There are many reasons to purchase a hybrid these days, but the primary reason has and will always be fuel economy. Electric vehicles aren’t affordable and don’t have the range to provide drivers with peace of mind just yet. While the Toyota Prius set the standard as the go-to option for consumers seeking something easy on the wallet, it also set a theme that hybrids had to have funky designs or wonky elements, like the strange shifter, to stand out. Unfortunately, that led to people whispering under their breath when asked about what kind of vehicle they drive.
My wife and I owned a 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid for roughly eight years. While we liked the car, we also recognize that it had a few huge flaws. For one, it didn’t get anywhere close to its official fuel economy, the battery pack ate into trunk space, you couldn’t fold the rear seats flat, and the transitions between electricity and the internal combustion engine were as smooth as a 3.9 magnitude earthquake. After our ownership experience, we wrote off hybrid ownership indefintely – that is until we tested the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.
Devastatingly gorgeous, fluting with luxury, incredibly high tech, and insanely efficient, the Sonata Hybrid is a hybrid that you’ll actually enjoy owning.
The non-electrified Sonata is one of the prettiest sedans on the market and instead of going overboard and trying to make the hybrid version look futuristic, Hyundai stuck with the same overall design, going with what makes the Sonata so good looking. The only major change I can spot between the two models is the use of more chrome on the hybrid and a slightly revised front fascia. That’s it. No wonky flares or alien edges, just simple, beautiful lines.
As a sucker for headlights, the way the daytime running lights lead directly a trim element on the hood brings me nearly to tears. That piece alone is worth the cost of entry. Some people aren’t fans of that gaping grille, but I love it. The rear taillights that connect in a middle piece on the trunk are also stunning. Wheel lovers will find the 17-inch aerodynamic wheels to be the business.
Normally, I don’t gush over designs, but the Sonata Hybrid is a stunner.
The Sonata Hybrid’s interior is as useful as it is pretty. Things, just like they do on the outside, line up in attractive ways. The four-pronged steering wheel, door latches that lineup with trim pieces, and simplistic center console all bring a harmonious feel to the sedan. The shifter is odd and I’m not a fan of the button design, but it opens up the center console in way that makes it far more usable.
The 10.25-inch touchscreen is a good size, though it could’ve been integrated into the dashboard better, and the 12.3-inch display in the instrument is crisp, bright, highly configurable, and easy to read. Hyundai’s blind spot monitoring displays a live video feed of what’s in the lane next to you in the instrument cluster, but it uses the individual gauges depending on which position your turn signal is in – left and the left gauge displays the video, right and the video is displayed in the gauge on the right. It’s a nifty system, but you wind up looking at the instrument cluster instead of actually checking the mirror.
There’s an upside to hybrids that people never really talk about – how quiet they are. Even on the highway, with the powertrain purring along, the sedan is hushed. A small engine, a good amount of sound deadening, or good engineering, whatever it is, being able to keep outside noise outside is a nice thing. It kind of seems like keeping things peaceful in the cabin was one of Hyundai’s key points, as the infotainment system has a “Sounds of Nature” setting that plays all sorts of soothing noises to help you forget about the traffic you’re stuck in.
All you really need to know about the Sonata Hybrid is that it’s one of the most efficient midsize sedans in the class. The most-affordable Blue trim carries a combined rating of 52 mpg, while the other two trims are rated at 47 mpg combined. That matches the Toyota Camry Hybrid LE at the top of the segment.
The main thing with hybrids, especially what we were looking for after our ’12 Optima Hybrid, was that it was smooth. The good news is that the Sonata Hybrid is smooth– for the most part. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor only make 192 horsepower combined, but let’s be honest, it’s plenty. Hyundai’s decision to go with a traditional six-speed automatic instead of a crummy CVT ensures that you’re not bucking around like you’re riding a horse in traffic.
No, the Sonata Hybrid isn’t fun or enjoyable to drive. I bet you were wondering that all along. No, you weren’t and you shouldn’t be. Because this is a freaking hybrid and they’re supposed to be all about efficiency, not about driver enjoyment.
Midsize sedans aren’t exactly popular and they won’t be for what I imagine will be decades. People want their SUVs and are willing to pay absurd prices for them. The only thing left for automakers to do is to double down on things that make sedans so great in the first place. They’re more efficient, more stylish, and are better value options than before.
After a week with the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, I don’t think there’s a better hybrid sedan out there at this price point. And this is coming from someone that wrote off hybrids after owning one for years. This is the kind of hybrid adults buy, ones that know global warming is real, fuel won’t be cheap forever, and having something pretty to look at sitting in your driveway is just as important as having the latest technology. In the case of Sonata Hybrid, you get to have the complete package in something that looks like it belongs in an art gallery.