 205 watts of electricity when it is bright outside. According to Hyundai’s calculations, this roof gets you an additional 2 miles per day. It also prevents battery discharge from infotainment or HVAC systems when the car is off.
The Sonata cabin is a comfortable place to be. It features both heated and ventilated seats. The gas engine is a 150-horsepower 2.0-liter mill coupled to a 51-horsepower electric motor. Under normal conditions, the owner can expect upwards of 50 mpg.
The Hyundai engineers came up with something called Active Shift Control technology to control the electric motor, aligning it with the rotational speeds of the engine and transmission. According to Hyundai, this reduces gear-shifting times by 30%. This synchronization not only improves the Sonata Hybrid’s acceleration and fuel economy, but also improves the durability of the transmission by minimizing friction during shifts.
KyoungJoon Chang, head of powertrain control systems for the company, says, “The development of the world’s first ASC technology is a remarkable innovation that incorporates precise motor control to an automatic transmission. It will not only save fuel but also provide a more fun driving experience for our customers.”
One of the promoted features on a handful of new vehicles is the digital key, or smartphone-as-a-key. The technology uses a dedicated mobile app, near-field communication (NFC), and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology to allow the Sonata Hybrid to be unlocked, started and driven without a physical key. The Sonata’s Digital Key also allows secure sharing of virtual keys with family and friends. The owner can limit the features while others are driving — think governing the radio volume for young teen drivers. You can remove access when the teens are grounded. This technology is already available in the aftermarket if it appeals to you. Your local mobile enhancement retailer can go over the options of having it installed on your current ride. Right now, Hyundai’s Digital Key is only available with Android phones, but we don’t see Apple compatibility too far off.
The upper-level Sonatas get a 10-inch touchscreen monitor with split screen capability. Two phones can be paired simultaneously, so the amount of fighting over music will be minimized by sharing. Smartphones can be charged by a large Qi charging pad located at the bottom of the center stack.
ADAS technology abounds in the Sonata Hybrid, with three radar sensors, 12 ultrasonic sensors and five cameras. The features include Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Blind Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Advanced Smart Cruise Control with Stop and Go, and Highway Driving Assist.
In Highway Driving Assist, an icon of a green steering wheel appears when the Sonata goes semi-autonomous and you just need to keep an eye on things. It holds the center of the lane and the distance from the car in front. Until autonomous vehicles are a reality, this tech allows the user to let the car handle most of the driving. It is awesome after a tough day at work … you just want to relax instead of actively handing stop-and-go traffic.
The optional Bose system does do well in the stereo imaging department, but still not quite up to the standards of high-end aftermarket audio systems.
Hyundai has come a long way and offers technology in the Sonata Hybrid not found in its competitors’ vehicles. It’s wrapped up in a comfortable and compelling package. With a price range of $28K to $35K for the Limited package, it will really appeal to those looking for solid, comfortable transportation without having to spend much time at the gas station.