Plug-in or Not, Hyundai Doesn't Want to Be Seen as the Expensive Choice

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Exclusivity is not a word often associated with Hyundai, and with good reason. Like Nissan (but even more so), Hyundai’s reputation is built on a foundation of mass-produced vehicles with inherent value. And, even in the world of green cars, it seems that game plan can’t change.

So, it’s no surprise to see Hyundai take a hatchet to the price of its 2018 Sonata Plug-in Hybrid. In dropping the model’s entry price by $1,350 and adding one mile of electric driving range, Hyundai hopes it’s enough to attract the attention of would-be buyers. It needs to. In June, the model sat at 21st place on the public’s PHEV shopping list.

Starting now, a Sonata PHEV will set you back $33,350 before a $885 destination charge, while the Limited model grows $250 to $38,850 before destination.

For the base sticker, you’ll see the same 2.0-liter inline four and 50 kWh electric motor, the latter of which is good for 67 horsepower. The transmission remains a six-speed automatic. Hyundai now claims an EV driving range of 28 miles, up from the 27 advertised when the 2018 model debuted at the Chicago Auto Show. Any improvement is a good one, we suppose.

While cutting the entry price obviously adds value to the base model, the Limited’s slight price hike brings many new features aboard — LED headlights with “Dynamic Bending Light,” automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, a heated steering wheel, Driver Attention Alert, a wireless charging pad, and a USB port for rear seat passengers.

In a market awash with plug-ins, how has the Sonata fared? Not well, compared to other low-priced PHEVs. Granted, the 2018 model launched well after its Hybrid sibling, meaning that buyers could only source the old-style previous-generation model (even as the stock gasoline-only Sonata’s new design became old hat).

In June, Hyundai sold just 62 Sonata Plug-in Hybrids, a year-over-year drop of 29.5 percent. Over the first half of 2018, the model’s volume shrank by 28.9 percent. Even the plug-in version of the Kia Optima sells better. Year to date, Ford sold more than ten times as many Fusion Energi sedans.

The base Fusion Energi SE, which carries a range of 21 electric miles, stickers for $31,400 before destination — nearly two grand less than the new, cheaper Sonata PHEV.

[Images: Hyundai]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Sportyaccordy Sportyaccordy on Jul 19, 2018

    I would gladly pay more for more horsepower. I imagine a bigger motor + battery would cover that price drop, add range, and give these kinds of cars decent acceleration without affecting gas mileage. I want a hybrid for my next car, but it's gotta run a 14 second quarter mile and burn regular gas. I honestly don't think such a car exists.

    • See 1 previous
    • Wheatridger Wheatridger on Jul 19, 2018

      It won't do a 14-second quarter -- and how often do you do that, really? -- but my C-Max Energi got an 8-second 0-60 time in tests, and that feels pretty quick to me. The Ford hybrid system claims 195 HP combined, which must rank high among car-based hybrids.

  • Bd2 Bd2 on Jul 19, 2018

    Unless gas prices go up more (and stay) up, most drivers (not in high gas price areas) won't see a return on a PHEV. Even a regular hybrid system take years to see a return; however, a 48V mild hybrid system would benefit the typical daily driver.

  • Dave M. IMO this was the last of the solidly built MBs. Yes, they had the environmentally friendly disintegrating wiring harness, but besides that the mechanicals are pretty solid. I just bought my "forever" car (last new daily driver that'll ease me into retirement), but a 2015-16 E Class sedan is on my bucket list for future purchase. Beautiful design....
  • Rochester After years of self-driving being in the news, I still don't understand the psychology behind it. Not only don't I want this, but I find the idea absurd.
  • Douglas This timeframe of Mercedes has the self-disintegrating engine wiring harness. Not just the W124, but all of them from the early 90's. Only way to properly fix it is to replace it, which I understand to be difficult to find a new one/do it/pay for. Maybe others have actual experience with doing so and can give better hope. On top of that, it's a NH car with "a little bit of rust", which means to about anyone else in the USA it is probably the rustiest W124 they have ever seen. This is probably a $3000 car on a good day.
  • Formula m How many Hyundai and Kia’s do not have the original engine block it left the factory with 10yrs prior?
  • 1995 SC I will say that year 29 has been a little spendy on my car (Motor Mounts, Injectors and a Supercharger Service since it had to come off for the injectors, ABS Pump and the tool to cycle the valves to bleed the system, Front Calipers, rear pinion seal, transmission service with a new pan that has a drain, a gaggle of capacitors to fix the ride control module and a replacement amplifier for the stereo. Still needs an exhaust manifold gasket. The front end got serviced in year 28. On the plus side blank cassettes are increasingly easy to find so I have a solid collection of 90 minute playlists.