Steer Clear of Trouble: The Hyundai Models You Should Avoid Like the RED Flag They Are

If you’re looking to buy a used Hyundai, it can feel like you’re dodging landmines. Hyundai is known for building excellent cars with a solid record in JD Power Vehicle Dependability Surveys in the 2020s. But some models – mostly under 20 years old – have given their buyer’s more nightmares than joyrides. Here are the models you want to stay away from, if at all possible. This article contains cars that are not good deals when buying second-hand.

The RED Alert List: Hyundai Models to Avoid

The 2011 Hyundai Sonata: A RED Flag on Four Wheels

The 2011 Hyundai Sonata started out by receiving nothing but accolades but then rapidly turned into one of the most problematic cars in the market. More than 3,200 complaints are filed about that model on the NHTSA site, from ABS-related fire danger to steering problems–a perfect storm of costly repairs and dangers.

2012 - 2013 Hyundai Sonata: Continuing the RED Streak

The woes didn’t end in 2011. The rest of the decade brought bad news for Hyundai owners. The 2012 and 2013 Sonatas were plagued by the same problems in the engine and steering as their predecessor. Metal shavings and shards were left in the engine, and the steering couplers caused collection agents the same headache. To make matters worse, Hyundai had to RED-face by admitting that it didn’t quite manage to repeat the quality it achieved in the previous year.

The 2007 & 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe: When RED Isn’t Your Color

The 2007 Santa Fe model, which was better designed than earlier Korean models and offered more value, was hit with a bunch of gripes including an inability to deploy airbags. Recently, the 2017 model shared the limelight with its 2007 predecessor for unreliability with a stalling problem and an ABS unit known to burst into flames.

The 2016 - 2017 Hyundai Tucson: RED Flags on the Road

Refreshed versions of the Tucsons from the 2016 and 2017 model years debuted to great fanfare but hid less-than-stellar reliability in their garish grilles. A combination of drivetrain and door-latch problems as well as other issues make these models more trouble than they’re worth.

The Early Days: 2006 - 2007 Hyundai Sonata

And yet, before the creation of the 2011 poster boy, the 2006 and 2007 Sonata models were troubling owners with faulty airbag sensors for the passenger seat, as well as faulty seat belt buckle pretensioners.

The 2016 Hyundai Sonata: A RED Herring

Improvement appeared to have finally arrived with the 2016 Sonata, but it was undermined by excessive engine oil consumption. Audio recordings of engine explosions reinforced that Hyundai still faced a difficult situation, as these years arrived.

The 2013 Hyundai Veloster: Not All That Glitters Is Gold

And Hyundai’s Veloster, which was certainly distinctive-looking, caught my attention at first. (Unfortunately, the 2013 model’s tendency to burn oil, and also to spontaneously catch fire during the application of linked brake pressure, was reminder enough that not all that glitters is dependable gold.)

2012 - 2013 & 2017 Hyundai Elantras: Walking on RED

Hyundai reliability problems would cast a shadow over these Elantra models into the mid-2010s, with engine noises leading to full failures, and door problems dimming what would have otherwise been breakout years for the Elantra.

Our Selection Methodology

Our exploration of the seedier side of Hyundai’s fleet was organised by NHTSA data on its website. We skewed toward models with high and severe numbers of owner complaints, and considered manufacturer recalls as an important data segue, not a requirement for inclusion.

Understanding RED

You might have noticed the colour red is popping up a lot in our tour through Hyundai models we avoid. But, along with associations of danger, caution and often stop, our use of red has a literal meaning: it signals the models that will likely bring owners only distress and financial pain. Spotting them early can save buyers of used Hyundais a world of hurt. And that, readers, is the whole red point.

So, in summary, Hyundai makes a plethora of cars that perform well in reliability surveys; but unless you’re buying new you have to be careful when shopping on the used car market. As long as you avoid the models mentioned above, you’re probably OK.

Jun 17, 2024
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