Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited vs. Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE: The $35,000 Midsize Sedan Hybrid Question

We put the old guard Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE against the new kid Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited to see which midsize hybrid sedan is worth a closer look.

The Toyota Camry Hybrid is possibly the most well known midsize hybrid sedan in the U.S. This should come as no surprise as Toyota is the leader when it comes to hybrid vehicles. They were the first to launch a mass-produced hybrid vehicle (the Prius) and has gone on to build out a lineup of hybrid models. But Hyundai is giving the Camry Hybrid some much needed competition in the form of the second-generation Sonata Hybrid. Hyundai has some clever tricks up its sleeve with the Sonata Hybrid in terms of its powertrain and equipment list.

We're going to be taking a look at the top trims of both models to see which one comes out on top.

Powertrains and Fuel Economy

The Camry Hybrid XLE features Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system that produces a total output of 200 horsepower. The system is comprised of a 2.5L DOHC Dual VVT-i four-cylinder with 156 horsepower; an electric motor producing 105kW (about 140.8 horsepower); and a Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) battery pack. A CVT routes power to the front wheels.

The Sonata Hybrid Limited's powertrain features a 2.0L GDI DOHC four-cylinder producing 154 horsepower; a 38kW electric motor (about 51 horsepower); and a Lithium polymer battery pack. Total output stands at 193 horsepower. Unlike most competitors, the Sonata Hybrid uses a six-speed automatic.

With only a few horsepower between them, the difference in acceleration isn't really noticeable. Both get up to speed at a similar rate. Where the differences begin to appear is with the transmissions. The Camry Hybrid's CVT, for the most part, is well behaved in normal driving. However, if you push down on the accelerator to get up to speed at a faster rate (such as merging onto a freeway), then the dreaded high-rpm droning begins. This isn't the case in the Sonata Hybrid as it uses a six-speed automatic which provides quick up and downshifts for the situation at hand.

But the automatic introduces its own set of problems. The most apparent is how the Sonata Hybrid isn't the smoothest when it comes to transitioning from electric to hybrid power. Also, the automatic tends to hold onto gears longer than it should. The Camry Hybrid's CVT is much smoother when it comes to the transition from electric to hybrid power.

One other key difference in the two models comes in their EV modes. The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid EV mode can work up to highway speeds for short distances, but there is no driver-selectable mode. The Camry Hybrid offers a driver-selectable EV mode, but the EV mode is only available at speeds below 25 mph.

Fuel economy figures are almost a dead heat. The EPA rates the 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited at 39 City/43 Highway/41 Combined. The 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE gets 40 City/38 Highway/40 Combined.

How They Drive

Neither one of these midsize hybrid sedans is going to provide driving excitement on a curvy road. But that doesn't say either one will fall flat. Both models feel secure when cornering and provide decent heft with the steering. Ride comfort is about equal as both models seem to glide over bumps with no issues. The Sonata Limited Hybrid holds a slight edge over the Camry Hybrid XLE when it comes to noise isolation.

Safety

The Camry and Sonata Hybrid both have a five-star overall rating from NHTSA and Top Safety Pick+ from IIHS. Safety equipment is similar on both models with a full suite of airbags, traction and stability control, and a backup camera. The Sonata Hybrid Limited jumps ahead of the Camry Hybrid XLE as it gets blind spot monitoring and Hyundai's BlueLink telematics as standard. You can get it on the XLE as part of a $3,165 option package.

Both models can be equipped with advanced safety features such as radar cruise control (Sonata's system has the ability to fully stop and start back up when in traffic), lane departure warning, automatic high beams, and forward collision warning.

Pricing and Value

The Sonata Hybrid Limited undercuts the Camry Hybrid XLE by $40 in terms of base price ($30,100 vs. $30,140). Both models feature 17-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and ignition; leather seats, and power adjustments. The Camry Hybrid XLE comes does come with a six-inch touchscreen with the Entune infotainment system and navigation, and a wireless cell phone charger. But this is where Hyundai leapfrogs Toyota. Aside from the telematics system and blind spot monitoring, the Sonata Hybrid Limited also features HID xenon headlights, heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and memory function for the driver's seat.

In terms of options, Toyota offers three levels of packages that add such features such as a JBL audio system, a seven-inch screen with Toyota's Entune infotainment system, sunroof, blind spot monitoring, Toyota's Safety Connect system, and aTechnology package that includes lane departure warning and radar cruise control. Option packages range from $1,860 to $4,430.

Hyundai only offers one option package for the Sonata Hybrid Limited known as the Ultimate package. For $4,500, this package adds such features such as lane departure warning, radar cruise control, automatic high beats, panoramic sunroof, Infinity premium audio system, and an eight-inch touchscreen with navigation.

Without options, the Sonata Hybrid Limited has the advantage. With options and both models are neck and neck.

Final Thoughts

I'm going to let our man on the Toyota beat, John Goreham sum up the Camry Hybrid.

"The Camry Hybrid stands out in my mind because it adds power and torque. Aside from the emissions reductions and fuel economy savings, the Camry Hybrid is smoother and quieter than most cars in its class."

One more thing in the Toyota's corner, they a have a history of building reliable hybrid models.

Hyundai though has an interesting challenger in the Sonata Hybrid Limited. It matches the Camry Hybrid in terms of ride and handling, and the fuel economy numbers are very close. Plus, you have the long list of standard equipment on the Limited that the Camry Hybrid XLE cannot fully match.

So that makes the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited our winner in this comparison? If we're talking about the models with no options, then the Sonata would be my pick. But add in the options on both models and it becomes a dead heat. Either way, both of these models make a strong case as to why you should consider them.

Pic Credit: Hyundai and Toyota


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