The Sonata lineup comes powered by 4-cylinder engine. The 2.4L unit delivers 198 horsepower with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. An optional 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder kicks out 274 horsepower in either SE or Limited trims. The 206-hp Sonata Hybrid pairs that 2.4L (rated at 166 hp) with a permanent magnet high-density electric motor with 39 hp and an industry-first lithium polymer battery. The car is capable of running in all-electric mode up to 74 mpg.
The manual-transmission model gets an EPA-rated 24 mpg city, 35 highway while the automatic models get 22/34. The engine's direct-injection design aids that, along with improved aerodynamics and an overall curb weight that's lighter than most other mid-size sedans. The turbo provides great efficiency as well, rated at 22 mpg city, 34 mpg highway. Sonata Hybrid with the automatic returns 34 mpg city and 39 mpg highway.
The 2012 Hyundai Sonata has a rather conventional suspension layout, with MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link, independent arrangement in back, along with front and rear stabilizer bars to help bring sporty handling along with a good, well damped ride. All Sonatas have front-wheel drive. GLS and Limited models get low-rolling-resistance tires aimed at improving fuel economy, while the SE gets stickier low-profile tires and a firmer suspension tuning.
The Sonata's interior design "wraps around" the front occupants and flows through to the back, bringing climate-control vents, while the instrument panel itself follows a straightforward control layout that puts entertainment and navigation controls up high with large climate controls just below. Front and backseat appointments are plenty spacious for five adults--including enough space for taller adults in back.
In addition to the base GLS, two other Sonata automatic-only models of the Sonata are offered: the sporty SE and the especially luxurious Limited. The three models of the Sonata also get quite different interior appointments; lower-level Sonata models get a textured plastic material for the dash and doors, while SE models get more metallic trim and Limited models get woodgrain or piano-black trims. SE models add steering-wheel paddle-shifters and Limited models get a sport-shift mode for the transmission.
GLS models get a very generous array of standard equipment that includes keyless entry, cruise control, air conditioning, tilt/telescopic steering wheel adjustment, steering-wheel controls, power windows, locks, mirrors and split folding rear seatbacks. SE models add sport seats, leather steering-wheel and shifter trim and push button start, plus fog lamps, "hyper silver alloy" wheels, performance tires and a chrome-tipped exhaust. At the top of the range, the Limited gets a long list of additional features, such as a sunroof, heated leather seats (front and back), heated mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control and rear-seat heat ducts.
All Sonata models get a USB interface as well as an iPod connector, plus XM satellite radio and a Bluetooth hands-free calling interface. A 3-month trial subscription for XM is included. A new wide-screen navigation system is optional on the SE and Limited, featuring real-time XM NavTraffic along with weather, stock and sports information. Also included with the system are Bluetooth audio streaming capability and 8 GB of flash memory for storing music files.
Safety features are strong in the 2012 Sonata. All models get active head restraints for front occupants and include front side airbags, full-length side-curtain bags, electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes.
Following a thorough redesign in 2011, the 2012 Hyundai Sonata carries over relatively unchanged.