Eco-Friendly Sedans Show Off New Looks and Features
After refreshing the standard gasoline model last year, Hyundai took the wraps off its Sonata hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants this week at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show. While the two powertrains remain the same, the Sonata Hybrid and Sonata Plug-in Hybrid get the same refresh in exterior and interior design that was bestowed upon the non-hybrid Sonata last summer along with some new tech features.
Major Exterior Refresh
Carrying all the same exterior updates as the gas-only Sonata, a redesigned grille anchors the Sonata Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid’s exterior changes. The larger hexagonal grille includes more horizontal lines, a lower placement of the Hyundai logo and a more defined air dam with ailerons at its corners. A new headlight shape stretches up and back; LED headlights with Dynamic Bending Light functionality are optional. The hood, front fenders and a new shape for the fog lights gives the car a stronger presence and sleek look. The side panel below the doors and rear end are reshaped, as well.
At the back are new taillights and a new deck lid. The license plate holder is now positioned below the trunk. The hybrids get distinctive, flatter, aerodynamic16-inch and 17-inch wheel designs that help distinguish the 2018 models. All of these changes add up to a class leading 0.24 coefficient of drag.
Inside, More Changes
Inside, there’s a new steering wheel, and behind that a revised instrument cluster where a state-of-harge indicator occupies the gasoline model’s tachometer space. The standard seven-inch touchscreen (or eight-inch with optional navigation) is positioned slightly higher and is easier to see and reach than the previous model’s. The arrangement of buttons and controls is cleaner. Other tech improvements include wireless phone charging for navigation-equipped models and an added USB port for the rear seat.
The infotainment system is upgraded with new navigation overhead perspective features. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. Options include the aforementioned navigation and real-time HD traffic updates from mapping company Here.
The engine in the hybrid powertrain for both models stays essentially the same with a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder gasoline engine tuned for maximum efficiency and producing 154 horsepower and 140 pounds-feet of torque. Between the engine and a six-speed automatic
transmission of the 2018 Sonata Hybrid is a 51-horsepower (38-kW) electric motor rated at 151 pounds-feet. Total system combined power is 193 horsepower. A 1.76-kWh lithium-ion battery pack is located under the trunk floor.
Hyundai estimates the 2018 Sonata Hybrid SE (the highest-mileage model) will be EPA-rated 39 mpg city/45 mpg highway/42 combined—an improvement on the 2017 ratings of 38 mpg city/ 43 highway and 40 combined.
The 2018 Sonata Plug-In Hybrid has a larger 9.8-kWh battery and a more powerful electric motor, at 67 horsepower (50 kW) for a total powertrain output of 202 horsepower. It will take less than three hours to charge the battery on a Level 2 charger.
Safety is a big part of this refresh: blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane change assist are now standard. Automatic emergency braking and lane keep assist are new options for these two cars.
Hyundai didn’t release details on projected electric range, fuel economy, and energy efficiency for the 2018 Sonata Plug-In; the 2017 model was rated at 27 miles of electric driving range, 39 mpg combined, and 99 MPGe.
For improved ride and handling, Hyundai makes several suspension and steering tweaks. The front roll bar has been stiffened, the steering assistance has been recalibrated, and the rear trailing arms have been fitted with new bushings.
Pricing for the 2018 models has not been released. The 2017 Sonata Hybrid started at $26,000 before destination charges and the 2017 Sonata Plug-in Hybrid at $34,600 before destination. Sonata Plug-in Hybrid buyers are eligible for a $4,919 federal tax credit.
The standard Sonata Hybrid will be available in the first quarter this year, with the Plug-in version following in the second quarter. However, the PHEV will only be sent to dealers in selected states: California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.
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