They won't be for eco-warriors anymore.
Shortly after its launch at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show, we were set to drive the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid at an event in California. The coronavirus (Covid-19) had other plans, so Hyundai will instead send out the cars to review. As a substitute for the information usually given during the first drive event, Hyundai hosted a zoom call with product experts and engineers to fill us in on the company's mission with the new Sonata Hybrid.
As a reminder, the Sonata Hybrid is now powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine producing 150 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque on its own. When combined with an electric motor, the total output is rated at 192 hp. More importantly, this combination yields excellent fuel economy ratings of up to 50/54/52 mpg city/highway/combined. Hyundai also made it clear that it wants to build hybrid vehicles that also look striking and are still fun to drive.
In the past, hybrid vehicles have always been designed with a distinctive, less aggressive styling than their gas-only counterparts. But Hyundai wanted the new Sonata Hybrid to buck this trend. "Hybrids have shifted from dedicated vehicles that projected a green vehicle image," said Scott Margason, Director, Product Planning at Hyundai Motor America. "Now, they are a technological solution for fuel economy."
"For us, it was about bringing a great-looking vehicle to market. Getting that coupe-like design that you can't get from an SUV. Aerodynamic flaps and aerodynamic wheels help you pick out the hybrid, but it's all about making a design statement," he added. Not only is the Sonata Hybrid a pretty car, but it is also cleverly engineered. It even features a solar panel on the roof, which can add an additional 1,236 miles of range per year.
This thinking is similar in regards to the powertrain, where the Sonata Hybrid uses a six-speed automatic rather than a continuously variable transmission like many of its rivals. Likewise, other Hyundai models like the Ioniq use a dual-clutch transmission. "We have a way to provide a driving experience that is conventional compared to the regular Sonata," said Jerome Gregeois, Powertrain & Eco Technologies Department. "The philosophy was to look at hybrids not necessarily as a different part of the segment, but a transparent and exciting driving experience with great fuel economy."