A lot of buyers of the 2011 Hyundai Sonata, and many who read this blog, have a common beef with the car: They say it pulls to the left.
Almost all of the commenters on the post about buying our Sonata Turbo wrote to complain about their cars pulling left. A bunch of owners have even posted video on YouTube of the problem from behind the wheel. (We won't even get into the distraction of shooting video while driving!)
One typical comment we've received reads:
"Purchased a Sonata Turbo Limited at the end of December 2010. I was jazzed up by this car's looks and reviews ... The car pulled left immediately. It was aligned and still pulled left. A camber bolt kit was added to combat the issue and after THREE more alignments the vehicle still pulls left. This is a dangerous situation because of the constant and fatiguing need to correct for the pull."
Recognizing the seriousness of the reader complaints, we searched the complaints database at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to see how many owners had complained of the steering problems. We found a large number of complaints and a majority related to the left-pull issue. Of the 190 complaints on 2011 Hyundai models submitted to NHTSA, 111 of them, or 58 percent, were related to the Sonata's steering. When looking at just the 2011 Sonata, steering problems account for 62 percent of its complaints.
The original Sonata GLS we tested did not have this issue. However, we've experienced the problem with our Sonata Turbo, and we're working with our Hyundai dealer to see if they can resolve it. So far our car has been back in the shop to get realigned with a new set of alignment specifications, but it still drifts to the left if you take your hands off the wheel, even on a crowned road. We have confirmed the alignment is correct in our own high-tech facility. The next step is a replacement strut: We'll report on that fix's effectiveness soon.
Hyundai issued a technical service bulletin (TSB) with new alignment specifications for all its models last November. If you take your car into a Hyundai dealership with a complaint about the alignment or a pull, they should follow this new procedure in realigning it. When we took our Sonata Turbo in, this didn't seem to cure the problem, and to our knowledge it has not resolved the problem for our readers, either.
Hyundai Product Communications Manager Miles Johnson says, "If a customer has visited a dealer to have a vehicle's wheel alignment checked or adjusted, but still believes that the vehicle does not track properly, the customer ... can call the Hyundai Customer Assistance Center to describe the issue and what actions have already been taken. Additional arrangements can then be made to address the condition to the customer's satisfaction."
The number to call is: 800-633-5151.
Johnson also said the company is working on an additional TSB to fully remedy the problem, but it has not yet been published, he says.
Few 2011 Sonata owners reported the problem to us in our last Annual Auto Survey. This problem rate was not enough to affect the Sonata's reliability for our car recommendations, so we still recommend the 2011 Sonata. However, we are especially watchful of this issue and we'll see what happens in the next Annual Auto Survey. It is important to note that problems experienced with our own test cars are not counted in a model's reliability ratings.
Meanwhile, we're continuing to work with Hyundai and the dealer, as any owner would, to resolve the problem with our Sonata Turbo. And we'll keep you posted on how the issue works out.
--Eric Evarts with Tom Mutchler
2011 Hyundai Sonata steering update: New strut, similar alignment issue