by Clint Burgess & r & After test driving a Hyundai Santa Fe last year, I was impressed by the Korean auto manufacturer's ability to put more options and features into a vehicle and still offer a decent price. This has been the saving grace of Hyundai, and they are carrying this idea forward with their new 2006 Sonata. The previous models have been a good value, but the new Sonata has moved into a higher class of car and still delivers on the price.

Hyundai has managed to put its best foot forward with the Sonata. It is considered the flagship of the company and rightfully so. It accounts for 26 percent of the total sales of the company and is capable of luring buyers away from the big companies and making them comfortable. It is apparent that Hyundai is going after its competition with a sedan like this, but is there enough in this mid-size to consider it over a Camry or an Accord? The answer is yes. It may be difficult to comprehend choosing this car over the others, but once you see what it has to offer, it may not be that hard to comprehend after all.

The Sonata has always had a little more to it than the standard Hyundai. It is immediately clear that style and subtle niceties are a priority with this new rendition. The body design isn't flamboyant, offering a conservative yet sleek look that conveys an attitude of confidence and class; alloy wheels add a nice touch. The standard-level GL is equipped with a five-speed manual transmission and offers 162 horsepower under the hood. While that may not seem like a lot, there is more to be had with this Hyundai.

Inside the Sonata, things start to get exciting. The GL (priced at $18,700) is loaded with standard options that will leave potential buyers smitten: remote keyless entry, a deluxe CD player and power windows. Add in six airbags, traction control as well as an anti-lock brake system, and the Sonata is a complete package. And that's just the entry-level model. Strange as it may sound, the top-of-the-line LX offers features like a sunroof and heated leather seats. Included on the LX is a five-speed automatic transmission and a V6 engine that can more than handle any stretch of highway thrown in front of it.

There is some speculation as to whether this new Hyundai can hold its own against more established mid-sized sedans. The car speaks for itself. While other manufacturers can rely on their name for consumer confidence, Hyundai can rely on its product. The company has garnered praise from industry publications and has continued to excel in sales and service. The automaker still has the best warranty in the business with their signature 10 year/100,000 miles guarantee. Hyundai is relatively new to the game, too -- and yet look at what they have already achieved with the Sonata. It is foreseeable they will continue to improve and refine their solid line of vehicles while still offering a fair price to consumers.

All Hyundais offer good value, but this is something more. The new Sonata symbolizes the staying power that this company has gained and furthers the idea that a car like this can compete with the big boys.

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