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November 09, 2011

2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Road Test Review

2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Road Test Review

by Martha Hindes

In a landscape of automotive cacophony, sometimes it's the simple things that stand out most such as a steering wheel not over-laden with gadgets. Or, a cluster of instruments that say enough, but not too much. Putting the 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid in that category clarifies what seems a rather fundamental, but well-determined strategy: Keep the driving experience what you'd expect from a handsome, easy-handling, well-appointed family sedan for five and let the high-tech core quietly do its job.

It isn't that Hyundai ignores this is a combined electric-gasoline powered auto that, during express cruising, can toggle into electric-only mode for spurts -- even at speeds of 74 mph. It just doesn't scream at you in the process. You get the hint of its advanced underpinnings when you hit the Start button on the uncluttered dash and a small cluster of leaves in the driver's center gauge peeks back, and then disappears. If you have a taste for technological toys and don't have the navi version, you can choose to display a real time energy score or a small scale diagram showing the power source (40-hp electric motor or 166-hp engine) flowing to the wheels.

A late summer test in the predecessor of the 2012 model hinted at what to expect during extended daily driving, with a stint on express roads and some inner city stop-and-go traffic. Road feel was solid and serene, only hinting at its hybrid foundation when coasting quietly on electricity alone, without the subtle purr of the 4-cylinder engine. Visually and mechanically, it gains from last year's major Sonata redesign, with fluid side sculpting and aggressive stance, and remains unchanged for 2012. "Blue Link" advanced telematics is standard, however. Full Review

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