Daily Archives: April 27, 2007

Hyundai’s Veracruz Crossover is Stylish

Hyundai’s Veracruz crossover is stylish

Hyundai has done it — moved across the $25,000 starting price level for a new vehicle.

The brand that for years was known in the United States for its low-priced vehicles and industry-leading warranty coverage now has a new model that’s priced upwards of $26,900.

It’s the 2007 Veracruz crossover sport utility vehicle that joins nearly a half dozen other new crossovers in the market this year.

With standard three-row seating, comfortable ride and handling, rich styling and amenities and healthy 260-horsepower V-6, a two-wheel drive Veracruz starts at $26,995. With all-wheel drive added, the starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $28,695.

The previous most expensive Hyundai — the 2007 Azera sedan with luxury appointments — has a starting price of $24,895.

Indeed, the test top-of-the-line Veracruz Limited with all-wheel drive, was priced at just over $38,000.

What’s going on at South Korean automaker Hyundai?Like officials at other car companies, Hyundai product planners see potential in the growing crossover SUV segment, where buyers are expected to be willing to pay for the latest trendy vehicle.

A crossover combines a car-like ride with a higher-than-a-car ride height and eminently flexible interior.

Crossovers, especially those with three rows of seats inside, are becoming popular family vehicles.

The back two rows of seats in the Veracruz, for example, can be folded down and out of the way to provide 86.8 cubic feet of cargo space.

Competitors include the 2007 Honda Pilot, which starts at $27,690 for a two-wheel drive LX with 244-horsepower V-6, and the 2007 GMC Acadia, which starts at $29,990 for a two-wheel drive SLE with 275-horsepower V-6.

The Veracruz rides on a platform that’s longer and wider than Hyundai’s Santa Fe SUV.But the personality of the Veracruz is more refined than that of a Santa Fe.The interior of the test vehicle was surprisingly quiet, almost like that of a Lexus, and while the Veracruz felt well-planted to the pavement, the ride was compliant and pleasant — not busy or harsh, even in the tester with uplevel, 18-inch tires.

It clung to off-camber, downhill curves with tenacity and passengers didn’t feel unsettling, abrupt body sway. Rather, the body structure seemed well-controlled and weight shifted predictably to give the driver confident handling.

And the turning circle of 36.7 feet was surprisingly tidy.

The only engine — a 3.8-liter, double overhead cam V-6 with continuously variable valve timing — was readily responsive from the get go, had plenty of passing power on highways and seems well-matched to a vehicle that can carry up to seven people.

It’s the same engine that’s in the Azera and Hyundai’s Entourage minivan and needs only regular gasoline.

Torque peaks at 257 foot-pounds at 4,500 rpm, which is more than the 240 foot-pounds at 4,500 rpm in the 244-horsepower Pilot.

At 18 miles a gallon in city driving and 25 mpg on the highway for a two-wheel drive Veracruz, this Hyundai’s government fuel economy rating is even a tad higher than that for the Pilot.

est of all, the Veracruz comes with all safety equipment standard, including six air bags, active front head restraints to reduce whiplash injuries, antilock brakes and electronic stability control.

And it earned the top rating — five out of five stars — in the federal government’s front and side crash testing.

There was nary a vibration or nuisance sound in the Veracruz drive. I kept listening for wind noise, especially at highway speeds, but there was little of it and there was little road noise from the tires.

Hyundai uses active engine mounts under the hood that change from soft to firm to manage engine idle vibrations at idle as well as on the highway.

Another expensive component in the Veracruz is a new six-speed automatic transmission — a first for a Hyundai. It shifted with impressive smoothness in the tester, even when I manually shifted via the Shiftronic, no-clutch-pedal mechanism. This shift-it-yourself ability isn’t offered in some other crossovers, such as the Acadia.

ll this, plus the nicely appointed interior on the test Limited model, conveyed a sense of luxury. I sat on seats covered in leather that was so soft and pliable, it would never be mistaken for vinyl. The front seats were heated, too. The upgraded Infinity audio system filled the cabin with strong, clear tunes, the audio controls looked like those in a Lexus, and wipers turned on by themselves as raindrops hit the windshield.

Standard equipment on all models includes air conditioning with controls for rear-seat passengers, steering wheel-mounted controls for the audio system and cruise control, a dual exhaust and audio system with MP3 and XM satellite radio capability that comes with free, three-month XM radio service.

There also are new features never associated with a Hyundai before. These include optional key-free vehicle access, power adjustable pedals and a 115-volt power outlet.

But a navigation system still isn’t offered in the early Veracruz models.

Then there’s the Hyundai warranty. Bumper-to-bumper, limited coverage lasts for five years/60,000 miles, whichever comes first, while limited powertrain coverages goes for 10 years/100,000 miles.

Maximum towing capacity is 3,500 pounds.

By Ann M. Job

Hyundai Elantra To Get New Wagon Model

Hyundai Elantra to get New Wagon Model

Depending on your knowledge of Hyundai, you may or may not recall that thebrand offered a station wagon version of the Elantra for a brief period of time. The second generation Elantra (between 1996 and 1999) was the only time that the compact was offered in this particular body style and it made for a cost-effective and practical junior-sized hauler. At the time, the competition it faced was from the Suzuki Esteem, Ford Escort and to an even lesser extent, the Daewoo Nubira, all of which were met with great indifference. Slow sales combined with a lack of exuberance are two of the most likely reasons that Hyundai didn’t pursue a wagon for the succeeding generations. Instead of a wagon, Hyundai would go on to offer the Elantra as a five-door fastback.

Some manufacturers seem to believe that small wagons have potential in North America, and this time around, Hyundai is one of them. Recently, at the Seoul International Auto Show, the South Korean automaker showed off its FD Wagon for its home market; this is essentially the wagon version of Europe’si30. Wayne Killen, director of product planning at Hyundai Motor America says that North America is going to be receiving this product sometime in 2008 as the Elantra Wagon. We’ve heard some pretty good things about the i30, with respect to the way that it drives and the interior’s fit and finish, and we’ve heard equally good things about its twin, the Kia C’eed, so we’re definitely intrigued with this news.

Killen said that dynamically, the Elantra Wagon would be positioned as a sporty handling vehicle, which is a unique product position considering that most wagons aren’t thought of as sporty.

One positive aspect about launching the car in North America under a sporty themeis that the i30 will finally get the power it deserves. In Europe, the car can be purchased with a series of small-displacement gasoline or diesel engines, the most typical of which is 1.6 liters. For our cars, the wagon will adapt the Elantra’s 2.0-liter CVVT inline-four that makes a hair under 140 horsepower, mated to either a five-speed manual transmission, or an optional four-speed automatic.

Hyundai’s decision to add a wagon body style to the Elantra lineup means that the entire compact market will open up to them. With Mitsubishi and Ford out of the running, at least for the time being, and Volkswagen pitching its new Jetta Wagon as an entry-level premium vehicle, the only company that really poses a threat in this segment is the Chevrolet Optra, which will most certainly be trounced mechanically, if not in build quality and appeal.

April 27, 2007
by Justin Couture / American Auto Press

2007 Hyundai Veracruz Expert Review

2007 Hyundai Veracruz Expert Review

The number of three-row crossover SUVs has grown dramatically over the past few months, with new models like the Mazda CX-9 and Saturn Outlook offering alternatives to the traditional SUV. Hyundai’s new seven-seat Veracruz is the latest to join the category, and on the whole it matches up well against the competition with its smooth ride, quiet cabin and interior quality, making it a must-drive for consumers in this market.

Ride & Handling
The Veracruz has a four-wheel independent suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars. The setup is tuned for cruising, sensible for a vehicle like this. The crossover feels stable on the highway, and it’s rather quiet, which means Hyundai’s sound-deadening efforts, including four layers of padding under the carpet, have paid off.

On the negative side, there’s some play in the steering wheel at the center position, and the rack-and-pinion system doesn’t offer a lot of feedback for the driver. Front- and all-wheel-drive versions of the Veracruz both weigh more than two tons, and while the crossover’s weight isn’t usually noticeable, it does make itself known the moment you encounter a twisty road. That encounter produces pronounced body roll, and the Veracruz doesn’t feel as comfortable in this setting as the CX-9 does.

Going & Stopping
All trim levels are powered by a 260-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6, and its standard transmission is a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic with a clutchless-manual mode. Front-wheel-drive models get an EPA-estimated 18/25 mpg (city/highway), while all-wheel-drive estimates dip to 17/24 mpg. These figures are nearly identical to the Outlook’s gas mileage estimates and slightly better than the CX-9’s.

On the road, the Veracruz feels swifter than the heavier Outlook, but not as quick as the CX-9, even though it’s slightly lighter than the Mazda. The V-6 is quiet, builds revs smoothly and provides adequate acceleration; like the Outlook, though, you can tell it’s a bit burdened by the vehicle’s weight.

The Veracruz’s all-disc antilock brakes have no trouble bringing this crossover to a stop, but the brake pedal’s mushy feel is a little disappointing.

Cabin & Features
The Veracruz’s cabin has a few issues, but overall it’s nicely executed and features a number of upscale details, like a padded dashboard, matte-finished plastic trim and tight panel gaps. Even the silver-colored center panel with the air conditioning and audio controls looks good. (Most of the time I think this color scheme cheapens an interior.)

Perhaps the best aspect of the Veracruz’s cabin is its lack of the heavy chemical smell that’s plagued a number of Hyundais I’ve tested in the past. The rich leather odor permeating the leather-trimmed versions I drove is a huge improvement and wouldn’t be out of place in a luxury car.

On the downside, the Veracruz’s standard tilt/telescoping steering wheel is a bit clunky to adjust. At first it appears to be infinitely adjustable for angle and reach, as many are, but if you try to set it you’ll discover notches for the tilt adjustment. The troubling part is that you may feel like you’ve locked the steering wheel in place, but if it’s not set at one of the notches, it can move up or down until it hits one — definitely something you don’t want to have happen while driving. The brown faux-wood trim isn’t very realistic, either, but better-looking gray wood-patterned inserts are available.

Cloth seats are standard and leather is optional. The leather front bucket seats are surprisingly plush, but not so soft they compromise on support. The tall driving position makes for great forward visibility and decent rear views despite the small rear-quarter windows; I always felt confident changing lanes on the highway and wasn’t worried about missing any small cars in the lane next to me.

The Veracruz’s 60/40-split second-row seats are roomy and comfortable. The seats slide backward and forward, and the seatbacks recline via a lever on the outer side of either seat cushion — much easier to reach than the handles some manufacturers put at the top of the seatbacks. Access to the third row is possible from either the driver or passenger side; both second-row seat sections slide forward and out of the way. The standard 50/50-split third-row seat offers passable comfort for adults, which bodes well for the most likely users: children.

Other standard features include air conditioning with rear-seat controls, cruise control, heated power side mirrors, a trip computer, a CD stereo and audio buttons on the steering wheel. While Hyundai thinks drivers will increasingly choose aftermarket navigation systems that can be moved from one car to another instead of in-dash units, it’s offering an optional built-in navigation system for the 2008 model year.

A number of upscale options, like a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, rain-sensing windshield wipers, keyless entry and engine start and metal plates with blue illumination located at the bottom of the door frames, are bundled together in the top-level Veracruz Limited’s optional Ultimate Package. However, some features a buyer might like to add individually — like a sunroof or leather seats — are only available in pricey option packages.

Standard safety features include side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags for all three rows of seats, an electronic stability system and front-seat active head restraints. Power-adjustable pedals and rear parking sensors are optional, but a rearview camera isn’t an option.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the Veracruz its best, five-star rating in its frontal crash test. As of publication, the Veracruz hadn’t been tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Cargo & Towing
With the second- and third-row seats folded flat, the Veracruz has 86.8 cubic feet of cargo room. Cargo room drops to 40 cubic feet when the second-row seats are raised, and only 6.5 cubic feet when the third row is up. While the CX-9 and Outlook offer more cargo room whether the seats are up or down, both are also about 10 inches longer than the Veracruz. The Veracruz also has less cargo room than the similarly sized Honda Pilot, especially behind the third row — the Pilot has more than double the space, at 15.9 cubic feet. The Hyundai’s maximum towing capacity is a respectable 3,500 pounds.

Veracruz in the Market
Hyundai got most things right in the Veracruz. It’s a solid start for an all-new model, and that’s what’s required for an automaker to be successful in today’s car market.

To be sure, there are other good crossovers available, including the ones mentioned here. However, when you look at the Veracruz’s combination of comfort, versatility and a class-leading warranty — all at the right price, the appeal is clear.

By Mike Hanley
April 25, 2007