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Hyundai is more concerned with efficient petrol and diesel engines than hybrids in Europe – but that doesn’t mean it’s ignoring other technology.


In the US, where diesel is a dirty word, a petrol hybrid is essential for appealing to buyers looking for fuel efficiency. And Hyundai’s Sonata Hybrid is one of the most advanced on sale.


The difference is the batteries. Most hybrids use lithium-ion power packs, similar to those found in your laptop or phone. The Sonata Hybrid has lithium- polymer batteries, which are more efficient and compact.


Can you tell the difference? Not really. The Sonata will do up to 74mph on battery power. The electric motor sits between the 2.4-litre petrol engine and the six-speed auto, so there’s no need for a whining CVT as in the Toyota Prius. But the box kicks down too eagerly – and not very smoothly – bringing a howl from the engine.


The engine and motor deliver a total of 203bhp, so performance is good – Hyundai doesn’t publish a 0-62mph time, but we’d guess at under nine seconds. That’s the benefit of the large-ish engine, but the downside is a US economy figure that equates to 44mpg.


The Sonata is related to our i40, and similarly stylish and spacious. The US chassis is set up more for comfort than agility, but blends a touch of bounciness with firmness over potholes. The steering is pretty horrid – firm at the straight ahead, but with zero feel of what’s happening to the front wheels.


But as with the UK-spec i40, this Sonata majors on value – the hybrid starts at the equivalent of only £16,500 in the US.

 
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