There's an awful lot to like about the 2012 Hyundai Sonata. Once a vehicle that was bought on little more than value alone, the Sonata now impresses in several areas, not least the curvy styling and high fuel economy in all models.
It's the styling that catches your eye initially. The Sonata, once fairly nondescript, is now one of the most striking cars in the class, and sits well within Hyundai's range of increasingly attractive cars. It isn't perfect--the car is heavy through the midsection, and some of the wheel options look a little lost in the large arches--but compare it with rivals and you'd struggle to call it bland.
The interior too is a departure from dutiful Hyundais of old, with vertically-arranged air vents, large, clear dials, and a high standard of quality. A big LCD screen dominates the dash and everything looks suitably modern. You'll not be disappointed with the space on offer inside either, though some may find the seats a little firm.
As far as engine choice is concerned, you have three options. The base engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with direct injection, producing 198-horsepower. Next up is a powerful 274-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder, and most relevant to GreenCarReports readers is the Hybrid.
This uses the 2.4-liter four, this time paired with an electric motor, powered by a lithium polymer battery pack located in the trunk. Unlike many hybrids, you can drive at highway speeds on battery power alone under light loads, for short distances.
Also unlike many hybrids, the Sonata uses a traditional torque-converter automatic, rather than a continuously-variable transmission. Transition between gas and electric isn't the smoothest on the market though--the Sonata Hybrid needs a little work to match the class leaders.
Economy is impressive though. You should see 35 mpg city, 40 mpg highway and 37 mpg combined. The base 2.4-liter car gets 24 city, 35 highway and 28 mpg combined, so it's clear to see the benefits of the hybrid system--and lower emissions are a given.
Ride and handling are both fine, though steering feel is a little inconsistent. The ride is firm but not uncomfortable.
There's more good news too--the Sonata is an IIHS Top Safety Pick. You'll also find plenty of equipment, and even base models have Bluetooth and cruise control. Spend a little more and you'll find kit like parking sensors, automatic climate control, a rear-view camera and heated seats. Hyundai also offers its Blue Link telematics system, similar to GM's OnStar.
Then there's the value. With prices starting from under $20,000, you get a huge amount of car for your money with the Sonata (the Sonata Hybrid starts at about $26,000). Hyundai may have moved beyond its bargain basement roots, but luckily for penny-pinching car buyers, its prices have remained low.
If you'd like to know more about the Sonata, head over to the full 2012 Hyundai Sonata review on our sister site, TheCarConnection.
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