Hyundai’s new Sonata Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid will soon hit the road.
While Southern California drivers are currently the only ones who can experience and lease the Hyundai Tucson fuel cell vehicle, consumers across the country will get a chance to drive the 2016 Sonata hybrid this summer.
Both the hybrid and plug-in hybrid were introduced last week in Huntington Beach, CA, near the Korean car manufacturer’s new LEED certified headquarters.
This is a company that is really walking the walk (or driving the drive). The new building harvests daylight, recycles water and has automated shades to cut down on electricity costs. Concrete and asphalt from the old building were reused to reduce landfill.
Spoiler alert: Sonata Hybrid gets 42MPG
Likewise, the new cars will help you reduce your carbon footprint. The Sonata Hybrid gets 40 mpg in the city, and 44 mpg on the highway, for 42 mpg combined. The plug-in can go 24 miles before it needs to be recharged, but you can add to the battery’s charge as you drive; its systems and braking actually recharge the battery as you drive it.
This 2nd generation Sonata Hybrid has a 10% increase in fuel efficiency over the 2015 model and is just as roomy as the regular gas engine Sonata. The sedan has more aerodynamic front and rear ends, along with special eco-spoke alloy wheels that reduce drag and increase efficiency.
I drove the hybrid for a couple of hours on Southern California freeways and through beach communities and found the ride to be super comfortable. The rear view camera is standard, and you can get advanced safety features including forward collision warning, blind spot detection, lane change assist, and lane departure warning.
Driving at highway speeds on the freeway (a novelty for me; the highways around New York City are usually so clogged with traffic you never get above 45 mph) I appreciated the lane change assist, which is activated when you put on your turn signal; it offers an audible alarm if its not safe to change lanes.
Interior luxuries include a touchscreen and lots of space
The midsize 2016 Sonata hybrid has more interior room and more cargo space than its 2015 predecessor; that’s because the hybrid battery, which can take up passenger space in some hybrids, is smaller and unobtrusive in this car or in its trunk. In fact, it fits under the trunk floor, allowing for fold flat seats.
The Sonata hybrid I drove came with an 8 inch touchscreen that displays navigation and entertainment. We got great tunes from the Sirius XM stations, and while we didn’t need to use the navigation system, I liked that the screen displayed the speed limit. The hybrid also comes in a Limited version (top of the line), that has a panoramic sunroof and heated and ventilated front seats. There is also a 60/40 split fold down rear seat so you can haul oversize items and still be conscious of the environment.
The power of green and blue: a connected AND conscientious car
Hyundai’s proprietary Blue Link Connected Care package (its answer to OnStar) may have led the company to name its eco cars ‘Blue Drive.’ Blue Drive is Hyundai’s low carbon green technology strategy. And the hybrid model comes in two exclusive exterior colors, Graphite Blue Pearl and Seaport Mist. Optional leather seats come in Blue Pearl. There are other exterior colors if you don’t want to drive a blue car.
Start your car with your watch??? How do you like them apples?
If using a remote key is too daunting, you can start your car with an Apple Watch. Even better, you can tap your Apple Watch to find your car in a parking lot, or lock the car if you walk away without doing it. We were not given an Apple Watch to test this out (darn!) but we did get a hands-on demonstration. You could really freak out the guys at the valet parking with this feature.
Hyundai was an innovator in integrating Apple CarPlay and now has gone a step, or wrist flick, further, with the BlueLink app for Apple Watch.
Pricing has not yet been announced, but the 2015 model starts at about $26,000 and tops out at about $32,000. The cars will be be available nationwide this summer; when the plug-in comes to market in the fall, it will be limited to a handful of states.
Note: Hyundai invited me to Huntington Beach to test out its new cars, and paid for my travel and accommodations, but I was not compensated. Opinions expressed are my own.