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2014 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 4/3/2017

Con: Fuel economy falls short of other hybrid midsize sedans; odd braking response; tight rear-seat headroom.

Interior: Not surprisingly, the Sonata Hybrid's cabin looks and feels very similar to its traditionally powered sibling. The interior is handsome and the controls are straightforward and intuitive to use, regardless of whether you have the base model or the Limited. Both models feature a touchscreen electronics interface this year, but the display in the Limited is significantly larger and includes navigation. The hybrid Sonata's slick-looking gauge cluster helps set 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 Accord Hybrid, but 1 cubic foot less than the Camry Hybrid.

Body: The 2014 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is offered in two trim levels: base and Limited. The regular Hyundai Sonata is reviewed separately.

Standard equipment on the base model includes 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, LED running lights, foglights, heated mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, an eight-way power driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated front seats, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Hyundai's BlueLink emergency communications system, a rearview camera, and a six-speaker sound system with a 4.3-inch touchscreen display, CD player, satellite and HD radio, an iPod/USB audio interface and an auxiliary audio jack.

Since there are no major options for the base trim level, the next step is the Limited model. It comes with 17-inch wheels, perforated leather seating surfaces, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, power driver seat with lumbar support, a navigation system with a 7-inch touchscreen, an upgraded Infinity audio system with nine speakers and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. A panoramic sunroof is optional on the Limited.

Driving: Most drivers will find the 2014 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid's acceleration more than adequate in normal driving. We've found the standard automatic transmission preferable to the CVTs in other hybrids, as it does a better job of keeping engine noise in check under heavy acceleration or when climbing long, uphill grades. 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 hybrid Sonata also provides a smooth ride on most roads, along with a pleasantly quiet cabin. Around turns, it also feels secure and competent, though modest levels of grip and a lack of steering feel of the road means rivals like the Fusion and Accord Hybrids are more enjoyable to pilot overall.

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.

What’s New: Base versions of the 2014 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid get a rearview camera, a touchscreen audio interface and HD radio as standard. Alongside that, the Limited trim level loses its heated rear seats.

The 2014 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine that is paired with an electric motor fed by a lithium-polymer battery pack. Combined, the two power units are good for 199 horsepower. Power is sent to the front wheels through a standard six-speed automatic transmission. In Edmunds testing, a Sonata Hybrid Limited hit 60 mph in 8.4 seconds, a typical performance for a mainstream hybrid sedan.

The EPA estimated fuel economy for the base Sonata Hybrid is 38 mpg combined (36 city/40 highway). The EPA has given the heavier Limited model a slightly lower 37 mpg combined rating, even though its city and highway figures are identical. In our real-world testing of a Sonata Hybrid, we had difficultly consistently meeting these estimates.

Safety: Standard safety features on the 2014 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid include antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, front side-impact airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. Also standard is BlueLink, Hyundai's emergency telematics system, which offers roadside assistance, crash response, remote door lock control and monitoring features for parents with teenage drivers (speed, geo-fencing and curfew limits).

At our test track, the Sonata Hybrid Limited used 122 feet to come to a stop from 60 mph, an average performance for a hybrid midsize sedan.

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 frontal crash protection and five stars for side protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the standard 2014 Hyundai Sonata earned the top rating of "Good" for moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength protection. The Sonata received the second-lowest rating of "Marginal" in the small-overlap frontal-offset test. Its seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.

Pro: Comfortable and handsome cabin with simple controls; solid acceleration; lengthy warranty; costs less than comparably equipped rivals.

Edmunds Say: The 2014 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid has all the elements of a desirable and fuel-efficient hybrid family sedan, though its EPA fuel economy ratings are lower than most competitors in this class.

Introduction: Midsize sedans are some of the most popular and practical cars on the road. Commuters and families alike seek them out for their interior space, ride comfort and respectable fuel economy. If you add a hybrid powertrain to that mix and deliver truly stellar fuel economy numbers, then an already desirable family car like the Hyundai Sonata should be even more appealing. That's the thinking behind the 2014 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, and indeed, there's plenty to like about this hybrid midsize sedan.

To start, the hybrid Sonata has a particularly attractive interior for a midsize sedan, and it's furnished with high-quality materials. Standard equipment is a bit more generous than in similarly priced competitors, and if you can do without leather upholstery and a navigation system, the base Sonata Hybrid arguably has everything you need. Performance is also a strength of Hyundai's hybrid sedan. Although its acceleration times aren't any quicker than most competitors' numbers, the Sonata Hybrid feels energetic moving through urban traffic. We also like that it uses a conventional six-speed automatic transmission (rather than a continuously variable transmission as in some rivals), because it generally results in less engine noise during hard acceleration.

However, if you're really serious about maximizing your mpg, you might be put off by the fact that the 2014 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid simply isn't as fuel-efficient as rival hybrid sedans. Its 38 mpg EPA combined rating (37 mpg on the Limited version) lags behind every major competitor. In addition, we've found it difficult to equal this number in real-world driving, and most owners should expect their gas mileage to settle in the low 30s. A minor gripe concerns the hybrid Hyundai's rather unnatural-feeling brake response, a common malady on hybrid cars that use a regenerative braking system, but particularly pronounced on the Sonata. Finally, buyers who will be using the backseat on a regular basis should take note that rear headroom is quite snug in all Hyundai Sonatas.

If you're shopping for a hybrid midsize sedan, there are a couple competitors that we'd choose over the 2014 Sonata Hybrid. Our favorite in this class is the 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid, a comfortable, quiet car that earns an impressive 47 mpg combined rating. The fact that the Ford is quite stylish and by far the most involving to drive of any hybrid midsize car is icing on the cake. Another great choice is the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid, which is also rated 47 mpg combined and has the richest interior of any car in this class. The 2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid isn't nearly as fuel-efficient as those cars (41 mpg combined), but it's a fine choice if you're looking for a spacious, comfortable car that just happens to be quite fuel-efficient.

Given its lower mpg ratings, the 2014 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid might seem like a tough sell over any of these sedans. But with its competitive price tag, nicely appointed cabin and solid performance, the Sonata Hybrid still makes a lot of sense, especially if you just want the most fuel-efficient model in the Sonata lineup.

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