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For enhanced safety, the front and rear seat shoulder belts of the Lexus ES Series have pretensioners to tighten the seatbelts and eliminate dangerous slack in the event of a collision and force limiters to limit the pressure the belts will exert on the passengers. The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid doesn’t offer pretensioners for the rear seat belts.
The ES Series has a standard Secondary Collision Brake, which automatically applies the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The Sonata Hybrid doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.
Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The ES Series offers optional Intuitive Parking Assist with Auto Braking that uses rear sensors to monitor and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a rear collision. The Sonata Hybrid doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.
The ES Series offers an optional Panoramic View Camera to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Sonata Hybrid only offers a rear monitor and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the front or sides.
The ES Series’ driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The Sonata Hybrid doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.
Both the ES Series and the Sonata Hybrid have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front wheel drive, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available blind spot warning systems and rear cross-path warning.
For its top level performance in IIHS driver and passenger-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, roof strength and head restraint tests, its standard vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention system, its standard vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention system, and its standard headlight’s “Good” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the ES Series its highest rating: “Top Pick Plus” for 2020, a rating granted to only 30 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Sonata Hybrid was last a “Top Pick Plus” in 2019 but no longer qualifies.
A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the ES Series’ reliability 18 points higher than the Sonata Hybrid.
J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Lexus vehicles are more reliable than Hyundai vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Lexus first in reliability, above the industry average. With 18 more problems per 100 vehicles, Hyundai is ranked 8th.
From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2019 Auto Issue reports that Lexus vehicles are more reliable than Hyundai vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Lexus first in reliability. Hyundai is ranked 6th.
The ES 300h’s standard 2.5 DOHC 4-cylinder hybrid produces 22 more horsepower (215 vs. 193) than the Sonata Hybrid’s 2.0 DOHC 4-cylinder hybrid. The ES 350’s standard 3.5 DOHC V6 produces 109 more horsepower (302 vs. 193) than the Sonata Hybrid’s 2.0 DOHC 4-cylinder hybrid.
On the EPA test cycle the ES 300h gets better fuel mileage than the Sonata Hybrid (43 city/44 hwy vs. 40 city/46 hwy).
An eight-speed automatic is standard on the Lexus ES Series, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a six-speed automatic is available for the Sonata Hybrid.
The ES 300h has a standard continuously variable transmission (CVT). With no “steps” between gears, it can keep the engine at the most efficient speed for fuel economy, or keep it at its peak horsepower indefinitely for maximum acceleration. The Sonata Hybrid doesn’t offer a CVT.
For better traction, the ES Series has larger standard tires than the Sonata Hybrid (215/55R17 vs. 205/65R16). The ES Series’ optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Sonata Hybrid (235/45R18 vs. 215/55R17).
The ES Series’ standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 55 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Sonata Hybrid’s standard 65 series tires. The ES Series’ optional tires have a lower 40 series profile than the Sonata Hybrid’s optional 55 series tires.
For better ride, handling and brake cooling the ES Series has standard 17-inch wheels. Smaller 16-inch wheels are standard on the Sonata Hybrid. The ES Series’ optional 19-inch wheels are larger than the 17-inch wheels optional on the Sonata Hybrid.
The ES Series has a standard space-saver spare tire so you can replace a flat tire and drive to have the flat repaired or replaced. A spare tire isn’t available on the Sonata Hybrid; it requires you to depend on roadside assistance and your vehicle will have to be towed.
The ES Series offers an available driver-adjustable suspension system. It allows the driver to choose between an extra-supple ride, reducing fatigue on long trips, or a sport setting, which allows maximum control for tricky roads. The Sonata Hybrid’s suspension doesn’t offer adjustable shock absorbers.
For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the ES Series’ wheelbase is 2.6 inches longer than on the Sonata Hybrid (113 inches vs. 110.4 inches).
The ES Series F Sport uses computer-generated active noise cancellation to help remove annoying noise and vibration from the passenger compartment, especially at low frequencies. The Sonata Hybrid doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.
The ES Series has a much larger trunk than the Sonata Hybrid (16.7 vs. 13.4 cubic feet).
To make loading and unloading groceries and cargo easier, especially for short adults, the ES Series offers an optional power trunk, which opens and closes automatically by pressing a button or just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, completely leaving your hands free. The Sonata Hybrid doesn’t offer a power trunk, so its trunk has to be closed manually.
J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Lexus service is better than Hyundai. J.D. Power ranks Lexus second in service department satisfaction. With a 63% lower rating, Hyundai is ranked 22nd.
The ES Series offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The Sonata Hybrid doesn’t offer a heads-up display.
The ES Series’ power parking brake sets with one touch and releases with one touch or automatically. The Sonata Hybrid’s parking brake has to released manually.
The ES Series’ front and rear power windows all open or close fully with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The Sonata Hybrid’s standard passenger windows don’t open or close automatically. With the Sonata Hybrid Limited’s power windows, only the front windows open or close automatically.
If the windows are left open on the ES Series the driver can close them all at the outside door handle. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows at the outside door handle or from a distance using the keyless remote. (This window function must be activated by your Lexus service department.) The driver of the Sonata Hybrid can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.
The ES Series’ optional wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically according to the amount of rainfall on the windshield. The Sonata Hybrid’s intermittent wipers change speed with vehicle speed, but can’t turn on and off or change speed based on changing rainfall.
A power rear sunshade is optional in the ES Series and manual rear side window sunshades are standard in the ES Series Ultra Luxury to help block heat and glare for the rear passengers. The Sonata Hybrid doesn’t offer a rear sunshade.
The ES Series’ standard rear and side view mirrors have an automatic dimming feature. These mirrors can be set to automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The Sonata Hybrid offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.
Consumer Reports® recommends both the Lexus ES Series and the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, based on reliability, safety and performance.
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