Do you remember back in high school when the new kid showed up on campus? He was handsome, athletic and a potential threat to take every guy’s girlfriend. Hyundai’s 2011 Sonata Hybrid is the new kid in Hybrid Car High School, and the other hybrids better hang onto their ladies.

Most of the major auto manufacturers already have hybrid models, and have had them for years. Toyota’s Prius is more than 10 years old. Hyundai’s first foray into the hybrid segment may be late, but this Sonata Hybrid is a real heart-throb. Rated at 40 miles per gallon on the highway and 35 mpg in the city, the Sonata Hybrid delivers the best highway mileage of any mid-sized sedan on the market. And dang, this dude is good looking too. Probably plays quarterback and on defense as well.

Hyundai uses what it calls “Hyundai Hybrid Blue Drive” to power the Sonata Hybrid. A “full-hybrid” system, the Sonata Hybrid can motor at speeds of up to 62 mph on electric power alone. It is a sprinter rather than a distance runner on its battery pack, but the Sonata Hybrid’s remarkable electric performance is due to a lithium polymer battery pack, the fist time the technology has been used in a production vehicle. We’re skipping chemistry class today, so suffice it to say that Lithium polymer is the next generation of lithium ion technology that has allowed Hyundai to make its batteries smaller and lighter than the nickel metal hydride battery packs in other hybrids. Hyundai says the battery will also hold its charge 25 percent longer than nickel metal hydride battery packs.

The Sonata Hybrid has a 30-kilowatt electric motor that runs in tandem with a 2.4-liter Atkinson Cycle 4-cylinder gasoline engine, a combo that results in a peppy 206 horsepower and 193 lb.-ft. of torque. Hyundai marries the engine and the electric motor to a 6-speed automatic transmission with sequential shifting rather than a CVT transmission. The result is sharp acceleration and a fun driving experience. You won’t win drag races after school, but you’ll have plenty of zip to get around town.

Dash mounted displays let you know what mode you’re in: gas, electric or both. Controls are user friendly and as green as they get, with enough leaves and foliage in the displays to satisfy a flower child in San Francisco.

Also assisting in your hunt for better mileage are electric power steering and air conditioning systems, both of which eliminate parasitic drain on the engine.

The base price of the 2011 Sonata Hybrid sedan is $25,795. But if you want the bells and whistles, you’ll have to fork over another $5-grand for the hybrid premium package, which includes a panoramic sun roof, 17- inch alloy wheels, heated leather seats, navigation, a rear camera, XM Satellite Radio with traffic and weather service, and lighted door sill plates.

Moms and dads will be pleased that the Sonata Hybrid gets high marks in the government’s safety tests: five stars in frontal crashes, side crashes and rollovers. The front seat passenger gets four stars worth of protection in a frontal crash.

The 2011 Hyundai Sonata

Hybrid has dashing good looks, sips gasoline and is a blast to drive. He’s a sure bet to become one of the cool kids at Hybrid High, and maybe even the All- District MVP. Wonder who he’ll take to homecoming?