Although fuel prices have dropped, you can bet they'll increase again when the economy improves. Until then, car buyers may be inclined to downsize to get better fuel economy. But a family of four may find that tough to do if opting for a compact sedan. Hyundai, however, thinks you can buy their Sonata mid-size sedan and get great fuel economy to boot.With a 2.4L, 175-hp four cylinder and 5-speed automatic transmission, the 2009 Sonata carries a miserly EPA rating of 22 city, 32 highway mpg. Pretty impressive for a midsize. If you'd like a bit more power, their 3.3L, 249-hp V6 is optionally available.

Like most four cylinder engines, the 3.3L in the Sonata is a bit noisy when accelerating and during highway pass-ing/merging situations. But when you see what you get, not only in fuel economy but in accommodations and features, this nuance is an acceptable tradeoff.

Sonata comes in GLS, Limited, SE and Limited V6, and in FWD or optional AWD. My test car came with FWD and 17-inch Hankok tires which provide a cushy ride in concert with the suspension system. There is some wallow over rough pavement or railroad crossings. And quick sharp turns produce some body lean that remains controllable at modest speeds.

Sonata's interior is well done. Although the wood trim adorning dash and doors is Faux wood, it's doesn't look cheap. Instrumentation is easy to view and HVAC controls are flush to the touch and easy to use. The console box is two-tiered but tiny.

Front seats offer soft leather surfaces for decent support and comfort. In the rear seat, wherein the doors offer wide ingress/egress, there's ample head and leg room. Although Hyundai rates it for three passengers back there, two's the norm.

Trunk space is adequate for a pair of Pullman hardsiders or two golf bags with either side of the 60/40 split rear seat backs folded. There is, however, a nasty 2.5 inch lip created by the folded seatbacks that creates a raised load floor. Items get hung-up when pushed in.

Although Hyundai is Korean, Sonata is made in the states. And to attract buyers, Hyundai has to offer lots of goodies as standard. For example, the list contains such necessities as Electronic Stability Control, tire pressure monitoring, 4W ABS, front seat side and side curtain airbags, sunroof, heated front seats, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, dual automatic temperature control, power everything plus USB/IPod inputs and Infinity audio system. Then there's America's best 10-year, 100K powertrain warranty, 5-year 60K limited warranty and an innovative 8-year, 80K federal emissions and performance warranty. In addition, Sonata gets a five star front/rear side crash rating plus four stars for rollover protection.

The bottom line on my test car sticker was $24,735 with the only option being $90 for carpeted floor mats.

Since it resembles a Camry or Accord, I doubt you can touch those popular competitors for this price with these many features, amenities and classy looks.

A lifelong resident of Lehigh County, Nick Hromiak has been writing about cars and trucks for 21 years. Hromiak was a long-time outdoor and automotive writer for The Free Press while under past owners. He is a member of International Motor Press Association and has been published in several national magazines and weekly newspapers.

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