The Hyundai Sonata is a midsize family sedan that was first introduced in 1985.
The modern-day versions are known for their unique appearance, fantastic value and wide array of helpful standard tech.
Despite being one of the top picks in the segment, the Sonata has had its share of problems and quirks over the years – which we’ll cover in this article.
1. Engine Failure
According to Car Problem Zoo, a site dedicated to collecting car owner feedback, the most commonly reported Sonata problem is engine related.
Engine failure and engine problems in general are at their worst for the 2011 – 2014 models, and although there were still a notable amount of engine complaints for 2015 – 2018 Sonatas it has been nowhere near on the same scale.
We did some digging and found no shortage of owners all saying the same thing – the engine has died.
Common symptoms include:
- Smoke coming from the engine
- Check engine warning light ON
- Engine seized up whilst driving
- Vibrations followed by a sudden loss of power
- Knocking noise
For some owners, the failure has occurred just outside the warranty period and many report the failure occurring within 60,000 – 120,000 miles.
Typically a properly maintained car engine should last at least 200,000 miles.
Where there’s smoke there’s fire and unsurprisingly due to all these reported engine problems, there have been some high-profile recalls.
In August 2020 Hyundai issued a recall which affected 470,000 2011-2012 Sonatas including 2.0-liter and 2.4-liter models. Hyundai will inspect and rectify the engine assembly as necessary and increase the warranty to 120,000 miles for affected vehicles.
The NHTSA had this to say:
“Metallic debris may not have been fully removed during the manufacturing of the engine crankshaft.
If the debris was not completely removed, oil flow may be restricted through the connecting rod bearings, causing connecting rod damage.
A worn connecting rod bearing will produce a metallic, cyclic knocking noise from the engine and possible engine failure.”
Hyundai also issued a recall for certain 2013-2014 Sonatas for the same reason – machining errors during the engine manufacturing process had the potential to cause premature bearing wear within the engine.
The worn-out rod bearings are what cause the infamous and dreaded engine knocking sound.
Some models were fitted with a Knock Sensor Detection System, this system is essentially for damage limitation and monitors for symptoms that may precede an engine failure – when the car is just about to break down it will go into limp mode, giving drivers just enough time to drive their car to the dealership.
Engine failure is one of the worst things to happen to a car as it’s the most expensive item to replace and if the car is pretty old, then from a financial standpoint you’re often better off buying a new car than paying for a new engine.
2. Excessive Oil Consumption
A commonly reported complaint from Sonata owners is that their car is burning oil excessively. This problem is most prevalent on 2015, 2016, 2017 models and to a lesser extent 2018 models.
Here’s what owners have had to say:
“Engine oil consumption: more than 1 quarter every 1,000 miles but the mechanic did not find any leaking. The vehicle has a total of 55,000 miles and I drive about 1000 miles/month on the freeway and local streets.”
“Disappearing oil. For years now my car has been progressively using oil. Now I can’t even go a week without putting in more oil and it has fouled spark plugs and left me stranded twice now, and continues to excessively consume oil.”
The problems associated with the Sonata’s high oil consumption include:
- Oil migrates to places where it shouldn’t be and damages the combustion and exhaust systems and prevents them from operating as they should
- This causes “abnormal wear of engine parts, oversaturation of carbon, and deposits of oil sludge, ultimately requiring a costly engine rebuild or replacement.”
If you’re concerned your Sonata is using high amounts of oil, Hyundai will perform an oil consumption test to see if it is within the limits.
However, there is a class action lawsuit against Hyundai for producing defective engines that use excessive amounts of oil that eventually fail, according to Car Complaints this includes Sonata models from 2009-2010 and 2015-2021.
Owners have claimed that Hyundai cannot adequately fix the problem and has not offered to reimburse them for the expenses they have suffered.
Allegedly, customers have had to endure long waiting times for replacement parts and in most instances have not received an engine replacement – which is what they really need.
3. Steering Problems
The second most commonly reported problem for the Sonata according to industry data is related to its steering – these problems are predominantly found on the 2017 models, but the complaints range from 2011 – 2018.
Here is what the owner of a 2017 model had to say:
“I was coming home with my family from the grocery store as we were coming around the turn the car steering wheel locked up on the road luckily I was the only car on the road at the time, so I had to pull over, turn the car of and turn it back on and it went back to normal. This has been happing now for the past 2 week after 6 months when it first started.”
Understandably this has left drivers scared and startled – in most instances, owners describe how the steering locks up or freezes whilst driving causing them to lose control of the car.
Common symptoms associated with the steering failure include:
- Steering wheel grinding and vibrations
- Clicking or clunking noise
- ESC and EPS warning lights come on
The best fix for this problem is to replace the Motor Driven Power Steering (MDPS) column, this can cost around $3000.
The column is a device designed primarily to connect the steering mechanism to the steering wheel.
The MDPS system is a speed-sensing power steering that produces heavier steering effort depending on the increase of the vehicle speed.
4. Airbag Problems
Airbag related problems are fairly common on Sonata models 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 and there have been a number of high profile recalls. In many instances owners have noticed the airbag light stays on and won’t go off.
Hyundai recalled 154,753 of its 2011 Sonatas because their front and side airbags may not work in a crash – this is caused by a potential short circuit that could prevent them from inflating.
Hyundai also recalled certain model year 2012 – 2013 Sonata sedans as the curtain side airbags may inflate without deployment command due to a manufacturing error.
In some 2006 – 2008 Sonatas, the passenger front airbag had a fault with its occupant classification system (OCS) that was designed to detect when a small child was sat in the passenger seat. This resulted in the recall of around 400,000 cars.
Hyundai recalled certain model year 2016 Sonatas. The affected cars have a driver-side frontal air bag that may not adequately protect the driver’s neck from injury in the event of a crash.
As you can see there have been a wide range of airbag recalls for the Sonata, and so it is imperative that you always run a VIN check on your vehicle on the NHTSA website to see if you havee been affected.
Anything airbag-related must be left to trained professionals to fix – trying to fix it yourself is not only dangerous, it will also void the vehicles warranty.
5. Melting Brake / Tail Lights
Not as widespread as the other problems, although worth a mention is the melting brake light phenomenon – this was mostly an issue for 2013 Sonata models.
Across owner forums you’ll find complaints from owners who have noticed that the OEM light bulbs are burning through the sockets.
They usually report smelling burning plastic.
Many owners have got around this by upgrading the wiring harness to an LED-compatible one and then using LED bulbs instead.
Other owners have reported changing the wiring harness to a similar non-LED one has not fixed the problem.
6. Antenna Cover Blows Off Whilst Driving
A number of 2016 and 2017 Sonata owners have voiced their frustration about losing their antenna cover or ‘shark fin’ whilst driving.
Here’s one owner’s account:
“Antenna cover blew off the car while I was traveling down the freeway. If it had hit another car or caused someone to swerve to miss it, it could have caused damage to the other car. Others have had this problem – you can see that by googling the problem. No warning. Hyundai wants $1000 to repair it–$350 for the part and $600 for labor
Sadly if you lose your shark fin the only option is to replace it, if you’re mechanically inclined and you still have the shark fin you may be able to fix it back on – possibly with glue.
Our research indicates there is a Technical Service Bulletin for this issue (TSB) and owners of affected models should take their Sonata to their dealership for an inspection and if required a replacement shark fin.
7. Excessive Wind Noise
A commonly reported problem on newer Sonata models including 2020 and 2021 models is that the car makes excessive wind noise.
Here’s what one owner had to say:
“I have had my 2021 Hyundai Sonata less for less than a year and am already having problems with the front windshield. There is “air noise” coming through the windshield when I drive above 55 mph. There have been recalls for this problem on some 2020-2021 Hyundai vehicles. The 2021 Sonata is one of them. However, when I look up to see if there is any recalls with my VIN number, it shows no recalls. I know my windshield is defective or wasn’t properly installed.”
Some owners have been left feeling frustrated at the amount of time it has taken for Hyundai to address the problem.
Hyundai is recalling thousands of Sonata sedans from the 2020 model year because their windshields may detach in a crash. Should this happen, it could increase the risk of injury to occupants. Hyundai dealerships will reinstall the windshields on affected vehicles, free of charge.
The problem is caused by faulty clear-coat paint, which the windshields may not stick to properly.
- Water leaking through the windshield
- Excessive wind noise whilst driving
Hyundai Sonata Model Years With the Most Problems
To get a better idea of which Hyundai Sonata has the most problems the fairest way is to compare models based on the number of vehicles sold in relation to the number of reported problems.
We’re using Car Complaints PPMY index which means problems reported per thousand vehicles per Year.
For example, newer cars will have fewer complaints simply because they’ve been around for less time.
Based on this index, the most problematic years are:
- 2011 – 1.30 PPMY
- 2012 – 1.04 PPMY
- 2013 – 0.77 PPMY
And the least problematic years are:
- 2004, 2019 – 0.14 PPMY
- 2003, 2005 – 0.16 PPMY
- 2002 – 0.25 PPMY
|Problems||Sales||Vehicle Age||PPMY Index|
Source: Car Problem Zoo
Hyundai Sonata Pros and Cons
If you’re considering a Hyundai Sonata as your next car you might be wondering what its strengths and weaknesses are…
- Very fuel efficient
- Stylish Interior
- Lots of tech features
- Attractive price
- Spacious cabin
- Hard-to-beat warranties
- Not the most fun or exhilarating to drive
- The ride is a bit too firm for most people
- Awkwardly tall-in-the-saddle driving position
- Acceleration lacks oompf
Hyundai Sonata Reliability Compared to Similar Cars
Repair Pal ranks the Sonata in 5th place out of 24 midsize cars based on all model years.
|1||Honda Accord||4.5 / 5.0|
|2||Mitsubishi Galant||4.5 / 5.0|
|3||Toyota Camry||4.0 / 5.0|
|4||Toyota Prius V||4.0 / 5.0|
|5||Hyundai Sonata||4.0 / 5.0|
|6||Mazda6||4.0 / 5.0|
|7||Chevrolet Malibu Limited||4.0 / 5.0|
|8||Kia Optima||4.0 / 5.0|
|9||Chevrolet Malibu||4.0 / 5.0|
|10||Toyota Prius||4.0 / 5.0|
|11||Nissan Altima||4.0 / 5.0|
|12||Chrysler 200||4.0 / 5.0|
|13||Buick Regal||4.0 / 5.0|
|14||Honda Crosstour||4.0 / 5.0|
|15||Buick LaCrosse||4.0 / 5.0|
|16||Subaru Legacy||4.0 / 5.0|
|17||Volkswagen Passat||4.0 / 5.0|
|18||Ford Fusion||4.0 / 5.0|
|19||Dodge Challenger||3.5 / 5.0|
|20||Ford Mustang||3.5 / 5.0|
|21||Chevrolet Camaro||3.5 / 5.0|
|22||Honda Accord Crosstour||3.5 / 5.0|
|23||Chevrolet Corvette||3.0 / 5.0|
|24||Volkswagen CC||2.5 / 5.0|
|Avg. Midsize Car||4.0|
Source: Repair Pal
Consumer Reports rankings detailed below are based on the model’s newest three years, the Hyundai Sonata sits at the top, with an impressive score of 77/100.
|Make & Model||Consumer ReportsReliability Score|
Source: Consumer Reports
Hyundai Sonata Used Value
We’ve taken a look on Car Gurus to gauge the resale value of a Hyundai Sonata, below are typical asking prices for each model year.
According to Car Edge, a Hyundai Sonata will depreciate 35% after 5 years and have a 5 year resale value of $20,712.
|Model Year||Mileage (miles)||Resale Price|
Source: Car Gurus
What Do Owners Like and Dislike About the Hyundai Sonata?
Based on owner feedback from the Kelley Blue Book site here are what real-life owners love and hate about the Hyundai Sonata.
- Fuel economy
- Great to drive
- Sporty looks
- Lots of technology
- Safety features
- Bumpy ride
- Insufficient leg room
- Bad wiper arms design
“Amenities are many and with easy access. All around visibility is very good. The seats are comfortable. Push button gear shifts takes a little time to get used to but really like it. What I miss is the shiftronic option to avoid so much braking as I live at the top of a significant hill.”
Source: Kelley Blue Book
“Sits too low. Hard to grab the door from inside. No heated steering wheel. Great looking car and is very fast with great fuel mileage.”
Source: Kelley Blue Book
“Very sporty, sleek design…drives like a gem…well made inside and out. Couldn’t be happier!”
“I Recently bought the SEL model and so far I have really liked this car. I appreciate the driver assistance features and it is a fun car to drive. It has a nice ride and I am very impressed with the car’s sound system which is fully compatible with Apple CarPlay. Safety wise, Hyundai has made huge strides with its rear camera feature giving a wider angle.”
Source: Kelley Blue Book
How Reliable Are Hyundai Cars?
According to a recent report from Consumer Reports, Hyundai are ranked the 11th most reliable car manufacturer out of 28 brands, with a score of 56/100.
Source: Consumer Reports