True to their word, the new Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Sonata Plug-In Hybrid made their world debuts in Detroit, offering a more demure look but better fuel economy and more power. Can this one-two punch of Korean fuel frugality challenge favorites like the Toyota Prius and Ford Fusion Energi?
First up is the redesigned Sonata Hybrid, which Hyundai claims will get about 10% more efficient, taking it from 38 MPG combined to about 42 MPG combined. Hardly a Prius competitor, especially with a potential 60 MPG version around the corner…but the Sonata is also arguably a much better looking car, and also much more powerful. The 51 horsepower/38 kW electric motor joins a gas engine for a combined rating of 193 horsepower, which is almost 50% more than the the 134 horsepower offered by the Prius. So all in all, not too shabby.
Far more competitive though is the Hyundai Sonata Plug-In Hybrid, which sports a sizable 9.8 kWh lithium-ion battery offering up to 22 miles of electric driving range. A 67 horsepower/50 kW electric motor is along for the ride, combining with a fuel-sipping 2.0 liter gas engine with a combined output of 202 horsepower while returning about 40 MPG combined and over 90 MPGe with a full charge of its battery. Like the regular Prius, the Prius Plug-In is also only good for 134 horsepower, and its electric driving range is is about half that of the Sonata Plug-In Hybrid, though its overall fuel economy still lags behind.
While hardly the hottest cars to debut this week, these two hybrids have an important part to play in Hyundai’s lineup going forward…though I’m still more taken with the Santa Cruz Concept myself.