• 2018 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Road Test: 2018 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited

Hybrid Mileage in a Midsize Sedan

 Auto manufacturers can call a car “all-new” if it has gone through a complete redesign, top to bottom, inside and out. Then there is something called a mid-cycle refresh, where only certain items are changed, buying the manufacturer a bit of time before the all-new model comes out. With the 2018 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, the Korean company landed somewhere in-between the two with the changes and upgrades far more significant than the usual refresh. The biggest take-away Hyundai wants you to know is they have increased the value on the 2018 Sonata Hybrid. Yeah, we can all get behind that.

Drivetrain and Performance

The 2018 Sonata Hybrid is powered by a 2.0L four-cylinder engine, producing 154 horsepower (hp) and 140 pounds-feet of torque. The 38 kilowatt electric motor is good for 51 hp, bringing the total system horsepower to 193. Power gets to the front wheels through a six-speed electronic automatic transmission with Shiftronic, if you want to go through the gears manually.

2018 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Lots of upgrade this year makes the Sonata Hybrid almost new this year

EPA fuel economy estimates are 39 mpg city/44 highway/41 combined, heady numbers that Clean Fleet Report knew we could surpass. In 302 miles of freeway and city driving, we averaged 42 mpg, but on a 100-mile open freeway run, with the smart cruise control set to 65 mph, we averaged 44.6 mpg. So far so good, but the big test comes from the fuel economy in heavy stop-and-go traffic, where the hybrid system can run on pure electricity at times. Our last test run, over 120 miles of Los Angeles traffic during rush hour on the 405, we averaged 49.6 mpg. At times, the meter read 50+ mpg, but the final reading was just a tick under that very magic number. No complaints, though, as getting into the high-forties for every mile driven is wonderful.

Fuel economy reported by Smarticd is non-scientific and represents the reviewer’s driving experience. If you live in cold weather, high in the mountains or spend time in the city or stuck in rush hour traffic, then your numbers may differ.

The Sonata hybrid traveled 0–60 in about eight seconds. The time did not vary much leaving the car in automatic or opting for Shiftronic, where you can manually select gears by pushing forward to upshift and backward to downshift. The automatic had smooth, quiet shifts and seemed to find the right gear at the right time to squeeze-out maximum engine performance. During lane passes at highway speeds and climbing hills, the six-speed automatic shifted up-and-down seamlessly and precisely, but the engine lacked that extra oomph that would be expected from a hybrid.

Driving Experience: On the Road

Weighing in at 3,560 pounds, the 2018 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid performed well in all driving situations. Steering was responsive, but a bit heavy, with the motor-driven power steering set for good road feel. Usually, the cars Smarticd tests have the power steering set too light, so experiencing the Sonata Hybrid’s heavier setting was unique—but good.  The rack and pinion steering with MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link set-up in the rear produced a soft suspension, making freeway cruising a very nice experience. The car never was floaty at freeway speeds, nor was it affected by the grooves cut into SoCal’s concrete freeways for water diversion.

2018 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Braking took some getting used to, but the numbers look good

The Kumho Solus 215/55R17 tires, on the 17-inch Eco-spoke aluminum alloy wheels gripped as well as an all-season tire can do. They roll smooth and quiet, so while the Sonata Hybrid is not to be considered sporty, it was never a handful. Handling was aided by Hyundai’s vehicle stability management system which included traction control, resulting in little body roll until pushed past its limits when cornering. It took a bit of trial and error to get the feel with the brakes, though.

Common on all hybrids is a regenerative braking system that converts braking or coasting into electricity, which charges the Sonata’s lithium-ion polymer battery. You can monitor the battery charge and mileage range (metered instantly with dash gauges) when driving around town, stuck in stop-and-go rush hour traffic or coasting down hills.

It is not unusual for regenerative brakes on hybrid or electric cars to be mushy or grabby. The 2018 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid brakes were a bit of both. Most noticeable on the grabby side was first thing in the morning when leaving the driveway. The mushy sensation came when tromping on the pedal at freeway speeds. However, stopping was consistent and confident, from the four-wheel disc, ABS system with brake assist.

Driving Experience: Exterior

Hyundai says the redesigned Sonata Hybrid “is a perfect blend of style and efficiency” and that its “fuel efficiency flows from leading-edge design.” Smarticd’s test car was painted in Metropolis Gray and had Hyundai’s signature cascading grille. Added in 2018, along with a new front fascia, hoods and fenders, the Sonata has a contemporary look. The LED projector headlights, with Dynamic Bending Light, wrap far back onto the fenders. Except for the panoramic sunroof and the shark fin antenna set just above the rear solar control glass window, the line from the front fascia to the rear, built-in deck spoiler is unobstructed. The rear end, with LED tail lights, has three, tasteful chrome elements of the Hyundai logo, all-caps “SONATA” and a small, lowercase “hybrid.” The rear badge and the front fender-mounted “Blue Drive” emblems are the indicators that you are driving an electrified car.

Driving Experience: Interior

Soon after sitting down, it is apparent the Sonata’s interior will be a pleasant place to spend your time, as the leather seating surfaces have a high-quality feel. The driver seat was eight-way adjustable, with lumbar and height adjustments and memory, while the front passenger gets a six-way power adjustable seat. Both front seats are ventilated and heated; padding and thigh bolstering was ample so as not to induce fatigue on long drives. The center armrest is positioned nicely and the 12V, USB and Aux ports are conveniently located at the base of the center stack.

2018 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Keep it to two passengers in back and everyone will enjoy the ride

The Sonata Hybrid seats five passengers, as in three out back. Two is best as on long trips, the center passenger might think they drew the short straw. Rear seat head, shoulder and leg room was ample for six-foot passengers and access/egress was excellent. Passenger comfort was in mind with rear HVAC ducts, USB port, door cup holders and retractable side window shades. The flat-folding 60/40 split rear seat also had a fold down armrest with cup holders. Storage with the seats folded flat was the key to getting the most utility out of the Sonata.

The high-mounted touchscreen sits just above the center stack and is placed in the dash, not jutting-out from the dash. We were pleased to see volume and channel knobs for the radio, and one each for the fan speed and temperature control. Simple and easy to understand. Soft and hard touch materials were combined well, with the subtle use of brushed chrome accents and wood grain trim, gave the dash, door panels and center console a feeling of quality. The large, round speed and tach gauges, with black backgrounds and white numbers, are extremely easy to read. As noted earlier, the hybrid gauges are easy to understand, as is the color LCD trip meter to check on that excellent fuel economy.

2018 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

The interior is inviting–comfortable, but not cushy

The eight-speaker Infinity Premium Audio system, with subwoofer and amplifier, was part of the infotainment (information and entertainment) package. The 8.0-inch high-resolution color touchscreen houses the navigation and the AM/FM/CD/MP3/AUX radio. Features include SiriusXM (90-day trial), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel has mounted controls for Bluetooth that offers hands-free telephone, voice and radio controls.

Our 2018 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited came equipped with a power tilt and sliding sunroof, exterior mirror memory, power windows and door locks, proximity key entry with push button stop/start, electronic parking brake and the very helpful automatic vehicle hold, an auto-dimming Homelink rear view mirror, power and heated side mirrors with turn signals, dual automatic climate control with rear vents, carpeted floor mats, and a tilt and telescopic steering column. The wireless charging for compatible smartphones was a nice touch.

Pricing, Safety and Warranties

Base prices for the two 2018 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid models are SE—$25,500, and Limited—$30,500. Smarticd’s Sonata Hybrid Limited, with the optional carpeted floor mats ($125) and the Ultimate Package ($3,850) had a MSRP of $34,475. All prices do not include the $885 freight and handling charge.

2018 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

The new front end signals a more upscale look for the Sonata

The Sonata Hybrid came with Hyundai’s BlueLink Connected Services app. Active and passive safety features include nine air bags, blind spot detection, automatic emergency braking, and lane keep assist with rear cross traffic alert. Also for safety are the rear view camera and parking sensors, automatic headlights, remote keyless entry, tire pressure monitoring system and a theft-deterrent alarm.

The 2018 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid has an overall rating by the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA), and a by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), both of which are their highest rankings for safety.

 The 2018 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid comes with these warranties:

  • Powertrain                  10 years/100,000 miles   
  • New vehicle                 Five years/60,000 miles
  • Hybrid System           10 years/100,000 miles
  • Hybrid Battery           Lifetime
  • Roadside Assistance Five years/Unlimited miles
  • Anti-Perforation        Seven years/Unlimited miles

Observations: 2018 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited

A roomy interior, long list of standard equipment, excellent fuel economy and an outstanding warranty make the 2018 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited a must-see when shopping for a midsize sedan. Plus, add-in the crash worthiness ratings, a smooth and quiet ride and a base price of right around $25,000.

2018 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

The badges are subtle, but the MPG is real!

So how does a sedan fit your lifestyle? If you have a corporate car allowance, ask your plan administrator if you can add the Hyundai Sonata to your shopping list. No expense account? Well, don’t worry, a low starting price and fuel-sipping means you will be keeping a tight control on your household budget.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

Related Stories You Might Enjoy—Other Midsize Hybrid Choices

Road Test: 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Comparison Test: 2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid & Energi

Overview: Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid System

Comparison Test: 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid & PHEV


Smarticd is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at [email protected].


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About Author:

John Faulkner is an automotive marketing professional with more than 30 years experience branding, launching and marketing automobiles. He has worked with General Motors (all Divisions), Chrysler (Dodge, Jeep, Eagle), Ford and Lincoln-Mercury, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota on consumer events and sales training programs. His interest in automobiles is broad and deep, beginning as a child riding in the back seat of his parent's 1950 Studebaker. He has a keen appreciation of Art Deco design, no bias for domestic versus foreign makes and loves competition - whether that be F1, IndyCar, Sports Cars, NASCAR or participating in Track Days at places such as Laguna Seca, Thunderhill or Willow Springs. John lives in Dana Point, CA, and enjoys a top-down drive on PCH on an early Sunday morning.

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