Although the first generation Hyundai Sonata was introduced in 1985, it was only produced for 2 years due to poor customer reactions and didn’t meet U.S. emission standards, so it was never seen on the roads in North America. The second generation is often considered the original Sonata. It was introduced as a 1989 model in North America and featured Mitsubishi’s engineering, including the Galant platform.
Through the next few generations, this family sedan has shared bits and pieces with its siblings. For instance, the fourth generation Sonatas shared a platform with the first-generation Santa Fe, and doors from the Kia Optima. Keeping these cars affordable was the name of the game.
Fifth generation (2004–2010)
Hyundai’s fifth generation Sonata was the company’s first all-aluminum I4 engine, dubbed Theta, it debuted in the new Sonata. Engine choices at launch were a 2.4L I4 rated 164 hp and a 3.3L V6 rated 237 hp V6. Standard features in U.S. models included anti-lock braking system/electronic stability control/traction control system as well as six airbags (driver/front passenger front and side, and side curtain). In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests the Sonata received a “Good” overall in the frontal impact crash test, an “Acceptable” overall score in the side impact crash test, and a “Good” rating for rear crash protection. In the roof strength evaluation 09 and 10 models were rated “Marginal”.
Redesigned gauges feature a blue backlight, and a touch-screen navigation system, optional on the Limited trim level only, includes satellite radio capability. Bluetooth capability is available as an optional unit, separate from the audio or navigation system, and all models include both a USB port along with an auxiliary input jack. An optional USB adaptor cord allows integration of an iPod, and chrome interior door handles are standard on the Limited trim.
Sixth generation (2009–2014)
For the US market, the sixth generation Sonata boasted a direct-injection 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. This new engine improves fuel economy and produces a maximum of 197 hp and 184 lb·ft. Furthermore, all engines are offered with a new six-speed automatic transmission. Its fuel economy has improved 11%. A direct-injection 2.4-liter four cylinder engine and a 2.0 turbocharged engine was available. GLS, SE, and Limited trims were offered.
The 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid sales in the U.S. began. The Sonata Hybrid drivetrain combines a 2.4-liter engine with six-speed automatic transmission, and a 30kW electric motor and lightweight lithium polymer batteries to produce a full gasoline-electric hybrid with 37 miles per US gallon in the city and 40 miles per US gallon on the highway. The 2013 Sonata Hybrid has noticeable improvements and has ranked 3rd out of 20 Affordable Midsize Cars (based on U.S. News’ analysis of 19 published reviews and test drives as well as their analysis of reliability and safety data). As a hybrid, it emits 0.51 pounds of CO2 per mile and has an EPA fuel economy ratings of 36/40 mpg city/highway. The newer electric motor can run up to 62 mph, meaning that it can run on electricity at higher speeds, saving more gas.
Seventh generation (2015–present)
With LED Running Lights and Xenon Headlights, a more European look was established for the newest Sonata. The car inherits many styling features from Hyundai’s HCD-14 Concept unveiled at the 2013 New York International Auto Show. The car also takes interior and exterior styling based on the 2015 Hyundai Genesis.
As part of the seventh generation Sonata, Hyundai is releasing a plug-in hybrid variant. A great feature that it will have is the ability to regain a full charge, just by driving. It comes at a cost (about 5 MPG), but something unparalleled in mass-market plug-in hybrids.
Hyundai Sonata ENGINE
Summary: In the affected vehicles, metallic debris may not have been fully removed during 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.
Consequence: Engine failure would result in a vehicle stall, increasing the risk of a crash.
Hyundai Sonata SERVICE BRAKES, HYDRAULIC
Summary: The affected vehicles may experience a brake fluid leak from the two brake lines that connect the brake system’s master cylinder to the Hydraulic Electronic Control Unit (HECU) due to insufficient seal between the inner brake hose and metal brake line fitting.
Consequence: If the brake lines leak brake sufficient fluid, the brake warning lamp in the instrument cluster will illuminate and longer stopping distance will be required, increasing the risk of a vehicle crash.
Hyundai Sonata POWER TRAIN:AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION
Summary: In the affected vehicles, the transmission shift cable may detach from from the shift lever pin.
Consequence: If the transmission shift cable detaches, the transmission gear selection may not match the indicated gear and the vehicle may move in an unintended or unexpected direction, increasing the risk of a crash. Furthermore, when the driver parks the vehicle, despite selecting the ‘PARK’ position, the transmission may not be in ‘PARK.’ If the vehicle is not in the ‘PARK’ position and the parking brake is not applied, there is a risk the vehicle will roll away as the driver and other occupants exit the vehicle or anytime thereafter. A vehicle rollaway increases the risk of injury to exiting occupants and bystanders.
Hyundai Sonata STEERING:GEAR BOX
On some of these vehicles the steering column intermediate shaft universal joint connections may have been either improperly assembled or insufficiently tightened.
Consequence: Improper assembly or insufficient tightening of the connections could result in a complete separation or compromised attachment of the connections, such that the driver could experience a loss of, or reduction in, steering capability increasing the risk of a crash.
Hyundai Sonata SERVICE BRAKES, HYDRAULIC:SWITCHES:BRAKE LIGHT
In the affected vehicles, the stop lamp switch may malfunction. A malfunctioning stop lamp switch may cause the brake lights to not illuminate when the brake pedal is depressed or may cause an inability to deactivate the cruise control by depressing the brake pedal. Additionally, a malfunctioning stop lamp switch may also result in intermittent operation of the push-button start feature, affect the operation of the brake transmission shift interlock feature, preventing the shifter from being moved out of the PARK position and cause the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) malfunction light to illuminate.
Consequence: Failure to illuminate the stop lamps during braking or inability to disengage the cruise control could increase the risk of a crash. Additionally, when the ignition is in the ‘ON’ position, the transmission shifter may be able to be moved out of Park without first applying the brake. This may lead to unintentional movement of the car which may increase the risk of a crash.
The biggest problem to watch out for is the engine. These vehicles have been commonly known to have premature engine failure. They commonly contain a defect predisposing the engines to experience engine bearing failure, overheating, oil consumption, piston ring failure, or connecting rod knock. These issues may result in catastrophic engine failure along with safety issues and expensive repairs. The most common year where this has been reported is 2011; however, 2012, 2013 and other model years have been reported.
This is not to say the car is a complete lemon, but buyer beware.