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The Hyundai Santa Fe has been a popular model with consumers looking for that precise combination of space, handling, and price. The Santa Fe was first introduced in 2000 and proved to be so popular, that the South Korean automaker had trouble keeping up with production demand. It continues to be a top-selling midsize SUV and is into its ninth generation today.

It was, however, the 2010 redesign that seemed to present challenges for owners. More specifically, the 2012 Santa Fe has proven to be the worst of all, and one model year you should never buy.

Some common complaints about the 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe

As with any vehicle, it’s a good idea to prepare to have any number of issues with a new-to-you car. There are isolated reports in a variety of areas of the 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe.

Some owners had problems with their climate control systems. Others complained of glitching interior lights. There were even a few reports of complaints about the exterior paint deteriorating prematurely. None of these are worth overthinking your decision to buy a Santa Fe. There is one problem, however, that should give you pause.

This Santa Fe problem is the worst shows the Hyundai Santa Fe has the most complaints about the 2007 model. But the worst model year, based on the severity of the problem, mileage at which the issue arises, and overall cost to repair, is the 2012 model.

The engine fails, and in many instances, owners reported stalling while driving. This dangerous scenario presented both at lower mileage ranges and cost owners thousands in engine repairs.

Why the 2012 model is worth avoiding altogether

According to the data collected from actual Santa Fe owners, the engine stalling complaints were surfacing early into ownership. Some engines failed around 37,000 miles. But it was proving to be an unpredictable problem, as others found themselves in trouble at 85,000 miles.

Most of these consumers reported complete engine replacement as the only solution, costing upwards of $5,000 in each instance. Of course, some got rid of their Santa Fe models altogether, and others opted to rebuild their engines with private shops.

A class-action lawsuit and Hyundai’s response

The NHTSA has specific data showing the frequent engine failures of the Santa Fe were occurring mostly at lower mileage. Hyundai sent a letter to Santa Fe owners directly in 2014 claiming issues would only present under a “specific set of operating conditions.”

Santa Fe owners disagreed and filed a class-action lawsuit during that time, citing engine stalling were more prevalent than Hyundai was willing to admit at first, and under a variety of conditions.

Scary scenarios from real 2012 Santa Fe owners

One owner shared his experience behind the wheel of his Santa Fe. He was driving in town when suddenly the check engine light came on, and six blocks later, his SUV was dead. A Montana resident shared his story of driving on Interstate 94 before the gas mileage tanked, and then the engine stalled.

One individual expressed frustration with the knocking on his 2.4L engine that led to the connecting rod shooting through the engine block. Adding insult to injury, the manufacturer’s warranty had recently expired. A concerned parent shared having purchased a 2012 Santa Fe for her son. It soon became sluggish before a noise erupted from the engine.

There were clearly some issues with the 2012 Santa Fe, and based on the reports from previous owners, the problems were pretty severe. Overall, this hearty and popular SUV is still a quality ride and worth a look. But, if you come across a 2012 model, you may want to keep browsing. You don’t want to inherit a stalling engine problem or a hefty repair bill.