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2012 Hyundai Sonata Road Test Review by Martha Hindes

2012 Hyundai Sonata Road Test Review

by Martha Hindes

2012 SEDAN Buyer's Guide - Road & Travel's Top 10 Picks

Buick LaCrosse

Kia Optima

Chrysler 200 LTD


Hyundai Sonata

Toyota Camry-Sedan of Year

“Standard” can sound like such a boring word. Some feel it's akin to average. Others consider it a foundation to build upon before something reaches the ranks of “special.” Standard, in our vocabulary, however, equates with a lot of good stuff without have to shell out a fortune to get it. We're specifically referring to the 2012 Hyundai Sonata midsize family sedan.

One gets a sense of how special “standard” can be while skimming over the features list of the Sonata. And it isn't only the top-line Limited edition that qualifies. Check out base GLS and mid-range SE versions and you'll find “STD” with ho-hum regularity, including safety systems on all models. The few options available stand out like a silver pin on a black dress, or a soprano voice chiming in with a male choral group. But that's only the teaser with this car.

The Sonata's exterior is deftly-styled with some bold exaggerations that heighten its appeal. (Hyundai calls it “fluidic.”) In profile, it bears a sculptured look with scooped style lines from front to rear that flow out of the “wind-in-its-face” feel of the front. That styling line tucks neatly into the trunk lid just below a suggestion of rear spoiler. The result? The restless, loping look of an object that seems to be moving even when standing still.

Inside, the Sonata is all quality, with a crisp, boldly-styled dash that's bathed in a hue of soothing blue. The result is a sense of muted energy, of expectation without angst. Gauges are easy to read and controls well placed and logical for function without frustration.

We won't go into a lot of technicalities when it comes to what's riding just above the road. We know that such descriptions as “MacPherson strut” and “Dual Flow Damper” shocks are the “blah, blah, blah” accumulations of enthusiasts who will scour every bit of literature anyway looking for gearhead type tidbits.

But knowing that those items keep us smooth and comfortable en route and able to execute tight turns and maintain control does count. We can vouch for that from our days on the road while test driving. Having a car with a V-6 personality when there's really a four under the hood is something that gets our attention as well, no matter how such gusto is accomplished.

Driving power for the Sonata comes from a standard 200-horsepower inline four, with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission.  Sonata's available 274-HP, 2.0-liter turbo-charged edition added for 2012 (22/34 MPG) is rather like spurring a horse into gallop. (A hybrid version also is added for 2012.)

Having driving fun while the gas gauge seems stuck on “full” longer than expected is an added bonus. The 35 miles per gallon highway rating (thanks in part to gasoline direct fuel injection) also gets our attention, and has an immediate impact on our credit card. City driving is estimated at 24 MPG for a combined EPA rating of 28.

For 2012, the Sonata gets some nice technical and premium touches. Hyundai's newly added Blue Link Assurance Package provides automatic crash notification and assistance, along with emergency “SOS” assistance. Roadside assistance also is enhanced. A three-piece panoramic sunroof becomes standard on the Limited. And Hyundai's navigation system with new seven-inch screen has high definition radio.

The Sonata comes in eight variants (excluding the hybrid) to accommodate many budgets, with base pricing starting at $19,795, and topping out a shade above $28,000.

While Hyundai is one of the younger players on the American auto scene, it has managed to earn its share of honors in a short time. A recent one is being named a top winner in the first annual Total Car Score awards
Part of that is from its unprecedented 100,000 mile, 10-year power train warranty. (Other auto companies are apparently feeling the pinch. We've seen recent advertising attempts to downgrade that importance.)

If we have a nagging complaint about the Sonata, it's something shared in our area with every other auto offering high definition radio. Unless you're in “park” or maybe the middle of Manhattan assuming there's better transmission there, expect to drift in and out of HD mode every few hundred yards for an effect that's rather like having a perpetual case of the audio hiccups. The effect won a few choice words after it quickly got stale during our initial drive. The solution: Plug in with your own source and relax and enjoy your favorites. That's one place where your own option trumps standard.

For more info on Hyundai brands, click here.