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

Active Eco
The Active Eco button compromises a bit of responsiveness for a potential boost in fuel economy. Josh Miller/CNET

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.

navigation screen
We've seen this navigation system before in every current-generation Hyundai model and we've liked it every time. Josh Miller/CNET

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

Sonata rear view
The turbocharged 2.0T model joins the standard 2.4-liter and hybrid variants in the Sonata lineup. Josh Miller/CNET
Tech specs
Model 2012 Hyundai Sonata
Trim SE 2.0T
Power train 2.0-liter four-cylinder, gasoline direct injection, twin-scroll turbocharger, six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode
EPA fuel economy 22 mpg city, 34 mpg highway, 26 combined mpg
Observed fuel economy 16.6 mpg
Navigation Optional solid-state system with XM NavTraffic
Bluetooth phone support Standard
Disc player Single-slot CD
MP3 player support Standard analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, USB connection, Bluetooth audio streaming, optional iPod connection
Other digital audio SiriusXM Satellite Radio, optional HD Radio
Audio system Seven-speaker, 360-watt Dimension audio system
Driver aids Optional rear camera
Base price $24,645
Price as tested $28,455

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

2012 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T

Part Number: 101388315

MSRP: $24,745.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Trim levels SE
  • Body style Sedan
  • Available Engine Gas