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Debuting alongside the 2011 Hyundai Sonata, the Sonata Hybrid was the South Korean auto brands first hybrid vehicle to be sold in the United States. Operating with a powertrain Hyundai trademarked as their Hybrid Blue Drive system, the Sonata sedan could travel further on fuel than ever before possible. Primarily powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, the 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid receives additional propulsion energy from a 30-kilowatt electric drive motor mounted between a six-speed automatic transmission.
Producing a combined 209 horsepower, the gasoline/electric powertrain boasts improved efficiency compared to competing hybrid cars. A lithium polymer battery pack was used to store energy recovered through the 2011 Sonata Hybrids regenerative braking and a Hybrid-Starter-Generator system. The hybrid powertrain allowed for an estimated fuel economy of 36 miles per gallon through combined city and highway driving (increased to 38 miles per gallon for the 2013 model year).
One of the most defining differences between the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and the conventional 2011 Sonata sedan is the lowered front grille. Low rolling resistance tires mounted to 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels was also part of the functionally fashionable look of the Sonata Hybrid achieving a 0.24 drag coefficient. Inside the 2011 Sonata Hybrid, an electric power-assisted steering system and an electrically driven air conditioning compressor reduces the load typically placed on the engine.
A six-speaker stereo system, cruise control and premium cloth seats were also standard equipment on the 2011 Sonata Hybrid. A reasonable price and concrete fuel-saving performance for the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid resulted in the vehicle quickly gaining popularity. Minor improvements were made to the Sonata Hybrid such as tuning to the powertrain for 2013 and a touchscreen audio system for 2014. A new Sonata Hybrid is planned for the 2016 model year with increased fuel efficiency potential.