|Hyundai showed off its mildly refreshed, more fuel efficient 2013 Sonata Hybrid at Harlemís Dinosaur Bar-B-Que on Wednesday. A ride up the Sawmill River Parkway into the Hudson Valley demonstrated that the new Sonata is capable of very impressive mileage, but only if you drive it the right way.
Donít expect major changes to the Sonata Hybrid ó the only visual cue is new alloy wheel designs. But fuel economy jumps from 36 to 38 miles per gallon combined (36 city/40 highway). John Shon, the product manager for the Sonata and Santa Fe, said in an interview that the mileage gain was made without significant hardware changes to the car.
Improvements came to the hybridís electric side. Its LG Chem-developed lithium-polymer battery pack is five pounds lighter and its rating of momentary peak power delivery ó the burst that the battery can supply to the electric motor ó has increased to 47 kilowatts, from 34. A new housing cuts intrusion into trunk space. The electric motor of the í13 model is rated at 35 kilowatts, up from 30. And the hybrid starter generatorís continuous power rating jumps to 8 kilowatts from 6.4; its maximum peak power remains unchanged. Regenerative braking performance has also been tweaked.
The 2.4-liter gas engine is the only loser ó it drops from 166 to 159 horsepower, bringing net horsepower down to 199 from 206.
The overall result is better fuel economy and a hybrid that can operate in all-electric E.V. mode for a longer time, Mr. Shon said. Hyundai has had some problems with its mileage claims, though Mr. Shon said he was ďfairly confidentĒ that the revamped Sonata Hybrid would live up to its window sticker rating. He added, however, that E.P.A. driving cycles, with gentler acceleration than was generally seen in the real world, tended to grade hybrids optimistically.
On a trip up to Rockefeller State Park Preserve in Westchester County, the Sonata Hybrid was almost preternaturally quiet. The changes from electric to hybrid mode were barely perceptible. Thereís enough power, but not much road or steering feel. Itís no sports car. Backing off the accelerator at highway speeds will often switch the car temporarily into E.V. mode (provided the battery has enough charge), suggesting that a light foot on downgrades will yield dividends at the gas pump. The Sonata Hybrid can reach 75 miles per hour on electric power, but its range on batteries alone is limited to about two miles.
The drive to and from the park proved a study in contrast. Driving aggressively, I achieved 33.9 m.p.g. in 30 miles of highway and local driving. But James MacPherson, an auto writer and experienced hypermiler, reached 51.1 m.p.g.
The Sonata Hybrid wins points for quality materials, clear displays (with plenty of eco information related to the hybrid drive), good rear legroom and a large trunk. The base car sells for $26,445, including delivery, and the Limited model (adding such features as navigation and a rear backup camera) for $31,345.
Hyundai also showed the new 2013 Santa Fe lineup at the Harlem event. The bigger Veracruz has been dropped from the lineup, and thereís an expanded role for the third-generation Santa Fe crossover S.U.V., which is available in three versions. The Sport model (with two 4-cylinder engine choices) is the base vehicle. The V-6 Santa Fe is offered as the Limited (six passengers) and GLS (seven) in long-wheelbase versions that have grown 8.5 inches over all.