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2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
The 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid almost makes you a stranger to gas stations.

Prices: $26,000-$30,100

Hyundai offers a variety of gas-engine-only sedans, but its gas-electric Hybrid sedan provides high enough fuel economy to make it a good long-term drive for those who don't plan to trade it in every few years.

Hyundai has come a long way from early, rather stark transportation-only autos. However, some people remember the early Hyundais and don't know about the giant steps the automaker has taken to make very competitive cars.

Resale value of a Sonata Hybrid, in particular, thus still is a question mark. That's another reason to plan on long-term ownership. The car has a lifetime hybrid battery warranty  and a 10-year/100,000-mile Hybrid System Components warranty.

The Sonata Hybrid , which I tested, comes in regular and higher-line Limited trim levels.

There are functional front and rear fascia changes to the sleek front-drive Sonata to help improve aerodynamics. They include a unique larger grille, new front fenders and new front and rear bumpers and lights. A few small, discreet badges identify the car as a hybrid.

List prices for non plug-in Sonata Hybrids go from $26,000 for the base SE to $30,100 for the well-equipped  top-line Limited model. (The plug-in version isn't covered here.)

There's plenty of room in the quiet cabin for five tall adults. Even the center of the backseat is soft enough for comfort, which isn't the case with many cars

Cargo room is good, partly because the trunk has a flat floor because Hyundai put the batteries under it. Seatbacks of the split 60/40 rear seat sit flat when folded forward for more cargo space, and the pass-through area from the trunk is decent.

Gauges can be quickly read. Dashboard controls, although small, are clearly marked and can be easily reached. The 5-inch color touchscreen audio display is easy to use after a driver gets used to it, but still requires him to take eyes off the road.

There are a good number of storage areas, including a deep console bin with a cover and pockets with beverage holders in all doors. There also are several 12-volt outlets.

I tested the $30,100 Limited version. It has a new 2-liter direct-injection four-cylinder engine that, with the hybrid system, delivers 193 horsepower.

The car switches seamlessly between the newly designed gas engine and electric motor to deliver power. The gas engine delivers primary charge energy for the car's lithium polymer batteries. A regenerative braking system provides supplemental energy.

Acceleration off the line is quick, thanks to the electric part of the hybrid system. The gas engine promptly cuts in during quick acceleration. The Sonata Hybrid is plenty fast both in town and during 65-75 m.p.h. highway passing maneuvers. Entering fast freeway traffic is no problem.

The Sonata Hybrid is not a sports sedan, but is pleasant to drive. It has light, accurate steering, good handling, a supple ride and nice brake-pedal action for its anti-lock disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist.  

The Sonata really shines in the fuel-economy area. It's estimated at 39 miles per gallon in the city and 43 on highways. Only regular-grade fuel is needed.  

The hybrid system works with a smooth six-speed automatic that has regular and sport modes. It can be quickly manually shifted via the console shift lever. 

My test car had plenty of standard comfort and convenience features. They included leather seating for the supportive power front seats, which are heated and ventilated. Rear seats also are heated, and there's dual automatic temperature control and a push-button start.

Safety items included vehicle stability management with traction control, front and side curtain air bags, a blind spot detection system with rear cross-traffic alert and a rearview camera.

My test car had a $4,500 Ultimate Package. Many Sonata buyers are likely to go for it because it contains a panoramic tilt/slide sunroof. Importantly, the package also contains smart cruise control with stop/start capability, and there's forward collision and lane departure warnings, a rear parking assistance system and a navigation system with an 8-inch touchscreen display. In all, I think the package is worth the money, although it's not inexpensive.

Besides being a decent car, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is a good hedge against future higher gasoline prices and cuts down on annoying stops at filling stations.