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The Hyundai Sonata was first introduced in the U.S. in 1988. It has quickly become one of the most popular sedans from the Hyundai lineup, partly thanks to its stellar fuel efficiency. However, it has had its share of problems. 

Plagued by everything from minor problems, such as faulty speakers, to major issues, such as seized engines, the Sonata has had some good years and some bad. Let’s look at the problems that the Hyundai Sonata model has experienced over the years.

Hyundai Sonata’s seat belt recall

The 2022 Hyundai Sonata compact sedan model with a gray paint color parked in front of a black glass wall
2022 Hyundai Sonata | Hyundai Motor America

In 2017, Hyundai issued a recall on 2011-14 model year Sonatas and 2011-15 model year Sonata Hybrids. The recall was related to a faulty seat belt. The website Cars reported that the recall affected 444,000 sedans because of defective seat belt linkages in the front seats, which can fail to restrain occupants in a crash and increase the risk of injury or death. 

The recall was announced twice in 2017. According to Hyundai, the first recall addressed the seat belt’s anchor pretensioner, a portion affixed to the vehicle’s inner structure, that had a cable connector that may not have been correctly connected to the belt’s linkage at the time. 

The original recall instructed dealerships to inspect the connection between the Hyundai Sonata belt’s linkage and the pretensioner’s cable connector. However, Hyundai and the company that supplies its seat belts have since determined that the problem could recur after the inspection if the pretensioner is connected and disconnected improperly. So there was some updated clarification with the second recall.

Seizing engines and shifting issues of the Sonata

Engine failure on the Hyundai Sonata 2011, 2012, and 2013 model years was also a regular complaint. According to the website Car Parts, many drivers reported that their engines froze up when they heard banging noises while driving. This resulted in a loss of power, brakes, and steering. 

These problems brought on a class-action lawsuit against Hyundai, which resulted in an $8.5 million settlement fee in 2016. For owners of impacted 2011-2014 Sonatas with 2.0- or 2.4-liter Theta II engines, the settlement included towing charges, engine repair and replacement, and rental fees associated with the repairs.

Additionally, due to a defective speed sensor, owners of the 2012 Hyundai Sonata experienced trouble shifting gears. When moving from park to drive, customers reported the vehicles shuddered and made clunking noises.

Faulty speakers and defective lighting were also issues

With Hyundai’s reliability in question due to some significant and dangerous defects, some seemingly trivial issues arose. For example, defective speakers were also discovered in some models. For some 2011-2016 model years, a hard reset was necessary to resolve a software bug that prevented the CD player, navigation, radio, and phone calls from producing audio. This was a simple fix resolved by disconnecting and reconnecting the negative battery terminal.

Another minor issue was that the parking lights in some 2003-2015 Hyundai Sonata models remained illuminated after the engine was turned off, leading to a drained battery. The problem was commonly attributed to a fuse issue, but a worn grommet could also cause it on the brake pedal. 

Some additional problems included steering problems, premature timing chain tensioner and timing belt failure, and corroded suspension components.

Hyundai is still one of the most popular car companies to date, thanks to its affordability. Hyundai is still one of the best values out there for the price. In the end, being diligent with maintenance and addressing issues as they arise will help keep your Hyundai in good working order for many years to come. Adhering to a good maintenance schedule can also save you money at the pumps and keep your Hyundai’s fuel efficiency as good as the day you drove it off the lot.


The Hyundai Sonata Is Loaded With Standard Features