Despite a steep price tag and less than stellar drivability, the 2011 Sonata puts Hyundai in the hybrid game, giving shoppers another reason to consider a brand they might have snubbed a few years ago.
In 2010, the Hyundai Sonata came out of nowhere to break into the ranks of the 10-best selling vehicles for the first time. Don't be surprised to see it challenge for the top five in 2011. In addition to natural momentum, the plain vanilla Sonata Sedan is getting two new toppings: the Sonata Turbo and now the Sonata Hybrid.
Hyundai is late to the hybrid party but has come up with some original ideas that compensate for its tardiness.
I will leave it to the engineers to explain the technical details. To keep things simple: The Sonata hybrid is biased toward highway driving -- unlike most hybrids that get better mileage in city driving. It uses advanced lithium-polymer batteries, which are lighter and more compact than conventional zinc metal-hydride cells. And a novel transmission setup that utilizes the same six-speed automatic transmission used in the sedan allows the electric engine and gasoline motor to work independently from each other. Hyundai calls it Hybrid Blue Drive.
In appearance, the Sonata hybrid is similar to the sedan, which means it tiptoes just this side of "overwrought." A new feature is a gaping front grille that rivals Audi's and Mazda's in scale, and threatens to cross over the taste line. The interior is up-to-date, though without seeming as segment-leading as it did when the sedan was introduced. More
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