Hyundai almost certainly isn't the first name you think of when you think performance or luxury, but the brand is working hard to change that, most notably with the introduction of the Equus sedan for the U.S. Even its lower-range models are pushing the brand-perception envelope--the new Sonata is one of the nicest cars in its class, and the 2.0T model kicks things up a notch with the addition of a 274-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder. Pricing, announced today, starts at just $24,145.

That's a steal of a deal, though true performance geeks  will bemoan the lack of a manual transmission option. Marty Padgett noted in his first drive review for TheCarConnection, however, that the paddle-shifted auto standard on the 2.0T is capable and far prefereable to the shifter-controlled manual mode found in some competitive cars.

Solid EPA fuel economy figures (22 mpg city/33 mpg highway) plus the low base starting price puts it on solid ground against cars like the Ford Fusion V-6 and the VW Passat. That highway figure is 1 mpg below the predicted 34 mpg, however.

The 2011 Sonata 2.0T will be on sale later this year.