2016 Sonata Plug-In Hybrid New Car Test Drive
The Hyundai Sonata is spacious and fuel efficient, making it a worthy rival to America's best-selling family sedans, from the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord to the Ford Fusion and Mazda 6. That's a tough list of competitors.
Redesigned for 2015, the seventh-generation Sonata adopted more conservative looks and greater refinement. Flamboyant styling of the previous generation is replaced by a more subdued look inside and out.
Changes for the 2016 model year include the use of some aluminum suspension components, which should help both ride and handling. Emergency braking has been added to the forward collision warning system on 2016 Sonata models. A new 7-inch color touchscreen audio system for 2016 includes an Android Auto smartphone interface. The 2016 Sonata Limited gets the Sonata Sport model's more aggressive front bumper.
Hyundai continues to offer a Sonata Hybrid sedan, with similar updating for 2016, but also has added a new Sonata Plug-in Hybrid, capable of traveling up to 24 miles on battery power alone.
One of the lighter cars in its class, Sonata was among the first to adopt a lineup with nothing but four-cylinder engines. The base 185-horsepower, 2.4-liter four and the turbocharged 245-hp 2.0-liter four are free-revving engines that deliver power fairly quietly, nearly free of vibration. Both mate with a 6-speed automatic transmission that provides smooth, quick shifts and has manual controls. Sport 2.0T models have paddle shifters.
Defined by the EPA as a large car, Sonata is marketed as a midsize. All Sonatas get a three-mode selector that alters shift timing, throttle operation, and power-steering assist through Eco, Normal, and Sport modes. Eco mode really impedes downshifts.
The Sonata Eco trim level features a small-displacement 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, making 177 horsepower, with a noisy exhaust and 32-mpg Combined EPA mileage estimate. Hyundai's 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine comes in Sonata SE, Sport, and Limited trim levels, while the turbocharged 2.0T is offered in Sonata Sport and Limited trim.
Infotainment systems come with an 8-inch touchscreen, smartphone-app compatibility, and HD radio. Navigation-equipped cars get Apple Eyes Free Siri integration. All models now have Google's Android Auto smartphone system.
In crash testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Sonata has earned five-star scores all around. All categories except the small-overlap test were rated Good by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The 2016 Hyundai Sonata offers a choice of three different four-cylinder engines, plus hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions.
Sonata SE ($21,750) comes with the 2.4-liter engine, cloth upholstery, 7-inch color touchscreen, satellite and HD radio, CD player, USB port, Android Auto, rearview camera, Bluetooth with audio streaming, and 16-inch alloy wheels. Sonata Sport ($23,400) gets a 10-way power driver's seat and sporty interior and exterior trim. A Technology package adds navigation, sunroof, premium audio, and SiriusXM Travel Link.
Sonata Eco ($23,725) gets the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine and dual-clutch transmission. Sonata Limited ($27,350) upgrades with leather seating surfaces, woodgrain interior trim, heated front/rear seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, pushbutton start, sunroof, LED taillights, hands-free trunk opener, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert. Technology and Ultimate packages are available.
Sonata Sport 2.0T ($28,925) features the 2.0-liter turbo, paddle shifters, sport-tuned suspension, dual-pinion steering, flat-bottom steering wheel, bigger front brakes, hands-free trunk opener, and 18-inch wheels. Sport 2.0T Limited ($34,075) adds lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, rear parking sensors, a panoramic sunroof, power passenger seat, rear side sunshades, ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, and navigation.
Sonata Hybrid SE ($26,000) comes with proximity-key entry/pushbutton start, dual-zone automatic climate control, 5-inch touchscreen, rearview camera, hands-free trunk, LED taillamps, and 16-inch alloy wheels. Hybrid Limited ($30,100) steps up to HID xenon headlights, 17-inch wheels, leather, power heated/ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and heated steering wheel.
Sonata Plug-in Hybrid includes navigation, 17-inch wheels, blind-spot detection, a power driver's seat, heated front seats, and Dimension audio. Sonata Plug-In Hybrid Limited gets most items in the Hybrid Ultimate package, except the panoramic sunroof.
All have seven airbags, including a driver's knee bag.