Monthly Archives: April 2008

G. Chambers Williams III: Hyundai’s Santa Fe upgraded to a midsize

Crossovers are the family vehicles of choice for many new-car buyers in these days of record fuel prices, and one of the best is the Hyundai Santa Fe, which entered its second generation just last year.

In the makeover, the Santa Fe was upgraded to a midsize model from its previous compact size.

With the redesign, the Santa Fe now has a third-row seat and room for seven people, which puts it up against the segment-leading Toyota Highlander and other popular midsize crossovers with three rows, including the Honda Pilot.

It earns the “crossover” designation because of its unibody construction that combines the body and frame in one piece, giving the Santa Fe the ride and handling characteristics of a sedan rather than a truck.

The new model replaced a compact Santa Fe that already had been a hit. It was well-built, affordable, stylish and easy on gas.

Hyundai didn’t abandon the compact segment, though, as it also offers the Tucson, introduced for 2005, which actually is in the same segment as the previous generation of the Santa Fe; the Santa Fe was just slightly larger and better-equipped, giving it a higher price.

This newest Santa Fe is 184.1 inches long, 7 inches longer than its predecessor. It’s also an inch wider and almost 2 inches taller. Its track is 2.9 inches wider, which makes it wider than the tracks of the Highlander and Explorer.

Even though it is larger, the new Santa Fe starts at $21,150 (plus $695 freight) for the base GLS model with front-wheel drive and five-passenger seating. To get the third row, you have to move up to the midlevel SE model, which begins at $24,150.

Or you can go all out and choose the top-of-the-line Limited model, which has a base price of $28,100 with front-wheel drive or, as in the case of our test vehicle, $29,600 with all-wheel-drive.

With a few extras, our tester’s sticker price went up to $32,165 (with freight), but it’s really not necessary to spend that much to have a nice Santa Fe.

The Santa Fe was the first production vehicle created by Hyundai’s new U.S. design center in Irvine, Calif. The center’s mission, Hyundai said, was to design a vehicle “to meet American consumers’ demand for safety, style, sophistication and performance.”

Benchmark for the new Santa Fe wasn’t the Highlander and Pilot; instead, it was vehicles such as the Lexus RX and Acura MDX, which are the premium versions of the Highlander and Pilot, and the Volvo XC90.

The Santa Fe’s safety features include electronic stability control, anti-whiplash active head restraints, and side-curtain air bags for all three rows of seats.

The side-curtain air bags are standard on all models. Some of the Santa Fe’s competitors offer this feature as an option.

Electronic stability control also is standard on all versions. This system is designed to help maintain vehicle stability in extreme maneuvers to help prevent rollovers. This is a feature that is appearing as standard equipment on many of the newer vehicles and can help lower death rates from SUV accidents substantially.

The 2.7-liter V-6 engine is rated at 185 horsepower and 183 foot-pounds of torque, which should be adequate for most people’s everyday needs.

For a lot more zip, though, with nearly the same fuel economy, the 3.3-liter V-6 in the uplevel models, including our Limited, is the best choice. It cranks out 242 horsepower and 226 foot-pounds of torque.

Those engines represent increases of 15 horsepower from the 2.7-liter engine in the 2006 model, and 42 horsepower from the 3.5-liter V-6 that was optional in the ’06 — with better fuel economy for the larger engine despite the huge spike in power.

EPA ratings are 18 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway for the base GLS model with the 2.7 engine and 17 city/24 highway for the models with the 3.3-liter.

The 2.7-liter model comes with a standard five-speed manual transmission, while a four-speed automatic is an additional $1,300.

With the 3.3-liter engine, a five-speed automatic is standard. Both of the automatics come with the Shiftronic feature, which allows the driver to shift manually (without having to use a clutch).

Two-wheel drive is standard, but the electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system is optional. It automatically sends power to the wheels offering the best traction. The driver also can activate a new center differential lock that splits power 50-50 between the front and rear axles regardless of which wheels have the best traction. This can help move the vehicle better in some off-road situations.

Don’t count on doing any serious off-road driving, however. The all-wheel-drive system does not have low-range gearing.

The Santa Fe’s new exterior design has a more aggressive look that includes a new grille and headlights. The body is more aerodynamic, with a lower coefficient of drag. That’s the measure of wind resistance; and the lower the resistance, the better a vehicle’s fuel economy.

Although the vehicle is shorter than the Lexus RX, there is more head, leg and shoulder room in the first two rows of seats. The RX doesn’t offer a third row of seating.

In the Santa Fe, the third-row seat has a 50/50 split and can be folded flat to increase cargo space. The middle seats, with a 60/40 split, can be folded, too, creating a cargo area of 78.2 cubic feet. With the second and third rows of seats in place, though, cargo space is just 10 cubic feet.

Three trim levels are offered: the base GLS, midlevel SE and Limited. But even the GLS is well-equipped, except for the absence of the third seat, and has more standard equipment for thousands of dollars less than a Highlander.

GLS models come with 16-inch alloy wheels, 112-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with six speakers, rocker panel moldings, heated power side mirrors, power windows and door locks with remote, roof rack with sliding cross rails, tire-pressure monitoring system, air conditioning, and a tilt and telescoping steering wheel.

Options include the four-speed automatic transmission and a Premium Package ($2,100), which adds a power tilt/slide glass sunroof and heated front seats, among other extras.

Moving up to the SE model brings the 3.3-liter engine and five-speed automatic transmission, 18-inch alloy wheels, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, front fog lights and steering wheel audio controls.

To get the third seat and rear air conditioning, buyers must choose the SE Touring Package ($1,500).

The SE Premium Package ($1,850) adds a power driver’s seat with lumbar support, a power tilt/slide glass sunroof, heated front seats and universal garage/gate opener.

Limited models come with everything found on the SE, plus leather seats, heated front seats, power driver’s seat with lumbar support, dual zone automatic climate control with outside temperature display, and the universal garage/gate opener, among other things.

Special exterior touches on the Limited include a chrome grille and exterior door handles, and a body-color rear spoiler. A power tilt/slide glass sunroof is standard.

The Limited also comes with a 605-watt Infinity audio system with 10 speakers, 115-volt power outlet and power front passenger seat.

Our vehicle came with the optional navigation system ($1,750), as well as carpeted floor mats ($120).

2008 Hyundai Santa Fe

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

Negatives: Can get pricey in the top model with all the options.

Length: 184.1 inches.

Curb weight: 3,727-4,022 pounds.

Engines: 2.7-liter or 3.3-liter V-6.

Transmissions: Five-speed manual, four- or five-speed automatic.

Power/torque: 185 HP/183 foot-pounds (2.7-liter); 242 HP/226 foot-pounds (3.3-liter).

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

Electronic stability control: Standard.

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

Cargo volume: 10 cubic feet (third seat in place); 34.2 cubic feet (third seat absent or folded).

Towing capacity: Up to 3,500 pounds.

Fuel capacity/type: 19.8 gallons/unleaded regular.

EPA fuel economy: 18 miles per gallon city/24 (2.7-liter); 17/24 (3.3-liter).

Major competitors: Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Mitsubishi Endeavor, Nissan Murano, Dodge Journey.

Base price range: $21,150-$29,600 plus $695 freight.

Price as tested: $32,165 (Limited all-wheel drive, including freight and options).

On the Road rating: 8.8 (of a possible 10).

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

G. Chambers Williams
San Antonio Express-News

Motor Mouth: Hyundai Santa Fe Mimics Pricier Models

At the risk of sounding like a hopeless rube, I’ll confess that I mistook a Hyundai for a BMW last week. The error was fleeting, but still surprising. BMW makes premium-class vehicles designed to pamper, flatter and entertain people who enjoy active driving. By contrast, many people still consider Hyundai an economy brand.

The gaffe occurred when I caught my first, rapid glimpse of the model I would be test driving for this report. “Oh, nice, a BMW X3,” I thought. The X3 is the smaller of two “sport-activity vehicles” sold by the German automaker. Starting at $38,775, it aims to combine the athletic road maneuvers for which BMW is renowned, with the hauling utility and all-weather security of an SUV.

But a closer look revealed that my test model was a Hyundai Santa Fe. The medium-sized SUV is a crossover (a sport utility body built on a car-like foundation, rather than a truck frame). It carries a suggested retail price of $21,690 for a front-drive model in standard trim. All-wheel-drive versions start at $23,390.

The Santa Fe deceived me with its wide, stable stance, its poised rear haunches, its blunted nose, wrapped front corners and, especially, its subtly arched, black-railed roof. The vehicle also looked very well finished, painted a silver-blue that shone deeply and lustrously in the sunlight. Before taking a moment to examine it, I thought I was approaching a wagon much more expensive than the Santa Fe turns out to be.

The brief masquerade last week doesn’t diminish the X3. Unquestionably, BMW makes a desirable vehicle. But the incident says a lot about Hyundai.

No doubt the handsomely assertive aspect of the Santa Fe, along with its gloss of craft and quality, help account for its enduring appeal. Hyundai, which builds Santa Fe in Alabama, introduced the current version as a 2007 model. The redesigned SUV performed well its first year, attracting buyers when the overall car market was turning south. Last year, Santa Fe sales increased 45 percent over 2006. But through the first three months of this year, Santa Fe sales are down about 17 percent nationally, according to Hyundai Motor America, the California-based U.S. arm of the Korean auto maker. But keep in mind that demand for just about every vehicle is falling this year.

The best indication that Santa Fe is carving out an audience comes from the growing number I notice sharing our roads. Salem Ford Hyundai in Salem, N.H., has a hard time keeping them in stock, reported Nancy Rodriguez, the dealership’s Hyundai sales manager.

“My inventory has gotten low” after a few months of strong demand, she said. At the moment, Hyundai is buffing the SUV’s appeal with low finance rates and rebates, she explained.

Rodriguez boasted that Salem Ford Hyundai beats even the best manufacturer offers, because it operates as a no-haggle, one-price dealer that sells all models for $300 over their own net price. She said the net price is typically lower than the vaunted invoice price, which is the amount car makers charge dealers before tacking on dealer profit. The net price includes additional discounts a car company gives a dealer.

To illustrate, she noted that the sticker price for a fully loaded Santa Fe Limited model pushes toward $34,000. “After my discounts and my rebate, you’re looking at $28,600. For everything: leather, sunroof, rear DVD entertainment center. Everything. If you start looking at other SUVs with that equipment, you’re up in the $40s,” she said.

The standard equipment built into Santa Fe helps make it attractive to motorists, said Rodriguez. A basic Santa Fe GLS comes with air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, doors and mirrors, four-wheel disc brakes, tinted glass, tire-pressure monitoring and alloy wheels. The base model is powered by a 2.7-liter V6 mated to a manual transmission. The higher level, SE and Limited versions get a 3.3-liter V6 and five-speed automatic.

Safety equipment built into every Santa Fe includes advanced anti-lock brakes, dynamic stability control, and air bags all around, including side-curtain air bags.

Indeed, Rodriguez noted that Santa Fe’s safety standing increases its appeal to families. The SUV earned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s top, five-star crash test rating for front and side collisions. It is also a Top Safety Pick of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which gave the award to only 20 other models this year.

Another big family pleaser is the fold-down, third-row seat, which converts five-passenger Santa Fe into a seven-seat SUV, said the sales manager. Hyundai added the feature as an extra-cost option this year. The majority of Santa Fe buyers at the Salem dealer choose it, said Rodriguez.

The Santa Fe Limited I drove included the third seat. But for the SUV’s biggest test, I folded it flat to utilize the full rear cargo floor. It very handily held the dog crate for a 10-month-old, hyperactive whippet named Sonya. The cargo bay still had room for a cooler and weekend travel bags. Up front, Santa Fe comfortably accommodated three adults for a two-day, 1,000-mile dash.

I would have liked better fuel economy than the 22 miles per gallon Santa Fe delivered. (Its official, EPA fuel-use estimates are 17 mpg city, 24 mpg highway.) But a smaller vehicle, with better fuel economy, may not have treated Donna, Erik and me so well. The road-trip ride was supple and quiet. Seats readily adjusted to accommodate changing drivers. The back seat provided lots of space to snooze in reasonable comfort between shifts behind the wheel. The navigation system was cooperative when we needed it. The comfort and entertainment controls were intuitively easy to operate an important factor.

Would I take the Hyundai Santa Fe over the BMW X3 I first mistook it to be?

BMW is a premium brand, so it carries more status and prestige than mass-market models. An upscale image has value for people who want it, so they willingly pay more for products that convey such an image. That intangible value accounts for part of the price difference between the vehicles. There are other differences, too. I would examine them all. My choice, like yours, would depend on which brought me the most personal benefits — both tangible and intangible — for the dollar.

2008 Hyundai Santa Fe

Vehicle type: front- and all-wheel-drive, 5- and 7-passenger, midsize SUV

Price range: $21,690 to $30,340 (plus options)

Warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles basic warranty; 10 years/100,000 miles powertrain warranty; 7 years/unlimited miles corrosion warranty; 5 years/unlimited miles roadside assistance

Base engine: 2.7-liter V6

Power: 185 horsepower at 6,000 rpm; 183 lb.-ft. torque at 4,000 rpm

Transmission: 5-speed manual

Fuel economy: 17 mpg city; 24 mpg highway

Wheelbase: 106 inches

Length: 184 inches

Width: 74 inches

Height: 68 inches

Weight: 3,727 pounds

Fuel capacity: 19.8 gallons

Turning circle: 35.8 feet

By Jeffrey Zygmont
Motor Mouth
Eagle Tribune

First Drive: 2009 Hyundai Sonata

No Crises Involved: More than a midlife (update) for Hyundai’s Camry combatant

In 2006, Motor Trend’s long-term test fleet made good use of a then-new Hyundai Sonata. It lived a solid year with us, working hard every day, with no problems to speak of, and earned far more praise than complaint. But it was a Wish List car. “Wish the interior were a little better designed and finished.” “Wish there were a little less noise and road rumble.” And the proverbial “Wish it had a little more power.”

We can’t claim to have had anything to do with it, but as the Sonata is now halfway through its five-year product cycle, it’s been given a substantial freshening that appears to have addressed our issues. The segment has since moved forward, too, but the Sonata is now an even more competitive player than when launched. Power is up, emissions are down, mileage has improved, and the cabin is a place in which you’ll be happier to spend time.

Choose between three models: GLS (“base” is an unfair term for such a well-equipped car), upmarket lux Limited, and sporty SE. And although the Sonata looks smaller, visually, than the new Accord, they’re the same size where it counts: inside. Hyundai and Honda are the only two in their competitive set classified by the EPA as large-sized cars, as measured by interior volume. The Sonata, in fact, nips the Accord in that critical measurement, 121.7 cubic feet to 120.0 (this measurement includes the cabin and the trunk, added together). Camry, Altima, and Malibu are considered midsize by the same standard, although not by a lot.

The exterior tuneup is minimal; headlights, grille, fascias, wheels, colors, bing-bang-boom. It’s inside that voluminous cabin where you’ll see a whole new world. The instrument panel, door trim, seats, lighting, center stack, audio systems, HVAC controls, and interior colors are all redone. The look and feel of these components are so much better and more harmonious. Switchgear is more logically located that you can, for the first time, get a nav system. At $1250, it’s priced right, but unfortunately only available on the topline Limited.

There’s more power underhood. The four-cylinder version goes from 162 horsepower to 175 (green states get a PZEV rated I-4 still good for 168). That’ll play just fine with Camry (158), Accord (177), and Malibu (164). Variable valve timing now on both intake and exhaust sides of the combustion process likely accounts for the bump. Yet EPA improves from 21/30 to 22/32 (with automatic trans). Four-bangers make up about 70 percent of Sonata sales volumes, and given ever increasing fuel price levels, that equation may tip further. A five-speed manual transmission is still offered, while the automatic goes from four to five ratios.

The Sonata’s V-6 gets more power, too, but at 3.3 liters, is still displacement-challenged against the category. Most players pack 3.5-3.6 liters of engine, good for 250-270 horses. At 249, the Hyundai can come to the party, but not lead it. But this engine loves to rev, and EPA also improves, if only by a hair, from 19/28 to 19/29.

The underpinnings are retuned for better ride and improved handling, the latter especially in the SE model. Hyundai has also put effort into quelling noise levels, an issue, as noted, with the previous car. As before, there are six standard airbags, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, and — this is a big one — standard electronic stability and traction control. Camry and Altima charge you extra for these safety systems.

What a difference a little midlife-cycle product update can bring. The new interior makes the Sonata so much more inviting. Improvements in ride are noticeable, and along with those a substantial lowering of noise levels, particularly the white noise and engine sounds that used to creep in from the center stack/IP area.

We sampled I-4 and V-6 models, and the performance improvements are for real. The four feels particularly zippy, something you couldn’t say about the old one. More power and more closely spaced gear ratios do the job well here, although the rpm drop-off between first and second gears seems a bit high. The V-6 has a velvety feel and, though not as sweet-sounding as the Honda’s, has plenty of pull and good response. While we’ve yet to run acceleration, braking, and handling tests, we have no reason to believe they won’t eclipse the prior Sonata’s performance.

Value is huge in this high-volume sedan segment, and Hyundai continues to deliver a strong message here. Depending on model and equipment, and with which competitor it’s being compared, the Sonata offers a bit more for a bit less. Resale value percentages aren’t yet in Camry/Accord territory, but the buy-in is easier, and don’t forget that all-important 10-year/100,000-mile warranty. All Sonatas are assembled in the U.S.

A lower price used to be the main reason to buy a Hyundai, but now it’s just one of several. This round of updates and improvements is substantial and well placed and make the Sonata class-competitive against the usual suspects. If you’re shopping Malibu, Camry, Accord, and the others, put this one on your Wish List, too. And this time, we mean that in a positive way. Stay tuned for a full road test.

By Matt Stone

Hyundai Sonata Limited Almost a Steal

Hyundai Sonata Limited almost a steal

THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2008 Hyundai Sonata Limited midsize sedan.

DOWN THE ROAD: OK, so it’s not packed with power but this family sedan can safely take passengers to their destination. For a commute to work or just the grocery store down the street, the Sonata is the perfect choice — and at the right price.

TECH & PERFORMANCE: Power is derived from a 2.4-liter DOHC inline four-cylinder engine. It develops a satisfactory 162 horsepower at 5800 rpm and 164 pounds-feet of torque at 4250 rpm. It’s coupled to a 4-speed automatic transmission that also can shift gears manually. The front is equipped with a double wishbone, coil springs, gas-filled hydraulic shock absorbers and a stabilizer bar. The rear has a multilink system with coil springs, shock absorbers and stabilizer. Guiding the sedan on the road is a solid power-assisted, rack-and-pinion steering system. Fear not slowing down in an emergency situation for the 11-inch front and 11.8-inch rear power-assisted brake discs are up to the job. I averaged about 23 mpg in city/highway driving, which is good since gasoline prices are edging toward $4 a gallon.

LOOK & FEEL: Set on a unibody construction, four-barrel jeweled projector headlights sandwich a chrome-slathered center-bar grille with aluminum body-side moldings, chrome door handles and body-colored exterior mirrors. Wood-grain accents on the center console, shifter knob and dashboard are visible as you slip into the plush and heated front leather seats, a standard feature in the Limited version of the Sonata. The doorsill scuff plates, four-spoke leather tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, 6 in-dash Infinity CD changer and power driver’s seat are features you would expect to find mostly in a luxury car. To top it all, Hyundai has installed a trip computer in the instrument panel, automatic temperature control and an auto-dim mirror/compass. Trunk area? A respectable 16.3 cubic feet of space.

SAFETY FIRST: Standard is the norm as in dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, Electronic Stability Control, traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution, front active-head restraints, energy-absorbing steering column, three-point seatbelts for all positions, front and rear crumple zones and tire pressure monitoring system.

OUT THE DOOR: $22,345, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. The sun roof is available for $900.

BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, P215/55VR17; wheelbase, 107.4 inches; length, 188.9 inches; weight, 3,266 pounds; fuel capacity, 17.7 gallons; highway, 30 mpg; city, 21 mpg.

WHY DIG IT: The fuel-efficient Sonata is an outstanding value for the money. The sedan boasts a decent performance coupled with numerous safety features and generous cargo capacity. Making the package tough to beat are the five-year, 60,000-mile new vehicle and 10-year, 100,000-mile power train warranties.

By NITISH S. RELE, Automotive columnist, The Tampa Tribune

Carmaker Unveils Revamped Elantra

2009 Hyundai Elantra

Hyundai is enjoying good times — and no wonder.

Here’s a company that offers well-built, well-appointed, economical cars and SUVs for not a lot of money, at a time when most of us are looking for the most for our hard-earned bucks.

And that extends to some new models that you might not have heard of.

Hyundai recently introduced the all-new Veracruz large crossover, which is intended to do serious damage to the sales of Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander.

The Veracruz, with prices ranging from around $27,000 to $35,000, is prompting comparisons with far more expensive crossovers — namely, the Lexus RX350. Some magazines have said it at least equals the Lexus in styling, content, value and quality.

It has three-tiered headlights, a sculpted bumper and an interesting grille that includes a curved portion that houses the Hyundai “Flying H” logo. Its roofline is not unlike the one found on the Infiniti FX series of crossovers.

Standard equipment includes electronic all-wheel drive; proximity key; rain sensing wipers; mirrors mounted on adjustable pedals; full power everything; an audio system that includes an AM/FM, XM Satellite radio, CD and an MP3 player; a 260-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6 (rated at 17 mpg city and 24-highway); heated power side mirrors; and side curtain bags.

Another new model is the Azera GLS, an entry-level variant of the popular mid-size sedan that starts at $24,235 with a five-speed transmission and a 3.3-liter V-6 that is rated at 21/28. New this year for Azera for 2008 is a standard XM satellite radio.

The Elantra also was all new last year. For 2008, electronic stability control is standard in SE trim, and brake assist has been added to the standard ABS system for the SE model. A tire pressure monitoring system is standard on all models, and the Elantra SE premium plus Leaher Package replaces the Elantra Limited model. If you want a nice surprise, check out the new 2007 Elantra. This is a car that lists for between $13,395 and $16,895, and is better equipped than some cars selling for about half as much more. It has front and rear side curtain air bags, adjustable head restraints, full-power equipment, remote keyless-entry system, tilt steering wheel, rear center armrest with cup holders, center console with two-tier storage compartment, and more.

It’s got so much interior volume that the federal government places it in a class size above the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic — there’s more interior volume than you’ll find in Acura’s TL entry-level luxury car.

And don’t think you get all this in a “Plain Jane” car. The new Elantra is curvaceous, not flat and angular as some compact cars seem to be. It’s got a flowing character line along each of its flanks and an aggressive-looking grille. Inside you’ll find interiors with two-toned themes and touches of aluminum trim.

Power comes from a 2.0-liter, 132-horsepower four-cylinder engine with mileage ratings of 28 mpg in the city and 36 on the highway. Prices range from $13,395 to $17,845.

Another star of Hyundai’s lineup this year is the 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe small crossover, which was new last year.

For 2008, the power tilt and slide sunroof has been made standard on the Limited trim level, the LG navigation system will be available on the Limited staring in the first quarter of 2008, and premium seat cloth is now standard on the SE. A 605-watt Infinitiy Logic 7 CD changer audio system with 10 speakers is now standard on the Limited.

The Santa Fe has several competitive advantages: It offers a third-row seat, which is a big deal for shoppers these days; two transmissions and two engine choices — both are V-6s: a 2.7-liter, 185-horsepower version (rated at 21 mpg city/26 highway) and a 242-horsepower model (rated at 19/24); and, of course, a 10 year/100,000 mile warranty.

It also comes with a full complement of safety equipment, including electronic stability control, anti-whiplash active head restraints and six air bags, including side air curtains.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008
By Don Hammonds, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Hyundai Makes Nice Move to Upper End

2008 Veracruz crossover SUV a study in luxury

Think of Hyundai’s Veracruz as the “blue light special.”

The nickname doesn’t mean the crossover carries Kmart pricing. In fact, this model may be the best test of Hyundai’s strength in the market’s upper end.

But in its most luxurious form, the Veracruz greets passengers with elegant blue-lit scuff plates upon opening the doors. Blue light cools the instrument panel, the reading lamp, even the cup-holder rings. And, yes, this is a special experience.

2008 Hyundai Veracruz Ltd

TYPE: All-wheel-drive, five-door, seven-passenger, crossover sport utility vehicle.

BASE PRICE: $36,445.

POWER: 3.8-liter, 260-horsepower V6; six-speed auto transmission.

SAFETY: Power disc brakes with anti-lock braking system, traction control, electronic stability control.

FUEL ECONOMY: 15 miles per gallon city, 22 mpg highway.

TOWING: 3,500 pounds.

STANDARD: Leather seating; heated front seats; power front passenger seat; dual-zone automatic temperature control; rear climate manual; Infinity CD/MP3 changer audio system with subwoofer and external amplifier; power tilt & slide sunroof; power tailgate; windshield wiper deicer; backup warning system; power tilt/telescopic steering wheel; 115-volt power outlet; rain sensing wipers; proximity key with immobilizer and keyless drive.

To stand out from the crowd of car-based crossover sport-utility vehicles, Hyundai dressed the Veracruz in such finery that you can’t ignore the exclamatory fashion statement.

When Hyundai arrived on our shores in 1986 with one model, the Excel, the South Korean carmaker was so desperate to gain a foothold that it sought buyers with marginal credit while providing marginal quality at a price they could afford.

More than 5 million sales later, Hyundai carries the J.D. Power seal of approval for its quality and a merger partner in fellow South Korean carmaker Kia. The two brands (merged by Hyundai’s acquisition of bankrupt Kia in 1998) are seeking to distinguish themselves from each other. Kia covers the low end of the economy, while Hyundai goes upscale. Upon its introduction last year, the Veracruz was discussed as a possible contender for a new Hyundai luxury brand, along the lines of Lexus, Infiniti or Acura.

Hyundai made no bones about its luxury aspirations, calling the Veracruz a “luxury utility vehicle” and comparing it to the Lexus RX350, which costs $11,000 more. Across three trim levels, the GLS, SE and Limited, the Veracruz is sold in front-drive or all-wheel-drive in base prices, ranging from $27,595 to $36,445. The review car was a Limited with all-wheel-drive.

Veracruz Limited comes with all the equipment found standard on the SE and adds leather seating, heated front seats, power front passenger seat, automatic temperature control, a 315-watt Infinity audio system with CD changer, power tilt and slide glass sunroof, power tailgate, chrome door handles, conversation mirror, windshield wiper de-icer and backup warning system.

Add the Ultimate Package of options and you get the aforementioned blue backlit scuff plates, power-adjustable pedals, integrated memory system, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, 605-watt Infinity AM/FM/XM/CD-changer/MP3 audio system with Logic 7 surround sound, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with an 8-inch LCD monitor, 115-volt power outlet, proximity key and rain-sensing wipers.

Veracruz’s sculpted design features three-tiered headlights adjoining a grille with a flat-lined upper chrome bezel and a curved lower bezel bearing the Hyundai “flying-H” emblem. Character lines and a swept profile connect the wrap-around headlights to the large, prominent taillights and rear fascia. Chrome accents the skin, while large wheel arches represent muscular stability.

Interior space surpasses that of the Mercedes-Benz GL, even though the Veracruz is 9.7 inches shorter. Acoustic luxury comes from dampening sheets applied to the doors and unibody, a steel plate beneath the engine and four layers of carpet padding. Engine noise is reduced through electronically controlled engine mounts, a multi-curvature dash, custom hood insulation and a pillow tripod joint that lessens vibrations from the driveshaft at idle.

With seven adults in all the seats, space becomes a little close but access is fairly facile. Access to the third seat requires flipping a lever to slide the second row forward. With an option package, you can get an automatic power lift gate for easy loading.

Brushed metal accents and blue backlighting for all interior gauges, switches and buttons create a romantic ambience. Even the front cupholders are ringed with blue light to aid nighttime driving, while a soft blue spotlight in the overhead console provides subdued task lighting.

The Veracruz has plenty of straightforward power behind a 3.8 liter, double overhead cam V6 with 24 valves. The peak 257 pounds-feet of torque flow through a six-speed automatic that manages the power efficiently.

Fuel economy falls in line with others at 15 miles per gallon in the city and 23 on the highway with all-wheel-drive.

Scripps Howard News Service
Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fool a Few Friends

TEST DRIVE | Azera looks lots more upscale than its price

The precisely built Azera sedan is Hyundai’s flagship model and trumps many rivals with its attractive pricing, standard equipment, safety features, spacious interior and killer warranty.

My jet black test Azera turned heads with its slick, although mostly conservative, styling. Some neighbors couldn’t guess that this South Korean car was a Hyundai, mistaking it for an upscale Japanese or European sedan.

The Azera has received high grades in initial quality and the highest safety rating in a frontal offset impact test. The car is fast — 0-60 mph in 6.1 seconds — with the 3.8-liter, 263-horsepower engine in the upscale Limited version.

The Azera has gotten high grades in initial quality and the highest safety rating in a frontal offset impact test. It’s fast (0-60 mph in 6.1 seconds) with the 3.8-liter, 263-horsepower engine in the upscale Limited version, which I tested.

The base GLS model has a 3.3-liter, 234-horsepower V-6, which wasn’t available for testing but should provide lively acceleration. Both engines work with a responsive five-speed automatic transmission with an easily used manual/shift capability.

Estimated fuel economy is nearly identical with both engines: 18 mpg city and 26 highway with the 3.3 and 17 and 26 with the larger V-6. Only regular-grade fuel is needed.

The downside is that, despite its smooth appearance and dual chromed exhaust tips, the front-wheel-drive Azera is no sports sedan that offers driving kicks. Rather, Hyundai aims the car at conservative buyers who want a stylish, comfortable, feature-packed and safe sedan for fairly low prices.

The result is an overly soft ride despite an all-independent suspension, with body “float” over uneven surfaces. Former owners of old Buicks will like that, but sporty-car-minded buyers will take a pass.

However, the Azera’s handling is OK for average driving, steering is quick, and strong anti-lock brakes with a brake-assist feature are easily modulated for smooth stops, even in harrowing stop-and-go traffic when someone gabbing on a cell phone ahead of you jams on their brakes.

The Azera replaced Hyundai’s XG350 sedan in 2006 and was longer, wider and larger, while riding on a longer wheelbase. It was positioned as a luxury sedan, with a sleeker exterior, many safety items and a roomy interior. It hasn’t hurt that the Azera has Hyundai’s 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper coverage and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain (engine and transmission) warranty — although few original owners keep cars 100,000 miles.

The GLS lists at $24,600 and the Limited costs $28,550. The mid-level SE model has been dropped for 2008, but the GLS adds new features.

The GLS is arguably the best Azera buy for those who can live without the added punch of the Limited’s 3.8-liter V-8 and such standard items as leather upholstery, heated front seats, power sunroof and an amazing Infinity audio system with an in-dash 6-disc CD/MP3 changer. The GLS costs nearly $4,000 less than the Limited.

Standard for the GLS are air conditioning with dual-zone automatic climate control, power front seats, tilt/telescopic leather-wrapped wheel with radio controls, cruise control, AM/FM/CD/MP3 player, heated power mirrors and power windows and door locks with remote keyless entry — besides automatic headlights and a split/folding rear seat.

Both the GLS and Limited have fairly large 17-inch alloy wheels that wear 55-series tires designed more for ride comfort than handling. Newly available is XM satellite radio with a free three-month trial subscription.

Safety features for both Azeras include front/rear side air bags, curtain-side air bags, traction control and an anti-skid system.

The GLS has a $2,200 Premium option group with leather upholstery, heated front seats and a power sunroof, which is offered as a $950 stand-alone option for this model.

A $1,250 Ultimate package for the Limited contains power tilt/telescopic woodgrain/leather-wrapped wheel, power adjustable pedals, upgraded Infinity sound system and rain-sensing wipers.

A Navigation package for the Limited costs $1,750 and contains an upgraded Infinity sound system. This model also has a package with such neat items as hefty interior woodgrain door pulls that make it easier to slide out.

Wide-opening doors with large outside/inside handles allow easy entry and exit. And my test Limited had a quiet, nicely trimmed interior with good materials that was almost Lexus-like, with such things as a stylish dashboard with electroluminescent gauges, large and supportive front seats, easily used controls, lots of leather and neatly covered front console cupholders.

There’s plenty of room for five tall adults, although the center of the rear seat is too stiff for long trips and best left to the center fold-down armrest with its twin cupholders.

The steering wheel masks the dashboard ignition switch, and the glove compartment is small. But all doors have storage pockets and there’s a deep, covered console bin. There’s also an ashtray with a cigarette lighter, a feature often no long found in cars and an indication that many South Koreans still are smokers.

Cargo loading is made easier by the large trunk’s wide opening, although it’s somewhat high. The lined trunk lid has manual hinges that are enclosed to prevent cargo damage and a hefty interior handle that makes it easier to close the lid. Rear seatbacks flip forward and sit flat to enlarge the cargo area, although the pass-through opening between the trunk and rear seat area is only moderately large.

The hood raises smoothly on a hydraulic strut, exposing a neatly designed engine compartment with easily reached fluid filler areas.

The Azera is a good blend of value, luxury and safety. Get a jet black one and fool friends, neighbors and lots of nearby motorists.

Jedlicka’s take: Hyndai Azera

* Prices: $24,600-$28,550

* Likes: Very well-equipped. Excellent fit and finish. Roomy. Especially fast with 3.8-liter V-6. Attractive pricing. Terrific warranty.

* Dislikes: Average handling. Overly soft ride for some roads. Steering wheel masks ignition switch.

April 14, 2008
BY DAN JEDLICKA Auto Editor/Chicago Sun Times

G. Chambers Williams III: Hyundai Azera Drives to Top

Paying $32,000 for a Hyundai sedan seems a long stretch from the company that began its U.S. sales in 1986 with a subcompact econobox whose list price was its biggest attraction — $4,995.

But the 2008 Azera Limited that we tested this past week shows just how far this South Korean automaker has come since its humble beginnings in this country.

The Azera arrived for 2006 as an all-new entry in near-premium sedan class that also includes the Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima, Buick LaCrosse, Pontiac G8, Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger.

With the Azera, Hyundai created its most luxurious model yet, and the great surprise is that this car seems more on par with the entry premium sedans than the competitors above.

It’s so loaded with features and so classy looking that it could well be taken for a Lexus or Acura. If Hyundai had created its own luxury brand like Toyota, Honda and Nissan have done, the Azera could very well serve as the entry model.

It’s not the first near-luxury sedan from Hyundai. The first was the XG350, a very good first effort that was replaced by the Azera.

While our tester, the Limited model, comes with a base price of $28,550 and some options that ran its price to $32,095 (including freight), the base Azera begins at $24,600 (plus $695 freight), and at that price still would outclass some vehicles that cost a lot more.

Aimed mostly at the Avalon, the Azera even has more standard amenities in the base model than consumers will find in the base Avalon, which begins just more than $27,000.

2008 Hyundai Azera
The package: Full-size, four-door, front-drive, V-6 powered, five-passenger premium sedan.

Highlights: The most luxurious Hyundai sedan yet, this is a stretched version of the Sonata that replaced the XG350 model. It’s roomy, comfortable and very well-equipped, with prices thousands of dollars below some of its competitors.

Negatives: Suffers from Hyundai’s poor brand image, which is improving, however.

Engine: 3.3-liter V-6; 3.8-liter V-6.

Transmission: 5-speed automatic with manual-shift feature.

Power/torque: 236 HP/226 foot-pounds (3.3); 263 HP/257 foot-pounds (3.8).

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

Length: 192.7 inches.

Curb weight: 3,629-3,740 pounds.

Cargo volume: 16.6 cubic feet.

Fuel capacity/type: 19.8 gallons/unleaded regular.

EPA fuel economy: 18 miles per gallon city/26 highway (3.3); 17/26 (3.8).

Major competitors: Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima, Buick LaCrosse, Pontiac G8, Chevrolet Impala, Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Ford Taurus, Mercury Sable.

Base price range: $24,600-$28,550 plus $695 freight.

Price as tested: $32,095 including freight and options (Limited model).

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

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

The Limited model, though, seems more like a Lexus, and yet is priced about $4,000 less than a comparably equipped Avalon.

This car’s styling makes it look considerably more expensive than it is. It’s not exactly cutting-edge, but it’s not quite as bland as the Avalon and LaCrosse. There are cars in this class with more edgy styling, such as the Maxima (which is all new for 2009), Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger.

While the Azera base model’s 3.3-liter V-6 with 236 horsepower is a bit less than some of its competitors, the 263-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6 in the Limited is among the best in the class.

This engine has 69 more horsepower than the XG350 and has more power than the base engines of the LaCrosse, Impala, Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable, Chrysler 300 and Charger.

The Avalon, which was completely redesigned for 2006, has 268 horsepower; but the new Maxima has 290. It will begin at least $3,000 more than the Azera, though.

To get more power than what the Azera, Avalon and Maxima offer, you’d have to choose the Hemi V-8 option in the 300 or Charger, or the GT (V-8) version of the new Pontiac G8.

But with those V-8s, you’ll use more fuel.

The Azera has surprisingly good fuel economy for the amount of power it offers: EPA ratings are 18 miles per gallon in the city and 26 on the highway for the 3.3-liter engine, and 17/26 for the 3.8-liter.

That’s less than the 19 city/28 highway ratings of the Avalon, but Toyota recommends that only premium fuel be used in the car. The Azera is designed for unleaded regular.

Finding anything inferior about the Azera, even in direct comparison with the Avalon, is difficult. Even so, it’s hard for Hyundai to command prices for the Azera that are even close to those of the Avalon, which has become the vehicle of choice among import buyers ages 55 and up.

Toyota’s reputation for quality is one of the reasons, and despite Hyundai’s remarkable improvement in quality and reliability during the past few years, it’s going to take a while longer to convince the buying public that Hyundai vehicles are worth as much as Toyotas. That’s why the Azera costs less, but it’s great for consumers.

The Azera is a stretched version of the redesigned Sonata that arrived for 2005, just as the Avalon is a stretched version of the Camry. The Sonata, just updated for 2009, is a very good car that can hold its own against Camry and Accord models that cost thousands more.

But the Azera is significantly different from the Sonata, with its own unique exterior sheet metal and a much more refined interior. The floor pan also is different from the Sonata’s, a necessity since the Azera is longer and roomier.

Among standard features even on the entry model are halogen projector-beam headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, self-dimming rearview mirror, Home Link universal garage/gate opener, antilock brakes, power driver and passenger seats, power windows/mirrors/door locks with remote, engine-immobilizer security system, and wood-grain and metal interior accents.

Also included on the base model are electronic stability control; 16-inch, five-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels; traction control; six-speaker AM/FM/compact-disc audio system with MP3 playback; LED taillights; active front head restraints; and cloth seats.

Options include a power sunroof; premium 10-speaker Infinity audio system with an in-dash, six-disc CD changer; and heated front seats.

Moving up to the Limited model brings leather seats; 17-inch, 10-spoke alloy wheels; the heated front seats; an electro luminescent gauge cluster; wood trim on the steering wheel; a power rear sunshade; and the power sunroof.

XM satellite radio also is standard, and it includes free activation and three months of service.

Our test vehicle came with the Ultimate Navigation Package ($2,750), which included a great in-dash GPS nav system, along with the Infinity audio system, power tilt/telescopic steering column, power foot pedals, rain-sensing wipers, wood-grain steering wheel and door pulls, and a memory system for the driver’s seat, outside mirrors and steering column. Carpeted floor mats were an additional $100.

Both models come with the same five-speed automatic transmission. As with most upscale automatics these days, it comes with a manual-shift function that lets the driver decide when to change gears, or it can be left in fully automatic mode.

Safety features abound on the Azera. Both models come with eight standard air bags, including dual front, front and rear seat-mounted side, and front and rear overhead side-curtain air bags.

The stability-control system and antilock brakes are designed to help avoid collisions, while the air bags and front headrest pretensioners are among so-called passive safety features intended to protect occupants should a collision occur.

Inside, this car looks nothing like the Hyundais of the past. Fit and finish are excellent, and materials seem to be of much better quality than we’ve seen in the past from South Korea.

The cabin is among the roomiest in the class, giving five adults quite comfortable seating for around-town or cross-country jaunts. The Azera has more interior space than the Avalon and several other competitors.

This vehicle rides more like a luxury car than an affordable sedan, too. It’s also quieter at highway speeds than most of the competition.

Among the best in the industry, the warranty includes powertrain coverage for 10 years/100,000 miles, as well as five years of 24-hour roadside assistance with no mileage limit.

The roadside service includes emergency towing, lockout service and limited coverage for trip-interruption expenses, Hyundai says. There is no deductible on any of the coverages.

G. Chambers Williams III
San Antonio Express-News

Putting the Accent on Hyundai

Putting The Accent On Hyundai

Hyundai has made progress over the years to provide quality cars at a cost lower than that of competing models from Toyota, Nissan, Ford, and GM, to name a few popular brands. However, that hasn’t always been the case.

When the first Hyundai models appeared stateside during the 1980s, the price was right but quality didn’t match up. It took more than a decade for Hyundai to catch up, but today many automotive critics consider Hyundai as one of the top quality brands in the world.

Fortunately, better quality hasn’t resulted in a huge spike in prices as Hyundai continues to produce some of the lowest-priced cars on the market including the Accent, the subject of this review.

The Hyundai Accent is the replacement model for the Excel, the very first Hyundai sold in America. Available as either a three-door hatchback or four-door sedan, the starting price for the Accent is $10,775, one the lowest prices for any new car on the market.

It gets better than that — from now until the end of March 2008, Hyundai is offering $750 cash back on most 2008 Accents, an incentive which might be extended, modified, or reintroduced later in the year.

What You Get With Your Accent

Even at a rock solid low price, Accents come with some decent standard features underscoring that the car you get isn’t completely stripped down. Sure, you’ll have to pay extra for air-conditioning, a sound system, or automatic transmission, but the five-passenger front wheel drive Accent does include:

    * 1.6L DOHC four cylinder engine w/5-speed manual transmission.

    * 8-way adjustable driver seat.

    * Power steering with tilt.

    * Front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and roof-mounted curtain side-impact airbags in addition to the front airbags.

    * 60/40 split fold-down rear seatback.

The interior is spartan, but nicely designed with driver controls well within reach. Fitting three grown up passengers in the rear seat means tight going, but it can be done in a pinch.

Like so many smaller models, storage room comes at a premium unless you fold down the rear seat. With the Accent, the split rear seat makes carrying lacrosse sticks or a floor lamp less of a chore, with no need to have anything hanging out of the rear when packing stuff from home to college.

Sip That Fuel

Although not the most economical car in its class, the Accent delivers a respectable 27 mpg city and 32 mpg highway, numbers which any student can learn to love. Tighter EPA fuel measurements have lowered the numbers over the past year, closer to what many consider to be real-time figures.

The Accent won’t turn many heads for you, but that isn’t the reason to buy one. Still, with so many college students driving an old family car, the safety and reliability of a new Accent is worth noticing.

March 21st, 2008 | by Matthew C. Keegan

Hyundai Motor America Breaks March Record Set in 2007

Hyundai Motor America Breaks March Record Set In 2007

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., 04/01/2008 Hyundai Motor America today announced record sales of 42,796 for the month of March, a two percent increase over the same record-setting period last year.

“We are very encouraged by our March results, especially considering the challenging market we are in,” said Dave Zuchowski, Hyundai Motor America’s vice president of national sales. “Our redesigned Sonata posted a solid seven percent increase over a year ago, while Accent, Elantra and Azera all saw double-digit growth compared with March of last year. We are cautiously optimistic and feel our brand is very well positioned to respond to the emerging spring selling season.”

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 power train 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.

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.

CARLINE MAR 2008 MAR 2007 CY2008 CY2007
ACCENT 3,938 3,427 10,214 8,272
SONATA 11,306 10,584 24,431 29,997
ELANTRA 11,505 10,343 23,870 22,832
TIBURON 829 1,247 2,071 2,903
SANTA FE 7,972 8,470 17,691 21,239
AZERA 2,922 2,395 5,706 5,864
TUCSON 2,427 3,982 6,013 9,694
ENTOURAGE 627 1,358 1,542 3,226
VERACRUZ 1,270 178 3,800 178
TOTAL 42,796 41,984 95,338 104,205