Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: August 2, 2016
Hybrid tech has improved drastically over the last few years. Initially only found in the dreariest of eco-friendly vehicles, hybrid drivetrain technology now resides in Formula 1 cars and even in some of the most sought after supercars of today – McLaren P1 anyone? Not to mention, Tesla has done a lot of work to release the motorcar from the shackles of a gasoline (or diesel) motor. Tesla has made leaps and bounds with regards to infrastructure, technology, and they’ve finally made an electric car that is not only fun to drive but also ridiculously fast.
Now it’s Hyundai’s turn to take the spotlight. They now offer a plug-in variant (PHEV) of the mid-size Sonata sedan, whereas before only a Hybrid version was available. To ensure the masses that this isn’t a regular hybrid, Hyundai has scattered the exterior with ample badging so you can scoff at the next guy who has the audacity to yell, “nice Sonata man!” But that’s not all they’ve done. Two exclusive colours are available for the PHEV: Blue Pearl and Seaport Mist – the lack of Suck it Prius Green is definitely a missed opportunity.
In addition to the unique palette of colours, there are a number of functional aero modifications so that even the layman can tell that this Sonata sings a different tune. The front fascia has been reworked featuring a larger grill that drops lower into the front bumper, a unique set of tail lamps and a diffuser to round out the rear changes, and a set of 17-inch 5-spoke alloys adds the finishing touch.
Inside the cabin, the Sonata remains largely the same as the other models. Some changes to note include a gauge in the cluster that displays your driving behaviour, and a huge trunk that isn’t marred by the storage of batteries. The rear seats don’t fold down, however.
For the most part, the rest of the cabin is well appointed. Even though all the premium features are present such as a heated wheel and ventilated seats, the premium effect isn’t quite there. Large blocks of chintzy aluminum-esque hard plastics spoil the otherwise sleek looking interior. Combined with the lack of even the most basic sunroofs and the interior begins to feel barren. It certainly would have helped to be able to see all that nature you’re saving with the hybrid though. Unfortunately, sunroofs are heavy additions and with a clear goal of efficiency, it makes sense to not include the large panoramic number.
Underneath the skin of the vehicle is Hyundai’s Blue Drive hybrid technology. It operates like all the other hybrids on the road today, shuffling power output between the gasoline motor and electric motor when the situation calls. The only difference between the regular hybrid and the PHEV is the larger battery – 9.8 kWh compared to the 1.6 kWh in the hybrid. This allows for 43 km of pure electric driving and once Sonata eats up those kilometres, it switches back to regular gasoline mode with hybrid function.
The petrol motor under the hood eschews typical efficiency technology – namely forced induction. It’s an all natural 2.0-litre that produces 5 less hp than the 2.4L Atkinson cycle found in the outgoing model. To offset this, the engineers crammed a larger more powerful electric motor with a total output of 67 hp (51 hp in the hybrid).
All told, the plug-in brings 202 horses to the table (193 for the regular hybrid). While it doesn’t seem like much, the car moves with plenty of gusto in the city. Don’t let the miniscule torque output (151 lb-ft) fool you, the electric motor’s “all torque all day” characteristic makes it plenty usable.
In fact, it’s actually surprising how much pick up this 1,700 kg car has. Power gets routed via a 6-speed automatic gearbox that shifts smoothly and seamlessly – though it has been tuned to jump to the highest gear ASAP. Stay away from the drag strips and the fast and furious lifestyle and the Sonata will keep you happy.
There are three driving modes to choose from: Hybrid, HEV, and EV. Leave the vehicle in Hybrid mode and it will operate using the electric and gas motors as the road conditions see fit. Put it in EV mode and it will remain on pure electric energy, sucking up nearly all of the large battery’s juice before reverting to hybrid operation. Finally, holding the HEV button will force the internal combustion engine to charge the battery.
Speaking of full EV mode, there’s a noise generator that releases an audible warble announcing to passerby’s (in case they missed all the badging, special paint, and aero modification cues) that this Sonata literally sings a different tune. Ok, that’s a lie. It’s a tool to help those visually impaired to hear that the car is nearby because when the gas motor is off, this Sonata operates like a stealth submarine.
Low-rolling resistance tires, and the silent operating characteristic of the electric motors allow the vehicle to creep along the road with hardly a whisper. Commandeering the Sonata feels like there has been an added layer of disconnect, which isn’t always a bad thing. The cabin for example is dead quiet thanks to the acoustic laminated glass. The electric steering rack is light, and void of any communication from the road. There is the option to switch “steering modes”, none of which made any significant difference.
Spring rates and dampening have been set with road comfort in mind. The car graces over bumps and cracks in the road without transmitting much to your behind. While these are all things we lament in a sports car, it’s the exact opposite in an eco-sedan. I adored the ride in the Sonata – and so does my back after a week in Project 1.
Coming in at an as-tested price of $43,999, the Sonata Plug-In Hybrid has only one trim available for it – Ultimate. It comes fully loaded with all the driving-nannies too, including adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-departure warning. But that’s not the selling point for the PHEV, no far from it.
It’s a car with few compromises and from a purely functional standpoint, it can satisfy the needs of the majority of car buyers. For those with a short drive to work, commuting can transform into a zero-emission journey. Even on weekends when you want to take your family on a roadtrip, the Sonata’s incredible 900 km per tank range will satisfy even the most ambitious of drivers. If you deplete the entire charge when you get home, no big deal. Plug it in to the wall and it will be fully juiced up by the next day (9 hours with a level 1 charger).
What the PHEV lacks in premium feel, it more than makes up for in ease of use and practicality. Better yet, if you purchase one, the government of Ontario will toss you $8,460 as part of an electric vehicle incentive program – bringing the total cost of a fully loaded Sonata Plug-in Hybrid down to $35,539. That puts it right in line with a fully kitted out Camry Hybrid, which certainly doesn’t offer the same kind of range, nor flexibility. If I were to pick between the two, I’d be choosing the one with the plug.
型号 Model: 2016 Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid
顏色 Paint Type: Seaport Mist
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $43,999
試車售價 Price as Tested: $43,999
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,805
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,855 / 1,865 / 1,470
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,655
引擎 Powertrain: 2.0L DOHC Direct Injected Inline 4 with 50 kW Permanent Magnet Synchronous Electric Motor
最大馬力 Horsepower: 202 hp @ 6,000 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 140 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( Combined / Hybrid ) L/100km: 2.53 / 5.88
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 2.2
輪胎尺碼 Tires: P215/55/R17 All Season Tires