Hyundai Sonata Performance
The 2012 Hyundai Sonata is offered with either a naturally-aspirated or a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, while most affordable midsize cars offer a choice of four or six cylinders. A turbo four-cylinder engine is available on SE and Limited models. Reviewers say that the base Sonata is not underpowered, however, and beats most of its non-hybrid competition in fuel mileage.
- "Only a 4-cylinder is offered in the Sonata and that's all the 4-door sedan will ever have. Backing off from the V-6 saved 130 lb. across the board on Sonatas. Get used to this fewer-cylinder trend as we ramp up on the 2016 fuel mileage regulations. It's inevitable." -- Road and Track
- "Despite the laudable power numbers, the engines in two test cars still had a slightly coarse sound that let you know you were not driving a V-6." -- USA TODAY
- "Two hundred horsepower absolves a lot, however, and the Sonata GLS gets down the road with dispatch, if not wild abandon. This is not a performance car by any means; still, the Sonata feels reasonably spry, with nicely controlled body roll, accurate steering with good feedback, and assured braking." -- The Wall Street Journal
- "(Fuel economy is) outstanding for the class. In Consumer Guide testing, an SE averaged 28.8 mpg in an even mix of city and highway driving. A manual-transmission GLS averaged 25.9 mpg. We averaged 22.6 mpg in a turbocharged model with slightly more city driving than highway use." -- Consumer Guide
Acceleration and Power
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.
A six-speed manual transmission is offered only on the base GLS, and Hyundai expects to build very few of them, so those may be hard to find in showrooms. Most Sonatas will carry a six-speed automatic instead.
The EPA rates 2012 Sonatas with the base engine at 24/35 mpg city/highway regardless of the transmission, while the turbocharged models get an EPA-estimated 22/34 mpg city/highway.
Most reviewers say the base engine is powerful enough for the majority of drivers, but a few think it needs more power to pass slow drivers on the interstate.
- "With 198 horsepower (200 in SE trim), the base engine will satisfy just about everybody, especially when it returns a very impressive 28 mpg combined when paired with the six-speed automatic transmission. Equally impressive is the turbo engine, which cranks out 274 hp yet still gets nearly identical fuel economy." -- Edmunds
- "Cars in this class all tend to run roughly 8.0-second 0 to 60 times, and the Sonata's engine is about a noisy as all of them on the way up. Back off and it quickly upshifts to quiet down." -- Road and Track
- "With the standard 2.4-liter four, Sonata feels fine from a stop and has enough power for worry-free highway merging. Highway passing power is only adequate, however." -- Consumer Guide
- "First impressions - the important ones - are that the new four-cylinder powertrain is just fine. Sure, it's no dragster, but it will chirp its front tires pulling away from a corner." -- Autoblog
Handling and Braking
The Sonata will never be known for its sport-sedan handling, but most commuters will be pleased that its suspension and steering strikes a nice balance between the softly-sprung Toyota Camry and the sportier Mazda6.
For those interested in a bit more sport, the Sonata SE’s suspension is tuned more firmly than GLS and Limited models.
- "Sonata GLS, Limited, and Hybrid demonstrate an acceptable balance of comfort and control. Sonata is prone to overreacting to larger road imperfections, responding to some with undue body motion. SE models, with their sport suspension and 18-inch tires, ride more firmly than other Sonatas. They exhibit nervousness over rough and ridged surfaces." -- Consumer Guide
- "Road lumps are acknowledged by the suspension and then promptly damped, resulting in the kind of chassis poise that will appeal to those who can appreciate the keen dynamics of, say, the Ford Fusion." -- Edmunds
- "It's no sports car, but the Sonata doesn't mind being hustled along and is well balanced, with a comfortable ride." -- Road and Track
- "Brakes were delightful. Push 'em a little, slow a lot. Nothing spongy, vague or tentative. Very nice." -- USA TODAY