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Owner Review: Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Updated on April 21, 2015
Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy writes about American life, holidays, politics and other topics. She has written hundreds of articles for online & print publications.

The Sonata Has a Sleek Body Style

Hyundai's recent addition to the trend in hybrids has been given points for looks and style.
Hyundai's recent addition to the trend in hybrids has been given points for looks and style. | Source

Owner's Rating

4 stars from 1 rating of Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Hyundai first released its hybrid version of the Sonata in the USA in 2011, and fans of hybrids as well as Hyundai enthusiasts waited eagerly for the new addition to the hybrid choices in the United States.

The hybrid Sonata has all the looks and style of the regular sonata (unlike those hybrids with unique designs that deviate from other styles in the maker's line-up), and comes it two basic models, a 'regular' model (which includes plenty of bells and whistles, such as power windows and door locks, built-in Bluetooth, basic stereo set-up, Sirius and other features), but does not have a sunroof, leather seats, GPS screen or back-up camera), and a model with all the trimmings.

To get additional features, you have to purchase the entire package (a $5,000 upgrade), which has caused some criticism among buyers who might want the leather seats and sun roof, for example, but don't care about the back-up camera.

The basic hybrid starts at around $25,000 - $26,000 (depends on your dealer, local taxes, and other factors). The souped-up version will be $5,000 more, plus whatever warranty add-ons you choose.

Sonata Hybrid Side View

The lines of the Hyundai Sonata are more elegant than many hybrids.
The lines of the Hyundai Sonata are more elegant than many hybrids. | Source

How Does the Hyundai Sonata Drive?

I've owned the Sonata Hybrid for about a year, and overall, I like it, but the car did take a bit of getting used to before driving it came naturally.

Unlike some hybrids, the all-important, heavy battery in the Sonata is in the trunk area. For me, this was one of most noticeable differences in driving this car, compared to the Subaru Outback (with standard shift) I had driven for several years before this purchase.

When you apply the brake, the weight of the battery in the rear still has some forward momentum, so you quickly learn to brake a bit harder than you might otherwise do. As with any car, you will indeed get the 'feel' of it and learn what amount of pressure works in each situation.

After driving a 'stick shift' for several years, the hybrid seemed to have less pep on the initial acceleration. I have never liked automatics, but I wanted to join the hybrid revolution, so I was stuck with the 'automatic-like' transmission. As with the weight of the battery, you do learn how to give the car the pep you need once you're used to it.

The car is designed for highway driving more than in-town trips; you'll often find you're zipping along at 80-plus mph without realizing it (well, often enough if your foot is made of lead, as mine sometimes seems to be). The car moves smoothly on major highways, and the interior is comfortable enough for long trips.

In general, there's less road noise than a non-hybrid, but because the car is not huge, and (aside from the heavy battery) isn't weighty, you will hear some noise on certain types of pavements.

The Sonata Hybrid is just plain fun to drive, though; it's cute, can be peppy at the right time, has style and handles well.

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Blue Drive Screen on Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Green is Blue - the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid uses 'Blue Drive' to save gas and the environment.
Green is Blue - the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid uses 'Blue Drive' to save gas and the environment. | Source

Pros and Cons Sonata Hybrid

There are good points and bad points about this car, but of course, that's the same with any car. First, the cons:

Poor visibility: If I could change one thing about the body design, it would be to allow more front and rear visibility on side views. Rear visibility is a chronic issue with many cars, but this one, in particular, takes some getting used to when you change lanes or back up (the rear-view camera is a good idea here). Some drivers say they feel they are sitting 'low' in the seat, which might be a factor, but the overall design simply limits your vision in the rear. In the front, the side roof supports seem a bit wide and are perhaps placed inconveniently. You can sometimes miss seeing a car or pedestrian that's just out of your side view.

Soft Tires: If you check online forums about the Hyundai Sonata, you'll see complaints about soft tires. I've had to replace two tires on mine, in less than 6,000 miles. Both were due to road hazards. The manufacturer says softer tires were installed to provide a smoother ride, but it appears the tires can get damaged easier than tougher treads. Some owners have switched to Michelin when their tires are ready to be replaced. Hyundai now offers a special warranty for road hazards.

No Spare Tire: Because the trunk is smaller, rather than a real spare, or even a donut, you get a can of Fix-a-Flat (yes, really). Given the apparent issue of tires that might be a bit on the soft side, Hyundai might want to rethink either the type of tire they install, or the design of the trunk in order to allow for a spare.

So-So Speakers in Basic Model: This is no big deal, but to a stereo enthusiast, it might be an issue. The sound system is 'okay,' but that's about it.

Limited Trunk Room: The trunk is definitely bigger than some two-door cars I've owned, but the space taken by the battery (placed in the rear) is noticeable, especially when you compare it to the generous cargo area the non-hybrid Sonata boasts.

Inaccurate EPA-Mileage Estimates: This is a recent (and legitimate issue) with the Sonata Hybrid as well as some other Hyundai and Kia models (the cars are manufactured by the same firm). The mileage on some models was overestimated, and of course some buyers relied on this information when making their choices. The EPA has now required Hyundai (and Kia) to reimburse owners for the 'lost' miles-per-gallon on their cars. Owners can register their cars and get their miles certified by their dealer, and then get a debit card to compensate for the loss. There's no information yet on the amount that will be (each car under this edict has varying mileage discrepancies), and there's no word on the amount the lawyers will siphon off before owners are compensated. But this does not take into account the reduced trade-in or resale value owners might experience.

Now for the "Pros" on the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid:

Fun to Drive: I said that before, didn't I? Well, yes, it's fun. It doesn't have the clunky look of some hybrids, and it handles well.

Built-in Bluetooth: I love this feature. I know this isn't hugely new to the automotive world, but if you haven't owned a car yet that allows you to answer the phone via your radio, you will love it, too. One click on the steering wheel and I can answer a call. And my radio screen tells me who it is, because the car is synched to my phone.

Key-less Door Locks: Years ago, I thought the button we clicked to get in the car was the living end. My new best friend is the key-free lock feature on this car. I never have to search through my purse to find the stupid key fob. The car senses I am near, and I just press the button on the door handle to lock and unlock the car. Even better, if I try to lock it while the key is in it, the car (being smarter than I am) won't let me. I'm in love.

Good Mileage! I can go more than 500 miles on one tank of gas, and that includes numerous one- or two-mile trips to the store or to church. The car doesn't quite get the excellent mileage the Toyota Prius is known for, but you can indeed get around 35 mpg in town. Highway mileage is supposed to be around 40 mpg, but that was published before the EPA requested an adjustment. Either way, it beats the mileage I was getting on the Subaru Outback, and I am happy with it.

The Sonata Hybrid has some other features that are fun, such as the "Blue Drive" screen on the dash, that shows your EPG and (for some reason) has a screen with the Planet Earth in the middle that begins adding additional planets as your eco-points add up. Fun, but not and essential element of car ownership.

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  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 3 years ago from Planet Earth

    I agree with you about visibility. Nishat - my problem is with the blind spots behind me, and the side view (which is obstructed by the mirror mounts on both sides). I've come close to hitting a pedestrian a few times. I'm on the alert for it now, but it's disconcerting to realize that hazard is there. Hope you enjoy the car - maybe they'll redesign the next model or so in a way that's more height-friendly. Thanks for your comments!

  • profile image

    Nishat 3 years ago

    The front visibility is poor. I am 6' 1" tall and the rearview mirror is right in front of me blocking the front view. I tried raising the seat up and down, moved the seat back and forth but have not able to find a good seating position. I have the car for 1 year now.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 3 years ago from Planet Earth

    Good point, Brian - you're right about the free roadside service (which I've never had to use - another nice plus!). Thanks for reading the hub, and pointing that out!

  • profile image

    Brian Blair 3 years ago

    I wanted to add that the Hyundai Sonata comes with 2 years free roadside service. Not have a spare isn't really a big problem for that time period anyway. After 2 years, you may want to see what your insurance company offers as far as roadside assistance, but I have Allstate and have free roadside service through this company as well. So not so much concerned about the lack of a spare.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, MJ! Thanks for your very kind comments here! I'm still enjoying the Hyundai - but I wanted to share things "I wish I had known," so hence, this review. Now that I am used to using more force to accelerate and needing that 'push' when I brake, it is second nature. In fact, I drove a rental car briefly and thought I was going to slam into a wall from trying to start up too fast. The braking was fun, too! LOL!

  • profile image

    mjkearn 4 years ago

    Hi Marcy

    A lady with a heavy foot. Now why does that appeal to me? LOL. Fabulous review of the Hyundai and quite some change from a manual outback. I'm a big flat four fan and having worked for Subaru know how strong they are.

    Great points here especially regarding the different handling aspects with the weight in the trunk and the effects on braking.

    Great hub. Great job.

    MJ.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, CarNoobz - Welcome to the Hyundai family, and congrats on your great choice of the Santa Fe! I hadn't really looked into Hyundais either, until I had a Sonata rental car several years ago, for an out-of-state trip. I loved it; it was roomy inside, but not huge on the exterior, and loaded with some good extras. So I was thrilled when I learned there's a Sonata hybrid.

    I have friends who own the Santa Fe and they love it - it's classy looking, and very comfortable to drive. So glad you enjoyed the hub, and thanks for commenting here.

  • CarNoobz profile image

    CarNoobz 4 years ago from USA

    For all these years I always thought of Hyundais as being cheap, junk little cars. But last year we ended up checking them out and OMG, the new Hyundais are pretty cool.

    I loved the Sonata and the Veloster, but with the kids and all, we needed more room so we went with the Sante Fe. I'm impressed with Hyundai.

    Voted up

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    I'm with you, newusedcarssacram - don't you sometimes wonder what we will see five years from now? I love the look and feel of the Sonata, by the way - it's fun to drive, and doesn't feel like you're in a hybrid. Thanks for dropping by!

  • newusedcarssacram profile image

    newusedcarssacram 4 years ago from Sacramento, CA, U.S.A

    I feel all these hybrid cars are very fascinating. I especial like the look of the Sonata. Thanks for all the information...

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks for your comments here, tirelesstraveler - I am partial to Hyundai's warranty and service policy, too. I've been very impressed with the dealership, and there are so many things I like about the car. I don't know what the deal is with visibility - interesting that you've encountered it in a Toyota, too.

  • tirelesstraveler profile image

    Judy Specht 4 years ago from California

    Two small wrecks (in 3 days) that involved flat tires and a flat on the rental car would make me really leery of a car without even a wonky tire saver spare.

    The rental is a Toy Corolla and it has terrible visibility. Is it the fashion to have poor visibility? Voted up and useful. I am somewhat partial to Hyundai. I like the service contract.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Alocsin - I thought briefly about the Prius (and it is a great car), but I love the body style of the Sonata, and I had driven a non-hybrid model a few years ago & really enjoyed it. But my brother loves his Prius, so I don't think you can go wrong! The spare tire thing is odd, I agree, but apparently they (manufacturer researchers) have discovered that very few people change their own tires. That makes sense, when you think about it. I have the road hazard insurance, and I also have AAA, so I feel okay about the lack of a spare.

  • alocsin profile image

    alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

    That is just strange that it has no spare tire. I would buy one just because I've suffered a few in my time. Sounds like a good buy, but I think I'll stick with the Prius if I get a hybrid. Voting this Up and Useful.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, fpherj - thanks for your nice comments and the votes. I'm so glad your friends like their Hyundais, too! It's really quite a car, and I hope to keep mine for a long while.

    Meanwhile, I'll have to check out the Vibe - I don't know much about that car. You're right - it's great when you find a car that's the perfect fit!

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    Marcy....There's nothing nicer than being quite happy with our choice in a vehicle.......and nothing more regrettable in buying one that turns out to be disappointing. I have 2 friends who have the Hyundai that you have. They're thrilled with it too.

    Currently I have a Pontiac Vibe and I can honestly say that I have never been more satisfied with any car I've ever owned. I just love it.....like it was built for me! LOL.

    It will be quite a few years before I am in the market again. By then, who knows what will be available?? Thank you for a well-written review, Marcy. Voted UAI and Up

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, Ardie! Interestingly, a niece and a nephew of mine both bought Sonatas. Neither of theirs is the hybrid version, but if we have a family gathering anytime soon, it will look like a dealer's lot! Glad you liked the review!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    The trunk is probably fine for some basic suitcases - if you had several people in a family, it would be difficult, but then you probably wouldn't get a Sonata at that point anyway. The non-hybrid has such a roomy trunk, though, that the difference is noticeable. The worst trunk I've had was in a Nissan sporty two-door. It was barely big enough for a few grocery bags.

  • Ardie profile image

    Sondra 4 years ago from Neverland

    SO glad there's finally a hybrid that stays true to its original body style. Just because a person chooses a hybrid doesn't mean he or she wants to stand out from the crowd. This was a full, in-depth review and I give it 5 stars =) Great job Marcy

  • Melovy profile image

    Yvonne Spence 4 years ago from UK

    Hmm, interesting, I read too much into your comment about the trunk having less space than the non-hybrid. I instantly assumed it is like the Auris, which not only has a small trunk but one with a very awkward shape. Sounds as if it's not so bad as that at least!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, Melovy - It's been interesting to assess the pros & cons of the car. Sort of like after you actually live in a house and figure out you wish the dishwasher was on the other side of the sink or something. The trunk in the Sonata is certainly adequate, but after seeing how spacious the non-hybrid version is, it's definitely a contrast. I hope Hyundai finds another way to design the car - I'm sure they're exploring ideas.

  • Melovy profile image

    Yvonne Spence 4 years ago from UK

    I've learned a lot from this hub. I didn't know Hyundai made a hybrid and I thought all cars in the States were automatic! (We've always had automatics when we rented a car.)

    We have just changed both our cars, and after almost 8 years of driving hybrids don't have one now. But my husband spend ages researching so the cars we've got are eco too. We had Prius for several years and then exchanged that for an Toyota Auris Hybrid, largely because the new model of Prius was bigger than the previous and I found even ours a little one the big side. We found that, like your Sonata, the trunk of the Auris was far too small. Toyota have apparently redesigned it so that in new model coming out soon the battery is underneath the car instead and it should now have more trunk space. I expect Hyundai will do the same, though that doesn't help you much right now!

    The technology keeps advancing and it's amazing how much has changed even in the 2 and a half years since we bought our Auris.

    This is a very useful hub, voted up!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Oh, I would love to read your review, Billy, and compare your take on the car with my own experience! I do like it, but I wanted to be certain to point out some drawbacks. I am definitely a believer in hybrid technology, and I hope it continues to improve in coming years.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

    I actually write car reviews for one of my customers, so I had written about this car a few weeks ago. Great perspective from you, since you own one, and bravo for buying a hybrid. Nice job, Marcy!

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