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Bang For The Buck

Buick Regal, Hyundai Sonata

Toyota is ramping up production of an all-new 2018 Camry and spending over $1 billion – with a "b" – at its Georgetown, Ky., plant. That investment speaks to the popularity of midsize sedans, despite sales inroads made by crossovers.

While Accord and Camry are givens in the segment, less attention is paid to Buick's Regal and Hyundai's Sonata. And if shopping for a midsize sedan with a $30,000 budget, you should pay attention. Both offer a compelling combination of attributes and can be well equipped for that price point.

Finally, both are due for either a major redesign (Regal) or aggressive freshening (Sonata) in the 2018 model year. Both Buick and Hyundai will be offering incentives 2017s, but Hyundai's program is more aggressive, with up to $6,000 in savings (as this is written).

BUICK REGAL: For those seeking exclusivity at well below an "exclusive" price, there is the Regal. Designed by GM's Opel as the Insignia, the version sold stateside keeps most of its Eurocentric nature. It doesn't pretend to be an Audi or BMW, but it provides something more German than Volkswagen's Germany-by-way-of-Tennessee Passat.

A Regal, in all-wheel-drive 'Regal' trim, supplies you with a turbocharged 2.0 liter and 6-speed automatic transmission. Its 259 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque propel the 3,600-pound Regal with authority and respectable efficiency. Despite its relatively low curb weight, the Regal feels substantial, with a heavy feel behind the wheel and a quiet authority going down the road.

Inside, you'll find an interesting mix of Old World and New Detroit, with informative gauges, a center stack that dominates the instrument panel, supportive buckets up front and a reasonably spacious rear seat. The Regal's interior volume is respectable (97 cubic feet inside, while the trunk has 14 cubic feet), but this remains a better environment for young families or empty nesters. Those with a lot of kids or stuff should shop Buick's about-to-be-redesigned Enclave or midsize Envision.

For the 2017 model year, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have been added. The Driver Confidence 1 package (optional) includes Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Change Alert, Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Following Distance Indicator and memory seats. Driver Confidence 2 has Collision Preparation with Collision Mitigation Braking and Full Speed Range Adaptive Cruise Control. It's all good stuff.

With prices between $28,000 and roughly $45,000 (Regal GS), Buick's midsize 4-door provides a mix of value and virtue. Due for an aggressive redesign (and re-positioning) in '18, if you like what Buick currently offers, now is your chance.

HYUNDAI SONATA: Billing itself as the most affordable midsize sedan, that claim is bolstered by price drops on various trim levels for 2017. The Sonata Eco enjoyed a price reduction of $600, while the Sonata Sport 2.0T was reduced $2,300, dropping its window sticker to $26,600 (plus destination charges).

In comparing a Sonata to a Regal, we've chosen a Limited with the 2.0 liter turbo connected to Hyundai's 6-speed automatic. This is top-of-the-line in the Sonata lineup, with comprehensive equipment and the refinement appropriate to a $35,000 window sticker.

Sonata has a 4-cylinder lineup. The starting point is a 2.4 liter four, there's an Eco trim boasting a 1.6 liter turbo connected to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, and the upmarket option is a 2.0 liter turbo. Horsepower ratings are 185, 178 and 245 horsepower, respectively. The Eco, as you'd guess, is the one to buy for fuel economy, but we've also enjoyed this engine/transmission combination in Hyundai's Tucson and Kia Soul. And like the Regal, Hyundai's turbocharged 2.0 liter turbo absolutely moves.

Inside, you'll find contemporary design, comfortable seating and as much infotainment as you could want. Interior volume is more generous than the Regal (106 cubic feet vs. the Regal's 97), as is its trunk. Safety is well-considered, available comfort and convenience options are many - and included in the Limited.

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