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    Two New Improved Hybrids

    By Philip Ruth–

    “The New Normal” is a term we hear a lot these days, but the public health situation around which it attempts to place structure is unfolding in its own directions and in its own time. The most we can do as individuals is to make smart choices, and by example, encourage others to do the same. 

    Back before COVID-19, the word “new” was usually attached to something more controlled and predictable, like the press cars. And after digesting another day of bad news, it was nice to notice that two recent entries, the hybrid versions of the Honda CR-V compact crossover and Hyundai Sonata mid-sized sedan, both made it clear that hybrid powertrains have come a long way. 

    Early Priuses defined for many how a hybrid drives: a little slow and a little clumsy, both in power delivery and handling. But now, rather than dimming a car’s personality, it turns out that applying hybrid powertrains to the CR-V and Sonata makes them seem more pleasant and vibrant. 

    Toyota is along for this ride as well, as the most recent Camry and RAV4 hybrids are also a delight to drive. Twenty years of technological evolution have made the hybrid less a question of “why” than “how much.” 

    You do spend a bit to hop on the hybrid train, and while the CR-V and Sonata are from different segments, they are priced about the same, with a $28,000 starting price and going up over $35,000 for the fanciest trims. 

    It’ll take a few years to pay off the price difference between these hybrids and their gas-only brethren, which you would weigh against the daily gratification of watching your vehicle use comparatively less fuel. It did provide a certain satisfaction to see the trip computers pulling numbers over 30 mpg, even when I drove the CR-V and Sonata with glee.

    Styling is a success with both. The CR-V combines common styling trends with bold proportioning to produce something that still looks fresh in its ferociously competitive market segment. The Sonata goes a different way, with curvatures and detailing that border on delicate. The domed front end is distinctive in its lowcut look, and it gives a neat view out over it with a power dome rising in the middle. It resolves in a rear end with long swoops and sharp edges. 

    All combined, the Sonata Hybrid looks interesting and unique. I’d love to have been a fly on the way as this one made it through the design studios, because there’s nothing quite like it out there, and that’s saying something for a mid-sized sedan. 

    As mentioned, these hybrids performed well, with good punch off the line and tidy blasts of more when you wanted to pass. The Sonata, in particular, was fun to floor on the highway and have it quickly and smoothly pick up steam. The CR-V was notably quiet. 

    So, while everything that’s new right now isn’t necessarily good, these hybrids spark the narrative for new things getting better.

    Philip Ruth is a Castro-based automotive photojournalist and consultant with an automotive staging service.

    Published on September 24, 2020