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2013 Sonata Hybrid leads Hyundai fleet with 40-mpg rating

Rebounding from an EPA investigation into mileage returns, Hyundai increases power and electric-only driving ability on its hybrid.

By James_Tate Feb 26, 2013 7:09AM

After an EPA investigation found Hyundai had overstated fuel -conomy estimates for nearly its entire fleet, the South Korean manufacturer ended 2012 in waves of pain and bad press. Gone were the triumphant 40-mpg ratings and millions of dollars in compensation payments to owners.

Though the 2012 Sonata Hybrid received among the mildest rebukes in light of the controversy, Hyundai has aimed the 2013 Sonata Hybrid as the spearhead of its comeback.

The 2013 Sonata Hybrid uses what Hyundai calls its Hybrid Blue Drive system — a powertrain that includes a lithium polymer battery pack that is both smaller and lighter than the one in the 2012 model to help store more energy for the new, higher-output electric motor. Though the battery is the same size (1.43 kilowatt hours), the discharge rate has increased to 47 kilowatts, sources at Hyundai say.

That new electric motor in turn allows for longer driving periods at higher speeds -- up to 75 mph -- without the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder gas engine.

Other improvements abound in the 2013 model. The aerodynamics have been sharpened to the point that the new Sonata Hybrid has a drag coefficient of 0.24 — a figure more often seen attached to high-end sports cars than family sedans. The Hybrid Blue Drive powertrain includes reductions in the friction levels of the hybrid clutch control and the 6-speed automatic transmission, providing smoother takeoffs in all-electric mode and maximizing the electric motor’s range at highway speeds.

Hyundai has put itself in the difficult position of having to regain the consumer’s trust. The 2013 Sonata Hybrid is now the fuel-economy leader in Hyundai’s lineup as the only model currently available with a "real" EPA 40-mpg rating.

Should the fuel-economy figures hold up under long-term testing and ownership studies, Hyundai can be credited with making impressive steps forward in efficiency under difficult circumstances and time constraints. What remains to be seen is if the hit Hyundai took with American consumers will make any improvement a moot point.

[Sources: Hyundai; EPA; The Washington Post; photo via MSN CA]    

Feb 26, 2013 9:24AM
All manufacturers, ALL OF THEM, have withheld the truth, lied, ignored, denied the truth at different times. If you have owned a Hyundai, and loved it, you are not going to walk away from that brand over a few mpg fib.
  Ford people didn't walk away over the lies that JD Powers exposed saying their quality really has not increased recently. Not many walked away from the Roll Over debacle, only a hand full of us walked away due to the Death Wobble etc..
  Gm has had too many quality issues to bother mentioning and their owners still LOVE them. Few walked away from Toyota over the floor mat scam and now they are number one in the world again.  The point is, many love their brand, regardless of the truth about it's quality and reliability and will continue to buy them. The only thing that will make people move on is an accident that did not protect them well, repeated mechanical failures or quality issues or just the desire to purchase another brand simply because they like the way it looks or drives or because it may have features that they want.
  Those that have only ever owned one brand are foolish and live in the dark. They have no idea what else is being offered or whether it may be better than what they have. There are many of them blogging on this site that condemn brands and vehicles that they have never owned or even driven. They blindly believe they have the best, believe all written words that back them up and deny all written words that conflict with what they believe. Pure ignorance.

Feb 27, 2013 9:28AM
We own a 2011 Sonata Limited and a 2012 Sonata Hybrid.  We would go kicking and screaming if anyone tried to distance us from these two cars.  We know that how we drive effects fuel economy and we have learned to maximize fuel conservation in several ways.  These are awesome autos.  I have never had a passenger who didn't ask what it was, how much did it cost and be impressed by ride quality and proof of fuel consumption.  All the emphasis on exact numbers is interesting.  In our case we have nearly always EXCEEDED EPA estimates for both these cars.  If all manufacturer where held to the same scrutiny, I'm certain their estimates would be adjusted downward as well.  Another thought is the tests were overseen by the government.  Draw your own conclusions.  I'm going to take a chance and say more car companies will be held accountable and the numbers will have greater disparity than the Hyundai.  All that said, you are not truly  objective and informed if you don't give this car a test.  Everything works, JD Powers gives them most reliable award and the pocket book is a happy place.  You can be sucked into the hype or enjoy a great car in all it's incarnations.  Personally I get more driving satisfaction with the hybrid. Highest MPG: 54
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