2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited by Ben Lewis

We recently tested the new 2020 Hyundai Sonata and came away very impressed with its style, luxury, and neat gizmos like the self-parking feature. Would you use it much? Probably not, but it sure impresses your friends when you do.

More than just another gizmo, Hyundai also has a very interesting Sonata Hybrid, loaded with even more tech and neat stuff, plus it offers up to 52 combined mpg! Test drive? Count us in.

Unique and Elegant

We loved the looks of our ’20 tester so we’re glad they didn’t do much to our ’21 Hybrid. The cross-hole grille has active flaps and a unique bumper lip, and our tester being a limited had a bit more chrome bling than lesser models. Still a very attractive face, with a shape that’s unique to Hyundai.

The sleek profile is pretty much unchanged, with two deep accent lines that complement the coupe-like lines, and combined with front and rear wheel deflectors, and undercovers for the engine bay, center floor and rear, produces a wind cheating 0.24 Cd. We also like the Limited’s 17-inch alloy wheels, that look sporty and upscale.

We don’t normally talk about the roof of a vehicle – unless to mention a panoramic moonroof, but here the hybrid has something to impress your friends. Okay, at first we were bummed that we had no sunroof, but then we looked closer, and saw the full length of the roof covered in solar panels.

The roof directly charges the 12-volt and hybrid batteries, and outputs 205 watts of electricity. That nets you about 2 miles per day and helps prevent battery discharge from info-tainment or HVAC systems when the car is off. Very cool!

The rear is shared with other Sonatas, but that’s okay, we still love the sporty integrated rear spoiler with little nubs to help break up airflow. And you do get a Hybrid badge to inform nosey neighbors. Our tester was finished in a lustrous Calypso Red that we really liked – bright, vivid, and with a beautiful finish.

Have a Seat in the Future

Inside, the Sonata Hybrid, much like other Sonata siblings, is a lovely place to spend time. Even getting in is interesting, with Hyundai’s smartphone-based Digital Key, which lets you unlock, start and drive without a physical key – you can even have secure sharing of virtual keys with family and friends.

We wouldn’t share our Sonata though, we liked it too much. Like the non-hybrid Sonata, this is a modern interior with a very cool 12.3-inch digital gauge display, with a few screens specifically for Hybrid. We love the game-ification of the displays, with fun animated actions as you switch between modes. It’s fun, but still feels upscale, a rare balance.

Continuing the digital experience, a large 10.25-inch touch screen with split screens and a very easy to use interface. Loads of tech joins in, with wireless smartphone charging, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Dual Bluetooth so two devices can be paired at one time – one for phone calls, the other for streaming audio. There’s also navigation with birds-eye view, and a 360-degree parking monitor.

One of our favorite things – the Bose Premium Audio system has these little environmental sound design things to soothe you, including Lively Forest, Calm Sea Waves, Rainy Day and more. As goofy as it sounds, in use it is kind of cool. Ok, we’re geeks.

There’s plenty to enjoy without geeking out – seats are very supportive and comfortable – the Sonata has best in class front headroom and legroom. The rear seats are friendly for tall adults, and they also split fold for carrying large items. The quality of materials is excellent too, with plenty of soft touch materials, a nice leather-wrapped wheel and more. Combined with the Hybrid’s driving experience, you feel like your money has been well spent.

One note – the cool Auto Park feature we enjoyed on the regular Sonata is not available on the Hybrid. Ok, it’s cool, but really not very necessary. We didn’t miss it.

Smooth Sipper

The Hybrid brings a new and exciting variation to the Sonata’s well-rounded personality. Under the shapely hood is a 150-horsepower, 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder, that combined with a 51 hp electric motor gets you up to a quite reasonable 192 horsepower. If you’re really after efficiency, the Blue Trim will get you 50 city, 54 highway and 52 combined mpg. 686 miles of range on a tank is a jaw dropper! With more luxury equipment to carry around, our Limited tester was ranked a still impressive 47 combined mpg.

The most impressive part of the Hybrid’s performance – outside of those great MPG numbers – is when its running in full EV mode. Whisper quiet, vibration free, the only sound you hear is the futuristic sound that the Sonata produces to warn pedestrians as you sneak up on them.

When you want to hustle the combination of EV low-end torque and the gas engine makes for sparkling off the line performance, and in Sport Mode you can tap through the paddle shifters and have a good time.

Our only gripe is when you are not in EV or Sport Mode, the 6-speed automatic can feel clunky, and shifts can be abrupt. Hyundai touts the transmission’s Active Shift Control which employs the electric motor to smooth out gear changes. Not there yet, unfortunately.  So, we recommend either glide along, or give it the spurs!

Handling is nice too, with the weight of the batteries sitting low in the chassis, the Sonata is a confident handler, and a supple ride makes this an excellent and frugal cruiser for the commute or long trips.

Since most Sonatas will live as family and business vehicles, it carries a full load of Hyundai’s SmartSense advanced driver assistance systems, including Forward, Blind Spot and Rear Cross Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist, Lane Keep Assist and Highway Driving Assist and Advanced Smart Cruise Control with Stop and Go. Typical of Hyundai these all work exceptionally well together, making a good driver even better.

Save at the Pump, Save at the Checkbook?

Apples to Apples your entry-level Sonata starts at $23,700 and gets up to 38 mpg. The Sonata Hybrid Blue starts at $27,750 and gets up to 54 mpg. While fuel is not expensive now, prices are expected to go up – still you’re probably not going Hybrid just to save on fuel bills – Eco friendly is important to many buyers, too.

You won’t be blue driving the Blue – it’s also nicely equipped with Forward Collision and Blind Spot Collision avoidance, an 8-inch color touchscreen and more. We would probably pop at least for the SEL at $29,900, and you get goodies like Hyundai Digital Key, 17-inch alloy wheels, Bose Premium Audio and Wireless Device charging.

The Limited is a big step up to $35,300 but it is the tech showcase, with that cool Solar Roof, full digital gauge cluster, 10.25-inch touchscreen navigation, Blind Spot monitor and more. With no additional options (none are available) and $995 for Destination, we rang the bell at $36,295.

Competitors would include the Camry Hybrid, $37,260 comparably equipped, and the Accord Hybrid comes in at $37,830. They’re all excellent cars…the fun tech probably noses the Sonata forward – if you want a bit more engaging drive the Accord, and you can never go wrong with a Camry. Mid-size hybrid sedans? You’re spoiled for choice.

 Sleek, luxurious, loaded with tech and up to 54 mpg. The 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid proves you don’t have to compromise to go green!