Hyundai’s Veracruz Crossover is Stylish

Hyundai’s Veracruz crossover is stylish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the turning circle of 36.7 feet was surprisingly tidy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maximum towing capacity is 3,500 pounds.

By Ann M. Job

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