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2016 Hyundai Sonata PHEV: Detroit Auto Show

What Is It?

The 2016 Hyundai Sonata PHEV is Hyundai’s first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, and it looks like it’ll be fully competitive from the get-go. According to Hyundai’s internal testing, the Sonata PHEV is good for up to 22 miles on electric power, and a full recharge is possible in just 2.5 hours if you have access to a Level 2 charger. Powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine that’s paired with a 50-kilowatt electric motor, the plug-in Sonata generates a total of 202 horsepower in hybrid mode (gas plus electric), and the large electric motor should enable it to keep up with traffic in pure electric-vehicle (EV) mode, though Hyundai has not yet specified a top electric-only speed. Once the battery runs out of juice and hybrid mode kicks in, Hyundai projects fuel economy of 38 miles per gallon in the city and 43 mpg on the highway, which falls a bit short of class leaders but is still impressive for a family sedan.

Like other Hyundai/Kia hybrid vehicles, the Sonata PHEV uses a conventional 6-speed automatic transmission instead of a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that’s used by other hybrids. That’s a good thing. When you accelerate in a CVT-equipped car, the transmission finds the optimal engine speed (5,000 revolutions per minute, for example) and holds it there, which is why models such as the Prius make a loud droning noise during passing and merging. In the Sonata PHEV, conversely, you’ll sweep progressively through the gears as in a normal car, making for a familiar experience that inspires confidence. The Hyundai may sacrifice an mpg or two in the process, but that might be a reasonable trade-off for a more organic driving feel.

The Sonata PHEV gets the usual assortment of hybrid exterior upgrades, including aerodynamic front and rear fascias, unique lighting and distinctive wheels with low-rolling-resistance tires. The plug-in charge port is located on the driver front fender. Inside, a PHEV-specific instrument cluster displays pertinent information about the complex hybrid system’s status and operation, while a charge indicator is mounted atop the dashboard for easy visibility from outside the car. Special Blue Pearl leather will be a PHEV-only option.

Additional feature highlights, depending on specification, include Blue Link smartphone-app management (featuring remote services such as charge start/stop, vehicle diagnostics and range check), a rearview camera, an advanced blind spot monitoring system with lane-change assist and lane-departure warning, a hands-free trunk lid with a foot sensor, LED interior lighting, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated power front seats, and adaptive cruise control with full-stop capability. All Sonata PHEVs include Bluetooth and USB connectivity, while the available 8-inch touchscreen includes a navigation system, Pandora integration and Infinity premium audio.

Depending on residency status, the 2016 Hyundai Sonata PHEV may be eligible for tax credits, including a $2,500 fixed federal tax credit and a variable federal credit linked to battery capacity. Local incentives may also be offered.

How Much?

No official pricing has been announced as of this writing.

When Can You Get It?

Late 2015

Add It to Your Shopping List Because…

The new Sonata is one of the best midsize sedans on the market, and now there’s a plug-in option for those who want the flexibility of pure EV operation. It’s a win-win.

Other Cars to Consider

Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid — The plug-in Accord offers less EV range, but its fuel economy in hybrid mode is superior.

Ford Fusion Energi — The Fusion’s plug-in variant provides a competitive 21 miles of EV range and excellent fuel economy, too.

Toyota Prius Plug-In — The electrified Prius suffers from limited range like the Accord, and it’s also limited to just 62 miles per hour in EV mode, but it has a handy hatchback trunk.

Used Chevrolet Volt — The Volt can go much farther on a single charge than the others here, but you’ll have to live with a compact back seat.

See all 2015 Detroit Auto Show articles

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