The redesigned 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport came out ahead of the pack in a Cars.com/USA TODAY/MotorWeek challenge to find the best $27,000 midsize sedan.
On a quest to reveal the most attractive option for families, the challenge also examined the Subaru Legacy, Mazda6, Volkswagen Passat, Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Chrysler 200, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry, USA TODAY reported.
The 2015 Sonata starts at $21,150 and boasts a five-star federal crash safety rating as well as class-leading space and a hands-free "smart trunk." In the sport trim, the midsize model starts at $23,175.
The midsize challenge bringing together 10 inexpensive sedan options limited the vehicles to $27,000 in price, including shipping fees, and rated them in 11 categories, such as interior finishing and handling while driving. The entrants also needed solid fuel economy to qualify, offering an EPA rating of at least 28 miles per gallon.
Midsize sedans have been relinquishing auto market shares to SUVs and bigger "compact" cars, but the segment still accounts for 22 percent of all vehicle sales in the U.S.
"Sedans sell in high volumes because of their wide range of functionality," said Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com. "They can carry five people comfortably, plus enough luggage for a short-to-medium vacation. They also have relatively low insurance and maintenance rates."
The segment has increasingly added new features as standard, with a typical midsize sedan model priced at $27,000 or less offering "a backup camera, hands-free Bluetooth phone, streaming audio, top federal and insurance crash-test ratings and big trunks," according to the USA TODAY report.
"The standards for sedans have gone up in recent years," said Brauer. "They used to be able to get away with relatively boring styling and basic features. Now they have to offer attractive body lines and the same features found on high-end luxury cars.
"That doesn't mean every sedan sold is loaded with technology, but many of them are, and all of them have to offer compelling, premium styling to have a chance in today's market."