Last year's major redesign vaulted the Sonata among the elite in the midsize sedan segment. In fact, it is arguably best-in-class right now. And the 2012 model brings more of the same with a long and value packed list of features, an attractive design, a stylish interior, excellent fuel economy, solid safety ratings and a comfortable and capable drive.
And not content to sit on their laurels, new this year are recalibrated engines for even better gas mileage, Blue Link (an OnStar-like telematics system), a panoramic sunroof for the Limited model as well as a crisper-resolution touchscreen display for the navigation system (optional).
Again this year, buyers get a choice of either the powerful 198-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder or the 278-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo, both with appealing gas mileage numbers: 28 combined for the 2.4-liter (with the 6-speed automatic) and a nearly as good 26 combined with the turbo. While inside the Sonata boasts more room than all segment competitors but the Honda Accord (the EPA classifies it as a "large" car) and is outfitted with a generous array of standard features, all while being offered at a significant price discount as compared to most of its competitors.
As much as the 2012 Hyundai Sonata has to offer, it's still always wise to check out other top rivals in order to make an informed final buying decision. Those worthy of consideration would include the Ford Fusion, the Mazda6 and the Nissan Altima as well as the long term favorites; the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry. But perhaps the best match is its sibling, the Kia Optima, which is essentially the same car in a more aggressive looking package.
Trims, Standard Features And Options:
The 2012 Hyundai Sonata is classified as a midsize family sedan and is offered in three trims: GLS, SE and Limited.
Standard features on the already well-equipped base Sonata GLS include power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, air-conditioning, keyless entry, cruise control, 16-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors, Bluetooth, a trip computer, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split rear seatback and a 6-speaker audio system with satellite radio, a CD player, a USB/iPod audio interface and an auxiliary audio jack. The only available option for the GLS is an equipment package that adds an 8-way power driver seat, alloy wheels and automatic headlights.
Moving up to the sportier SE model adds all the above plus a sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels, performance tires, keyless entry/ignition, leather/cloth upholstery, a dark chrome grille and foglights, while those choosing the turbocharged SE also get steering-wheel-mounted transmission paddle shifters and dual-zone automatic climate control. Also available with either SE is the optional Navigation and Sunroof package which includes a touchscreen navigation system, a rearview camera, a sunroof and Infinity speakers for the sound system.
The top-of-the-line Sonata Limited comes with everthing on the SE (except it is equipped with 17-inch alloys rather than the SE's 18-inchers) plus a softer suspension, full leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats, a panoramic sunroof, side mirror turn signal repeaters, special interior trim accents, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and an upgraded stereo system with a 6-disc CD changer and HD radio. The turbocharged Limited model goes on to add the 18-inch alloy wheels, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and dual exhaust tips. The Limited's only optional features is a package which includes the touchscreen navigation system, a back-up camera and the premium Infinity speakers.
Engines, Powertrain And Gas Mileage:
The standard engine found under the hood of the Sonata is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 198 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque (on the dual-exhaust SE output rises slightly to 200 horsepower and 186 pound-feet). On the GLS, it's paired with either the standard 6-speed manual transmission or an optional 6-speed automatic. On SE and Limited models, the only available transmission is the 6-speed automatic.
Sonatas in California-emission states have PZEV (partial zero-emissions vehicle) certification, are listed at the same prices and have a slightly lower output of 190 horsepower.
Also offered on SE and Limited models is a robust turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that's good for 274 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque.
The EPA's estimated gas mileage for the Sonata is an impressive 24 mpg highway and 35 mpg on the highway for the 2.4-liter engine with either transmission. And even with the significant power boost, the 2.0-liter turbo is rated at an impressive 22 mpg city and 34 mpg highway.
In performance tests, the 2.4-liter GLS Sonata with an automatic transmission was timed from a standstill to 60 mph in a quick-for-the-segment 8.2 seconds. The automatic turbo made the same sprint in just 6.7 seconds.
Standard safety features across all 2012 Sonatas include stability control, traction control, Blue Link emergency telematics, antilock brakes (ABS), front seat side-impact airbags, active front head restraints and full-length side curtain airbags.
In government crash tests, the Sonata received five out of five stars for overall crash protection, five stars for side-impact protection and four for frontal-impact protection.
The Sonata's cabin is attractive, comfortable, user-friendly and well built. The overall look, feel and materials quality is what one would normally expect in a more expensive vehicle. The Limited is especially appealing due to its piano-black trim, available two-tone color choices and padded door panels.
While classified as a midsize sedan, the Sonata pushes the size envelope closer to a large car. There's ample legroom and the seating is comfortable and supportive both front and rear. However, while adequate up front, the Sonata's sloping roof line limits headroom for taller passengers in back.
The new BlueLink telematics service is a big plus this year with such services as emergency crash response, turn-by-turn navigation, remote door lock opening and speed/curfew limits for younger drivers. Also a plus for the ambience is the attractive new high-resolution touchscreen display for operating climate control, audio, phone and navigation functions.
On the road, the 2012 Hyundai Sonata offers an overall pleasing combination of ride quality and handling. The suspension is tuned to adequately absorb most road bumps and rough spots while still being tight enough to provide a capable and confident driving experience. Those who value sportier driving manners can opt for the SE with its enhanced handling capabilities, although this comes with a sacrifice to some of the ride smoothness.
Most drivers will likely be satisfied with the power provided by the the 2.4-liter engine and the automatic transmission action is quite smooth. The turbocharged engine adds significant gusto and does so without any noticeable turbo lag. The fact that both engines offer excellent fuel economy is another big plus for the wallet.
How To Get The Lowest Price:
Best Negotiating Tactic: Well, there's definitely a 'best way' when it comes to new car buying. If you want to get the best bottomline, out-the-door price you need to know exactly who to talk to at the dealership, how to make the contact and how to make this person eager to quickly drop prices as low as possible to get your sale.