Hyundai is one of several car companies that has taken a successful midsize sedan and installed a hybrid powertrain that provides increased fuel mileage and makes the car appealing to a wider range of consumers. In addition to its 38 mpg combined EPA fuel economy rating, the 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid stands out for its generous standard equipment list and available in-cabin technology.
In the middle of 2012, the Sonata Hybrid saw its EPA ratings drop from 35 mpg city/40 mpg highway to 34 city/39 highway. Since then, Hyundai has made some changes to the hybrid system to improve the sedan’s efficiency. An upgraded 35-kilowatt electric motor allows the car to spend more time in electric mode, which benefits mpg and allows the car to achieve 35 city/40 highway ratings once more. During Edmunds testing of a 2011 Sonata Hybrid, we were unable to achieve the EPA’s mpg estimates in normal driving. However, we plan to test the 2013 model to see how its improved fuel economy ratings hold up in the real world.
Hyundai has also made changes to the computer-controlled clutch between the Sonata Hybrid’s 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and its electric motor to help smooth out the transitions between the gas and electric power sources in traffic. The improvements were obvious during our testing of the 2013 Sonata Hybrid, but there’s still room to perfect the braking response, which simply doesn’t feel natural when you first get into this car. In addition, Hyundai fitted the 2013 model with a lighter, more compact lithium-polymer battery pack. This opens up extra trunk space, as the Sonata Hybrid goes from just 10.7 cubic feet last year to a respectable 12.1-cubic-foot trunk in 2013.
These updates should add up to a better Sonata Hybrid, but it’s still facing stiff competition from the similarly priced 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid (47 mpg combined EPA rating) and 2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid (41 mpg combined), which offer higher mpg ratings and a more refined driving experience. If the bottom line is important to you, keep in mind that the conventional Hyundai Sonata is a better value than the hybrid sedan, as it costs several thousand dollars less and has a respectable 28 mpg combined rating.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is offered in base and Limited trim levels.
Standard equipment on the base model includes 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, LED running lights, foglights, heated mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, an eight-way power driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated front seats, Bluetooth, Hyundai’s BlueLink emergency communications system and a six-speaker sound system with CD player, satellite radio, an iPod/USB audio interface and an auxiliary audio jack. Hyundai doesn’t offer any major options on the base Sonata Hybrid, so if you want more amenities, you’ll need to look to the new Limited model.
The 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited comes with 17-inch wheels, leather seating surfaces, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, power driver seat with lumbar support, heated rear seats, a navigation system with a 7-inch touchscreen, rearview camera, an upgraded Infinity audio system with nine speakers and HD radio, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. A panoramic sunroof is optional on the Limited.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine generating 159 horsepower and 154 pound-feet of torque that is paired with an electric motor rated at 47 hp (35 kilowatts) and 151 lb-ft. Combined, the two power units are good for 199 hp. A six-speed automatic is the only transmission offered. In Edmunds testing, a Sonata Hybrid Limited hit 60 mph in 8.5 seconds, a pretty quick time for a mainstream hybrid sedan.
Fuel economy ratings for the base Sonata Hybrid are 36 mpg city/40 mpg highway and 38 combined. The EPA has given the heavier Limited model a slightly lower 37 mpg combined rating even though its city and highway figures are identical.
Standard safety features on the 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid include antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, front side-impact airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. Hyundai’s BlueLink emergency communications system is also standard. At our test track, the Sonata Hybrid Limited used up 125 feet to come to a stop from 60 mph, about average for a sedan with low-rolling-resistance all-season tires.
In government safety tests, the Sonata Hybrid earned a top five-star rating for overall crash protection, with four out of five stars given for overall frontal protection and five stars for overall side protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the 2013 Hyundai Sonata earned a top rating of “Good” for frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
Not surprisingly, the Sonata Hybrid’s passenger cabin looks and feels very similar to its traditionally powered sibling. The interior is handsome and controls are straightforward and intuitive to use, regardless of whether you have the base model or the Limited and its standard touchscreen interface. The slick-looking gauge cluster sets the interior apart from the non-hybrid model and includes a separate LCD display meant to encourage more fuel-efficient driving.
Front seats are comfortable and supportive. The backseat offers plenty of room for two adults, though taller passengers will find headroom in short supply. All hybrid sedans lose a good bit of trunk space due to intrusion from the hybrid system’s battery pack, and the Sonata Hybrid is no exception, with 12.1 cubic feet of capacity compared to 16.4 cubic feet in the regular Sonata. Among hybrid midsize sedans, the Sonata Hybrid offers comparable trunk space to the Fusion Hybrid and 1 cubic foot less than the Camry Hybrid.
Most drivers will find the 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid’s acceleration more than adequate in normal driving. You’ll scarcely notice the transitions between gas and electric power in traffic, and there’s ample power for passing maneuvers. Hitting the Sonata Hybrid’s EPA fuel economy numbers takes some doing, but owners should expect to get 30 mpg or better on a consistent basis.
The biggest thing you’ll have to get used to in the Sonata Hybrid is the odd braking response: Due to the blending of the car’s conventional brakes with the hybrid regenerative braking system, there’s a small but noticeable delay between when you press the brake pedal and when you actually get the desired braking force. That said, this is a peculiarity of driving the hybrid more than anything else, as our testing has shown that the car has plenty of braking power for repeated, hard stops.
Converted to hybrid duty, this midsize sedan loses some of the dynamic appeal of the conventional Hyundai Sonata. Nevertheless, it provides a smooth ride on most roads, along with competent handling around turns. If you’re looking for a comfortable and reasonably efficient car to drive to work, the 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid should fill the bill.