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Mike Stevens | May 28, 2010

With the local launch last week of the 2010 Hyundai i45, the noticeable absence of a diesel engine has raised the question of whether the overseas-market hybrid, or the rumoured turbo, will eventually appear in Australia.

Revealed at April's New York Auto Show, the upcoming US-market 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Blue Drive could potentially join the local line-up, filling the void left by the departure of the 2009 Sonata diesel and presenting a challenger to the Australian-built Toyota Hybrid Camry.

Speaking with TMR, Hyundai Australia's Ben Hershman said that while the Korean carmaker's range of hybrid options are being reviewed, there is no word yet on a local debut for the Sonata Hybrid Blue Drive - likely to be sold as the i45 Hybrid Blue Drive if an Australian launch is locked in.

"The Sonata Hybrid is certainly being reviewed for markets other than the US, and while there are no plans for an Australian launch as yet, we are reviewing it," Mr Hershman said.

"All of Hyundai's hybrid options fall under the Blue Drive umbrella. We're making our voice known about our interest in a local hybrid model - particularly the i30 Blue - and we're working with Korea to determine feasibility for future models."

The Sonata Hybrid features a hybrid system incorporating the Sonata/i45's direct-injected 2.4 litre inline-four, retuned to operate on the Atkinson cycle (which closes the intake valve later, giving a shorter effective compression stroke).

The petrol engine is partnered with a 30kW/205Nm electric motor and Hyundai's new six-speed automatic transmission. Energy for the electric motor comes from an LG Chem-supplied 1.4 kilowatt-hour, air-cooled lithium polymer battery pack. The pack weighs just 43kg.

Hyundai says the Sonata Hybrid will achieve 7.63 l/100km in the city and 7.2 l/100km on the highway - less impressive than the Hybrid Camry's 6.0 l/100km, but agreeable figures nonetheless.

The Sonata Hybrid brings a number of cosmetic and functional styling updates as well, some of which have resulted in the car's drag coefficient dropping from 0.28 to 0.25 - equal to that of the 2010 Toyota Prius.

A significantly re-designed front bumper and grille are the most obvious changes up front, along with headlights that feature a set of daytime running lights.

As for the rumoured Sonata turbo model (reportedly powered by a turbo-charged 2.0 litre version of the 2.4 litre GDI engine) that Hyundai is believed to be developing for the US market, Hyundai Australia spokespeople declined to comment on either its existence or its potential for the Australian market.

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