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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hyundai unveils Sonata Hybrid

After showing hybrid concepts over the last few auto show seasons, Hyundai finally shows the real deal with a hybrid version of its Sonata midsize sedan at the New York auto show. The standard Sonata got an update at the 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show, radically restyling it with Hyundai's new fluidic sculpture design language. Now fitted with Hyundai's Blue Drive hybrid system, the car gets significantly better mileage.

The Sonata Hybrid is the first production hybrid to use lithium polymer batteries, which have more power density over nickel metal hydride batteries used in hybrids from Toyota, Ford, and Nissan. As such, Hyundai tuned the Sonata Hybrid to drive at speeds up to 62 mph under electric power alone, with the internal combustion engine turned off. EPA fuel economy, at 37 mpg city and 39 mpg highway, are competitive with the Ford Fusion Hybrid, but not quite up to the level of the Toyota Prius. Hyundai does not say how far the Sonata Hybrid will travel under electric power alone.

Hyundai says that the Sonata uses a fundamentally different hybrid system than that developed by Toyota and Ford. Rather than use a planetary gearset to combine power from an electric motor and internal combustion engine, the Sonata uses a six-speed automatic transmission with an electric motor in place of a torque converter.

The Sonata Hybrid uses a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, running on an Atkinson cycle, along with an electric motor. Hyundai calculates the total power train output at 209 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque, which should give drivers a satisfying experience behind the wheel. Hyundai also points out that the Sonata Hybrid will idle the powerplant if the brake is pushed hard.

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