What kind of problems does an American-made Hyundai Sonata Hybrid usually have? In this blog, we’ve outlined all the most important things you should watch for when you’re in the market for a Sonata Hybrid. However, let’s first start with a quick answer:
Some earlier generations of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid were prone to heavy engine knock and engine fires, a complete failure of the hybrid system, loss of power while on the highway, and loss of braking while steering or parking. Newer generations (from 2018 onwards) are quite problem-free.
However, that doesn’t tell the whole story. In the rest of the article, we’ll discuss every problem in detail. Furthermore, we’ll let you know how to identify it, fix it and how much it costs to fix.
What’s interesting to note is that the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid has many of the same problems the Kia Optima Hybrid also has. Since both brands are owned by Hyundai and have similar components, this is not a surprise.
Want to save money on gasoline? earn up to $0.25/gallon every time you fill up? GetUpside is a free-to-use cashback app for US gas stations. Use coupon code “THEDRIVERADVISER25” and earn an additional $0.25/gallon the first time! Click here to download the app for Android or iOS.
1. Severe Engine Problems
One of the most common and significant problems with the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid has been its ongoing engine problems. Symptoms of these engine problems include a loud knocking noise from the engine. This is typically combined with an oil pressure warning light. In severe cases, this has resulted in engine oil leaks which have caused fires.
The problem here was a worn connecting rod bearing. In some cases, these connecting rods punctured the engine block, which would cause the fires.
Hyundai eventually issued a recall for 2011 – 2013 models and 2016 – 2017 models because they all suffered this problem. It turned out it was mainly the 2-L “Nu” GDI engines that had this defect.
The remedy for this problem consisted of inspecting the affected bearings. If premature wear was identified, the engine block was changed completely. Furthermore, all affected vehicles received enhanced engine control software with a new ‘knock sensor detection system’. All of this was done free of charge.
2. Hybrid System Causing Braking And Power Issues
The severe engine problems we discussed are something to be aware of. However, the next issue is most likely the most severe and most complained about. This is because the 2011 – 2013 models have a range of braking and power system problems. Problems with the hybrid system typically cause these.
It’s unclear what causes these problems, and Hyundai has never issued a recall for these particular symptoms. However, symptoms are severe and include a complete loss of power, loss of braking, and illumination of warning lights that state ‘Check Brake System’ and ‘Check Hybrid System’. These symptoms occur randomly and sometimes even in the middle of the highway.
One owner of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid reported that the problems were caused by melted sensors in the valve train, that the radiator elbow and fill neck blew off, and that this caused engine and battery failure.
2014 – 2016 models also have problems with braking. However, this typically occurs when parking or turning. These problems aren’t as severe but can still cause hazardous situations. In this case, it’s also unclear what causes the problems, but it’s most likely an electrical problem related to the hybrid system.
3. Hesitation During Acceleration And Stalling
Another problem prevalent in the 2011 – 2013 models was complete and sudden unwillingness to accelerate, which would quickly turn into total power loss and stalling of the vehicle.
What caused the problem precisely is still unknown, and it’s unlikely we’ll figure it out. Hyundai has never issued a recall, and dealerships across the nation haven’t been able to replicate the issue.
All we do know is that it is linked to the failure of the transmission. Dealerships have been able to diagnose that the transmission fluid, in many cases, is very dirty. Furthermore, replacing the transmission would typically fix the problem temporarily. However, this would fix the problem for an additional 40,000 – 80,000, after which transmission seemed to fail again.
4. Noisy Steering And Lack Of Control
Owners of the 2011 – 2013 models of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid have complained about a clanking or rattling noise when using the steering wheel. In some cases, owners have even reported vibrations. These symptoms even resulted in difficulty with steering, according to several reports.
Unsurprisingly, Hyundai has also never issued a recall for this in the case of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. However, they did issue a recall for the steering wheel of the 2011 regular Sonata.
In the case of the regular Sonata, the recall was issued to inspect and confirm that the steering column, the upper intermediate shaft universal joint, the steering pinion splined shaft, and the lower intermediate shaft universal joint were connected correctly and that both attaching bolts were tightened to the specified torque.
5. Detaching Or Faulty Seat Belts
Earlier models of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid have had recalls for the seat belts in both the front and the back. For the 2011 – 2015 models, there was a recall for the front seat belts, which may detach because of a malfunctioning seat belt anchor pretensioner.
2010 – 2012 models were recalled for faulty seat belts in the rear that detached both the lap and shoulder portion of the lower anchorage point. These seat belts didn’t conform to safety standards.
6. Faulty Turn Signals
Newer models of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, specifically the 2016 – 2017 models, had problems with the Smart Junction Box software. This software did not interpret the signals from the multifunction switch correctly. This could result in turn signals indicating the exact opposite way the driver wanted to go. Hyundai issued a recall, updated the software, and fixed the problem.
7. Detaching Sunroof
Some 2015 – 2016 models with a sunroof as an option were recalled at the end of 2016. This was because of a bonding issue with the sunroof wind deflector. This caused the sunroof panel to detach while driving. Luckily, this problem was caught relatively early, and there aren’t many reports of this happening.
8. Malfunctioning Trunk Latch
Another minor recall involved the 2016 – 2018 models. In these models, the trunk latch may become damaged, which prevents the trunk from opening from the inside. Therefore, these vehicles didn’t comply with safety regulations. The trunk latches were replaced in the affected vehicles.
What’s The Worst Generation Of The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid?
Finally, we have to answer the question of which model years of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid are the worst and which ones are the best. When we look at the website of the NHTSA, which gathers customer complaints about this car, and the research we’ve already done, the answer is as follows:
The 2011 – 2013 models of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid are the worst because these model years are most prone to engine fires, as well as the failure of the hybrid system. Also, transmission replacements are common and loud noises while steering or going over bumps are as well.
The 2016 – 2017 models are the second-worst model years you can get. These models also have an increased risk for engine fires and braking problems caused by the hybrid system.
The 2014 – 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and the 2018 – 2020 models are the best model years. This is because these models have very few problems. Also, they are not at risk for engine fires, loud noises from the steering column, or transmission failure, which are all problem commons in other model years.
Also read: The Complete Cost Of Maintaining A Hyundai
Hi! My name is Stefan; I’m the owner and lead writer at TheDriverAdviser.com.
I’m an active writer on this blog myself, as well as a novice car mechanic. For the really technical stuff, I find writers with experience as a mechanic or who have studied mechanical engineering.
Read more about our fantastic team on our about page!