Monthly Archives: September 2007

2007 Hyundai Elantra: Small Sedan With Big Features

2007 Hyundai Elantra: Small Sedan With Big Features

The newest generation Hyundai Elantra is larger than its predecessor and surprisingly sophisticated, and it delivers small-sedan value like nobody’s business. The Elantra boasts a roomy interior, premium comfort and convenience features, and a top-notch warranty.


Body style: Sedan

Trim lines: GLS, SE, Limited

Price: $13,395-$17,295
(tester, a fully loaded Limited)

Drive: Front-wheel

Seating: Two in front, two or three in back

Engine: 2.0-liter, four-cylinder

Transmission: Five-speed manual or
four-speed automatic

Miles per gallon of fuel: 28 city/36 highway

Car and Driver: “all new for 2007, the fourth-generation Elantra follows Hyundai’s success formula. Even base models come with standard ABS, power mirrors, power windows and six air bags. The latest Elantra is bigger than the previous edition, and if it’s not exciting, it is a good value. The spacious interior seats four adults comfortably, with lots of standard features and a comprehensive array of safety equipment.”

WHAT’S SPECIAL: The Elantra’s added size — about 2 inches taller and wider and about 112.1 cubic feet of total interior volume — puts it among the leaders for sedans in its class. Also on the inside, there is more dramatic flair, with blue-lit gauges and classy, ergonomically correct controls.

WHAT WE LIKE: The abundance of standard safety features on the Elantra is worthy of applause. Stand and cheer for head-curtain and side-impact air bags, anti-lock brakes and front-seat active head restraints, all at no extra charge.

WHAT ISN’T THERE: A gas-guzzling engine. Say goodbye to your local convenience-store clerk — it will be awhile between visits with the Elantra getting 28 mpg city, 36 highway. That’s all thanks to an efficient 2-liter, four-cylinder, 16-valve engine.

YOU OUGHTA KNOW: The Elantra is practical, sure, but it’s not without its fun side, too. Take it out on a winding road and check out its rigid suspension and precise cornering ability. Its motor-driven power steering was engineered to improve fuel economy. Hyundai knew what it was doing when it included all those standard safety features: The Elantra gets a five-star (top) rating in government crash tests.

EXTRAS: This thing just oozes convenience. There are storage areas in the dash, console and seatback pockets. There are dual front cup holders and a rear armrest with cup holders. There’s also an auxiliary input jack for iPod fans. If it’s luxury you’re into, indulge in the leather seats, the heated seats or the power sunroof. Also, enjoy the standard XM Satellite radio. Bluetooth connectivity is coming. “A compact economy sedan, the 2007 Hyundai Elantra comes in GLS, SE and Limited trim levels. Aimed at dealer advertising fodder, the base GLS is sparesly equipped: It wears 15-inch steel wheels and has power windows, mirrors, and locks, but offers neither air conditioning nor a stereo as standard, which must be added via a preferred equipment package. In contrast the midrange Elantra SE is nicely equipped.”

AND ANOTHER THING: Hyundai continues to stun observers with its revamped vehicle lineup, safety ratings, warranty program and high-quality rankings.

Cox News Service
February 2, 2007

G. Chambers Williams III: Putting the ‘V’ in value

G. Chambers Williams III: Putting the ‘V’ in value

In the late 1980s, when I helped my then-teenage daughter purchase a used Hyundai Excel as a first vehicle, those cars were selling new for about $4,000.

The used one I found for her, which was already 2 or 3 years old, was a quite affordable $1,800.

This past week, I tested the new, 2007 Hyundai Veracruz crossover utility vehicle with a price tag of $38,020 — nearly 10 times as much as a new Excel 20 years ago — and marveled at how far this once-struggling South Korean brand has risen.After some early quality problems that have long since been corrected, Hyundai steadily has been building its reputation and product lineup to the point where the company is almost on the same scale as the top Japanese brands.

In the late ’80s, I couldn’t even envision a Hyundai vehicle in such a premium price range as the Veracruz. In fact, Toyota was just entering that lofty position with its new Lexus line of upscale vehicles, but there were no Toyota-branded vehicles at the starting price of the Veracruz, which is just $26,995 (including freight).

The 2007 Veracruz is an all-new midsize crossover SUV from Hyundai. It comes with a 3.8-liter V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission. Designers benchmarked the Veracruz against the Lexus RX 350 luxury crossover.

2007 Hyundai Veracruz

The package: Midsize, five-door, five- or seven-passenger, V-6 powered, front- or all-wheel-drive crossover utility vehicle.

Highlights: This is Hyundai’s new midsize crossover utility vehicle, which comes in three trim levels — including the upscale Limited model that offers more standard amenities than the Lexus RX 350. It is built on the platform of the Sonata sedan and has carlike ride and handling.

Negatives: Can get pricey with all the options.

Length: 190.6 inches.

Curb weight: 4,266-4,431 pounds.

Engines: 3.8-liter V-6.

Horsepower/torque: 260 HP/257 foot-pounds.

Transmissions: Six-speed automatic with manual-shift feature.

Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.

Electronic stability control: Standard.

Side air bags: Front seat-mounted; side curtain for all rows, standard.

Cargo volume: 6.5 cubic feet (behind third seat); 40.0 cubic feet (third seat folded or not present).

Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds.

Major competitors: Ford Edge, Toyota Highlander, Subaru Tribeca, Suzuki XL7, Honda Pilot, Acura MDX, Nissan Murano.

Fuel capacity/type: 20.6 gallons/unleaded regular.

EPA fuel economy (2007 formula): 18 miles per gallon city/25 highway (2WD); 17/24 (AWD).

Base price range: $26,305-$34,005 plus $690 freight.

Price as tested: $38,020, including freight and options (Limited, V-6, AWD).

On the Road rating: 8.7 (of a possible 10).

Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.

Inflation is, of course, the reason for much of the increase in car prices during the past 20 years. But that’s not all. You’ll definitely get a lot more vehicle for the extra money in today’s market.

Our test vehicle was the top-of-the-line Veracruz Limited all-wheel-drive model (base price $34,695 with freight) with an options package that ran the total up, making it just about the highest-priced version you could find.

Whether U.S. consumers are ready to pay more than $38,000 for a Hyundai sport utility vehicle remains to be seen, considering that there are a lot of crossover competitors at this price (including a Lexus).

But at the starting price, with very few (if any) options tacked on to the sticker, the Veracruz comes across as a bargain.

Hyundai says that while the Veracruz was being developed, it was benchmarked against the Lexus RX 350, whose 2007 model begins at $38,115 (with freight) for the front-drive model, and $39,515 for the all-wheel drive.

Adding the options that were either standard or included on our Veracruz, though — including leather interior and a rear-seat entertainment system, sunroof, backup warning system and 18-inch alloy wheels, among other things — would push the all-wheel-drive RX 350 into the upper $40,000s.

The problem, of course, is that the Veracruz is not a Lexus, and the Hyundai name is not the attention-getter that Lexus is. But with prices starting $11,000 less than those of the RX 350, and with a similarly equipped Veracruz running $7,700 less than the base RX, Hyundai surely wins the value race.

Granted, those who would buy a Lexus and those who would buy a Hyundai are entirely different customers. But the point is that anyone who does choose the Veracruz can feel good about the purchase. This is a lot of vehicle for the money, no question.

The Hyundai also stacks up well against other popular crossovers that Veracruz shoppers might consider — the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Nissan Murano and Ford Edge. The base Veracruz GLS model with front-wheel drive lists for $3,265 less than a similarly equipped 2007 Highlander, and $3,712 less than the ’07 Pilot.

And while Hyundai might have a hard time taking customers away from Honda, Toyota and Nissan, it can offer a great crossover with lots of standard equipment to those who can’t quite afford one of those Japanese brands. The Veracruz really is on the same level, but with a lower price.

This is the third SUV in the Hyundai lineup. It joined the entry compact Tucson and midsize Santa Fe. The Veracruz is built on a stretched and widened Santa Fe chassis to allow for a roomy third row of seating, giving it a maximum capacity of seven.

There is more cargo volume — 86.8 cubic feet with the second and third seats folded — than in all of the Veracruz’s direct competitors except for the Pilot (87.6 cubic feet).

Under the hood is a 3.8-liter V-6 engine rated at 260 horsepower and 257 foot-pounds of torque. That’s more than the 244 horsepower of the Pilot and 240 horsepower of the Nissan Murano, and close to the power of the redesigned 2008 Highlander. (The 2007 Highlander has just 215 horsepower, however.)

The V-6 engine is connected to a new six-speed automatic transmission, another feature distinguishing the Veracruz from its competitors. Most of them have five-speed automatics, including the Pilot and the Highlander (including the 2008).

The Veracruz automatic comes with a clutchless manual-shift feature, however, which isn’t available with the Pilot, Highlander or Murano.

Fuel-economy ratings are quite decent for a roomy seven-passenger SUV. Using the 2007 EPA formula, the Veracruz is rated at 18 miles per gallon in the city and 25 on the highway vs. 18/24 for the Pilot, 19/25 for the ’07 Highlander and 19/24 for the Murano.

Inside, the Veracruz is quieter than the Pilot, with levels of noise and vibration that nearly match those of the Lexus RX, Hyundai says.

The Veracruz already has achieved the top five-star crash-test ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in frontal- and side-impact testing for all front and rear passengers. It scored four stars in the rollover rating, which is the highest any of the crossovers have received.

Among standard safety features are electronic stability control with traction control, four-wheel disc antilock brakes, and side-curtain air bags for all three rows of seats. Hyundai is the leader in providing stability control as standard equipment on its vehicles, with 73 percent of its 2007 models so equipped vs. 42 percent of Honda’s vehicles, the closest competitor.

In designing the Veracruz, Hyundai went with an exterior quite similar to that of several of the newer crossovers, including the RX 350, Edge and Acura MDX, which is an upscale version of the Pilot. The styling was a product of Hyundai’s California studio and was tailored for American tastes.

Luxury abounds inside the Veracruz. There is nothing cheap or cheesy looking. The leather seats are optional on the base model, but standard on the Limited. Our vehicle also had woodgrain interior trim that gave it a premium look.

Standard on our Limited model were several items that usually are found only on premium brands, and then sometimes only as options. Among them were a power rear liftgate, automatic climate control and a backup warning system.

Base models come with a single-disc CD player that is MP3-capable, and it also has an auxiliary jack for connection of an iPod or other audio player. XM satellite radio is standard.

Our Limited model came with the uplevel Infinity audio system with a six-disc CD changer.

The rear DVD entertainment system on our test vehicle was part of the Ultimate Package ($3,200), which also added a premium black and saddle interior, adjustable pedals, power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, 115-volt power outlet and a keyless entry/start system. The key can be left in the pocket, and the doors unlock as the person with the key fob approaches the vehicle.

No navigation system is offered yet with the Veracruz.

All-wheel drive adds $1,700 to any trim level, which means that the Limited with just front drive would start at $32,995 (with freight).

I would expect that most Sun Belt buyers would choose the two-wheel drive model. But the all-wheel drive system is of value even outside the snowy climates.

It can direct up to half of the torque to the rear wheels, and there is a lock switch on the dash that can force it into the 50/50 mode. The Veracruz has 8.1 inches of ground clearance, which makes it suitable for some light off-road use; but as with most crossovers, this vehicle is not designed for rugged off-road use.

Besides the base and Limited models, there is the midlevel SE, which begins at $28,695 (with freight).

San Antonio Express-News

Hyundai Motor America Reports Best August Ever

Hyundai Motor America Reports Best August Ever

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., 09/04/2007 Hyundai Motor America today reported its best August ever with sales of 45,087 vehicles, an increase of one percent over August 2006. Vehicle sales were led by the all-new Santa Fe with sales of 10,570 for the month, up 55 percent over last year, followed closely by the Sonata with sales totaling 10,348. Tucson, with sales up 13 percent and Entourage with sales up six percent, also reported strong August sales. The all-new Veracruz once again had a strong month with sales of 1,739.

“Considering the gloomy economic indicators for August, we are elated that Hyundai was able to record a best August ever,” said Dave Zuchowski, Hyundai Motor America’s vice president, National Sales.

All Hyundai vehicles sold in the U.S. are covered by The Hyundai Advantage, America’s Best Warranty. Hyundai buyers are protected by a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a 7-year/unlimited-mile anti-perforation warranty and 5-year/unlimited-mile roadside assistance protection.

Following is the sales breakdown for August 2007:

ACCENT 3,731 4,705 26,092 26,181
SONATA 10,34 13,184 92,808 114,584
ELANTRA 8,812 10,371 66,726 73,065
TIBURON 1,646 1,861 10,614 13,095
SANTA FE 10,570 6,838 62,509 39,054
AZERA 1,992 2,090 15,938 18,577
TUCSON 4,954 4,368 28,756 36,065
ENTOURAGE 1,295 1,218 14,785 4,254
VERACRUZ 1,739 N/A 6,965 N/A
TOTAL 45,087 44,635 325,193 325,875

Hyundai – Setting The Quality Benchmark

Hyundai – Setting The Quality Benchmark

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., 09/05/2007 In 2000, when Hyundai announced major reforms aimed at significantly boosting the quality of its vehicles, the company’s goal was to become one of the world’s highest quality automakers. To achieve this, a worldwide quality initiative was launched, focusing on three key areas of quality leadership: intelligent ergonomic engineering, obsessive customer focus and acceptance of the need for continuous change. It is the embodiment of this quality initiative that has fueled Hyundai’s significant improvements in vehicle quality over the past several years, as well as its tremendous sales growth worldwide.

Hyundai’s strategic focus on quality, backed by more than 900 Hyundai quality-dedicated engineers, is now integrated throughout all phases of vehicle development – research, design, engineering, production, distribution, customer delivery and beyond. This quality leadership initiative is spearheaded by Hyundai Motor Company’s Quality Department in Korea, with coordination and continual cross-functional interaction with its many other established quality teams throughout the world.

Quality and the North American Market

For vehicles destined for the North American market, implementation of Hyundai’s quality initiative has meant significant input from and involvement by dedicated quality experts at Hyundai Motor America (HMA); Hyundai North American Quality Center (NAQC) in Chino, California; Hyundai Automotive Technical Center (HATCI) in Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Hyundai Motor Manufacturing of America (HMMA) in Montgomery, Alabama. Working together, these entities have established a system of quality procedures to assure all Hyundai vehicles meet the highest standards that American consumers have come to expect – and demand – when purchasing a new vehicle.

During the design phase, HMA, HATCI, NAQC and HMMA meet regularly with Hyundai’s Quality and Research and Development Departments in Korea to review what is termed “the voice of the consumer” – extensive research, market analysis and feedback data from vehicle owners and prospective buyers. These cross-functional information sharing and intensive problem solving sessions continue throughout the engineering, development and production stages, so potential problems or situations that might impact vehicle quality can be immediately identified and addressed. Sometimes these sessions uncover potential problems that require unexpected changes or part modifications. These “on the fly” changes, though not purposely planned at the outset of the design and engineering phase, are now embraced as a necessary step of a much more dynamic and flexible development process that expects – and immediately addresses – necessary changes to assure quality is never compromised.

Once early Hyundai prototype vehicles are produced, they are rigorously tested and evaluated for quality in a number of areas, including exterior and interior fit and finish; performance under varying conditions; joint welding; paint quality; noise, vibration and harshness; electrical connections, among other items. Hyundai’s testing facilities in Namyang, for example, include three wind testing tunnels, allowing simulation of wind speeds of 125 mph and re-creation of rain, sleet and snow, to test inclement weather effects on vehicles. Quality test teams at HMA, HATCI and NAQC put extensive miles on vehicles, run additional evaluations on Hyundai’s test track in Fontana, California, and conduct hot and cold weather tests in the Mojave Desert and International Falls Minnesota, locations known for their extreme temperatures. Test results and accompanying data are then relayed to Hyundai Motor Company’s Quality Department, so that any needed vehicle modifications and changes can be immediately addressed.

Testing doesn’t end, however, with prototype vehicles. Once production begins, the cross-functional, data-driven feedback loop and interaction continues, as quality teams review and incorporate additional changes and other improvements based on feedback from U.S.-based marketing focus groups, media preview tests, early consumer reactions and other data.

Quality assurance is also incorporated throughout the vehicle delivery process. For vehicles produced in Korea, quality audits are initiated on the assembly line and continued at the Port in Ulsan and through the ports of entry into the U.S. In Alabama, all vehicles off the assembly line receive an immediate inspection by HMMA’s Quality Assurance Department, as well as a test track evaluation. Another quality inspection is also conducted by Hyundai’s Alabama shipping processors. Once vehicles are in transit to dealerships via truck or rail, dealers have been trained to initiate another 51-point inspection on vehicles received, assuring that no quality issues have occurred during vehicle transit. After customers purchase a Hyundai vehicle, Hyundai Motor America representatives contact them within several days to inquire about their dealership experience, as well as to discuss any problems or quality issues they may have with their vehicle. Again, this information is looped back to all Hyundai entities involved in the quality assurance process for immediate review and evaluation.

Hyundai Quality – Backed by America’s Best Warranty

Given this rigorous and complete quality program means that Hyundai can confidently back the quality and craftsmanship of every vehicle in its lineup the Hyundai Advantage, America’s Best Warranty. Provided on every new vehicle since the 1999 model year and currently covering more than 2.75 million vehicles nationwide, The Hyundai Advantage – an industry first when introduced – is now further complimented by another industry first, the new Hyundai Certified Pre-Owned Limited Warranty. Introduced in May 2007, the pre-owned program boasts a 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty on used vehicles dating back five model years that have less than 60,000 miles.

Hyundai Motor America

Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif. is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Company of Korea. Hyundai cars and sport utility vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced by more than 750 Hyundai dealerships nationwide.

CarMax Names Sonata One of the Best Cars for College Students

CarMax Names Sonata One Of The Best Cars For College Students

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., 08/27/2007 CarMax, Inc. has named the Hyundai Sonata as one of the top 10 cars for college students. To help students and parents find the best car, CarMax, Inc., the nation’s largest retailer of used cars and Driver’s Edge, a national nonprofit organization that provides youth driver education, have teamed up to recommend the top cars based on safety features, cost, reliability and style. These recommendations also take the vehicle’s National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration ratings into consideration.

Sonata is the only midsize sedan under $20,000 with lifesaving Electronic Stability Control as standard equipment,” said Dave Zuchowski, vice president, national sales for Hyundai Motor America. “The American-made Sonata is a smart choice for parents in the competitive midsize sedan segment and the car’s styling and value characteristics will appeal to the students as well.”

This year’s top car recommendations for college students fulfill both the parents’ safety and reliability demands and the young drivers’ requirements for looks and performance.

All Hyundai vehicles sold in the U.S. are covered by The Hyundai Advantage, America’s Best Warranty. Hyundai buyers are protected by a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a seven-year/unlimited-mile anti-perforation warranty and five-year/unlimited-mile roadside assistance protection.


CarMax, a fortune 500 company and one of the FORTUNE 2007 “100 Best Companies to Work For,” is the nation’s largest retailer of used cars. Headquartered in Richmond, Va., CarMax currently operates 81 used car superstores in 38 markets. The CarMax consumer offer is structured around four core equities: low, no-haggle prices; a broad selection; high quality vehicles; and consumer-friendly service. During the twelve months ended February 28, 2007, the company retailed 337,021 vehicles and sold 208,959 wholesale vehicles at its in-store auctions. For more information, access the CarMax website at


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 750 dealerships nationwide.

Hyundai Wins Four AutoPacific 2007 IDEAL Vehicle Awards

Hyundai Wins Four AutoPacific 2007 IDEAL Vehicle Awards

Sonata, Elantra, Tucson And Entourage Earn Top Category Honors

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., 09/05/2007 Automotive research and consulting firm AutoPacific announced today that Hyundai has won the 2007 Ideal Vehicle Award in four product segments:

– Most Ideal Premium Mid-Size Car: Hyundai Sonata
– Most Ideal Compact Car: Hyundai Elantra
– Most Ideal Compact Crossover SUV: Hyundai Tucson*
– Most Ideal Minivan: Hyundai Entourage
  *Hyundai Tucson also took home the Vehicle Satisfaction Award

AutoPacific’s second annual Ideal Vehicle Awards (IVA) ranked auto manufacturers for how closely their 2007 model year cars or trucks came to matching owners’ expectations and criteria. The vehicles that customers said they would change the least were considered the most “ideal.” Measurements for the award include consumer trust, anticipation, expectations and reality.

Hyundai has done an outstanding job understanding their target buyer and is creating the product that is ‘ideal’ for its buyers,” said AutoPacific’s President, George Peterson.

“These awards are a reflection of Hyundai’s continued commitment to our customers,” said John Krafcik, vice president, Product Development and Strategic Planning, Hyundai Motor America. “The Hyundai brand stands for industry-leading quality, superior standard safety technology, and great value – with these values we’ll continue to work hard to meet the expectations of our customers.”

To determine the winners, AutoPacific asked owners to rate their new car or truck on how close it came to “ideal” in the following areas: exterior size; passenger roominess; cargo space; driver’s seat comfort; driver’s seat visibility; interior technology; power; ease of getting in and out; interior storage compartments; and tires and wheels. The IVA ratings reflect input from buyers of new vehicles purchased from September 2006 through December 2006. Over 24,000 respondents provided input for these awards.


AutoPacific is a future-oriented automotive marketing and product-consulting firm. Every year it publishes a wide variety of syndicated studies for the automotive industry. The firm also conducts extensive proprietary research and consulting for auto manufacturers, distributors, marketers and suppliers worldwide. Additional information can be found at


Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif. is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Company of Korea. Hyundai cars and sport utility vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced by more than 750 Hyundai dealerships nationwide.

Hyundai Takes on Lexus – Really

Hyundai takes on Lexus – really

Its target is the RX350, a big station wagon with lots of leather and gadgets.

For the consumer, it’s just a Hyundai. It’s a name people still confuse with Honda and it’s a brand that conjures up zero images of upscale, prestigious or even plain luxury automobiles.

Hyundai tries and tries. With its Azera, it’s trying to zip past Toyota’s Avalon and even take a whack at BMW. We had an Azera for a week last year and it was a terrific car. Yet nobody looked at it.

With its Sonata sedan, Hyundai is going after Honda’s Accord or Nissan’s Altima and, to a certain degree, succeeding at the task, for a lot less money.

Now it’s the Veracruz, Hyundai’s new truly luxo SUV, a car that is taking dead aim at that holy of holies, the Lexus RX350, which really is a benchmark for quality big station wagons that smother you in leather and electronic gadgetry.

The Veracruz is apparently named for the state in Mexico (Hyundai, whose other SUVs are the Tucson and Santa Fe, really does have a thing for the Southwest), and it is actually the real item, when it comes to upscale SUVs.

This is not some gussied-up truck, embellished with items plucked from the parts bin of an upscale assembly line. It is, from the ground up, designed to swaddle you in broad seats (yes, leather is available), drown you in silence and make sure you are entertained (the requisite booming stereo for everyone; the optional DVD player for the second- and third-row passengers).

Yes, third row passengers. It’s standard on the Veracruz, allowing the car to carry seven people. And the seats fold easily into their own compartment.

Need more room in back? The second row seats have outboard handles that, when pulled, allow the seatbacks to quickly fold forward, giving nearly 87 cubic feet of stowage behind the front seats.

The Veracruz is a crossover utility vehicle and, as such, has enormous competition, even if it does set its sights mainly on the RX350, which costs thousands more but does have that imprimatur of Lexus, a brand that has surpassed Mercedes-Benz in terms of equation with luxury, valet parking, Ritz-Carlton hotels, etc.

When you get inside the Veracruz, you do see the similarities.

The seats are generously proportioned, the console has the double cubbies – a shallow one, on top, and a deeper one below – that help stow all that stuff you will find you never need anyway, and the steering wheel has electric up/down, in/out adjusting.

The most striking thing about this car – and I use striking advisedly since most of the car blends in with everything else out there – comes at night when you open the doors. On the chrome sill plate, the word “Veracruz” lights up in brilliant blue. On all four sill plates.

Saturday, August 25, 2007
By Michael Taylor
San Francisco Chronicle

Top 10 Safe vehicles for Less Than $25,000

Top 10 Safe Vehicles for Less Than $25,000

Safe bets for low rollers.

Saturn Astra
Scion xB
Hyundai Sonata
Volkswagen Rabbit
Mini Cooper
Toyota Camry
Volvo C30
Dodge Charger
Honda Accord
Mazda CX-7

We live in a nation of unparalleled personal-injury litigation, of warning labels on curling irons that must specify “for external use only,” and of waivers that must be signed before engaging in death-defying activities like roller skating. We are slightly more lax, however, when it comes to transportation. Traffic accidents trail only cancer and heart disease as the leading killer of Americans, and according to a recent New York Times article, we rank 11th in the world for fatalities per mile, more dangerous than countries like Poland and Estonia. This is even with quantum leaps in safety technology made and mandated in the past decade; it’s fairly tough to buy a patently unsafe vehicle nowadays. Some, however, are safer than others.

Like prime real estate and good medical care, the safest cars go first to those who can pay for them. The latest and greatest safety technologies often debut on more expensive marquis models (think BMW 7-series, Volvo S80, Lexus LS460) and migrate downstream and across the market within a few years, as parts-bin sharing lowers costs and these technologies increasingly become worth their weight in marketing gold. Where Reaganomics failed as an example of trickle-down theory, the automotive industry shines. Save the fat-wallets first, and then get those on more moderate incomes later.

Vehicular safety is focused in two areas: accident prevention and crashworthiness. Factors such as handling, braking performance, and stability control play into the first; airbags, chassis deformation, and crumple zones the second.

Stability control uses data such as steering-wheel position and yaw and roll rates to detect a skid and then uses anti-lock braking and traction-control systems for prevention and recovery. Stability-control systems across manufacturers work with greater and lesser levels of complexity, sophistication, and efficacy, but they do work. Thanks to a mandate from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), every vehicle sold in this country by model year 2012 will be equipped with such a system.

The U.S. government dictates a minimum of two airbags protecting the front-seat passengers in a frontal impact; many vehicles also come with airbags to protect occupants in side collisions. To make our list, vehicles must have stability control as well as curtain airbags for head protection, bringing the minimum to six. Most of these vehicles feature six airbags as standard; for those that don’t, we’ve built the option into the price, as we’ve done with stability control. Several cars meet the $25,000 price ceiling in four- or six-cylinder trim, which we’ve noted.

NHTSA and its European counterpart, the New Car Assessment Programme (incidentally, also the name of the NHTSA branch responsible for crashing cars), rate the crashworthiness of cars on a five-star scale, five stars being the best score. NHTSA scores cars for driver and passenger protection in frontal impacts and front and rear occupant protection in side impacts; the European NCAP grants cars a single overall protection rating.

Now that you know, choose well, hang a St. Christopher from the rearview mirror, and remember that the single greatest variable in vehicle safety is the loose nut behind the steering wheel.

Saturn Astra 3-door
Estimated base price: $16,000

It’s tough to contain our excitement about a car that’s actually “Euro tuned.” The only difference between Europe’s best-selling car, the Opel Astra, and what will shortly turn up on Saturn lots are Gulpinator-sized cup holders, inevitably crappy all-season tires, and a piece of plastic on the hatch marking it a Saturn. It would be tough for the Astra to do worse than the Ion it replaces, but we think it will instead do much, much better, offering a premium product, with premium safety equipment, at a solidly ‘Merican price. Compact-car renters rejoice.

Stability control is standard on the sportier three-door, optional on the five at an undisclosed price. NHTSA hasn’t thrown one into a wall yet, but the European NCAP crowned the Astra the safest compact sedan in Europe, earning a score better than even the BMW 1-series. Again assuming parity with the European hardware, the stability control system even features “Understeer Control Logic,” which knows to increase brake pressure on the inner rear wheel. Neat.

Scion xB
Base Price: $16,230

The ’08 xB didn’t get a makeover as much as a redefinition; the result is longer, wider, nicer, and a full 582 pounds heavier. With the boost in proportions came an increase in content, including standard stability control and a bump in engine displacement of almost a liter, meaning the traction control might even have wheelspin to contend with. NHTSA gives the xB four stars in frontal crashes, and a full five for side impacts.

2008 Hyundai Sonata
Base price: $18,195

When it was introduced in 2006, Hyundai’s current Sonata waltzed up to the dons of the family car segment and popped them in the schnoz, offering astonishing quality and style at a price thousands less than a comparably equipped Accord or Camry. Most notably, the Sonata–even in the cheapest possible configuration–comes with standard stability control.

NHTSA handed the Sonata a perfect five stars in both front- and side-impact protection, one of three vehicles on this list to do so. The V-6 model starts at $21,645 and so equipped, makes merging a worry-free operation. A well-maintained car helps ward off equipment failure and resulting accidents; Hyundai’s 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty will help with that.

Volkswagen Rabbit 5-door
Base price: $18,200

Just over $18K will, in theory, have you sitting in a Wolfsburg-built, five-door Rabbit with stability control. Good luck finding one so priced, however: Floor mats aren’t even included at that price. Stability control is a bargain option at $450.

We liked the Rabbit enough to place it at the top of a 2006 small-car comparison, noting its responsive handling and excellent braking performance, both key elements in accident avoidance. The NHTSA hasn’t crashed a three-door yet, but liked the five-door enough to grant it four stars for frontal crashes and a perfect score for side-impact performance.

Mini Cooper
Base price: $19,200

Who says small cars aren’t safe? Newton? Point taken. We’d still rather be in a svelte vehicle like the Cooper than an Escalade. With its superior stopping ability and driving dynamics, you’re less likely to marry your undercarriage with the wheelbarrow sitting in the fast lane. Diminutive proportions aside, the Cooper is a safe machine packed with some of the best construction and safety technologies from parent company BMW. Stability control is a $500 option, whether you select a base Cooper or the turbocharged S model. Sometimes the only way out of a dangerous situation is quick and complete use of your right foot, so the more acceleration that move inspires the better. Make ours an S.

NHTSA has not yet biffed a reworked ’07 Mini, which fared just okay the first time around (four stars, and the rear seat was too small to properly seat the crash test dummy); Europe’s NCAP, however, gives the new model five stars for passenger protection.

Toyota Camry
Base price: $19,740

Refrigerators are safe, so their vehicular equivalent should be too. And it is. Toyota’s best-selling, bread-and-butter sedan has been carefully tweaked over its twenty-four-year lifespan to offer the most family-friendly, innocuous, safe, and least involving experience possible. The only real danger here is falling asleep at the wheel or losing your Camry in a parking lot.

The newly upsized version got perfect marks in NHTSA’s front- and side-impact tests. It’s commendable that Toyota builds a Camry that sells for under $20k, even if we’d never buy a stripper Camry (like eating boiled potatoes and foregoing a pinch of salt). Strangely, stability control is never standard, but a $650 option. You can pick up a LE V-6 model and still come in at under $25K; with 268 horsepower on tap, your forgettable journey will be forgotten that much faster.

Volvo C30
Price: $23,445

No company’s name is more inexorably tied to the word ‘safety’ than Volvo. Okay, maybe Aeroflot, but for different reasons. Innovations that aren’t even thought of as safety features anymore–laminated windshield glass, padded dashboards, and three-point seatbelts–were Volvo firsts. The C30 is essentially a three-door hatchback version of the S40, and shares the sedan’s safety features. Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC) is standard, as are six airbags and Volvo’s whiplash protection system.

According to Volvo, the C30 crashes as well as the S40, which means well; the only place it didn’t score five stars was in the driver’s side front impact, where it scored four. Kids, work hard to sell this little barnstormer on its safety merits to your parental units: A 2.5-liter, turbocharged engine pulls the C30 to 15-second quarter-mile times.

Dodge Charger
Base Price: $24,510

The Dodge Charger shares a platform with the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum, which is in turn based on the Mercedes E-class chassis and thus expectedly good. Mercedes sedans crash consistently well, so it’s little surprise that the Charger does too, earning five stars in all categories except for the front seat in side-impacts, where it earns four. Side and curtain airbags are part of the $1235 Protection Group package, which requires the additional purchase of stability control for $1025.

Though traffic laws can perhaps be sometimes followed loosely, the laws of physics are tougher to skirt. While crashing in a small car isn’t inherently unsafe, the Charger’s generous proportions provide ample sheetmetal to crumple and dissipate energy before it’s your body’s turn.

Honda Accord
Estimated base price: $19,000

It’s no secret we’re a fan of this car, which has won more 10Best honors than any other. Of all the family sedans out there, it remains one of the more involving drives, with a nimble character that pays dividends in fluidity and the kind of moves that can help you avoid an accident at speed.

The Accord is all new for 2008 and even the most basic four-cylinder models will come equipped with VSA, or Vehicle Stability Assist with traction control, and our minimum six airbags. Although details on the new model have yet to be released, NHTSA has run a 2008 Accord into a wall already and awarded it five stars for frontal collisions and four for side impacts.

Mazda CX-7 Sport
Base price: $24,345

The CX-7 is the one vehicle on this list to bear the ignominious title of SUV, subset crossover. Don’t worry, it doesn’t suffer the hideous driving characteristics of an SUV; to the contrary, it’s more agile than most vehicles on this list. We had to select the least expensive CX-7, the Sport, to make the $25K cutoff, but it’s like selecting a non-vintage bottle of Veuve Clicquot: still good. Getting in or out of trouble is made easier by 244 horsepower, a necessarily healthy number given the CX-7’s slightly porcine 3710-pound curb weight. The CX-7 joins the Sonata and Camry in earning perfect scores from NHTSA for frontal and side impacts. And despite being categorized as an SUV, the CX-7 has, according to NHTSA, the same probability of rollover in a single-vehicle crash as the Scion xB.


Hyundai Motor America Presents "HUUUUUGE" Help to Rochester Researchers Fighting Childhood Cancer

Hyundai Motor America Presents “HUUUUGE” Help to Rochester Researchers Fighting Childhood Cancer

Next week, Hyundai Motor America and its dealerships will present Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong with a check for $40,000 to aid the hospital’s pediatric cancer research efforts.

Hyundai’s nationwide 2007 Hope On Wheels tour will visit 30 cities this fall, with donations nearing $1.5 million; Rochester, New York is one of five Northeastern cities that serve as tour stops, along with Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and New York City. Hope On Wheels is the united effort of more than 750 Hyundai dealers to raise awareness for kids battling pediatric cancer.

Beginning at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 21 outside the hospital’s main entrance off Elmwood Avenue, the hospital will host a symbolic “handprint” ceremony that celebrates the children’s lives and treatment milestones by capturing their colorful handprints on a 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe.

Since the inception of Hope On Wheels in 2004, the tour has visited more than 70 hospitals nationwide and collected more than 300 handprints at “handprint ceremonies.” Hyundai and its dealers have contributed more than $8 million dollars to research institutions across the country to date. In 2007, Hyundai expects to reach $10 million in total contributions.

“We are excited to receive this donation and appreciate Hyundai’s continued commitment to pediatric cancer research,” said Nina Schor, M.D., Ph.D., and pediatrician-in-chief at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong. “These funds will play a vital role in the success of our research efforts as we battle to eradicate childhood cancer.”

“We are proud to make this donation to an organization that has clearly shown leadership and dedication to the fight against pediatric cancer,” said Peter DiPersia, general manager of Hyundai Motor America’s Eastern region. “We hope that this program not only raises funds for these deserving institutions, but also raises awareness on a national scale so that other organizations are inspired to make a pledge against pediatric cancer.”

The complete list of 2007 Hope On Wheels tour stops, including benefiting hospitals will be posted on


Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong is the region’s only children’s hospital, providing care for thousands of children in Rochester and the surrounding 17-county Finger Lakes region. Located within Strong Memorial Hospital, 124-bed hospital is a division of the University of Rochester Medical Center; it offers a vast array of state-of-the-art technology and world-class treatment in its specialty areas, including the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit ( NICU ), the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit ( PICU ), the Adolescent Unit, the Children’s Unit; the Children’s Heart Center; and in the Pediatric Ambulatory Unit.

Research underway in the hospital’s pediatric division of the Department of Hematology/Oncology includes exploring if vaccine therapy or other immune therapies can reduce the risk of relapse of leukemia after bone marrow transplant, how to best tailor palliative care to meet the needs of children approaching the end of life, and how to reduce the risk of infection in patients undergoing various combinations of marrow transplants, chemotherapy and radiation. The division also participates as a full member of the Children’s Oncology Group and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute leukemia consortium, cooperating in various group and multi-site trials.


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 750 dealerships nationwide.

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