Ted LaturnusBy 2012 the Hyundai Sonata was in its sixth generation and benefited from a restyling job and drivetrain changes from the year before.

Equipment level was still pretty high, with features like air conditioning, power windows, and heated seats becoming standard. Available extras included a leather interior, a Navi system, and satellite radio.

You had two engine choices: a 2.4-litre four-cylinder or a robust turbocharged 2.0, depending upon the model and drivetrain. There were two transmissions: six-speed manual and six-speed automatic. There was also a hybrid version.

The turbo 2.0 litre developed 274 horsepower and was as good as anything else in this segment: very lively and well-behaved. The transmission utilized Hyundai’s Shiftronic manual shift feature and delivered highway fuel economy comparable to that of its non-turbo stablemate. That said, Hyundai engineers still emphasized comfort over handling with this generation of the Sonata: through the tight corners, it had a kind of floaty feel to it.

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Although it had received an overhaul, the interior was still uninspiring – which is to say, boring. The 2012 Sonata was also kind of loud on the highway; over 80 kmh, the volume level inside the car definitely rises.

On the other hand, the Sonata offered 464 litres of trunk space, which compared favourably against rivals such as the Chev Malibu, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, etc. There was also a 60/40 folding rear seat with all kinds of pass-through space. And although the interior was pretty bland, there was lots of headroom, rear legroom, and more than enough elbow room for five adults.

There are 10 safety recalls from U.S. National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) out there for the 2012 Sonata. They concern everything from possibly faulty engine internals, which could result in catastrophic engine failure, to wonky seat belt linkage, to glitchy transmissions, to suspect fuel filler components. Example: “The high-pressure fuel pipe that connects to the fuel pump outlet may have been damaged, misaligned, or improperly torqued during the engine replacement procedure, allowing fuel to leak from the pipe.” Whoops.

Transport Canada has a ton of technical service bulletins on file for this one. They range from questionable oxygen sensors to issues with the front transaxle, to transmission shift “quality,” to engine control module (ECM) problems, to a range of updates for service personnel. Some owner comments:

  • “Our 2012 Sonata with regular maintenance records experienced a sudden catastrophic engine failure at 74,000 miles (119,091 km). No warning lights have ever come on in the car, but it suddenly began to lose power and make a terrible noise”;
  • “If you are thinking of buying one, go over everything. Quality control is not where it should be”;
  • “The best part is all the standard equipment you get for a low base price”;
  • “It’s not very good on slick or snowy conditions,” and
  • “Well put together car, but depreciates quickly. Get a used one as there is no difference between the 2011 thru 2014”.

Consumer Reports liked the 2012 Sonata: it received good marks in most areas. “This version of the Sonata ranked among our top-rated family sedans. The ride is supple yet composed. Handling is agile and responsive. The Sonata’s swoopy, coupe-like styling comes with tolerable rear-seat room and visibility. The revised four-cylinder engine racked up impressive fuel economy”.

The 2012 Sonata held its value quite well. From an official base price of about $22,700, these days it’s going from the low ‘teens for a base GL up to the high teens for the hybrid.

2012 Hyundai Sonata

Original Base Price: $22,699
Engine: 2.4 litre four-cylinder / turbocharged 2.0 litre four-cylinder
Horsepower/Torque: 198 hp / 184 ft. lb. & 274 hp / 269 ft. lb.
Transmission: Six-speed manual / Six-speed automatic
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 9.2 city/5.8 hwy. (Turbo). Regular/Premium Gas

Alternatives: Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Chev Malibu, VW Passat, Kia Magentis, Dodge Avenger, Suzuki Kizashi, Nissan Altima, Mazda6.

Ted Laturnus has been an automotive journalist since 1976. He was named Canadian Automobile Journalist of the Year twice and is past president of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). 

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