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Technology review: 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Driving the 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is like being in a technological tour-de-force with an attainable price tag. For not much money, you get features usually found on cars wearing luxury badges. Hyundai is one of the companies leading the democratization of technology and the Sonata and its compact sibling, the Elantra, is at the forefront.

Underneath the Sonata Hybrid’s class-above interior are some of the best multimedia and tech features available. In the range-topping Limited trim, you get a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster that displays information in vivid clarity and can be customized so that it only shows what you want. Changing drive modes gets cool transitions, too, which is a nice touch.

Regardless of which version of Hyundai’s infotainment system you get in the Sonata Hybrid, the learning curve doesn’t increase despite the addition of hybrid-specific graphs and data. Even with the optional 10.25-inch touch screen, the interface is a cinch to use thanks to its clean, logical layout and quick responses. Nearly every function is just a tap or two away. The customizable home menu allows you to put frequently used functions in tiles front and center. The only thing we’d change is to swap the haptic feedback buttons flanking the display to physical ones and add a tuning knob.

Completing the Sonata Hybrid’s multimedia experience is an available 12-speaker Bose surround sound system. Thanks to speakers positioned strategically throughout the cabin, you get an immersive listening experience. Everything is balanced, giving the audio system a crispness that’s more akin to pricier units found in more expensive vehicles. Should you want an ASMR moment, the Sonata Hybrid’s infotainment system gets the Sounds of Nature feature, allowing you to listen to birds chirping, a busy cafe, waves crashing into the beach, raindrops, a fireplace, and a person walking through snow in crystal clear detail.

On the road, the Sonata Hybrid’s composed road manners and miserly powertrain won’t be the only ones impressing you. The Hyundai Smart Sense driver assistance suite’s proactive yet seamless operation also stands out. Lane-keeping and steering assistance prevents you from drifting around via gentle inputs. In addition to showing what’s on your blind spot in the digital gauge cluster, the blind-spot monitoring system also has a collision prevention component, meaning it’ll keep you from swiping the car in the lane next to you via subtle brake inputs.

Highway Driving Assist, which bundles together adaptive cruise control with lane centering, traffic jam assist, and enhanced steering assist, enables the Sonata Hybrid to cruise and follow traffic effortlessly even in stop-and-go situations. The distancing component does a fantastic job keeping you at your desired spacing. If you get too near or too far, the car immediately accelerates or brakes smoothly to increase or close gaps as needed without jolting you. In gridlock, the Sonata Hybrid follows the vehicle ahead with pinpoint precision; the moment it starts moving, the car will ease itself forward while maintaining enough space so no one can cut you off.

The Sonata Hybrid’s active safety features keep the driver at the center of the driving experience thanks to their customizability. You can choose whether you want an audible warning or active assists, allowing you to personalize how much help you get from the car. To help you drive as efficiently as possible, there’s a coasting guide, which tells you when the powertrain disconnects and allows the car to cruise using momentum. The Sonata Hybrid can also slow down automatically as it approaches turns to help you get through them and will even ask for more input via a quick tug of the steering wheel to alert you.

When you take the tech features together, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid proves that it’s the ideal miserly midsize sedan for the tech-loving consumer. The solar panel roof, which helps power the electronics, adds to the car’s modern aura while giving you another tool to improve its efficiency. Together with a punchy hybrid system that sips fuel, and confident yet compliant road manners, the Sonata Hybrid brings a lot to the table. The fact that our Limited test car only costs $36,450 further makes this electrified sedan even more compelling.

Written by Stefan Ogbac
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