2012 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T review: More tech, more power (2024)

The 2012 Hyundai Sonata SE that rolled into the Car Tech garage this week was not very different from the 2011 Sonata SE that I tested previously.

2012 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T review: More tech, more power (1)

7.6

2012 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T

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The Good

The <b>2012 Hyundai Sonata</b>'s turbocharger adds a substantial amount of power. The optional navigation system is simple, yet effective. Bluetooth calling and most digital audio sources are standard. The voice command system is quite good and the addition of BlueLink telematics rounds out the dashboard tech.

The Bad

No manual transmission available on this "sporty" SE model. Navigation maps don't feature a 3D view. Observed fuel economy left much to be desired.

The Bottom Line

With more power and more tech, the 2012 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T offers a lot of bang for your buck.

It's got the same coupelike profile and Fluidic Sculpture design that I described as swoopy and polarizing in 2010. Although, after a year on the road and when compared with the Sonata Hybrid's fish face, its aesthetic is not nearly as polarizing as it was at its debut.

In the cabin, the fit and finish haven't changed much. The dashboard tech is essentially the same and is still a pretty darn good value. Hyundai's subscription-based BlueLink telematics system is new to the Sonata and is now standard, giving users an OnStar-esque set of connected features for a monthly fee.

However, the silver-and-blue 2.0T badge on the rear deck hints that this 2012 example of the Sonata SE is hiding something new under its hood. Compared with the 2011 model that I tested, which was powered by a 2.4-liter engine, this 2012 model loses 0.4 liter of displacement and gains a twin-scroll turbocharger and a heap of horsepower. Does more power make it better? The obvious answer is yes, but I hopped into the Sparkling Ruby 2012 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T to put that hypothesis to the test.

Performance: 2.0-liter turbocharged engine
The Sonata's power plant starts with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder block, adds a head with direct-injection technology, and finishes up with a twin-scroll turbocharger. Power is rated at a maximum of 274 horsepower at 6,000 rpm when boost tops out at 17.4 psi. The maximum torque of 269 pound-feet comes on at much lower engine speeds, being available between 1,750 and 4,500 rpm. Power builds in a fairly linear fashion and there isn't much of what I'd consider to be turbo lag. However, there is a definite delineation at about 4,000 rpm when you can feel the engine coming to life, pulling the sedan forward with surprising zest. There's not enough grunt to snap your neck, but there's plenty to induce a grin.

2012 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T review: More tech, more power (2)

Power flows to the front wheels via a single-option six-speed automatic transmission. The gearbox features a manual shift mode that allows the driver to chose gears by pushing the shift lever forward and back or by smacking the plastic paddle shifters located on the backside of the steering wheel. Before you turn your nose up at paddle shifters on a front-drive "sport" sedan, know that the Sonata's paddles have a great, clicky engagement and trigger reasonably quick shifts. I must have spent most of my driving time playing around with the paddles, which defintely explains the low fuel economy averaged during our testing.

2012 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T

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The EPA estimates the Sonata 2.0T's economy at 22 mpg in the city, 34 mpg on the highway, and 26 combined mpg. After a week spent aggressively using the manual shift mode to keep the turbo spinning with almost no highway cruising to balance things out, the trip computer reported only a 16.6 mpg average.

Drivers looking to get closer to that 26 mpg average should leave the gearbox in its automatic mode and be more gentle with their right foot when driving. However, if you lack self control, Hyundai has equipped the Sonata with an Active Eco mode. Activating this mode adjusts the shift program of the automatic transmission, favoring higher gears and lower engine speeds. Active Eco also remaps the throttle response, digitally lightening your lead foot. The result is a duller ride and slower acceleration, but better fuel economy.

2012 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T review: More tech, more power (3)

Compared with the entry level GLS trim and the top-tier Limited levels, the Sonata SE 2.0T model features a firmer, sport-tune for its MacPherson strut front and independent multilink rear suspension. The SE uses the same 24mm front stabilizer bar as the GLS/Limited, but a thicker 17mm rear stabilizer bar (versus the standard 15mm bar). The Sonata SE also upgrades with 18-inch wheels and wider 225-width performance tires. So, the Sonata SE has slightly more mechanical grip than the other trim levels.

I didn't notice any creaks and groans from the Sonata's body or suspension components when I tested the 2011 SE model two years ago, but I did hear this 2012 model's rear end protesting slightly as I eased it over speed bumps and over rough roads. I'm not sure the creaking is specific to our press vehicle, but it was annoying enough merit mention in this review. You'll want to listen for this on your test drive.

Cabin technology: BlueLink telematics
In the cabin, the Sonata features what has become Hyundai's standard technology suite and trim level organization. Bone stock, you get AM/FM terrestrial radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming, standard USB and auxiliary inputs, and a single-slot CD player that decodes MP3 files. Add a $35 iPod cable to bridge the USB port and aux-input and add connectivity with the iPhone, iPod, and iPad. The midtier SE model also features keyless entry, push-button start, and "Sport cloth seats" with leather bolsters and power adjustment for the driver's position. The Sonata SE doesn't feature heated or ventilated seating surfaces or memory for its single power seat.

Most of that tech is par for the course when you're talking about a modern Hyundai car. However, new for the Sonata is the Hyundai BlueLink telematics system that debuted on the Veloster last year. BlueLink nets the owner a variety of features that can be used both in and outside of the car.

From the driver's seat, the Sonata owner can access Roadside Assistance, SOS Emergency Assistance, and Automatic Collision Notification with the basic Assurance level of service. From outside the vehicle and with the midtier Essentials level of service owners can remotely start, unlock, or honk the horn of their vehicle with a smartphone app; slowdown, immobilize, and recover a stolen vehicle; and receive alerts when the vehicle leaves a geofenced area, has its alarm or panic mode triggered, exceeds a preset speed, or is operated after a preset curfew. At the top-tier Guidance package, BlueLink becomes a sort of cloud-based navigation system that allows users to search for destinations and points of interest (POIs) with voice commands, search for and send destinations to the car from a web interface, and receive traffic and weather updates. The Sonata comes with a 90-day free trial of the full BlueLink functionality, after which owners will have to choose between the $79 per year Assurance package, $179 per year Essentials package, or the $279 per year Guidance package subscriptions.

2012 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T review: More tech, more power (4)

Additionally, the Sonata SE 2.0T is available with a conventional, in-dash navigation system as part of the optional Navigation and Sunroof package. This upgrades the sedan's dashboard with a 7-inch touch-screen display that is used with the solid-state navigation system and rear-view camera added as part of the package. This is Hyundai's same basic navigation system that features two-dimensional maps. It's a simple setup, but it's also effective with XM NavTraffic data and a good voice command system. This package also includes the XM NavWeather, Sports, and Stocks data feeds and upgrades the stereo system to a seven-speaker, 360-watt Dimension audio system with a powered subwoofer and adds HD Radio decoding to the terrestrial radio tuner.

In sum
We liked the Hyundai Sonata SE when it was reviewed back in 2010, calling it "a great value, packing in a strong assortment of standard and optional cabin tech, good looks, and performance, all while maintaining a relatively low price." The 2012 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T is the same great car, but with a lot more power and, with the aid of Active Eco mode and a light right foot, only slightly less efficiency. I also like that owners have the option to add one of three levels of connectivity with the new standard BlueLink system.

Our 2012 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T starts at $24,645, but also arrived with a $2,900 SE Navigation and Sunroof package, $100 carpeted floor mats, and the $35 iPod cable. Add $775 for destination charges to reach our as-tested price of $28,455

2012 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T review: More tech, more power (5)
Tech specs
Model2012 Hyundai Sonata
TrimSE 2.0T
Power train2.0-liter four-cylinder, gasoline direct injection, twin-scroll turbocharger, six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode
EPA fuel economy22 mpg city, 34 mpg highway, 26 combined mpg
Observed fuel economy16.6 mpg
NavigationOptional solid-state system with XM NavTraffic
Bluetooth phone supportStandard
Disc playerSingle-slot CD
MP3 player supportStandard analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, USB connection, Bluetooth audio streaming, optional iPod connection
Other digital audioSiriusXM Satellite Radio, optional HD Radio
Audio systemSeven-speaker, 360-watt Dimension audio system
Driver aidsOptional rear camera
Base price$24,645
Price as tested$28,455
2012 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T review: More tech, more power (6)

7.6

2012 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T

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Score Breakdown

Cabin tech 8Performance tech 7Design 8

Specs

Trim levels SEAvailable Engine GasBody style Sedan

2012 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T review: More tech, more power (2024)

FAQs

2012 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T review: More tech, more power? ›

The <b>2012 Hyundai Sonata</b>'s turbocharger adds a substantial amount of power. The optional navigation system is simple, yet effective. Bluetooth calling and most digital audio sources are standard. The voice command system is quite good and the addition of BlueLink telematics rounds out the dashboard tech.

Is the 2012 Sonata 2.0 T reliable? ›

A properly cared for 2012 Hyundai Sonata will last about 200,000 miles, which is average for the class. Expensive engine failures are very common, around 100,000 miles, which may mechanically total the car if the warranty has expired. Regular annual maintenance costs are average for a midsize car.

How much horsepower does a 2012 Hyundai Sonata 2.0 turbo have? ›

The 2012 Sonata is offered only with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder and 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder. Its base four-cylinder engine puts out 198 horsepower (200 in SE models), while the Sonata's turbo engine puts out 274 horsepower.

What is the problem with the engine in the 2012 Hyundai Sonata? ›

Does the 2012 Hyundai Sonata have recalls on its engine? Yes, as of September 2020, there are two recalls that can affect the performance of the engine, causing complaints like: Knocking noise coming from the engine. Engine failure from inadequate oil flow.

Which Hyundai Sonata has the most horsepower? ›

As the sportiest of the Hyundai Sonata trims, the unique Sonata N Line is powered by a fierce 2.5-liter turbo four-cylinder engine that lays down a thrilling 290 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque.

How many miles can a 2012 Hyundai Sonata last? ›

When it comes to longevity, the Sonata is estimated to last 200,000 to 250,000 miles or 13 to 17 years with regular maintenance. It also has a better reliability rating and lower annual repair cost than most other midsize cars.

What year is a bad year for Hyundai Sonata? ›

Avoid: 2012-2013 Hyundai Sonata

Unfortunately, the reliability woes just kept coming with the 2012 and 2013 Sonata years. The 2012 Hyundai Sonata gathered over 2,000 complaints and eight recalls, so while it's better than the 2011 Sonata, its issues don't inspire much confidence.

Which Hyundai models have bad engines? ›

The engine troubles effect nearly every Hyundai or Kia model made from 2009-2022. From out-of-production models like the Genesis Coupe and Veloster to previous generations of models that are still around like the Kia Sportage, Sorento and Soul.

Is there a recall on 2012 Hyundai Sonata engines? ›

Hyundai Motor America is conducting a safety recall to inspect, and if necessary replace, the engine assembly in Model Year 2011 and 2012 Hyundai Sonata vehicles equipped with 2.0 liter turbo and 2.4 liter gasoline direct injection (GDI) engines manufactured at Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama.

What is the lawsuit on the 2012 Hyundai Sonata? ›

A class action lawsuit against Hyundai Motor America (“HMA”) alleges that certain 2011 – 2022 model year Hyundai vehicles that were not equipped with an engine immobilizer (called the “Class Vehicles”) contain design flaws, including the failure to manufacture the Class Vehicles with an anti-theft device called an ...

Can you upgrade a Hyundai Sonata? ›

Modifications to the Hyundai Sonata are extremely popular. While performance upgrades are nothing new, there are some critical building blocks that should be considered to ensure you unleash your vehicle's maximum potential.

What does SE stand for in Hyundai? ›

A car with Sport Edition (SE) trim offers performance that is slightly upgraded, plus a sportier design. Many Sport Edition models have a larger or more potent engine, with additional cosmetic modifications like rear spoilers, or an aerodynamic design.

What is the difference between Sonata se and sel? ›

2023 Hyundai Sonata SEL

This trim shares the same powertrain as the Sonata SE, with nearly identical gas mileage. It has larger 17-inch wheels, a gloss-black front grille, and a sport bumper fascia in the front and back. It also comes standard with keyless entry, push-button start, and hands-free trunk release.

How long do Hyundai Sonata turbos last? ›

The average turbocharger will run between 100,000 and 125,000 miles, but harsh driving conditions, aftermarket components, and low quality factory parts will certainly cause the turbocharger to fail ahead of schedule.

What is the gas mileage on a 2012 Hyundai Sonata 2.0 T? ›

The EPA estimates the Sonata 2.0T's economy at 22 mpg in the city, 34 mpg on the highway, and 26 combined mpg.

What is the mileage on a Hyundai Sonata 2.0 T? ›

2024 2023 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 Hyundai Sonata
Pricing
Base priceCA$34,799
City10.4 L/100km
Highway7.4 L/100km
Combined9.1 L/100km
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