2012 Hyundai Sonata Review

Consumer Reviews
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2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
January 19, 2012

After more than a decade on the market, the latest Hyundai Sonata's an overnight success--thanks to great gas mileage, grabby styling, and exceptional value for the dollar.

It used to be a wallflower, but then the Hyundai Sonata bloomed. New in 2011 with daring styling and bristling with confidence, the Sonata has mounted a three-pronged attack on the mainstream four-door sedan market--and it's working. The Sonata's now one of the top sellers in the segment, fresh off an award-winning year and a nod as TheCarConnection's Best Car To Buy 2011.

The Sonata's intriguing blend of crests and curves sets it far apart from the blandness that colors the Toyota Camry and, maybe less so, the Accord, Passat, and Malibu. It may not stand the test of time as well as some designs, but for now, the Sonata's a calling card for the entire Hyundai brand. It's a clean break from the me-too past of Hyundai styling and it works well in many places--at the rear of the roofline and across the tail, it's clearly an homage to the Audi A6. Some other passages are a little knotty: the point at the side mirrors where five different panels join up is a noticeable wart, and not everyone here at HGM is a fan of the chrome spears that glint off the hoodline and front fenders. Inside, the styling's just as adventurous, with dramatic sculpturing across the dash and even on the steering wheel. A big LCD screen sits atop the dash and fits in well with the futuristic look. We prefer the metallic trim to the woodgrain on beige-interior cars, which looks out of place in the swoopy Sonata.

All Sonatas are four-cylinders, and the mass-market versions are 2.4-liter fours with up to 200 horsepower, direct injection, and a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. We haven't ever seen a manual-transmission base model; luckily, the automatic is perfectly appropriate for the class, and is a responsive, seamless gearchanger. It's rare to feel this version strain for power, since the front-drive Sonata weighs only a little more than 3,300 pounds, or a quarter-ton less than a Chevy Malibu. Highway mileage of 35 mpg gives the standard Sonata a standout selling point in the mid-size class.

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Two alternatives exist to the base four. There's a turbocharged 2.0T model, with displacement dropped to 2.0 liters and horsepower boosted to 274 hp in all. The power surge is clear, and there's not much turbo lag--and as a bonus, the automatic transmission adds shift paddles, and in this instance, the manual shifter works with above-average smoothness. On paper it's quite a bit stronger than, say, a Buick Regal turbo, and Hyundai's estimates of 0-60 mph times of about seven seconds are strong for a model not really sold as a sporty alternative, but more as a V-6 alternative. With the added power, highway gas mileage is still rated at 33 mpg.

There's also a Hybrid edition, which pairs the 2.4-liter four with electric motors and a lithium-polymer battery pack, and a high threshold that allows the Sonata Hybrid to run on battery power alone at highway speeds. The Hybrid's unusual in that it uses a conventional automatic transmission instead of a CVT or an eCVT to change gears; in our experience, the shift quality between gas-electric and electric-only mode is lumpy, and needs more refinement to rival vehicles like the Camry Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid. Hyundai says this version will hit 60 mph in 9.2 seconds, well within the acceptable range for a family sedan, while delivering gas mileage of 34/39 mpg.

The Sonata's ride and handling are fine for the mainstream, but the steering responses could use more feedback and less wandering on the highway. We like the ride damping, which is set a little on the firm side even before the SE's monotube shocks and 19-inch wheels are added into the mix.

The firm ride is amplified a bit by the Sonata's firm seats. A roomy car, almost "large" by EPA standards, the Sonata provides soaring headroom and leg room in front, and an unusually long front-seat track so driver and passenger can have as much space as they need. The back seat sits at a good angle of recline, and only the tallest passengers will touch heads against the fabric headliner and the hard-plastic front seatbacks.

A Top Safety Pick according to the IIHS, the 2012 Hyundai Sonata has the usual standard safety equipment with a rearview camera available on top trim levels. Other standard equipment includes Bluetooth; a USB port; power windows, locks and mirrors; a tilt/telescoping steering wheel; and cruise control. SE and Limited editions add parking sensors and pushbutton start; the Sonata Limited also gets standard heated front and rear seats; a sunroof; a backup camera; automatic climate control; and an automatic dimming rearview mirror. New this year is Hyundai's Blue Link telematics system; like GM's OnStar setup, it uses live operators to provide information and directions, while also connecting the car via streaming data to the Web, which allows it to find destinations newer than the ones provided on its hard-drive-based GPS maps. Blue Link is offered in a few different packages, with tiered pricing; access to a Web site is bundled in, and allows drivers to set limits on the car's stereo volume, speed, and geographic distance from a certain point.

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2012 Hyundai Sonata

Styling

The 2012 Hyundai Sonata is handsome, jazzy, and a visual standout in its class.

While in its previous iterations, the Hyundai Sonata was very conservative, and something of a wallflower, the 2012 Sonata is radically different--an intriguing blend of crests and curves that set it far apart from the blandness that colors the Toyota Camry and, maybe less so, the Accord, Passat, and Malibu.

Hyundai calls it "fluidic sculpture" design language, and it's a daring look for a family sedan, with lots of movement implied in the side view. In the grille we can see some of the “wave” look of the latest Infinitis, while at the rear of the roofline and across the tail, it's clearly an homage to the Audi A6. Some other passages are a little knotty: the point at the side mirrors where five different panels join up is a noticeable wart, and not everyone here is a fan of the chrome spears that glint off the hoodline and front fenders.

Inside, the styling's just as adventurous, with dramatic sculpturing across the dash and even on the steering wheel. But it’s a little out there, on the edge of cutting edge for traditional family-sedan shoppers. The interior shares some themes with the big Hyundai Genesis sedan, including the vents that flank a big LCD screen atop the dash. We prefer the metallic trim to the woodgrain on beige-interior cars, which looks out of place in the swoopy Sonata.The new Sonata has even more dramatic sculpturing in its steering wheel and dash cap than the Genesis, and gets cut-tube-style instruments as well as an iconographic climate control shaped like a human. Overall, it’s adventurous and functional, and maybe a little more dramatic than some families will want.

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2012 Hyundai Sonata

Performance

The 2012 Hyundai Sonata accelerates strongly and smoothly in most guises, but its steering has plenty of room for improvement.

The 2012 Hyundai Sonata has taken a completely new tack with powertrains as well; with last year's redesign, they did away with V-6s completely and moved to an all four-cylinder lineup; and they all do the task they're intended for with a little more gusto than expected.

The mass-market versions are 2.4-liter fours with up to 200 horsepower, direct injection, and a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. We haven't ever seen a manual-transmission base model; luckily, the automatic is perfectly appropriate for the class, and is a responsive, seamless gearchanger. With this engine, the front-drive Sonata feels very perky, and stronger than most other base four-cylinder sedans its size. It weighs only a little more than 3,300 pounds, or a quarter-ton less than a Chevy Malibu, which adds to that impression, and its highway fuel economy rating of 35 mpg gives it another standout selling point.

Opt for the 2.0T model, and the engine is downsized from 2.4 liters to 2.0 liters, but straps on a twin-scroll turbocharger to provide a 274-horsepower rush. It's accompanied by 269 pound-feet of torque that arrives low in the power band, giving the 2.0T a flexible feel without the turbo lag you may have felt in other cars with the "2.0T" badge. This model comes with shift paddles, too, and is intended as the more economical parallel to upscale V-6 models. For the most part, it succeeds in that mission, with turbo lag rarely noticeable. The only down side is a somewhat coarser engine note at times. With the added power, highway gas mileage is still rated at 33 mpg.

There's also a Hybrid edition, which pairs the 2.4-liter four with electric motors and a lithium-polymer battery pack, and a high threshold that allows the Sonata Hybrid to run on battery power alone at highway speeds. The Hybrid's unusual in that it uses a conventional automatic transmission instead of a CVT or an eCVT to change gears; in our experience, the shift quality between gas-electric and electric-only mode is lumpy, and needs more refinement to rival vehicles like the Camry Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid. Hyundai says this version will hit 60 mph in 9.2 seconds, well within the acceptable range for a family sedan, while delivering gas mileage of 35/40 mpg.

The Sonata's ride and handling are fine for the mainstream, but the steering responses could use more feedback and less wandering on the highway. We like the ride damping, which is set a little on the firm side even before the SE's monotube shocks and 19-inch wheels are added into the mix.

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2012 Hyundai Sonata

Comfort & Quality

The 2012 Sonata feels spacious and thoughtfully designed, with comfortable seats and plenty of storage spaces.

The 2012 Sonata is dimensionally one of the largest mid-size sedans, and by EPA rules it's actually classified as a "large" car, with 120 cubic feet of interior and trunk space.

So it's probably not surprising that the Sonata has accommodations that are quite good for those in back as well as in front. The back seat sits at a good angle of recline, with enough headroom for all but the tallest passengers, and there's decent legroom. Both of the upholstery options are pleasing, but we like the textured fabric, and its soft-but-rugged sportswear feel, a bit better--and it seems to work better with the bolstering of the front seats. In any case, front-seat lower cushions are a bit on the firm side.

Ride quality is also somewhat firm, compared to other mid-size sedans, but road noise is very well isolated. Keep in mind that the SE's monotube shocks and 19-inch wheels will make the ride uncomfortable for those who commute over very choppy road surfaces.

The 16.4-cubic-foot trunk is about as large as that in the Ford Fusion, and the trunk gets larger when the rear seats are flipped forward. In the cabin, a deep center console and glovebox hide valuable goods; there’s a niche near the audio controls for cellphones, a flat open bin in front of it for clutter, and a bin hidden behind a flip-down lid to conceal other goods—perhaps a radar detector? Coat hooks, dual power points, and eight cupholders cover needs as vast as looking sharp for the meeting, or staying hydrated after the workout.

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2012 Hyundai Sonata

Safety

The 2012 Sonata has earned excellent safety and crash-test ratings from both U.S. agencies.

The 2012 Hyundai Sonata has the safety credentials to make the shortlist of any worry-prone parent or carpool driver.

The Sonata has been named a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)--meaning it's earned top 'good' scores in all test categories, including (rollover-related) roof strength--and in NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) tests, the Sonata has earned a relatively rare five-star overall score, as well as five-star ratings in most categories.

A rearview camera is available on top trim levels. Otherwise, standard safety equipment on the Sonata is extensive, and includes dual front, side, curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control; and active headrests.

Outward visibility is good, even to the Sonata's curvaceous rear quarters, where minuscule triangular windows seem to be in place just to keep the side view flowing. Rear-seat passengers won’t see much through them, however.

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2012 Hyundai Sonata

Features

The 2012 Hyundai Sonata includes more standard features than most alternatives, along with some excellent infotainment options.

With a base price of around $20,500, the 2012 Sonata has a very impressive standard-equipment list. Bluetooth; a USB port; power windows, locks and mirrors; a tilt/telescoping steering wheel; and cruise control are all included.

The Sonata SE adds paddle shifters, a sport-tuned suspension, and some slight trim differences. Both the Sonata SE and Sonata Limited have parking sensors and push-button start. The Limited also gets standard heated front and rear seats; a sunroof; a backup camera; automatic climate control; and an automatic dimming rearview mirror.

Hyundai is known to keep the number of different combinations quite limited, and while there are three engines and several trims, what it means in the Sonata lineup is that there are only a few package upgrades for each model. The base GLS can be upgraded to include a power driver seat and alloy wheels; the SE’s options include a nicely executed navigation system packaged with a sunroof. There’s also a new “Dimension” speaker package for some audio systems. The Sonata Limited adds on a CD changer and HD Radio, and can be equipped with an Infinity 400-watt audio system, bundled with the touchscreen-driven navigation system and the rearview camera.

The Sonata's navigation system is particularly easy to use, with one of the more pleasant displays and interfaces. XM NavTraffic and Bluetooth streaming audio are included, as well as 8GB of flash memory for music storage. There are only a few details we'd like to see added--such as if the sound system would start back up where it left off in playing from your iPod.

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New this year is Hyundai's Blue Link telematics system; like GM's OnStar setup, it uses live operators to provide information and directions, while also connecting the car via streaming data to the Web, which allows it to find destinations newer than the ones provided on its hard-drive-based GPS maps. Blue Link is offered in a few different packages, with tiered pricing; access to a Web site is bundled in, and allows drivers to set limits on the car's stereo volume, speed, and geographic distance from a certain point.
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2012 Hyundai Sonata

Fuel Economy

While the 2012 Hyundai Sonata stands out for its 35-mpg highway rating, the Sonata Hybrid does even better.

With a standout fuel-economy rating of 35 mpg highway, base versions of the 2012 Hyundai Sonata are up at the front of the pack, while the Hybrid outranks all other family sedans with a highway rating of 40 mpg.

The EPA gives the entry-level Sonata a rating of 24/35 mpg, with the base six-speed manual, and it falls only to 23/35 mpg when the six-speed automatic is specified.

Add on a turbocharger to the automatic-equipped car, and the resulting Sonata 2.0T gets a rating of 22/33 mpg.

Meanwhile, the Sonata Hybrid sports the best highway fuel-economy figure in the mid-size sedan class, at 34/39; but with a 41/36-mpg rating, the Ford Fusion Hybrid outdoes it in the city.

The 2011-201 Sonata Hybrid is one of a group of cars found to have overstated gas mileage on its window sticker. Hyundai submitted figures of 35/40 mpg and 37 mpg combined to the EPA. When the self-certified figures were double-checked, the EPA discovered the Sonata Hybrid's actual tested fuel economy to be 34/39 mpg or 36 mpg combined.

Owners can register with Hyundai to receive reimbursement for the gas consumed above and beyond expected levels; more details are found at HyundaiMPGInfo.com.

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August 21, 2016
For 2012 Hyundai Sonata

My Sonata has provided me with reliable and safe transportation. Has a very large interior and trunk.

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A very reliable car that is comfortable, good looking and relaxing to drive. Hugh trunk and good gas mileage.
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August 8, 2016
2012 Hyundai Sonata 4-Door Sedan 2.0T Automatic SE

Sonata Love!

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I love my 2012 Hyundai Sonata Turbo. The car has great performance. The interior is very spacious and the trunk has a lot of storage space. With the wide tires the Sonata gives a smooth ride.
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January 8, 2016
2012 Hyundai Sonata 4-Door Sedan 2.4L Automatic Limited

I love my car and hope i enjoy a newer model just as much..

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Totally satisfied with this car: its' performance, it's comfort, its many bells and whistles and also its' design. Love the car.
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October 20, 2015
2012 Hyundai Sonata 4-Door Sedan 2.4L Automatic Limited PZEV w/Wine Int

You just can't beat all the features, luxury for the price.

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Love everything about this car. Even though it replaced a Lexus it has nearly all the features and gadgets. Only passenger auto seat is missing but it adds rear heated seats few luxury cars even have. The only... + More »
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June 13, 2015
2012 Hyundai Sonata 4-Door Sedan 2.0T Automatic Limited

Kudos on design, safety and reliability.

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Excellent vehicle for highway driving it is responsive and get superb mileage 35+ mpg. Great technology for 2012 phone streaming and navigation plus blue link. I wish 2015 kept 2012 exterior design. LRR tires... + More »
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April 30, 2015
2012 Hyundai Sonata 4-Door Sedan 2.4L Manual GLS

this is a great car

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I love my 2012 hundai sonata. It's very big in the inside and I can fix the seat the way I want to but other than that Its a good car I would suggest any to to purchase a hundai sonata
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April 28, 2015
2012 Hyundai Sonata 4-Door Sedan 2.4L Automatic Hybrid

Economic, fun to drive hybrid.

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Unlike most hybrids, the sonata does not have a variable auto transmission, instead comes with a 6 speed auto which I prefer. when I hit the pedal, the trans down shifts and especially in the 30-60 range the... + More »
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April 28, 2015
2012 Hyundai Sonata 4-Door Sedan 2.0T Automatic Limited

Good looks and great performance with turbo

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Purchased new in 2011, have had no issues, great performance, good gas mileage and a lot of features. Plenty of room and fun to drive. Had windshield molding replaced due to crackling under warranty... + More »
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April 13, 2015
For 2012 Hyundai Sonata

comfort and good gas milage.

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Our Sonata is comfortable and reliable. A good car for the money.
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