Category Archives: 2008

Top Cars for Tough Times

Though falling gasoline prices have eased driving costs in recent weeks, economic uncertainty and the feeling that $4.00-a-gallon fuel may come around yet again is causing those in the market for a new car to consider ones that are not only more fuel efficient, but are inexpensive to purchase. Fortunately there are several small cars out there these days that fit the bill, and while they’re far from being the most luxurious vehicles in existence, they don’t necessarily make their owners feel unduly penalized for their frugality, either.

Here’s a quick look at several subcompact sedans and hatchbacks for 2009 that are not only the lowest-priced models on the market, but generally carry fuel economy ratings that are surpassed only by costlier hybrid-powered models. They’re not the top performers on the road, certainly aren’t the roomiest and for the most part only offer a modicum of features, but they get the job done and do so with inherent thrift as their main virtue.

* Hyundai Accent. As of this writing the lowest-priced car sold in the U.S. at $9,970 (for the hatchback; the sedan starts at $12,920), the subcompact Accent affords essential four-passenger transportation and good fuel economy without feeling overly cheap. It’s 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine produces a barely-adequate 110 horsepower, though the reward comes with an estimated 27-city/35-mpg fuel economy. Six air bags, a 100,000-mile warranty and a five-speed manual transmission come standard, with a four-speed automatic gearbox available.

* Kia Rio. Corporate cousin to the Hyundai Accent, the Kia Rio comes in specific, curvier styling, though it’s likewise offered in sedan and hatchback models and packs a 110-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and a choice of a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Its sticker price starts at $11,495, though the hatchbacks are priced higher. Six air bags and a 100,000-mile warranty are included. As with the Accent, the Rio remains a worthy alternative to a used Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic for about the same price.

Pougkeepsie Journal

2008 Hyundai Santa Fe: Mid-size crossover delivers on features and value

Last year, Hyundai bowed with its second generation Santa Fe, which continued its role as an urban crossover but with an all-new look, increased interior space, high-tech safety features and value packaging.

Prior to the actual design execution, Hyundai engineers benchmarked several high-end unibody construction crossovers, which ultimately resulted in producing a considerably more upscale vehicle than the previous generation. The new Santa Fe combined class-leading safety technologies, advanced and improved power trains, as well as a host of functional and versatile features, both inside and out.

The design was all-new and on the contemporary side, something Hyundai referred to as “assertive grace.” The Santa Fe was one of the first to break the traditional elemental boxiness inherent in many early SUVs. The nose is rounded and aerodynamic with a hood that slopes gracefully up to the sharply angled windscreen. The fender line rises progressively toward the elevated beltline, which finally swoops dramatically upward to meet the rear tilt of the “D” pillar. The rear backlight dips low for improved visibility, and headlight and taillamp profiles match.

There are still two engines available to power the Santa Fe: a 2.7-liter, Mu DOHC, 24-valve, 185 horsepower V6; or a 3.3-liter Lambda V6 that generates 242 horses and 226 pound-feet of torque. There are three transmission choices – a five-speed manual, standard with the smaller V6; an optional four-speed automatic with Shiftronic (also for the 2.7-liter motor); and finally, a five-speed Shiftronic automatic, which comes standard with the 3.3 V6. Front-wheel drive is the standard drive configuration, with an optional Borg Warner all-wheel drive system available.

The Santa Fe continues to be offered in both five- (standard) and seven- (optional) passenger versions with a choice of three trim levels: the well equipped base GLS, a full-featured SE model and the top-of-the-line Limited.

Santa Fe SE and Limited models come with 18-inch alloy wheels for a more aggressive appearance. Roof rack side rails are standard and aid in defining the simple side profile, while adding to the SUV functionality.

My test 2008 Santa Fe came in Limited trim with the 3.3-liter motor and five-speed Shiftronic. It was in the AWD configuration with a Slate Blue metallic exterior and beige interior with faux dark wood trim accents. The base sticker read $29,600, while the navigation system and carpeted floor mats upped the final amount to $31,470.


The 2008 Santa Fe is an exceptional CUV. It is attractive inside and out and drives and handles well with satisfying responses in acceleration, positive steering input and a compliant, comfortable ride quality.

For 2008, the Santa Fe Limited has gotten even better by adding a 605-watt Infinity Logic 7 audio system and power sunroof to the long list of standard equipment and an all-new navigation system to the list of optional equipment.

Santa Fe is an ideal consideration for consumers in search of a mid-size CUV, since it provides more than enough choices to tailor and personalize it to suit individual tastes and requirements. Its affordability is perhaps misleading in that the value approach to content in no way affects its attention to detailed fit and finish quality levels. Combine that with what Hyundai calls “America’s best warranty” and it appears that the Santa Fe is on track for continued success despite the increasingly stiff competition in the market segment.

2008 Hyundai Santa Fe

Base price: $29,600
Price as tested: $31,470
Engine/transmission: 3.3-liter, 242-horsepower V6; five-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length: 184.1 inches
Width: 74.4 inches
Height: 67.9 inches
Curb weight: 4,121 pounds
Fuel capacity: 19.8 gallons
Fuel consumption: 17mpg city/24mpg highway

Arv Voss
The San Francisco Chronicle

Three Hyundai Models Earn Top Safety Pick Awards

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., 11/25/2008 For a second year in a row, three Hyundai models earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Top Safety Pick award. The Hyundai Veracruz and Santa Fe received awards in the midsize SUV segment and the Hyundai Entourage in the minivan segment. All winning vehicles are recognized for their ability to protect passengers in front, side and rear crashes.

This marks the fourth year in a row the Entourage has received the Institute’s highest honor in the minivan category and second year in a row for the Veracruz and Santa Fe. All three vehicles also earned five-star crash test ratings, the highest government rating under NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program, for both frontal and side impact.

Top Safety Pick awards recognize vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side and rear crashes based on ratings in the Institute’s tests. Each vehicle’s overall evaluation is based on a variety of measures including injuries to dummies, vehicle’s structural performance, restraint performance, etc. Winners are also required to be equipped with the latest crash prevention technology, electronic stability control (ESC) — which is standard on all three Hyundai Top Safety Pick vehicles and 67 percent of all Hyundai vehicles sold in the U.S.

According to the IIHS, “Consumers are the biggest winners. No matter what kind of vehicle buyers may be considering, now they can walk into just about any dealership and find one that affords the best overall protection in serious crashes.”

Hyundai remains committed to the implementation of advanced safety technologies, such as electronic active head restraints, introduced on the 2009 Hyundai Genesis,” said Michael Deitz, manager of product development, Hyundai Motor America. “We’re pleased that three of our models are Top Safety Picks again this year.”


Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif., is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Co. of Korea. Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced through more than 790 dealerships nationwide.

2008 Hyundai Tiburon GT Road Test Review

More and more Hyundais are on the road now. It’s a fact. Whether considering the Accent, Elantra, Sonata, Azera, Tucson, Santa Fe, Veracruz, Tiburon or the new Genesis, the Korean car manufacturer has seen its share of increased sales over the past decade, and for good reason. Not only are its new products exceptionally good, but a great warranty backs them all up. Truly, Hyundai is on such a roll of good fortune that it’s not only one of the last companies left building a sport coupe, but it’s got another one on the way.

The Tib’s staying power alone has made it a bit of an anomaly in a shrinking segment. One by one its rivals have fallen, from the Honda Prelude to the Toyota Celica, Mazda’s Presidio to Chrysler Group’s Diamond Star cars; the Mitsubishi Eclipse the last remaining of the three and one of only a handful of front-drive sport coupes that remain available at all, although Scion’s tC kind of replaced the Celica. Somehow the Tiburon continues to lure in the tuner market as well as regular folks just wanting a fun-to-drive, great looking commuter car that’s easy on gas.

If you hadn’t heard, Tiburon is Spanish for shark and this Korean carnivore of a car is seriously scaring its competition into hiding. Just look at it. Whether it’s the base model GS that starts at a mere $17,270 or the top-line GT Limited, they look darn good thanks to European styling influences that deliver solid driving dynamics on both base and top-line trim levels.

The Tiburon comes with two engine choices. The entry-level 2.0-liter inline-four with 138 horsepower and 136 lb-ft of torque is easy on the pocketbook when initially buying and then while refueling, and plenty fun to drive, while the 24-valve, DOHC, 2.7-liter V6, which produces 172 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 181 lb-ft of torque at 3,800 rpm, is a real blast to drive in this small, lightweight package.

Along with its nicely endowed engine, the Tiburon GT has a European sport-tuned suspension that makes for some fun in the corners. Whether I was tackling tight turns or just driving through city streets, the ground-hugging Tiburon and its front MacPherson struts and rear multi-link suspension setup glides super smoothly over dry or wet pavement and holds its own in the curves when called upon. And with the addition of standard P215/45R17 tires and 17-inch alloy wheels, this street shark remains cool and collected and feels very stable at highway speeds.

And getting to highway speeds felt and sounded good. The low-note grumble from the dual exhaust was quite mellifluous. It wasn’t too throaty and wasn’t so loud that it attracted negative attention. Rather, the V6-equipped Tib gives off a refined note of sporty athleticism. Furthermore, the optional smooth-shifting four-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic manual mode was just the one to do the trick. While I would have liked to harness all of the V6’s 172 horsepower with the standard 6-speed manual transmission, the 4-speed automatic was just perfect for all the city and highway driving I was forced to endure. Plus, it’s a lot easier on the legs when stuck in grid-lock traffic, which is something I frequently find myself in.

Inside my Tiburon tester’s cabin was a sea of plush, black leather mixed with sport seats and metal grain trim. What I love about the interior is its simplistic nature, with a modern flare. It’s not a ‘busy’ looking cabin by any means, which adds to its appeal. It does, however, have quite the fancy audio system, as I would expect this shark of a car to have. The Clarion AM/FM/CD stereo comes complete with a plug/MP3/SD Memory Card reader featuring Music Catcher II technology, 4 speakers, tweeters and more. Additionally, the backlighting colors of the stereo can be changed. The button saying “Color” changes the hue of the instrumentation around the center stack to either pink, blue, green, orange and many more. Or, there is an option to mix things up and have the colors continually changing. It’s a great touch to an already great system. The only criticism that I had was the writing on the buttons. It was way too small. But after fiddling with the system for a while, I familiarized myself with what was what and it was smooth sailing.

As sporty as the Tiburon is, it wouldn’t be a complete package if it didn’t have top-notch safety features. Along with 4-wheel power-assisted disc brakes with ABS, the Tiburon hosts dual front airbags along with front seat-mounted, side impact airbags. The body of this shark is constructed with a steel safety cage complete with side-impact door beams and front and rear crumple zones to protect passengers inside.

Practicality-wise, the Tiburon is a great 2-passenger car even though it seats 4. I say that because my friend Jamie, who measures in at 5’3″, couldn’t sit in the rear seat comfortably as there is only 34 inches of headroom back there. Her head touched the top, which made for an awkward ride. In order to refrain from making contact with the ceiling, she had to sit hunched over. Not so nice. Also, when I went over speed bumps or any kind of noticeably irregular pavement, you can probably guess what happened! Ouch is right. Her head ended up just where she didn’t want it. Now, the rear seats would be great for younger kids or shorter individuals, but not for anyone Jamie’s size or taller.

Just because there wasn’t a lot of people-room didn’t mean there wasn’t a generous amount of cargo space in the liftback trunk. In total there are 14.8 cubic feet, with the rear seats filled with groceries, shopping goodies, personal items or what have you. Visibility was also pretty good for a sports coupe. The C-pillars weren’t too thick and the rear window wasn’t too high, making parallel parking or backing up as easy as can be in a 2-door.

Overall, the 2008 Hyundai Tiburon GT has a commanding road presence and offers its driver some ‘colorful’ amenities. Not to mention a 5-year/60,000 mile comprehensive warranty and a 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty. Fuel economy is also pretty reasonable with an estimated 17 mpg in the city and 24 on the highway. And it looks so darn good. It’s no wonder why the streets are now infested with sharks… Korean sharks that is.

In The Autoblog Garage: 2008 Hyundai Accent SE

Dismal little car. That’s what you’d hear 20 years ago when the conversation turned to Hyundai. The Excel wasn’t as terrible as a Yugo, or even as horrifically unreliable as sneering Peugeots, but it wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms. Back then, even Japanese brands were still targets of xenophobia; who was this Korean company trying to fool?

Hyundai persevered, and now the South Korean industrial giant is making vehicles that garner good recommendations and carry one of the best warranties in the business. Hyundai’s Accent could be considered a spiritual successor to the unloved Excel, and it carries on that car’s basic formula of delivering a comparable car for less money than the competition. What do you give up to get a car that’s not stripped, yet still cheaper?

Recent history has seen Hyundais roll off dealer lots as well-equipped, attractively anonymous cars that lack engaging driving dynamics. That’s not so much the case anymore, as our time with the Accent has proven. The first check mark in the Accent’s plus column is styling that’s normal. It’s even dull, and that’s fine when faced with the ugly visages of any Scion, the ungainly proportions of a Versa, or the outright confusion of a Focus.

Deliciously conventional, the Accent has clean flanks broken by a strong stroke carved across its middle and a mildly sporting hatch profile. The 3-door we sampled carried the top SE trim level, coming with body color mirrors and door handles, a rear spoiler, foglamps, and handsome 16-inch alloy wheels as highlights among the nearly all-inclusive package of goodies. It’s base price was $15,280 with the only option being sporty floormats.

The Accent SE runs with a pack of cars that includes the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, and Suzuki SX4 wagon. All are less conventionally styled than the Accent, and on virtually every measure, the Hyundai is competitive. Measuring tape doesn’t tell the whole story, though.

Like the exterior, Hyundai’s not stretching to break new ground with the interior. Spend some time in the hell-box interior of an xB and you’ll cry tears of joy the first time you plant your tukas in the Accent. Rather than be different for the sake of it, Hyundai delivers a clean, simply operated human-car interface rendered in decent materials. The radio sits up high, easily reached, and just below it are three knobs for the HVAC – no fiddly rocker controls here. Because we’re lazy auto journos, we missed audio controls on the leather wrapped steering wheel, but the stereo is right there.

The seats are econo-car fare, though bolstered halfway decently and supportive in the right spots. Cloth upholstery in two tasteful patterns should endure at least until the warranty runs out in a decade. There are touches of bargain bin inside, however. The seat brackets, especially for the rears, are right out in the open, not dressed in like on some other cars, which adds a touch of cheap. The door panels are made of a plastic that will quickly become marred with scratches, too. Our sampler was already showing signs of wear in this area. Overall, materials are midpack for the class, with low-luster coverings on the dash and upper door panels, non-flimsy controls, and faultless ergonomics. It’s a richer feeling cockpit than you’d expect, and the simple gauge package is thankfully where it belongs, right in front of the driver.

Hyundai’s 1.6-liter four-cylinder kicks it with a DOHC 16-valve layout and a slightly gravel voice that’ll happily bellow all day. 110 horsepower and 106 lb-ft of torque have 2,500 lbs to bear, and when channeled through the five-speed transaxle, the Accent can even be mildly entertaining. The shifter isn’t a model of precision, but the startlingly chunky setup OEM’d by B&M feels good in the hand and the ridiculously oversized machined aluminum lockout ring is a conversation piece. Our favorite powertrain feature by far was the honest-to-goodness throttle cable. No drive by wire actuation here; press the pedal and you get a response without latency.

A sporty suspension tune is also part of the SE up-rating. MacStruts up front and a torsion beam out back are time honored ingredients for the sporty hatch recipe. Hyundai stuffed plenty of rubber under the Accent SE, wrapping the 16-inch alloys with 205s for plenty of stiction. SE-specific springs and shocks keep body motions in check while you’re flinging the Accent SE around by the scruff of its neck, exercising the model’s specific steering rack and stabilizer bar. Even with a disc/drum combo platter, the brake pedal is firm and confident. And while the Accent ultimately understeers, it’s got the moves and the traction to keep you grinning. The ride winds up being firm without being harsh, though the Accent can’t manage the supple chassis dynamics of a Volkswagen Rabbit.

Sharp responses aren’t everything, and the Accent works just dandy as a daily driver, too. Adults will fit in the rear seats, though the Accent will likely not be the staff car of an NBA franchise. Hatchbacks have winning flexibility, and the Accent happily hauled plenty of bulky items, construction materials or whatever for us. One disappointment during the Accent’s stay was fuel economy. While the EPA rates the Accent SE at 27 mpg city and 33 mpg highway when equipped with the 5-speed, we only acheived 27.5 mpg with a highway-heavy commute.

Maybe we were having more fun than we thought with the Accent, and that’s why we didn’t see the type of fuel economy we were expecting. Rare is the small car that can mix it up on a back road at the hands of a competent driver and give fits to the poseurs in sportier cars. We’re not sure we’d be as enthusiastic about the softer GS or GLS Accents, but the SE tickles our automotive enjoyment centers without creating an achy wallet.

©2008 Dan Roth / Weblogs, Inc.

Hyundai Accent is light on the budget

Frugal buyers intent on saving money at the gasoline pump and the car dealership shouldn’t overlook the Hyundai Accent hatchback.

The three-door 2008 Accent has been the top-ranked, gasoline-powered, compact hatchback in government fuel economy ratings, with a city rating of 27 miles per gallon and a highway rating of 32 mpg when fitted with manual transmission.

Better yet, the soon-to-be-arriving 2009 Accent hatchback, with a mildly tweaked four-cylinder engine, has an even higher rating: 27/33 mpg for a combined city/highway rating of 33 mpg.

Hyundai’s entry model, the Accent 3-Door hatchback has a starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price, including destination charge, of just $11,645 with manual transmission and $12,645 with automatic transmission for 2008 models. For 2009 Accent hatchbacks, base prices are $100 higher.

It’s worth noting that the low starting prices include items not normally found on base models of small, entry-level cars: a generous amount of standard safety equipment, including six air bags as well as a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty on powertrain components and five years of company-provided roadside assistance.

In comparison, the 2008 Toyota Yaris 3-door model starts at $12,210 with manual transmission. But curtain and side air bags are optional on the base Yaris. The Yaris also only comes with three-year/36,000-mile standard warranty coverage for its powertrain components.

By comparison, the popular Honda Fit hatchback with five doors includes the standard air bags that the Accent has but pricing starts at $15,220 for a 2009 model with manual transmission, and the standard powertrain warranty coverage is good for just three years/36,000 miles.

Unfortunately, there are no federal government crash test ratings for the Accent hatchback to show how much passenger protection is provided by the safety equipment. And while Consumer Reports magazine lists the Accent’s predicted reliability as average, another annual survey released in August put the Accent hatchback at the top of the small-car hatchback segment in durability.

Specifically, the Accent topped the Scion xA and Chevrolet Aveo in J.D. Power and Associates’ Vehicle Dependability Study that measures problems experienced by original car owners of 3-year-old vehicles. So, Power’s study relates to the 2005 Accent hatchback.

Accent buyers must get accustomed to riding in a lightweight car.

The test Accent, a 2008 SE 3-Door with manual transmission, weighed just under 2,500 pounds.

Doors closed with a less-than-solid sound, there was buffeting and some noise that came into the interior from nearby semitrailers, and the Accent SE felt light traveling on its uplevel, 16-inch tires.

But in normal driving, the Accent didn’t overtax its 110-horsepower, 1.6-liter, four cylinder engine with continuously variable valve timing.

Using the five gears in the manual transmission carefully, I worked to get decent get up and go in city traffic as I tapped the engine’s 106 foot-pounds of torque that came on at 4,500 rpm. On the highway, the Accent’s four cylinder became buzzy as I sought to pass other cars on uphill sections of road.

But, looking at the gasoline gauge after days of driving, I didn’t mind the performance-vs.-gas-usage trade off.

This car can travel nearly 400 mixed city/highway miles on a single tank of regular fuel. Even at $3.70 a gallon, a fill-up of the 11.9-gallon tank costs less than $45.

The Yaris hatchback has a 106-horsepower, four-cylinder engine producing 103 foot-pounds of torque at 4,200 rpm.

The front-wheel drive Accent comes with a MacPherson strut front suspension and a torsion beam axle in back. In the SE, the front stabilizer bar is thicker than in other models, and the suspension is “sport-tuned.”

But the handling still seemed more mainstream than sporty. The same is true of the power-assisted, rack-and-pinion steering.

Headroom in the Accent’s back seat is a commendable 37.8 inches compared with 33.8 inches in the back of a Yaris hatchback. But as in many small hatchbacks, three adults sit closely in the back seat of the Accent.

I wish the car looked a bit richer or sporty. Instead, it is plain and rather uninspired, inside and out. And the tester was the Accent SE with the larger wheels and tires. Base Accents ride on small, 14-inch tires.

Still, there were features inside the test car that surprised me.

For example, the Accent SE 3-Door had a fold-down, driver-seat armrest on the right side, and there were many bottle holders and cupholders in both front and back seats.

But the round dials for the climate control system felt flimsy, and the seats — especially the back-seat cushion — had a cheap foam feel.

I enjoyed the flexibility that the hatchback offered. With rear seats folded down, I had room to stow several suitcases and boxes. Maximum cargo room measures 15.8 cubic feet vs. 14.2 cubic feet in a Honda Fit.

U.S. sales of the Accent were up 56 percent through the first seven months of this year and are on track to be the highest since calendar 2008 when more than 71,000 were sold.

Azera tries to escape the shadows

With the faster, more luxurious Genesis grabbing headlines at Hyundai these days, some have openly wondered about the future of the brand’s erstwhile flagship. That’s a shame: The Azera delivers the sort of comfort and quality a large sedan ought to offer – and, in typical Hyundai fashion, its price is hard to beat.

Introduced two years ago to replace the XG 350, the Azera comes in GLS and Limited trims for 2008. Hyundai has discontinued the midlevel Azera SE.

Stately but forgettable, the Azera’s styling may be its biggest limiter. It follows Hyundai lineage – I parked next to a newish Sonata, and the Azera seemed, appropriately enough, like a gussied-up version of its midsize sibling. I just question if that’s a good thing: Hyundai’s styling legacy smacks of bulbous takes on whatever Toyota and Honda are churning out. The Genesis shows signs of breaking that mold. The Azera, with its conservative 10-spoke wheels and old-school taillight bar, does not.

Conservative styling translates well in the cabin, whose mild contours and high beltline should find few detractors. The dash tries nothing new – it’s the same dome-and-shelf routine that’s been around since the early 1990s – but it’s agreeable in a way the Toyota Avalon’s airport-hangar dash isn’t.

Overall quality rivals an Avalon or Buick Lucerne, which is to say it’s premium but not quite at luxury-car levels. Dashboard panels fit tightly and feel soft to the touch, and most controls – save the navigation system’s, which I’ll get to later – click and turn with solid precision. I’m still a sucker for electroluminescent gauges, and the blue and white ones in the Limited look Lexus-sharp. (Conventional gauges go in the Azera GLS. Bah.)

The faux wood and imitation metal trim are sparing enough to provide an appropriate touch, though I’d like to see chrome door handles instead of the Azera’s silver plastic ones. I’d also like to see Hyundai swap the Elantra-grade window switches for some of the well-tailored ones in the Genesis. On par with such luxury ilk is the 605-watt, 12-speaker Infinity stereo. It’s optional on the Limited, and in my test car it cranked out rich, high-fidelity audio. Alas, it doesn’t have an auxiliary input jack for portable MP3 players, something most cars these days have. Hyundai spokesman Miles Johnson told me the ’09 Azera will offer a full USB hookup for iPods and the like.

New for 2008 is an optional navigation system supplied by electronics maker LG. It’s the same one offered in the Santa Fe and Veracruz SUVs; the one in the ’09 Sonata is a separate system. The LG unit doesn’t feel as slick: Its buttons flex and wriggle in a way the climate controls don’t, and usability is so-so. The zoom-in/zoom-out controls are physical buttons rather than onscreen ones, and there are clever functions like a route preview screen with turn-by-turn directions. I’d trade both for some other features that are lacking, such as an intersection finder that lets you input the city, more street names on the map, and a screen that’s angled steeper so sunlight doesn’t wash it out so easily. I can’t argue with the price, however. The LG unit comes packaged with the 605-watt stereo for a very reasonable $1,750; navigation alone costs around $2,000 on the Lucerne, Avalon, and Taurus.

Leather upholstery is optional on the GLS and standard on the Limited. Its concentric stitching looks like it was designed sometime during the Dole campaign, but the cushioning does provide excellent long-haul comfort. Power front seats are standard; I found limited rearward travel, and anyone taller than 6 feet will probably sit all the way back.

The backseat’s backrest sits at a snooze-inducing angle. I prefer something more upright, but if you frequently chauffeur kids or in-laws, it might be a godsend. Legroom is a few inches short of the Avalon and most Detroit competitors, but it should be more than enough for most adults. Headroom is competitive and downright roomy. Worth note: The footwells are crowded by a sizeable center hump – odd, given this is a front-wheel-drive car with no hump-requiring driveshaft.

Cabin and trunk volume are competitive with the segment, and a 60/40-split folding backseat augments cargo space. With the seat folded, the opening has some significant obstructions.

Depending on trim, the Azera gets a 3.3-liter or 3.8-liter V-6. My test car had the latter, whose whisper-silent startup belied its punch around town and on the highway. Passing power is fluid, and acceleration from low speeds can be sprightly.

I say “can be” because it isn’t always. Like many automatics in this class, the Azera’s standard five-speed auto is lazy as all getout. The gated shifter comes with a manual-shift function, but a Sport mode with more aggressive shift patterns would be more helpful. Many automatics offer this. Left to its own devices, the Azera’s transmission stubbornly resists downshifting for more power until long after you need it. It’s a frustrating tendency in a number of situations, from accelerating around a bend to passing on the highway. Third gear offers potent 40-to-60 miles per hour power, but inducing such a shift takes a concerted prod on the gas. The saving grace is midrange torque – the 3.8-liter engine offers plenty – and it means there’s at least adequate power even as the transmission camps out in fourth or fifth gear.

The 3.8-liter drivetrain returns 17/26 miles per gallon city/highway, which is midway between the Avalon and V-6 Impala and V-8 competitors like the 300C, V-8 Impala and V-8 Lucerne. The 3.3-liter engine earns just 1 mpg more in city driving, so apart from being paired with the cheaper Azera GLS, it doesn’t give much reason not to upgrade.

Ride quality is expectedly smooth, if a bit floaty, and there is plenty of body roll in the corners. I found the cabin suitably quiet at highway speeds.

Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes are standard, but like many in this class – the Nissan Maxima is one exception – the pedal feels spongy, and hard braking induces lots of nosedive. Likewise, overall handling puts comfort ahead of sportiness. The steering wheel turns with a light touch yet avoids the over-assisted feel of the Lucerne or 300. On the highway it has a secure on-center feel, and in close quarters it returns a 37.4-foot turning circle, which bests all competitors but the Avalon.

Eight standard airbags include side-curtain and seat-mounted side-impact airbags for both rows. Despite this panoply, the Azera earned merely “acceptable” side-impact scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. IIHS awarded “good” scores, the highest rating possible, for head and chest protection but lower ratings for pelvis and leg protection, as well as for the car’s structural integrity. Frontal-impact IIHS scores are “good.”

Other standard features include antilock brakes, traction control, and an electronic stability system. All five seats employ head restraints, and the front ones are active. The outboard rear seats have latch child-seat anchors, but they’re buried deep in the cushion fold and difficult to access. All three rear positions have top-tether anchors.

Without the destination charge, the Azera GLS starts at $24,600, undercutting all but the Taurus and Impala. It comes better equipped than either one’s base trim, with power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a six-speaker CD stereo, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Heated leather seats and a sunroof are optional. Both are standard on the Limited ($28,550), which also has the larger V-6, a power sunshade for rear-seat passengers and a 315-watt Infinity stereo. Beyond that, a slew of options emulates the stuff of genuine luxury cars – among them a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, a navigation system, power-folding side mirrors, a 605-watt audio system, and rain-sensing wipers. Fully loaded, the Azera tops out around $31,500.

Full-size cars are in a tough spot these days. The segment has dropped some 30 percent in sales so far this year, according to J.D. Power data, as buyers flock toward cheaper midsize cars with better mileage. Caught between the Sonata and Genesis, the Azera seems in a particular bind: The prospect of low-30s mileage may send some buyers toward the Sonata, while leather-trimmed dashboards and rear-wheel-drive performance could send others toward the Genesis.

It’s a shame, because in between is a fine sedan that’s more refined than the Sonata and more comfortable – if less engaging – than the Genesis. The Azera has a distinct flavor that makes it worth keeping in Hyundai’s lineup. I just hope buyers are willing to give it a try.

2009 Hyundai Azera
EPA fuel economy 17-18 mpg city; 26 mpg highway
Engines 234-hp, 3.3-liter V-6; 263-hp, 3.8-liter V-6
Transmission 5-speed automatic with overdrive and auto-manual

New or notable
3.3-liter or 3.8-liter V-6
Available navigation system
Standard stability control
Full-size dimensions
SE trim level eliminated

What we like
Cabin quality
Acceleration with 3.8-liter V-6
Seat comfort
Highway ride
Value for the money
Turning circle

What we don’t
Lazy automatic transmission
Limited opening w/folding backseat
So-so navigation interface
No MP3 jack
No parking sensors
Mediocre gas mileage

© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.
By Kelsey Mays
Cars.Com / August 31, 2008

2008 Hyundai Accent SE 3-Door

Expected quality freshened with added standard features

For more than 10 years, Hyundai’s Accent has been building popularity on the U.S. automotive scene by offering good quality with often unexpected features and performance at affordable entry-level prices.

The 2008 model year is no different. The Accent lineup provides an impressive list of new standard features and equipment along with significant interior and exterior improvements, which tend to raise the bar in the compact market segment.

Enhancements include XM Satellite Radio with three months of free service, auxiliary input jack that allows iPods and other portable MP3 players to be connected directly into the audio system, tire pressure monitoring system, B&M Racing sport shifter (Standard SE only), new Mellow Yellow exterior color option available on GS and SE and rear center armrest with cup holders added to SE (standard on GLS).

The Hyundai Accent comes three ways – as a four-door sedan in GLS trim or a three-door configuration in either GS trim or the sportier SE trim level. All Accent models are powered by a 1.6-liter DOHC in-line four-cylinder engine featuring four valves per cylinder. The engine to provide a very broad powerband, coupled with high fuel efficiency and low emissions.

Performance peaks at 110 horsepower at 6000 rpm and torque is 106 pound-feet at 4500 rpm. There are two transmissions to choose from – the five-speed manual gearbox is standard and a four-speed transmission with overdrive is also available. With the manual transmission, the Accent’s EPA mileage is 27 mpg city and 32 mpg highway while the optional four-speed automatic transmission delivers an EPA rating of 24 mpg city and 33 mpg highway.

The Accent GLS 4-door sedan has a distinctive look with upscale styling cues like the chrome-accented grille. The door handles, mirrors, side moldings and rear garnish trim combine with bold tail lights and character lines to deliver a strong presence. The roof-mounted micro-antenna provides improved radio reception, and the new 15-inch wheel design further enhances the design.

The three-door Accent GS and SE reflect Hyundai’s sleek, confident design direction. Up front, the GS and SE feature an aggressive body-color grille with fog lights standard on the SE. Accent SE’s high-performance P205/45R16 tires and lightweight five-spoke aluminum wheels provide a more planted feel. The long wheelbase and elevated seating positions increase the feeling of interior spacious. A rear spoiler and wiper are standard on the Accent SE, adding to its sporty flavor.

Accent delivers more total interior volume than either the Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic – both cars that are a segment above Accent. The Accent four-door sedan has a total interior volume of 104.6 cubic-feet, besting the larger Civic sedan by 1.7 cubic-feet. The Accent also provides more passenger volume than Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and Chevrolet Aveo. The three-door Accent has a total interior volume of 108.1 cubic-feet, making it roomer than the Civic Coupe by 12.9 cubic feet. The Accent three-door also delivers class-leading interior volume in the three-door segment with 15.9 cubic-feet of cargo space – 6.6 cubic-feet larger than the three-door Yaris.

Accent’s interior consists of a two-tone interior color scheme with either a gray or beige theme or a sporty, black monotone available on three-door vehicles. Analog instrumentation is improved on the GLS and SE, while power steering, a tilt steering wheel and an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat with fold-down armrest makes for comfortable extended travel. Convenient storage areas exist throughout, including bins in the front and rear center console. All Accents have a 60/40 split fold-down rear seatback for maximum flexibility. The Accent three-door’s rear seats recline for additional comfort.

Standard features include two-speed variable intermittent wipers, adjustable head restraints, cabin air filtration, rear window defroster, tachometer, new rear coat hook, digital clock, two 12-volt outlets and remote hood and fuel filler door releases. Audiophiles will appreciate the available 172-watt AM/FM/XM Satellite Radio/CD/MP3 audio system with easy-to-use controls and a total of six speakers.

My test Hyundai Accent was a three-door in the sportier SE trim, with the standard five-speed tranny. The exterior sported an Apple Green metallic finish while the interior was executed in beige cloth and charcoal tones. The base price was established at $14,575. The optional aluminum door sills, sporty floor mats and freight and handling charge boosted the final sticker to reasonable $15,370.


The 2008 Hyundai Accent SE three-door is an affordable, spacious and sporty-looking compact vehicle. It comes with a surprising level of standard amenities and offers a substantial inventory of options, allowing the consumer to make it their own according their individual needs and tastes.

The ride quality is comfortable and the driving dynamics deliver nimble, responsive behavior. Sporty it is, a sports car it is not. The GS and SE three-door is best suited to singles or couples, while families with small children may want to opt for the four-door GLS sedan for the added convenience of installing a child car seat or booster. The moveable passenger seat in the three-door models presents a bit of a challenge for installation.

Don’t expect to smoke the tires off-the-line or to experience excessive G-force – however acceleration is substantial enough to accomplish most intended tasks however. The engine is on the buzzy side when pushed hard, but it isn’t intrusive. The focus of the Accent is to provide comfortable, efficient transportation that can be enjoyable to drive. Factor in the advantage of what Hyundai claims to be America’s best warranty, including five years and 60,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage and a 10-year/100,000-mile power train warranty, and choosing Accent can becomes an even more sound decision.

2008 Hyundai Accent SE 3-Door

Base price: $14,575

Price as tested: $15,370

Engine/transmission: 1.6- liter, 110-horsepower, four-cylinder; five-speed manual

Wheelbase: 98.4 inches

Length: 168.5 inches

Width: 66.7 inches

Height: 57.9 inches

Curb weight: 2,496 pounds

Fuel capacity: 11.9 gallons

Fuel consumption: 27 mpg city/32 mpg highway

Arv Voss

Tucson and Elantra Make Back-to-School Cars Lists by Kelley Blue Book’s

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., 09/03/2008 Kelley Blue Book’s recognized the 2008 Hyundai Tucson as a “Top 10 New Back-to-School Car” and the 2006 Hyundai Elantra as a “Top 10 Used Back-to-School Car.” The “Top 10” lists are designed to help students and parents decide which vehicles are best to consider for their next automotive purchase by offering expert advice from editors and top recommendations for getting to and from class in an economical and reliable new or used car.

“There are so many options these days, in both the new- and used-car realm, for safe, fun and affordable back-to-school rides,” said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst, Kelley Blue Book and “Hyundai offers vehicles that are better built and better equipped than ever before, and more importantly, they include potentially life-saving standard safety features at prices that parents and students will find difficult to beat.”

The 2008 Tucson boasts safety and convenience with standard safety features like active front head restraints, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and six airbags. It also offers new entertainment upgrades to better fit a student’s lifestyle, such as standard XM Satellite Radio® and an auxiliary audio input allowing drivers to listen to music from their iPod® or mp3 player.

The affordable 2006 Elantra earns high marks with a comprehensive list of standard and available safety features, earning five stars in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and a “Good” score in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) crash testing. With more interior volume than key competitors Civic and Corolla, the Elantra provides comfortable and versatile seating for all.

All of the new cars on this year’s Back-to-School lists from Kelley Blue Book’s feature starting New Car Blue Book Values of less than $18,000, while all used cars have a Kelley Blue Book Suggested Retail Value of less than $12,000.

“We’re very honored to have our vehicles recognized by as a smart option parents should consider for their children,” said Tim Benner, national manager, Product Development, Hyundai Motor America. “The Tucson and Elantra come equipped with robust standard safety packages, expansive interiors and fuel-efficient engines – all at an affordable price. The Elantra and Tucson exemplify the quality and value that parents are looking for when they are shopping for the household fleet.”


Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif., is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Co. of Korea. Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced through almost 800 dealerships nationwide.

Hyundai Hope On Wheels is Coming to Northampton!

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Hyundai and its dealers’ commitment to supporting the fight against pediatric cancer. Since its inception in 2004, Hyundai Hope on Wheels, an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, has donated more than $10 million to institutions nationwide to help kids fight cancer. In celebration of its 10th anniversary, Hope on Wheels and Hyundai and its dealers have expanded the program to make a donation to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s network of doctors engaged in pediatric cancer research. The Hope on Wheels Tour will be represented at all 240 of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light The Night Walks nationwide and will hold handprint ceremonies at select events.

Gary Rome Hyundai in Holyoke, MA has graciously teamed up with Hope On Wheels and will be attending the Northampton Light The Night Walk on Sunday, September 14th. Gary Rome Hyundai will be providing a Hope on Wheels Santa Fe vehicle for the event to be used during the handprint ceremony as well as to serve as a pace car for the Walk.

If you are a child patient/survivor or you will be walking with one of these individuals , please contact or 508-810-1318 to reserve your place in the handprint ceremony.

Questions? Contact Rebecca. (See contact info above)