When it comes to a plug-in hybrid’s electric range, every mile counts, and Hyundai beat its projections when it estimated what the Sonata PHEV might do. In fact, the EPA rated the 2016 Sonata at 27 miles of electric range and 99 miles per gallon equivalent, numbers that are better than the automaker predicted in May. It will enter a very limited market at the top of its class.
Hyundai had estimated the Sonata plug-in hybrid, the brand’s first model with pure electric range, would cover 24 miles on EV power before switching over to gas. Fuel economy was pegged at the equivalent of 93 miles per gallon. Its goal of 40 miles per gallon in gas mode held steady. Now that the Honda Accord PHEV has been discontinued — it failed to sell a single model in September — the Ford Fusion Energi is left as the only midsize plug-in sold to American consumers.
The Fusion Energi continues to perform well with 6,899 sales through September 2015, fifth best on the U.S. plug-in market. No other automaker has entered the fray with an electrified version of its family sedan, and the Fusion plug-in is capable of 19 miles of electric range and an equivalent of 88 miles per gallon (38 miles per gallon in gas mode).
The Sonata PHEV, expected to debut later in the fall, tops this popular Ford model on every economy count. In fact, the edge Fusion could claim in curb appeal may have been nullified by the 2016 Sonata Hybrid like the one we tested in September.
Both the plug-in Sonata and the Hybrid Limited models feature the daytime-running LED lights and unique grille that make it a standout in midsize styling. These 2016 Hyundais also have the edge in passenger space (106 cu ft), luggage volume (10 cu ft), and total range (610 miles) over Accord and Fusion PHEVs, according to the EPA.
The all-important question of pricing remains. Honda priced its last edition of the Accord plug-in at $39,780, about 80% higher than the gas model. The Fusion Energi ($33,900) carries a premium of $11,790 over the base model, a markup over 50% more than the base model. Hyundai priced its 2016 hybrids nearly in line with the 2016 Fusion models, so the price release could make all the difference in the segment.
There is no question that the green car credentials are as good or better than its limited competition, so we will see how Hyundai plays it. There have been surprises when a new plug-in hybrid is priced, as we saw with the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron ($37,900), so we aren’t pessimistic. Federal and state incentives are still in effect for PHEVs of this battery capacity, so there is help waiting in that department as well. Fuel savings over five years are estimated by the EPA at $3,500 by current prices.
Maybe Hyundai will get aggressive with the sticker of its first plug-in model to land in America. We’ll keep you posted.
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