The 2012 Hyundai Sonata SE: efficiency and luxury sans the leather

I recently had a chance to log a few hundred miles in the 2012 Hyundai Sonata SE with the standard 2.4L GDI engine, the mid-level package for the company’s bestselling vehicle in the US which offers an incredible number of luxury goodies with the only thing missing being leather surfaces.

The 2012 Hyundai Sonata is offered in three trimlines – GLS, SE and Limited – with the buyer’s option of either a 2.4L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder or a smaller, turbocharged mill that displaces 2.0L that is only available with the SE and Limited packages. Our 2012 Sonata test car was fitted with the SE trimline and the standard 2.4L engine but with the help of the SE Navigation and Sunroof package; there was very little that our test vehicle did not offer.

The Exterior
Excluding the design changes made to the Sonata Hybrid, the 2012 Hyundai Sonata SE looks pretty much the same as the rest of the current Sonata lineup and that begins with the uber aggressive styling across the front end. Some might dislike the family look of the Hyundai brand but with the wide, sprawling chrome grille, the inward angled headlights and the hard body lines that wrap into the front fascia from the side of the vehicle – the Sonata sports a very distinct styling. Some people may not like the design of the Sonata but, much like the rest of the brand lineup, the midsized Sonata draws attention (and deservingly so) for standing out in a class that was once occupied by very bland vehicles. The midsized sedan class is packed full of popular vehicles and offering a stand-out design has become very important – which is one advantage displayed by the 2012 Sonata SE.

While the 2012 Hyundai Sonata SE is just a step above the entry level GLS model, the exterior features a variety of goodies that are unheard of among other brands’ midsized, mid-level offerings. This begins with items like the 18” aluminum wheels, folding power exterior side view mirrors, fog lights and that big, bold chrome grille. Following the chrome scheme up front, the Sonata SE features a chrome strip running high along the side of the vehicle along with chrome door handles and a chrome applique that runs between the Sonata’s tail lights. The Sonata SE also features integrated chrome exhaust tips that are not available with the Sonata GLS but they are offered with the Limited models equipped with the 2.0L turbo models.

Overall, the 2012 Hyundai Sonata SE has a very fast look with a long greenhouse that is fairly flat, working with the upward sloping hood line and the short trunk lid to provide a very sleek shape. A sharp body line forms at the rear edge of the front fenders and cuts up along the side of the car, meeting with the corner of the tail lights to give the car prowling stance that is exhibited throughout many of the modern Hyundai vehicles. While the angular front end design is more radical than the rear end, the angled tail lights help to bring together the aggressive, fluid design of the 2012 Sonata. Some consumers might complain that the 2012 Hyundai Sonata exterior design is too aggressive and too distinct for their tastes but those people are likely driving an ultra bland vehicle that looks like everything else built in the same era as their vehicle. If you aren't afraid of standing out in the midsized sedan class – the Sonata is the answer.

The Interior
Once you equip the 2012 Hyundai Sonata SE with the $2,900 SE Navigation and Sunroof package, there is very little that isn’t included in this midsized sedan. Standard for the Sonata SE is remote keyless entry, push button start, 8-way driver’s seat controls, heated front seats, air conditioning, a leather wrapped steering wheel featuring audio controls, phone controls, cruise control buttons and paddle shifters, USB connectivity, and sport seats with cloth inners and leather bolsters. The SE Navigation and Sunroof package adds a power tilt and slide sunroof, a high tech navigation system with a large touchscreen display, a rear view camera system, a Dimension premium audio system and HD Radio. The only thing that you will not find in the Sonata SE is fully leather clad seats and rear heating elements but for those who don’t like burning themselves on hot leather seats in the summer – these cloth sport seats are a welcome feature.

The large touch screen of the 2012 Hyundai Sonata SE is mounted high on the center stack, offering control of the sound system and navigation program although those who prefer traditional buttons can use the spread of buttons located just under the screen – or they can use the controls mounted on the steering wheel. This design puts everything well within the reach of the comfortably seated driver but unlike some other vehicles, the driver-centric infotainment system does not put the system out of reach of the passenger. Below the stereo and navigation controls sit the HVAC controls that are unique yet incredibly simple. Two large knobs allow you to change the fan speed or desired temperature while the fan direction is selected by a series of buttons shaped like an abstract person seated in the car. Click on the face and the air comes out along the windshield; click on the chest (center) section and the air blows from the dash face and clicking on the legs of the little person sends the hot or cold air from the lower dash area.


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