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In the Year 2025: Hyundai's Dream for a 50 MPG World

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author photo by Autotrader September 2010

In August 2010, Hyundai announced plans to average "at least 50 mpg by 2025" for its U.S. vehicles. That is more than 14 mpg beyond the government's Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) mandate of 35.5 mpg for 2016, announced last April. Whether Hyundai's claims are made with car selling in mind or it can actually achieve these goals remains to be seen.

Based on Hyundai's recent fuel economy history, the 50 mpg goal seems attainable, although the company's promise of "most fuel-efficient manufacturer in the U.S." requires some perspective.

As higher gas prices and concerns over emissions have taken hold, automakers have been teaching the traditional gasoline engine new fuel-saving tricks. Hyundai's "Blue Drive" initiative combines many of these technologies, including direct injection, turbocharging, hybrid powertrains and plug-in hybrids. It also focuses on using lightweight materials to reduce weight.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does list Hyundai as the automaker with the highest average fuel economy for 2008 (the most recent year reported). That year, its entire fleet of cars and light trucks averaged 30.9 mpg, nearly 1 mpg better than next best Honda. Hyundai predicts it will top the list again for 2009. We'll know for sure when the EPA releases the data this November.

Hyundai's Blue Drive technology makes its U.S. debut in the popular mid-size Sonata sedan. The EPA incorporates sales numbers in its final results, so recent record-setting sales of the new, more fuel-efficient Sonata should provide a significant boost to Hyundai's CAFE rating for 2011.

The base Sonata is the only car in its class to feature direct injection, which delivers highly pressurized fuel directly into the engine to boost power and fuel efficiency. With 198 horsepower, the Sonata generates more power than the four-cylinder engines available in competitors like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Chevy Malibu, and also meets or beats them in fuel economy.

Unlike the competition, the Sonata is no longer offered with a V6 engine. In its place will be a more powerful turbocharged four-cylinder version: the 2.0T. For those who adhere to the old adage, "there's no replacement for displacement," prepare to be impressed. The 2.0T has received very positive initial reviews. A combination of direct injection and an advanced turbocharger (similar to those used in BMW engines) delivers 274 hp and a projected 34 mpg on the highway. Those numbers trump competitors' V6 engines by as much as 18 hp and seven mpg.

2011 is also the first year the Sonata is available with a hybrid powertrain. Fuel consumption for the Sonata Hybrid is projected to be 37 mpg city and 39 mpg highway, making it competitive with other mid-size hybrid competitors like the Ford Fusion (41 city / 36 highway), Nissan Altima (35 city / 33 highway) and Toyota Camry (31 city / 35 highway).

While Hyundai's 50 mpg CAFE goal is ambitious, it seems credible if the company continues its current rate of progress. Either way, Hyundai's push for maximum efficiency should create more competition among automakers to make continued advances in fuel saving. And that is good news for consumers, the auto industry and the environment.

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Used 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
In the Year 2025: Hyundai's Dream for a 50 MPG World - Autotrader