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Test Drive: 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

After a week driving the Chevrolet Volt, I tested the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. I’ve also driven the Kia Optima Hybrid in the past and there’s one thing that’s the same with all three cars – they lack power. To be fair, hybrids are meant to conserve fuel and be more eco-friendly than their gas-only versions, although some luxury hybrids from BMW, Porsche, Lexus and Infiniti are more powerful than their base gas-only counterparts.

I didn’t miss the power until I didn’t have it. It’s just something I never really paid attention to. In the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, I went to change lanes to get around a bus in the city and the car hesitated before the engine kicked in. This made me nervous, as I didn’t expect it to hesitate as long as it did. Merging onto a highway, passing and even going up a hill were all difficult in the Sonata Hybrid. The engine, once it kicked in, groaned loudly when I pushed it and it struggled. If the car is already at highway speeds, it’s not as difficult to pass, but getting it to that speed is hard.

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid interior

If you’re willing to sacrifice power for good fuel economy, the Sonata Hybrid is a great car. It offers plenty of space (the trunk is even good for a hybrid), comfortable seats and all the tech features you could ask for. My test car was fully-loaded and everything worked great. The navigation, satellite radio, backup camera, heated leather seats, iPod integration and Bluetooth were all user-friendly.

If you’re looking for a car that combines power and good fuel economy, you should test drive the gas-only Hyundai Sonata with the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. I spent a few hours behind the wheel of this Sonata recently, and it is plenty powerful. It has the same stylish interior and exterior as the Sonata Hybrid, but it packs a punch when you hit the gas pedal. Its 274 horsepower is comparable to the horsepower in some V6-powered midsize cars.

Hyundai Sonata 2.0T

Overall, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is great if you value green driving. Its EPA-estimated 35/40 mpg city/highway fuel economy ratings are good for a hybrid car. But if you want a car with some power, and don’t want to be nervous every time you attempt to pass another car, don’t rule out the turbocharged Hyundai Sonata. The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid costs about $1,100 more than the gas-only turbocharged Sonata 2.0T, but you’ll save about $600 a year in fuel costs with the hybrid. With only about a $500 difference, is power or fuel economy more important to you?

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