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First Drive: 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid


The fact that the all-new 200-horsepower 2011 Hyundai Sonata recently finished third in a seven-car comparison test doesn't really diminish its impact on the family-sedan segment. For starters, it beat the likes of Chevrolet Malibu, Subaru Legacy, Honda Accord, and Nissan Altima -- not a bad showing right out of the gates. Second, the Sonata's sophisticated "fluidic sculpture" design theme makes it a styling standout, prompting the competition's designers to race back to the drawing boards. Third, let's not forget that Hyundai's sporty four-door boasts the most standard horsepower and best fuel economy in its class, a combination that every automaker would love to claim. Lastly (as if the first few weren't enough), the HYUNDAI SONATA lineup receives two imposing newcomers in the coming months -- the 274-horsepower 2.0-liter HYUNDAI SONATA Turbo, which is out to prove the V-6 family hauler is obsolete, and the 209-horse, 39-mpg gas-electric HYUNDAI SONATA Hybrid you see here.

 Aimed squarely at today's mainstream players -- Altima Hybrid, Camry Hybrid, and Fusion Hybrid -- the HYUNDAI SONATA Hybrid is the first gas-electric vehicle Hyundai will sell in the U.S. To separate itself from the aforementioned foes, the HYUNDAI SONATA Hybrid utilizes such segment firsts as a lithium-polymer battery pack and a six-speed automatic with an engine clutch. According to Hyundai, the HYUNDAI SONATA Hybrid's 270-volt lithium-polymer battery, which resides in the forward position of the trunk to maximize cargo capacity (at 10.7 cubic feet, though, the trunk is smaller than Ford Fusion Hybrid's 11.8), is lighter (96 pounds versus Camry Hybrid's 124-pound nickel-metal hydride battery), smaller (about 20 percent smaller than lithium-ion), and more durable (less susceptible to physical damage and capable of more charge-discharge cycles compared to lithium-ion) than batteries in current and, in some cases, upcoming competitors. The six-speed's engine clutch, which takes the place of a torque converter, seamlessly engages and disengages at all engine speeds to imperceptibly deliver gas, gas-electric, and full-electric drive modes. Further, the HYUNDAI SONATA Hybrid doesn't exhibit any noticeable "hybridness" -- the whirring CVT and grabby brakes -- thanks to the traditional step-shift transmission and nicely calibrated regenerative binders.

(Source)


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