Hybrid-ness

Before I get into the performance and technology aspects of what makes the Sonata Hybrid tick, I've got to point out the fact that the Sonata Hybrid looks dramatically different from its gasoline-only sibling. It all starts with a radically enlarged grille and unique LED headlights up front. There are even flaps behind that grille that open and close, depending on your speed, to maximize aerodynamics.

Lightweight, aerodynamic wheels and low-rolling-resistance tires also help reduce drag. The Sonata has a lower coefficient of drag than its competition, at 0.25 Cd versus the Camry Hybrid's 0.27 Cd and the Fusion Hybrid's 0.33 Cd.

People stuck in traffic around a Sonata Hybrid will likely gawk most at its taillights, which mix LED elements with a funky starburst pattern. I've never seen anything like it on a production car.

All these touches mark the Sonata Hybrid as a green machine Ч despite its ubiquitous blue badging.

Inside, all Sonata Hybrids get a digital readout between twin analog gauges that shows hybrid performance and trip computer information. Move up to a navigation-equipped model, and you get more detailed readouts on a much larger, dash-mounted screen.

All in all, the strategy works well. It's flashy enough to shout Уhybrid,Ф but it also exudes a sense of cool, not of smugness.

And how does it do at the pump? Mileage is rated at 35/40 mpg city/highway, which outdoes the 2011 Camry Hybrid's 31/35 mpg rating and bests the Fusion Hybrid in highway mileage; the Ford is rated 41/36 mpg.

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