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test drive, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Hyundai, Sonata Hybrid, hybrid car, green car, green transportation, Laura K. Cowan, Laura Cowan

You’ve probably seen our extensive list of green test drives over this past year, so you’ll understand what we mean when we say we always expect to give something up for green street cred. Whether it’s the manual window controls in the Mitsubishi i EV, the insanely slippery handling of the otherwise awesome Chevy Volt extended-range EV, or the total lack of anything pretty on the walls in any Prius you could buy (and that’s a lot of them now), green cars are always dropping weight and technology to help bring super-efficient cars down to the masses. But, when a carmaker sticks a hybrid system in an existing car (a real one, with nav screen, decent transmission, and insulation in the door panels so you don’t feel like you’re driving a can of tuna), you often have to sacrifice real mileage.

Not so anymore. The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is the type of hybrid that sticks a hybrid system in an existing gas car, so it looks and drives pretty much like any car, except for a slight sluggishness to accelerate when you first get going from a stop. But because this hybrid system was integrated in just the right way with the engine, you can get the car to switch into EV mode at nearly any speed, which means you control your mileage no matter where you drive. Need to get into traffic without getting squashed? You may want to sacrifice a few mpg to save your life, but otherwise, cruise along in this fine car with dual sunroof, XM radio, heated leather seats and electronic everything, and still get the mileage of a subcompact.

We love it. In fact we can’t really explain our enthusiasm away. This car tops the list of our favorites this year, among sportier entrants like the Nissan Juke and Land Rover Range Rover Evoque as just one of the best all-around packages. From Hyundai. We know. If you’re in the market for a hybrid that’s more than just a badge on the bumper, check this one out. We think you will love this one as much as we did. Or, if you think we’ve been sniffing too many fumes, let us know in comments.

+ Hyundai