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2006 ICOTY Vehicle Nominees
by Martha Hindes

Sedan of the Year - 2006 Hyundai Sonata
People sometimes are unsure about how to pronounce Hyundai, and the result can be a series of strange-sounding “eeeuuus” and “aaaaeeees,” rather than the simple “Hyundai. Sounds like Sunday,” preferred by most company executives.

But it's doubtful anyone would be confused about how much midsize auto there is for a scant pricetag, a reason it's our Sedan-Most Dependable winner for 2006. Sonata delivers a lot of car for a lot less cash, edging above the $20,000 mark only in the top two package levels. But that's only the initial attraction. Taking direct aim at fellow Asian car makers' claims of owning the top auto spot, Hyundai tested customer wants before forging out a four-year, ground-up redesign.

The result: more room inside and out, more refinement and a lot more coveted safety features, plus a choice of engines, transmissions and three trim levels. According to Hyundai (and no surprise to RTM judges), was how the new Sonata appealed to a younger, smart-money , style-conscious buyer. To meet their demands, there's a quieter interior for five, larger trunk, plenty of sophisticated luxury touches included or optional, and an easy rapport with the road. It's powered by a 2.4-liter inline four or 3.3-liter V-6 engine and manual or automatic trans with manual mode, all with good mileage and low emissions credentials. With five-year bumper to bumper warranty, including no deductible road service, we thought the GL, GLS and XL Sonatas would be music to buyers' ears.

Honorable Mentions:

Dodge Charger
Sedans may come and sedans may go. But few do it with as much brashness as Dodge Charger. The new iteration of yesterday's legend comes packed with visual punch, safe handling helps, perfectly balanced suspension and self-leveling shocks for "world class ride," and the attitude one might expect from owing Hemi power,. AutoStick transmission permits gear-searchihng choices. A performance-based exhaust announces its unmistakable presence. Its set of rear doors gives it purpose beyond play. We give it will-rounded honors.

Honda Accord
According to Honda, one shouldn't live without Accord. Little argument there no matter the inference. This mainstay mid-size sedan (and coupe) has loing held an undisputed winner's spot in the dependable famiily vehicle hierarchy. For 2006, there's no exception as Accord gets an appearance update, packs in some safety and technology adds, improves power choices and appeals to energy consciousnes with a gas-electric hybrid. Anticipating jarring surprises isn't what Honda's about. Expect quiet quality and a long-range bargain that can stand the test of time.

Most Sex Appeal/Sports Car
Pontiac Solstice

Most Spirited/Entry-Level
Audi A3

Most Compatible/Minivan
Honda Odyssey

Most Versatile/Crossover
Dodge Magnum SRT 8
Most Respected/Luxury Car
Mercedes-Benz CLS500

Most Resourceful/SUV
Ford Explorer / Range Rover Sport

2006 ICOTY Awards Links