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Hyundai Sonata, 2012 2.0T: Spacious, better gas mileage for stylish sedan

Now in the second year of its sixth generation, the Hyundai Sonata is a midsize family sedan. It has steadily advanced in its highly competitive segment and is no longer a fringe alternative to the automotive mainstream represented by the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

With its redesign in 2011, the Sonata had its most successful year (225,961 units sold). It was the first time a Hyundai model sold more than 200,000 units in a year, and the stellar year vaulted the Sonata into 11th on the season-end, best-selling list where Honda, Ford, Nissan and Toyota all had sedan entries.

The 2012 Hyundai Sonata, therefore, largely remains the same as last year (why tinker with success?) with only a few updates.

The new Sonata has a telematics service (Blue Link), a higher-resolution touchscreen display to the optional navigation system and a panoramic sunroof is now offered in the Limited trim level. The 2012 model's engine has also been recalibrated, so it gets slightly better gas mileages than last year's offering.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

Available in GLS, SE and Limited trim levels, the 2012 Sonata has a substantial list of standard equipment. The GLS features: keyless entry, air-conditioning, cruise control, full power accessories, heated mirrors, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, a 60/40-split rear seatback, a trip computer, Bluetooth and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an iPod/USB audio interface, an auxiliary audio jack and steering-wheel-mounted controls.

The sole optional equipment package for the GLS includes alloy wheels, automatic headlights and an eight-way power driver seat.

2012 Hyundai Sonata
2012 Hyundai Sonata. Images © James Raia
The SE includes adds 18-inch alloy wheels with performance tires, foglights, a dark chrome grille, a sport-tuned suspension, keyless ignition/entry and leather/cloth upholstery.

My test vehicle for the week was the SE 2.0 with a turbocharged engine. It adds dual-zone automatic climate control and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. My weekly driver also included the optional Navigation and Sunroof packages which feature the navigation system with touchscreen display, a rearview camera, premium Infinity speakers and a sunroof.

The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, with its six-speed automatic, generates 274 horsepower and is Hyundai’s answer those who might opt for a six-cylinder engine. It's not available. The turbo-charged offering is plenty sufficient. It's quick off the line and has considerable pride and power when asked to change lanes or manuver in demanding situations.

As a family sedan, four adults are comfortable, although the sloping roof does reduce backseat headroom

Overall, it’s hard not to like the Sonata. From its swooping exterior reminiscent of Mercedes-Benz to its spacious and well-designed interior, it's no wonder Hyundai had a banner year in 2011.

Likes:

Stellar fuel economy for class.

Extensive standard list features, including USB and Bluetooth connectivity.

Industry-leading warranty.

Dislikes:

Exterior color: Sparkling Ruby . . . . too bright.

2012 Hyundai Sonata interior
2012 Hyundai Sonata interior
Facts & Figures: 2012 Hyundai Sonata

Fuel economy: 22 mpg (city), 34 mpg (highway).
Government Safety Ratings: (NHSTA): Overall score, 5 stars; Frontal crash (driver), 5 stars; (passenger), four stars; Side crash (driver), five stars; (rear seat), five stars; Rollover, five stars.
Horsepower: 274
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $24,645.00
Manufacturer's Web site: www.hyundaiusa.com
Price As tested: $28,455.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 5 years/60,000 miles; Powertrain, 10 years/100,000 miles; Corrosion, 7 years/unlimited miles; Roadside Assistance, 5 years/unlimited miles.

What Others Say:

"This is, quite frankly, a tremendous amount of car for the money." — Edmunds.

"While it lags its rivals in suspension composure, this demerit is more than offset by the entire lineup's blend of style, interior comfort, standard and available features, and value pricing. That's what makes Sonata a must-see." — Consumer Guide.

"And Hyundai just nukes the competition with a svelte, sophisticated mid-size sedan featuring a high-tech engine, league-leading fuel economy and a crazy-low price." — The Wall Street Journal.

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

"When once the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry had few, if any, strong rivals, the Hyundai Sonata has scooted down the road and is now among frontrunners in the midsize sedan caravan."

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