The Sonata is the most important car in Hyundai’s lineup, so the company has a lot riding on the model, which was completely redesigned last year. Like all the Korean carmaker’s recently launched models, the Sonata is truly a world-class effort that helps wipe away any memories of the heinous Hyundais of a couple decades ago. The mid-size Sonata is at or near the top of its class in a broad range of categories — some you might expect (low price, fuel economy) and some you might not (power, torque, interior space, driving dynamics). The volume engine is a 198-hp, 2.4-liter direct-injected four-cylinder (200 hp in the SE model, which has dual exhausts). Instead of an optional six-cylinder, the Sonata’s more potent engine (and impressively potent it is) is a 274-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Filling out the lineup is a 206-hp Hybrid model, which costs about $6400 more and sports a strangely aquatic face. It boasts fuel-economy ratings of 35 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway and bangs heads with the Ford Fusion Hybrid and the Toyota Camry Hybrid. The styling of the Sonata is a big step up from that of its predecessor, with nice proportions and an elegant arc that sweeps from front to rear, although the distorted-looking grille can take some getting used to. Add in a low price, and the Sonata is now a much stronger contender in its hypercompetitive class.

Drive: Front-wheel
Trim Levels: GLS, SE, SE 2.0T, Hybrid, Limited, Limited 2.0T
Body style: Sedan, 5-passenger
Engines: 2.0L turbocharged I-4, 274 hp, 269 lb-ft
2.4L I-4, 198/200 hp, 184/186 lb-ft
2.4L I-4/electric hybrid, 206 hp, 195 lb-ft
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic
Passenger volume: 103.8 cu ft
Cargo space: 16.4 cu ft

Hyundai’s Blue Link system (much like General Motors’ OnStar) debuts as a standard feature on the 2012 Sonata and can provide weather and traffic information, a direct connection to emergency services, crash notification, guidance assistance, and more. The available sunroof is now of the panoramic variety. The navigation system’s touch screen has grown to seven inches. Finally, a backup camera is now available on SE models.

Dual-stage front air bags, front side air bags, side curtain air bags, and active front head restraints are standard equipment on all Sonatas. Antilock brakes are also standard, as are traction and stability control, the Blue Link telematics system, electronic brake-force distribution, and tire-pressure monitors.

All: 22-35 mpg city/34-40 mpg highway

  • A star in a tough segment
  • Excellent fuel mileage
  • Fantastic warranty
  • Steering feel is artificial
  • Brakes aren’t very confidence inspiring

Rising to the top.

  • Ford Fusion
  • Honda Accord
  • Nissan Altima
  • Toyota Camry

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