By on February 9, 2018

Image: Hyundai

Hold on a minute, you’re thinking — you’re pretty sure you’ve seen this vehicle before. Yes, you have, as the conventional gas-powered 2018 Hyundai Sonata went on sale last summer with a revamped face, tail, and assorted other goodies.

What didn’t launch alongside the refreshed midsize sedan was its hybrid and plug-in hybrid siblings, which soldiered on with a 2017 face until just now. At the Chicago Auto Show Thursday, Hyundai had the distinct pleasure of pulling the wraps off a body already familiar to the buying public, just with different internals. Don’t worry, though, there’s still something new to talk about.

Besides the models’ updated visage, now almost completely in line with the internal combustion Sonatas (notice an extra LED strip below the stacked running lights), the hybrid model sees a bump in fuel economy. That is, assuming the EPA agrees with Hyundai’s estimates.

Image: Hyundai

Powertrain details remain the same as before, with a 2.0-liter direct-injection four-cylinder mating to a 38 kW electric motor where one would normally find the torque converter. Hyundai inventively calls this the Transmission-Mounted Electrical Device (TMED). The unit, which incorporates a clutch, gives drivers the ability to reach speeds of 75 miles per hour under electric power alone. As before, six-speed automatic governs the whole works.

With juice provided by a 1.76 kWh lithium-ion battery located beneath the trunk floor, total output from both gasoline and electric motors amounts to 193 horsepower. Despite the exterior changes, the models’ coefficient of drag remains the same slippery 0.24 (versus the gas-powered sedan’s 0.27). Still, Hyundai anticipates a mileage increase from 2017’s 38 mpg city/43 highway/40 combined — early estimates peg the 2018 model at 39 mpg city/45 highway/42 combined.

Sonata Hybrids should roll onto dealer lots before the end of this quarter.

Image: Hyundai

Plug-in variants carry the same specifications as the previous model year, offering up to 27 miles of all-electric driving range. In this model, the battery grows to 9.8 kWh, with the larger 50 kW electric motor bringing total system output to 202 horsepower.

The plug-in model trails its hybrid sibling in the race to dealerships, arriving sometime in the second quarter of 2018.

Regardless of which green Sonata you buy, Hyundai’s throwing in three years of complimentary Blue Link connected car services. This feature, appearing last year, allows owners to keep tabs on their vehicle and issue remote commands like “engine start” via a smartphone app, or through Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. Plug-in Hybrid owners can use the app to program a charging schedule for their car — a money-saving feature, assuming your local electricity provider uses time-of-use billing.

Besides the new looks and suspension upgrades bestowed upon their hydrocarbon-loving stablemates, these gas-sipping sedans also gain new driver-assistance features. Blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane change assist come standard, but you’ll shell out extra coin for automatic emergency braking.

Pricing remains a question mark, but we don’t expect a drastic increase in MSRP from the 2017 models. Hyundai faces plenty of competition in this segment, and the public’s declining interest in passenger cars means value has to be part of the automaker’s strategy.

[Images: Hyundai]

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2 Comments on “2018 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Gets a Possible Mileage Boost; Plug-in Is Just Happy for the New Face...”

  • avatar
    Joe D

    My sister has a 2016 Hybrid model. In most driving – her mileage is slightly higher. Recently drove from Long Island to central PA – got 55 mpg round trip.

  • avatar

    I hope that Hyundai is adding a 60/40 split-folding rear seat as standard now. It’s currently only available with on the more expensive of the two trim levels, and with Honda and Toyota now offering the split-fold rear seat as standard on all their hybrid models–not to mention that the mechanism itself really can’t cost the company more than $100–Hyundai will look quite cheap if it’s not included on all trims.

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