Monday, February 26, 2007

Hyundai's Come A Long Way

Hyundai's come a long way

'07 Elantra brings automaker in line with big boys



Hyundai redoes its best-selling car for 2007, giving the Elantra sleeker styling, a larger size and a wealth of safety features.

The compact front-drive Elantra sedan now is a viable competitor to the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. Who ever thought one could say that about a Hyundai?

I'd bet on the Civic and Corolla for higher resale value, although Hyundai has progressed a lot since it sold marginal models and has a milelong warranty. It makes a lot of good stuff standard, and now offers value and quality -- not cheapness.

The new Elantra is 2.2 inches taller, which allows a raised driving position that's trendy with small cars. It's also 2 inches wider than its predecessor, with a 1.6-inch longer wheelbase. There's more interior volume (passenger volume plus trunk space) than offered by a Civic, Corolla or even the upscale Acura TL.

However, moving the driver position up 1.8 inches might cause taller people to wish for more legroom. There's decent space for four tall adults, and the middle of the rear seat has a nice fold-down armrest with cupholders. Outside door handles are large for easy entry, and all doors open wide so athletic moves aren't needed to slide in or out.

The large trunk is unusually long, but its lid has old-style sickle-type hinges and no interior liner. Rear seatbacks sit flat when flipped forward for more cargo room, but the pass-through area from the trunk to the back seat area isn't very large.

The Elantra has lower list prices than many rivals, if you count its standard features. It starts at $13,395 for the base GLS with a slick five-speed manual transmission. Add $1,000 for a four-speed automatic.

The new Elantra has anti-lock all-disc brakes (key rivals have rear drum brakes) with electronic brake force distribution. There are also more standard safety items than competitors, with six air bags -- front, curtain and side-impact.

Side-impact bags aren't available on a Chevrolet Cobalt. Side curtain bags are optional on the Corolla and Cobalt and not available on the Ford Focus.

The GLS is moderately well-equipped, but you pay extra for air conditioning, cruise control, AM/FM/CD player, power door locks and power heated outside mirrors.

Standard GLS items include tilt steering wheel, front bucket seats with a manual driver-seat height adjustment, intermittent wipers, tachometer, split-folding rear seat, rear defogger and power windows.

Move to the mid-range ($15,695-$16,695) SE, and added are air conditioning, power door locks with remote keyless entry, tilt/telescopic wheel with audio controls, cruise control, AM/FM/CD player, XM satellite radio and larger 16-inch (vs. 15-inch) wheels and tires.

The top-line $17,695 Limited has heated front seats offered for the first time and leather upholstery, which isn't available for other Elantras. The ever-popular power sunroof is among options.

A GLS Premium Package contains a 172-watt AM/FM/ CD audio system with six speakers and Hyundai's first auxiliary jack, which allows iPod and other portable MP3 players to be connected to the car's audio system.

The Elantra has greater structural rigidity than its predecessor for a more solid feel, and Hyundai didn't stint on significant mechanical items that can't be seen. A fully independent suspension with gas shock absorbers provides a comfortable ride and better handling, and front/rear anti-sway bars limit body lean in curves.

However, the electric power steering feels rather artificial and is occasionally too light at low speeds.

The Elantra is no thrill machine, but it feels composed even when driven relatively hard. The ride is comfortable, and the brake pedal has a nice linear action for consistently smooth stops.

The smooth 2-liter, 138-horsepower four-cylinder engine is rather small -- but sophisticated. It has dual overhead camshafts, 16 valves and continuously variable valve timing. It provides lively acceleration, although the manual transmission calls for a downshift from fifth gear to fourth or third gear for the best passing times on highways.

Estimated fuel economy is quite good: 28 mpg in the city and 36 on highways with both the manual and automatic transmissions. Only regular grade gasoline is needed.

Soft-touch materials help give the interior an upscale feel, and front seats provide moderate side support in curves. The tachometer is a bit too far to the left of the speedometer for a quick read, and BMW does a better job with white-on-black gauge numbers. But climate controls are large and well-marked. Audio system controls are conveniently located above the climate controls and acceptable for safe driver use. The driver-side interior trunk release is handy.

Cupholders are positioned to avoid spills, and there are plenty of decent-sized interior storage areas.

2007 HYUNDAI ELANTRA

PRICE: $13,395-$17,695

LIKES: Nicely redesigned. Roomy. Well-equipped. Decent performance. Competitively priced.

DISLIKES: Rear visibility hampered by roof pillars. Small trunk pass-through opening. Odd tachometer location.

February 26, 2007
BY DAN JEDLICKA Auto Reporter Chicago Sun Times

Hyundai's Santa Fe Is An All-American Crossover

Hyundai's Santa Fe is an all-American crossover

Redesigned, its performance and styling are improved

By now, everyone knows that South Korean automakers have come a long way since their first halting attempts to sell tinny econoboxes to Americans. The distance that Hyundai has traveled is no longer figurative; it can be measured in miles.

The new-from-the-ground-up 2007 Santa Fe, for instance, wears the logo of the Seoul-based company, but it is as Korean American as kimchee at a suburban supermarket. This larger, more substantial, car-based SUV -- a crossover, in the parlance -- was developed specifically for American tastes. It was designed at the new Hyundai Design Center in Irvine and rolls off a new assembly line in Montgomery, Ala.

And, of course, it carries a name that evokes adobe missions, Georgia O'Keefe paintings and dried chili peppers.

In styling and performance, the second-generation Santa Fe is a significant step up from the model originally introduced in 2000. It offers an optional third-row seat, which is becoming the price of admission even among the compact utility wagons once known as cute utes.

It also incorporates many of the latest safety features found on much more expensive automobiles.

Prices, which start around $21,000 and can reach $33,000, fall squarely in the middle of the hot crossover market. But like other Hyundais, the Santa Fe is priced to undercut similarly equipped competitors from Toyota, Honda, Nissan and others.

My test vehicle was a Santa Fe Limited, the most expensive of three trim lines. With front drive, the Limited starts at $26,715. The base model GLS starts at $21,715 and the midrange SE at $24,415. Ordering all-wheel drive adds $2,000 to each price.

Unlike several of its closest competitors, the Santa Fe does not come with a four-cylinder engine. The base GLS' engine, a 2.7-liter V-6, was carried over but upgraded with variable valve timing, a variable intake system and other improvements. It is rated at 185 horsepower and 183 pound-feet of torque. Alone in its class, this model comes with a five-speed manual transmission, although a four-speed automatic is optional.

Optional on the SE and standard on the Limited is a new 3.3-liter V-6 with 242 horsepower and 226 pound-feet of torque. This engine comes only with a five-speed automatic.

Both engines meet California's ultra-low-emission standards and burn regular-grade gasoline.

As is common these days, the all-wheel drive system is electronically controlled and splits the torque to direct it to the wheels that can use it best. Uncommon on crossover utilities, however, is a lock control that will split the torque 50-50, front to rear, an advantage in mud, deep snow or off-road conditions.

Hyundai has made an unusually strong commitment to standard safety equipment in the vehicles it sells in this country. The Santa Fe has six air bags, including side curtains that help to protect all three rows of seats. Bags like these have proved effective in reducing injuries and deaths in side-impact crashes.

Also standard is another proven device, an electronic stability control, that helps the driver maintain control in sudden maneuvers or other emergency situations that could result in a spinout or rollover.

Four-wheel anti-lock brakes are standard as well, and they incorporate two additional safety features: emergency brake assist, which applies full-force braking if sensors detect the need for an emergency stop, and electronic brake force distribution, which balances the braking force regardless of the vehicle's load.

The Santa Fe has done well in crash tests. It received five stars, the highest rating, in front and side-impact tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And it earned a "good" rating in the front-offset test by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Styling verdicts are best left to the individual, but to my eye the new Santa Fe has a lot going for it. It eschews the zoomy rear quarter panels and small rear side windows of some Japanese utilities, which can create large blind spots for the driver. Instead, Hyundai's designers stuck to softly rounded corners without pronounced styling accents. This, in my view, is a big improvement over the strange sci-fi contours of the first-generation Santa Fe.

While the Hyundai's size is similar to rivals like the Toyota RAV4 and Highlander, the Honda CR-V and the Chevrolet Equinox, it manages to eke out a bit more space inside.

The third row, for example, is almost habitable. It is split 50/50 and can be folded flat. Yet I would pass up the third seat, even if it is one of the few that adults can use, in favor of the two-row version that has roomy rear storage with two convenient compartments.

The second row folds nearly flat -- no need to remove the head restraints -- and locks in the down position. Atypically, the windows in the rear doors roll down all the way.

Interiors are becoming ever more appealing, especially in European and Japanese models, with smart color choices and textures that give a feeling of luxury and value. The new Santa Fe incorporates many of these intangibles into a moderately priced wagon. Instruments are simple and clear, with blue lighting at night. The controls are logical, so there is no need to consult the manual. The console box is a roomy two-tier affair; there are sturdy cup holders.

The redesign has improved the Santa Fe's performance in all respects. The new 3.3-liter engine in my test vehicle was responsive, and the overall performance was enhanced by the smooth-shifting automatic. The use of five speeds allows a more aggressive first gear and a fifth gear biased toward economy.

With the larger engine, fuel economy is rated at 19 mpg in town and 24 on the highway. While not class-leading figures, these numbers are competitive. My average was 20.6, a bit better than the 4-cylinder Toyota Highlander that I drove a while back, but not as good as my mileage (23 mpg) with the 4-cylinder RAV4. With the 2.7-liter engine and automatic transmission, the Santa Fe is rated 21 in town, 26 on the highway.

Steering and handling are smooth and steady and, while none too sporty, are certainly good enough in this class. The fairly tight turning circle (35.8 feet) was appreciated. The four-wheel disc brakes are firm, with a nice, progressive feel.

The ride is about what I'd expected of a small crossover, firm and well controlled and not stiff or jerky like many truck-based SUVs. The highway ride is reasonably quiet, with low wind and tire noise.

Consumers are learning that crossover wagons are worthwhile choices when a sedan doesn't seem to have enough space and heavy truck-based SUVs seem too clumsy and thirsty. There are many crossovers on the market, with more arriving every few months.

There are a few standouts in this rather large group, including relatively compact models like the RAV4, the CR-V and the Subaru Forester. I would add the new Santa Fe to that group. It is roomy, cleanly designed, reasonably priced and it comes with a lot of safety features.

Bob Knoll, New York Times

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Friday, February 23, 2007

Santa Fe Drives Hyunai To Bright Future

Santa Fe drives Hyundai to bright future

BALTIMORE - In the past few years, the Hyundai brand has changed dramatically – and public perception has been along for the ride.



Hyundai pulled ahead of the cheap and cheerful crowd in 2000 by introducing the first 100,000 mile warranty (coverage aped by other manufacturers, notably GM as of last September).

The automaker's sales jumped more than 80 percent in the warranty's first year, and since then, public awareness and acceptance of Hyundai's claims have been fairly high. And well they should be.

When compared with similar imports, most Hyundai models are filled with accouterments: leather seats, multiple CD-changers, wood-grain trim, multiple storage bins and cargo nets, keyless entry and all the right airbags.

We recently drove the 2007 Santa Fe, a smallish sport utility vehicle originally built to compete with models like the Honda CRV and the Toyota Rav4.

But this latest iteration was bumped up in size to make room for the Tucson (which came out in 2005) and is now in league with the likes of the Toyota Highlander.

In fact, the new Santa Fe looks a bit like the Highlander, with the small spoiler above the back hatch. And the 3.3 liter V-6 in the Santa Fe Limited version that we drove is the same size as the Highlander's high-end engine.

The Santa Fe, priced several thousand below the Highlander, was a thoroughly enjoyable ride – not just when we were crawling steadily up a winding, snow-packed drive at a western Maryland back country ski resort, but also as we eased our way back down.

The sign at the entrance warned that only vehicles with four-wheel drive or tire chains should venture forth. But the Santa Fe's electronic stability and traction control as well as the anti-lock brakes kept our confidence high. In March, Hyundai will begin selling the Veracruz – yet another Korean-built SUV, this one slightly larger than the Santa Fe.

Named for yet another dry place in the west, this one breaks the mold not just by reaching south of the border for its name, but with a new designation: the LUV. No, that's not some junior high girl's scrawl on her notebook cover. It stands for Luxury Utility Vehicle.

Like I said, Hyundai is changing.

Martha Thomas, The Examiner

Feb 23, 2007 3:00 AM

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Hyundai Achieves Certification To Automotive Management Standard

Hyundai Achieves Certification To Automotive Management Standard

Award Winning Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama Plant Adds Global Automotive Industry Certification To Its Already Impressive Resume



Montgomery, Ala., 02/21/2007 Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, LLC (HMMA) has achieved Certification to the International Automotive Task Force's (IATF) most rigid quality management standard, ISO/TS 16949, a set of Quality Management System requirements specific to the automotive industry. ISO/TS 16949 is the highest automotive operating standard in the world.

Hyundai's $1.1-billion assembly plant, which began production on May 20, 2005, is one of the most technologically-sophisticated automotive manufacturing facilities in the world.

J.D. Power and Associates ranked HMMA tenth out of 73 plants in North/South America in initial quality in 2006, after less than one full year of production. HMMA's 2800 team members produce the Hyundai Sonata sedan and Santa Fe crossover SUV.

"Before job one ever rolled off the assembly line, we committed ourselves to leading the industry in business management processes," said John Kalson, Director of Production, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama. "We believe that quality vehicles start with quality manufacturing, and we're proud to deliver both at HMMA."

HMMA initiated the evaluation process for ISO/TS 16949;2002 certification in the summer of 2004, shortly before the 2-million square-foot plant opened for business. The two-year process began with a performance evaluation of current HMMA systems versus TS 16949 requirements. Once the evaluation was complete, HMMA Team members and a consulting team from SAI Global refined the systems, satisfying the TS requirements but also ensuring total vehicle quality. Never being satisfied, HMMA members are continually looking for ways to improve work processes.

"We're very excited that Hyundai has taken this initiative to ensure the highest OEM manufacturing quality standards are met," said Rob Brayfield, President, of VCA North America, "Hyundai's commitment to continually improving quality and customer satisfaction will no doubt raise the bar for the industry."

Benefits of adopting the ISO/TS 16949 standard include improving quality of processes at the facility along with streamlining supply chains, both leading to a better overall product.

About HMMA

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, headquartered in Montgomery, Ala., is an independent manufacturing operation of Hyundai Motor Company, based in Seoul, Korea. HMMA currently produces the Sonata sedan and the next generation 2007 Santa Fe sport utility vehicle. At full capacity, HMMA will produce 300,000 vehicles annually. Hyundai cars and sport utility vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced by more than 755 Hyundai dealerships.

2007 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited All-Wheel Drive Mid-Size Sport Utility Vehicle

2007 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited All-Wheel Drive Mid-Size Sport Utility Vehicle


Shy on power but nicely appointed and constructed

Overview

The Hyundai Santa Fe is largest SUV in the company's product line. The redesign added 3" to the width and 7" to the length. The additional length was important to the addition of the optional 3rd row of seating for 7-passenger capacity. And it gives the truck lots for room for the passengers and cargo.

Three versions are available, the GLS, SE and Limited. It comes standard with front-wheel drive and lots of other great features, particularly safety. All-Wheel Drive (AWD) is optional, and comes with a locking 50/50 power split. No low-range gears are offered. So while it isn't a real off-road vehicle, the AWD system helps in bad weather.

The build quality is noteworthy given Hyundai's reputation. And they have that great warrantee - 5/60,000 bumper-to-bumper, 10/10,000 for the powertrain, 7/unlimited for corrosion - and free roadside assistance for 5 years.

Pros: Well priced in the class. Santa Fe has a roomy interior for 5 and the optional 3rd row seat allows 7 passengers. We like the simplicity of the controls and dash layout. The build quality is improved over the original product.

Cons: Santa Fe with 3 rows of seats is cramped making getting in and out difficult and uncomfortable for drives over 15 minutes. The V6 engine lacks power making merging into traffic on the highway nerve wracking.

MSRP: $20,945 - $27,945

Invoice: $19,689 - $25,710

Vehicle Price As Tested (including $650 destination charge): $28,040.00

Class: Mid-Size Sport Utility Vehicle

EPA Mileage (city/highway): 19/24

Tested Mileage (city/highway): 17/21

Where Built: Alabama, USA

Fuel Capacity: 19.8 gallons

Options: Power sunroof, power front-passenger seat, and cargo tray.

Competition

  • Dodge Nitro
  • Ford Edge
  • Ford Explorer
  • Ford Freestyle
  • GMC Acadia
  • Honda Pilot
  • Mazda CX-7
  • Mazda CX-9
  • Nissan Murano
  • Toyota Highlander
  • Saturn Outlook
  • Suzuki XL-7
  • Toyota FJ Cruiser


Exterior

Very little has changed on the Santa Fe from its predecessors. It is still a body-on-frame design that is now 3" wider and 7" longer. It is a nice looking vehicle that is both attractive and practical. It doesn't have the best styling in the class, but it is by-no-means the worst.

Of note is the improvement in the build quality. Hyundais were not known for tight fit and finish until the most recent models. And the improvement is apparent on Santa Fe.

Rear visibility is somewhat hampered by the exterior styling, making backing up more work than necessary. Using the mirrors becomes critical when changing lanes on the highway.

Interior

Santa Fe's interior is quiet despite the loud engine. This makes for a pleasant ride around town. However the wind noise is noticeable at highway speeds.

The SUV seats 5, with an optional Touring package that provides a 50/50 split 3rd row bench seat to carry 7 passengers. The larger configuration makes access to the 3rd row quite difficult and it is recommended only for small children, and short trips. Otherwise the head and legroom are excellent.

The interior materials are quite nice when compared to the competition. Fabric seats are standard, and leather is optional, as are heated front seats. The plastic components, handles, knobs and levers all feel solid, not cheap. The dash board layout is convenient, easy to use and read, and nicely lighted. Everything in the interior is soft-touch, and fully powered. It even comes with a remote keyless entry at this price, and all versions come standard with a tilting and telescoping steering wheel. This features makes finding a comfortable seating position easy for almost everyone regardless of size and height.

The 5-passenger configuration provides ample cargo space. That space is nearly eliminated when the 3rd row if seating is employed. That said, that's a problem for all SUVs with 3 rows of seating.

Performance

The only engine Santa Fe has is a V6. In the GLS the 2.7 liter engine puts out 185 hp. On the SE and the Limited that we had the engine is a 3.3 liter, Dual Overhead Cam, 24-valve, V6 that generates 242 hp. The 180-hp version of the engine is not recommended as it doesn't provide enough acceleration to merge into high-speed traffic on the highway. And going up steep grades was scary given the loss of power. But the 242 hp version is peppy, fun to drive and eliminates the uneasy feeling one gets with the underpowered version of the engine.

A manual transmission is standard on the GLS, with option for a 4-speed automatic. Both the SE and the Limited come standard with a 5-speed automatic transmission.

Ride and Handling

On the highway Santa Fe is competent and comfortable. But on a dirt road, off-road (which it really isn't designed to handle) or on bad pavement, the ride is bumpy and wobbly. Hitting a big pothole can make the vehicle feel like it will tip over.

Steering is pleasant and accurate. It isn't a sports car, but as a daily driver it is enjoyable. The Limited comes with 18" alloy wheels with P235/60R-18 tires.

Safety

Santa Fe Limited comes standard with 6 airbags, two advanced bags in the front, front seat-mounted side-impact bags, and two roof-mounted side curtain airbags. Both an antilock braking system and traction control are standard, which is a good value in a vehicle at this price point. Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and front seat active head restraints are also standard, as is a tire pressure monitoring system.

Taken from Woman Motorist.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Auto Shoppers Trek to Dealerships

Auto Shoppers Trek to Dealerships

HOLYOKE - Frank J. Liebel drives a lot and needs a really nice car, so he went to a local Hyundai dealership yesterday in hopes of scoring a deal.

Kathleen M. Cashin also was out shopping at an auto dealership yesterday, looking for a new Lexus to replace her old Lexus.

Liebel and Cashin were helping local auto dealers kick off the spring selling season that begins with the traditional Presidents Day sales.

Automobiles weren't the only merchandise on sale. Other retailers from upscale department stores to appliance stores ran special sales to take advantage of the long weekend.

Or, as Milton P. Rosenberg, chief executive officer of Bernie's TV & Appliance, said yesterday, "everybody's off today. So when the customers aren't working, you know what they're doing - they're shopping."

While it may seem counter-intuitive to go to a Hyundai dealership for a really nice car, Gary D. Rome, president of Gary Rome Hyundai in Holyoke, said that quality, safety and reliability ratings for the South Korean automobiles now rival or exceed ratings for the makes that are traditionally at the top of those lists.

Liebel also pointed to Hyundai's extensive warranties, as well as lower prices and good service at the Main Street dealership.

Rome said Hyundai offered special pricing for the holiday. "It's the beginning of our selling season," and the sales are so appealing, people wait for President's Day to buy a car.

Among the Hyundai offers were $2,000 off the Sonata and 1.9 percent financing, he said.

While Gary Rome Hyundai had the usual Presidents Day balloon bunches and a bustle of customers, the atmosphere was a bit more quiet and refined at Balise Lexus, down the road in West Springfield.

Despite the calm, Murray B. Fanning, general manager, said that "we did see a definite rise in traffic this weekend."

He estimated late yesterday afternoon that the dealership had sold about 15 Lexuses since Friday.

The long weekend helps the Lexus dealership, Fanning said. Would-be Lexus owners come in early in the weekend, drive a car, go home and do their research and think about it, then come back Sunday or Monday to buy.

Cashin, of the Housatonic section of Great Barrington, didn't need to think about it. She drove her 2003 Lexus GS300 40 miles down the Massachusetts Turnpike to Balise Lexus to scout out the GS350, with a base price of $47,300.

The older vehicle has "been a sensational car," Cashin said, "and I just thought of upgrading, looking at the new model."

She was deep in discussions with senior sales consultant Marc C. Thompson, who has sold Lexuses since the dealership opened 17 years ago.

Cashin said she expected she would get a better deal because it was Presidents' Day, but she also noted she came looking on the holiday because she had the time.

Fanning said that Lexus, unlike most other makes, doesn't really offer rebates or incentives. Instead, the company offers better leasing and financing options for the Presidents Day holiday.

Fanning said the Balise Honda dealership next door sold 50 cars since Friday, while the Toyota dealership on the other side sold 70.

Over the first two days of the weekend, the Hyundai dealership had sold more than 20 cars and Rome said he expects to sell "well over 50 for the weekend."

Liebel said he's bought cars from the Rome dealership "back when they were selling Nissans."Rome, in fact, predicted that by the time the deal was done, Liebel would have a silver car - again. Liebel said he was thinking of turning in his Hyundai XG350 sedan for its descendant, the new Azera sedan, which starts at $24,000.

Carroll V. Perez, the salesman helping Liebel, said President's Day brings big sales in part because "everybody's tired of winter and they come out and want to change their used cars for new."

Perez, who has sold Hyundais for four years, said about 25 percent of the shoppers on Presidents Day weekend turn into buyers during the actual three-day weekend, "but many come back" after cruising the showrooms.

Liebel, who gets a new car every three years or so, said he doesn't always buy it on Presidents Day, "but I figured it would be a good opportunity to look and see what the deals are."

Rosenberg, of Bernie's, said Presidents Day weekend is a big time for sales, whether it's automobiles or appliances, and, "I think it's pretty much always been so."

While February might otherwise be a lackluster month for retailers, sales of television sets for the Super Bowl early in the month, and now President's Day sales, help boost revenues, he said. "And the weather's certainly been on our side. We're very pleased with the results," Rosenberg said.

Taken from The Republican Tuesday, February 20, 2007
By MARCIA BLOMBERG
mblomberg@repub.com

Friday, February 16, 2007

Hyundai Elantra Offers Value for the Money

Hyundai Elantra offers great value for the money

REDONDO BEACH, Calif. -- Last year, when Hyundai introduced its new Elantra at the New York Auto Show, there was not much hoopla. No stars to recommend the new compact sedan, just a stage full of people like you and me. People who could be customers for Hyundai's new bread-and-butter sedan. Could be, that is, if you are looking for a smaller fuel-efficient car that offers value for money.



Because buyers are moving away from SUVs, smaller cars are on the move, and the fourth-generation Elantra comes right in time. The new model was on par with Hyundai's 24/7 product plan: seven all-new products in 24 months, when it arrived on the market last fall; the Elantra being No. 7 when it joined the Tucson, Sonata, Accent, Azera, Santa Fe and Entourage.

The Elantra was designed under the direction of Joel Piaskowski, the talented chief designer of the Hyundai America Design Center in California. He was responsible for the HCD-8 and HCD-9 concept cars that were introduced over the past few years. Early last year, he said in an interview with me: "We do not have a history, but we are working on it now."

In 2006, Hyundai did really well and the former generation of the Elantra scored five stars in the J.D. Power Initial Quality rating. But that model was not very attractive. That problem has been solved by Mr. Piaskowski and his staff when drawing the new model. The new Elantra has leapt ahead in both design and technology. So much so that the new model can compete with well-established name plates, such as the Honda Civic and the Toyota Corolla. Hyundai even claims that the Elantra provides more interior space than either Japanese competitor.

Last month, I was able to see if that is true when driving the Elantra for a week's stay in the Beach Cities, south of Los Angeles. My companion was the red Elantra SE, equipped with a 2.0-liter 16-valve CVVT engine that delivers 138 horsepower and has 136 foot-pounds of torque and that is teamed with a five-speed manual transmission.

Get behind the wheel and you immediately notice that the Elantra has really grown in size with some inches in height and width adding to a roomy cockpit and allowing a somewhat raised driving position. The interior is well executed and feels good and you do not have to search for buttons at illogical places.

The gauges in the instrument panel, as well as the display and buttons on the center console, are blue, a color that Mr. Piaskowski used in his HCD-9 concept, with LED lights, which he said was very expensive: "Blue is very difficult to duplicate and match. But it has a cool and soothing effect and it prevents aggression on the road."

The Elantra itself will not evoke aggression. It is not a sport sedan, but it drives well, the engine performs nicely and the four-speed automatic is a good match. The car feels agile and comfortable with an independent suspension that offers enough stiffness to be firm. So you can be at ease when you have to mix quickly with the fast traffic on the freeway, and feel happy to cruise on the Pacific Coast Highway.

And that is obviously exactly what Elantra customers will be looking for. Hyundai offers them not only good quality, but also value. The car in SE trim costs $15,595 excluding $600 destination fee. For that price you get dual front and side air bags as well as curtain bags, active head restraints and seat belt pretensioners for the seats.

The 16-inch alloy wheels house ventilated disks in the front and solid disc brakes in the rear, assisted by ABS and electronic brake force distribution. And then there are a lot of features such as power lock/windows, mirrors, remote keyless entry with alarm, cruise control, fog lights, air conditioning, a tilt and telescopic steering column, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, center console with arm rest, split folding (60/40) rear seat, rear center armrest, plus an AM/FM/CD audio system. And on top of that, the Elantra will not cost a fortune when you have to fill it up.

Of course, in daily life it is hard to match the 28/36 miles per gallon city/highway mentioned on the sticker, but even with my somewhat thirsty driving style, I was coming close with an average of 27.9 mpg over 661 miles.

And that is not bad at all.

By Henny Hemmes
SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
February 16, 2007

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

2007 Hyundai Accent and Elantra Receive Environmental Honors From the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE)

2007 Hyundai Accent and Elantra Receive Environmental Honors From the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE)

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., Feb. 14 -- The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) recognized the 2007 Hyundai Accent and Elantra as two of the top 12 "Greenest Vehicles of 2007." In addition, the 2007 Hyundai Sonata was named in the "Greener Choices for 2007" list that features widely available gasoline-powered cars and light trucks with automatic transmissions. The vehicles will be listed in the ACEEE's Green Book Online, an annual consumers' guide to environmentally-friendly cars and trucks.

"These awards for our clean, fuel-efficient Accent and Elantra demonstrate our commitment to the environment, just as our leadership in lifesaving safety technologies like Electronic Stability Control demonstrates our commitment to the safety of our owners," said John Krafcik, vice president of Strategic Planning and Product Development, Hyundai Motor America. "More and more people are seeing Hyundai as a smart choice, and these awards certainly make that more clear."

The "Greenest Vehicles of 2007" were based on automakers' test results for fuel economy and emissions as reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, California Air Resources Board, and other specifications reported by automakers.

The 2007 Hyundai Accent placed 10th with a "superior" green score of 45 out of 100. The Accent is certified as an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV), delivering up to 37 mpg (automatic transmission/highway). The 1.6-liter dual overhead cam (DOHC) in-line four-cylinder engine that features four valves per cylinder with Continuously Variable Valve Timing (CVVT) give the engine a very broad powerband, coupled with high fuel efficiency and low emissions.

The 2007 Hyundai Elantra placed 11th and like the Accent, received a "superior" green score of 45 out of 100. The Elantra is certified as a Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (PZEV) and is as clean as many hybrid electric vehicles. Elantra achieves this certification, with its advanced 2.0-liter in-line four-cylinder engine that features DOHC and CVVT, to ensure improved fuel economy.

HYUNDAI MOTOR AMERICA

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 755 dealerships nationwide.

ACEEE's GREEN BOOK ONLINE

The ACEEE's Green Book site (www.GreenerCars.com) is made possible by generous support from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, California Energy Commission, South Coast Air Quality Management District and California Air Resources Board. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to advancing energy efficiency as a means of promoting both economic prosperity and environmental protection.

Source: Hyundai Motor America

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

2007 Hyundai Elantra: Selling On A Lot More Than Just Value

2007 Hyundai Elantra: Selling on a lot more than just value.

Let's admit this first: Bargain-priced compact sedans typically aren't love at first sight for shoppers, who in this price range tend to be a very practically minded lot. For the same money, they could get a two- or three-year-old luxury car - probably one with a little more street cred and more creature comforts - but they opt for a new car with no previous abuses, a clean slate, and a full warranty. It's all about priorities, and here it's about the frugal car-as-appliance. Shoppers of simple compacts also may have long commutes on congested urban highways, tight budgets, and busy lives, and are looking at getting the most car for the money, with low running costs and reasonable room and comfort.



The outgoing (through model-year '06) Elantra was a good choice for those frugal folks, and if you mapped out all the features for the money in a matrix, like the most intense bargain shoppers do, it might even be the winner. But it was also quite blandly styled and had an interior that felt overtly cheap in places. That said, over various drives it totally wowed us with its driving characteristics compared to other cars in its thrifty price class, especially when equipped in GT trim, where the speed-sensitive power steering and capable chassis really came together, without sacrificing ride comfort, and really brought a lot of soul to an otherwise anonymous small sedan (or hatchback).

Enter the new Elantra, which borrows - outside a little, inside a lot - from the look and feel of the Sonata, the brand's mid-size sedan and probably best-known model.

Most cars - especially small cars - are moving toward higher beltlines (where the top of the door meets the window), but the new Elantra has a rather low beltline, accented by both a higher roofline and a full-length body crease that swoops down beside the front doors, then up toward the rear fenders and dipping again to meet the tail. Shorter drivers might appreciate it, as it allows for more window glass in front and a better view out, but depending on the angle the styling can be fresh or a little odd; we'll let you decide.

The warm interior follows a soft, not edgy, design, with rounded edges and flowing curves. Some of the details feel a bit borrowed from Volkswagen, Lexus, Nissan, and others, but the result is attractive and useful. Switchgear and gauges are straightforward, though tactile and well detailed, while center-stack sound-system and climate controls are high-mounted, large, and intuitive. 'Quality feel' is a very subjective term, but in my opinion the Elantra has it.

In my first hour or two in the Elantra, puttering around town at low speeds, I thought I had its character pegged as feeling softer, heftier, and less sporty than both its predecessor and most of its competitors. But I was wrong. Little in the Elantra's presentation asks you to drive it enthusiastically, but throw it into a corner and it responds sharply, with an unexpected sporty character that comes out with enthusiastic driving.



Nice ride, with a pleasant surprise

And after really putting it through the paces, that stands out as one of the Elantra's strongest attributes. It has a nice ride and does well in soaking up even small potholes, yet it responds with much more verve than expected. It's tighter and more responsive overall than a standard Corolla, rivaling the Civic while offering more ride comfort and isolation in the process.

Key to that feel on the road is that the Elantra is sprung quite softly and damped moderately, yet rather large stabilizer bars front and back keep everything under control when you go into a corner a little too fast.

One of the high points of the driving experience is the electric power steering, which here is tuned for a nice, firm on-center feel at speed, or fingertip-light and especially responsive at low speed. What's more, the steering rack is well isolated, so as to get some level of feedback on rutted roads without it being jarring.

The Elantra instead carries over its old-design iron-block four underhood. The engine is heavy compared with the engines in the Civic and Corolla, but it does the job just fine, and has variable valve timing, which assists with both fuel economy and low-rpm response. There's plenty of mid-rpm torque, and drivability was great with our test car's optional four-speed automatic transmission.



Possibly the quietest in its class

If you keep your right foot light, the Elantra is likely the quietest car in its class, with road noise remarkably absent even on coarse road surfaces and little if any wind noise at high speed. Hyundai claims that the Elantra's road noise levels are about two decibels lower than those of the Honda Civic. However, the engine changes its character when revved much above 3500 rpm, where it becomes coarse and boomy. Fortunately, in highway cruising the engine is kept below that range.

Besides the nice compromise between wide and handling, the true triumph of this new model is the interior, which is rather mind-blowing in terms of functionality. There are plenty of storage areas for front-seat occupants, including a cubby at the top of the instrument panel that's deep enough for larger objects, along with a lower-down storage compartment large enough for PDAs (both covered and hinged). Center console storage is also generous, and the glovebox is expansive; beside that there's an overhead compartment for sunglasses, door storage recesses, deep storage compartments in the back of the front seats, and even an ashtray. You can have a lot of clutter in the car, and keep it all out of sight.

The trunk space isn't skimpy either. There's plenty of space back there for one of the largest suitcases, along with a smaller suitcase and a couple of duffel bags. The only thing we wished for on our test car was a cargo net to help keep grocery bags from losing their contents.



Sized for Americans, at last

Hyundai seems to have conceded to the size of Americans this time around, with seats that are more generously apportioned, both for height and girth, and even okay in back. We especially liked the seat fabric on our test car, which was soft and textured, slightly grippy but not so much as to attract lint and stray pet hair; no need nor want for leather (which is offered on the top-range GLS).

The equipment list inside would not at all be out of place in a $30,000 car, let alone one that's around $16,000. Heated seats (unusual in this price class) are available; steering-wheel&45;mounted audio controls are standard (on our SE); so are tilt/telescope steering, a cabin air filter, illuminated door switches, and cruise control.

The Elantra also has four-wheel disc brakes standard, whereas many other models at the low end of the market, including the Corolla, Civic, Focus, and Cobalt, do not. Some of those other vehicles don't have standard anti-lock brakes either, but the Elantra does, along with electronic brake-force distribution.

Several other important safety features are standard on the Elantra, including front seat-mounted side airbags, side-curtain bags that protect front and rear occupants, and front-seat active head restraints, which help prevent whiplash injuries. Each of the seating positions in back has an adjustable head restraint.

Insurance companies, when figuring their premiums, should take kindly to all those standard safety features, along with the fact that the Elantra has 5-mph bumpers front and back.

A standout for safety, and quite frugal

In about 120 miles of real-world driving, about equal parts city and highway, averaging 25 mpg, we found the new Elantra to be efficient but not downright miserly, and not up to its EPA rating of 28 city, 36 highway. In a separate, short 25-mile stint on the highway, keeping our speed below 70, we saw 31 mpg from the trip computer.

Our only complaint of note is that the driver's side window has a one-touch down feature but no one-touch up, and there's no express up or down for the passenger-side front window.

The warranty still stands out as one of the best in the business, with five-year or 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper coverage, ten years or 100,000 miles on powertrain components, and seven years on rust. Five years of roadside assistance is also part of the deal.

Our test car had no significant options (just floor mats) on top of the SE's $16,695 base price. The base GLS starts at $13,395 ($13,995 with destination), and comes quite a bit more simply equipped, with steel wheels, no telescopic steering wheel adjustment, cruise control, or steering-wheel controls, and none of the upgraded trims inside and out. A/C is optional, along with sound systems, so unless you plan to get a stripper the SE looks like the best deal. There's also a Limited model, but it seems like a harder sell as the SE has the equipment most people want, and in this tight price class if customers can pay more they may just be looking at a different model.

We'd say, value aside, that the Elantra is a better, more appealing package than many other cars in its class, including the made-in-Michigan but outdated 2007 Ford Focus (we've yet to drive the revised 2008 model). The Elantra isn't pulse-quickening (we'll tell you about the upcoming GT package as it's available), but it feels surprisingly upscale for one of the most affordable Hyundais. To people who really know cars and have test-driven everything, the Elantra feels a bit derivative. But to almost all compact car shoppers who need to fit their day-to-day commuting needs on a budget, the Elantra is now on common ground with a new Civic, Corolla, or Sentra.

As you might expect, the new Elantra makes an even stronger appeal based on value, with more features packed in for less money than most of the competition. What you might not expect is that the Elantra now has a look, feel, and apparent quality that's truly comparable to the direct competition. The newest Elantra isn't just for cheap skates, hardcore smart-shoppers, and those sold on the peace of mind of the warranty; it stands out on its own.

2007 Hyundai Elantra SE sedan
Base price/as equipped: $16,695/$17,380
Engine: 2.0-liter in-line four, 138 hp
Drivetrain: Four-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 177.4 x 69.9 x 58.3 in
Wheelbase: 104.3 in
Curb weight: 2747 lb
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): 28/36 mpg
Safety equipment: Dual front airbags, front-seat side airbags, side-curtain bags, front active head restraints, anti-lock disc brakes
Major standard equipment: Air conditioning, fog lamps, power windows/locks/mirrors, cruise control, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, leather-trimmed steering wheel, keyless entry, split folding rear seat, six-speaker AM/FM/CD sound
Warranty: Five years/60,000 miles comprehensive; seven years corrosion; ten years/100,000 miles powertrain

by Bengt Halvorson The Car Connection

Monday, February 12, 2007

Hyundai Motor America Names New Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Hyundai Motor America Names New Vice Presidents of Sales and Marketing

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., Feb. 12 -- Hyundai Motor America (HMA) Chief Operating Officer Steve Wilhite today announced that David L. Zuchowski had been named Vice President of Sales and Joel Ewanick had been named Vice President of Marketing for the company.

Zuchowski will be responsible for all sales, sales operations, market representation, field operations and overall dealer relations. He will report directly to the COO.

Ewanick will be responsible for all Hyundai marketing communications and brand development in the United States. He will report directly to the COO. Both men began work at Hyundai Motor America today.

"Nothing could please me more than to have these two outstanding individuals join Hyundai," said Wilhite. Each will bring added depth, resourcefulness, and creative energy to our executive team. Dave has a remarkable record of terrific support for dealers and improving dealership operations while consistently increasing sales. He will be a key part of our efforts to drive Hyundai sales forward and set new records this year," said Wilhite.

"Joel has demonstrated innovative and creative marketing approaches during the time he has worked with us while at The Richards Group. Hyundai has a big job this year to further improve its brand image, increase consideration and bring even more shoppers to the brand. I'm confident Joel can lead the Hyundai Marketing team to achieve these tough objectives and tell our stories in a compelling way," Wilhite said.

Zuchowski joins Hyundai From Mazda North American Operations, where he was vice president of sales and field operations. Previously he had served in a number of positions at Ford Motor Company, which he joined in 1980.

Ewanick had previously served as director of brand planning at The Richards Group. Prior to that position he had a number of sales and marketing positions at companies including Porsche Cars North America, Saatchi & Saatchi Team One Advertising and Yamaha Motor Corporation.

Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif., is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Company of Korea. Hyundai vehicles are distributed in the U.S. by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced by more than 750 dealers throughout the nation.

SOURCE Hyundai Motor America

Hyundai Motor to lanuch luxury SUV in U.S. market in March

Hyundai Motor to launch luxury SUV in U.S. market in March



SEOUL, Feb. 11 (Yonhap) -- Hyundai Motor Co. said Sunday that it plans to launch its new luxury sports-utility vehicle in the U.S. market in March.

South Korea's No. 1 carmaker said the Veracruz has received good reviews at its unveiling at the Detroit Motor Show in January. It said the GLS, SE and Limited models of the vehicle will be sold.

Hyundai said it plans an aggressive advertisement blitz to promote the Veracruz and will invite reporters to test drive the vehicle. It said ads will be placed on TV, radio, and in major newspapers and magazines.

The SUV has a 3800cc V6 engine with a price of about $30,000 and will compete with such SUVs as the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Toyota 4Runner and Nissan's Murano.

"Hyundai believes that the quality and design of the Veracruz is on par with the competition," said a company spokesman. He added that despite the high price, domestic sales of the SUV have remained relatively steady at 1,000-2,000 units per month since late last year. The vehicle sells for 31.8-42.7 million won depending on options.

Taken from Yonhap News.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Hyundai Wins MotorWeek Award For "Best Minivan"

Hyundai Wins MotorWeek Award For "Best Minivan"

2007 Hyundai Entourage Receives "Best Minivan" Honor In The 25th Annual MotorWeek Driver's Choice Awards



FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., 02/08/2007 MotorWeek recognizes the Hyundai Entourage as the "Best Minivan" in its 2007 Editors' Choice Awards. The award was distributed at the 2007 Chicago Auto Show. As a winner, the Entourage will also be featured on a special MotorWeek episode on PBS, February 10.

"MotorWeek's 2007 Drivers' Choice Award for Best Minivan goes to a duet, the Hyundai Entourage and Kia Sedona," said John Davis, producer, host and creator of MotorWeek, the automotive series on PBS. "This second-generation Korean-branded design matches all the best features of its rivals, and then beats them in price and powertrain warranty. The leaps that Hyundai and Kia make in perceived quality with each new vehicle are well documented, and the Entourage and Sedona are just the latest examples. From school bus to apartment moving, minivans are the most versatile vehicles on the planet, and this two-some is tops."

The 25th annual MotorWeek Driver's Choice Award winners were based on the evaluations of 15 judges, comprised of the writers, producers, and crew of MotorWeek. More than 150 cars and trucks were put through rigorous road and track tests as judges assessed performance, technology, practicality, and overall value from the consumer's perspective. Winning vehicles were selected in thirteen different categories.

"Since its introduction last year, Entourage has earned a number of honors and awards including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's top five-star crash test rating and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's highest honor - the gold ‘Top Safety Pick’ award," said John Krafcik, vice president of Strategic Planning and Product Development, Hyundai Motor America. "We proudly accept the MotorWeek award, which recognizes the Entourage's spacious interior, powerful performance, and unsurpassed standard safety technologies."

HYUNDAI MOTOR AMERICA

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 755 dealerships nationwide.

MOTORWEEK DRIVERS' CHOICE AWARDS

Now in its 25th year, the annual MotorWeek Drivers' Choice Awards are coveted by drivers as the definitive list of best automotive picks for a range of lifestyles. Unlike other industry benchmarks, MotorWeek&39;s categories reflect consumer buying trends and the full range of buyer preferences. MotorWeek, the original television automotive magazine series, is one of the nation's leading sources for automotive industry news, new car information, and driving entertainment.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Redesigned Hyundai Elantra Boasts Roominess For Everyone

Redesigned Hyundai Elantra boasts roominess for everyone

Little surprise that Korean carmaker Hyundai chose New York for the world debut of its redesigned Elantra. This compact has found more than a million buyers in the United States, eager to save money and gasoline and possibly avoid costly maintenance down the road with a 10-year powertrain warranty. Elantra, already a formidable competitor for the big Japanese makers, ups the ante again for its American friends this year. The redesigned version is bigger for '07 -- roomier than most everything in its class -- and has a better ride, too. And for my money, it's better looking than a lot of the other guys. A CONFIDENT STANCE Elantra has a more confident stance. It is better sculpted on the sides. It has a more upscale look, highlighted by fog lights this year and chrome trim on the headlights and grille. More than two inches wider and two inches taller, Elantra also has considerably more interior space. That means more hip and shoulder room in the front and rear. No kidding, the rear is actually comfortable for adults, too. Good leg room and foot room even for my dainty 12s.Hyundai boasts that the Elantra, with 97.9 cubic feet of passenger room and 14.2 cubic feet of trunk space, is the roomiest in its class. That class contains monster-sellers like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Nissan Sentra. Heck, the EPA says it's so roomy it doesn't even belong in the compact segment. The EPA calls it a midsize. Whatever. Why do they have to complicate things? Besides its roominess, Elantra's looks improved on the inside, too. Two-tone color schemes and blue backlighting on the dashboard instruments give it a more vibrant look and feel. The craftsmanship inside also is a notch better. Panels fit tightly and plastic and leather feels good. Yes, I did say leather. Can't find that in every compact, you know. The Elantra for 2007 includes steering wheel-mounted cruise and audio controls. Plenty of room for stuff: The center console is on the small side, but quite deep. There are pockets on the doors and seatbacks for rear passengers. Hyundai installed its 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine into the Elantra, and it proves to be adequate. It puts out 138 horses and 136 foot-pounds of torque, and while it may not dazzle any driving enthusiasts, it was sufficient for those looking for a solid, everyday drive. The engine gets a bit noisy at higher speeds, however. ON THE ROAD Mileage is an agreeable 28 city, 36 on the highway trips. The tester was equipped with a four-speed automatic transmission that shifted smoothly and on cue. Standard is a five-speed manual tranny. On the road the Elantra is an agile performer, with decent steering feedback. Its ride is comfortable, but it rates only fair on corners with a good amount of body lean. Still, it grips the road well. Visibility has been helped this year by a 1.8-inch boost in seat height, and it makes a difference. And rear head restraints can be pushed into the seat so they're out of the way. Every Elantra comes with standard anti-lock braking system as well as six air bags: two dual fronts, two front seat-mounted side-impact bags, and two side-curtain air bags for both front and rear. Elantra comes in three trims, starting with the base GLS, at $13,995, which doesn't include much more than power windows. Even the air conditioning is extra. Most will want to include a preferred package that adds AC and a pretty good 172-watt audio system with tweeters. The sporty SE at $16,295, gets 16-inch alloy wheels, six-speaker audio and leather-wrapped steering wheels with audio and cruise controls. The Limited, at $17,295, goes more upscale with leather seats and door panels. A sunroof is available on all models. So are navigation and chrome wheels. With competent performance, more room inside, lots of standard safety features and Hyundai's attractive five-year bumper-to-bumper and 10-year powertrain warranties, the Elantra is worth checking out. ut beware, the price can climb over $20,000 if you're too generous with yourself. My suggestion: Go with the base GLS, which has standard features like power windows, intermittent wipers and vanity mirrors. Then opt for the Preferred option package to add cruise control, remote entry, trunk release and fog lights. Now you have a nifty car, and you're still in the mid-teens. Posted on Sun, Feb. 04, 2007 The Miami Herald

A Korean Crossover Gets Its Green Card

A Korean Crossover Gets Its Green Card

By now, everyone knows that South Korean automakers have come a long way since their first halting attempts to sell tinny econoboxes to Americans. The distance Hyundai has traveled is no longer figurative; it can be measured in miles. The new-from-the-ground-up 2007 Santa Fe, for instance, wears the logo of the Seoul-based company, but it is as Korean-American as kimchee at a suburban A.& P. This larger, more substantial, car-based S.U.V. - a crossover, in the parlance - was developed specifically for American tastes. It was designed at the new Hyundai Design Center in Irvine, Calif., and rolls off a new assembly line in Montgomery, Ala. And, of course, it carries a name that evokes adobe missions, Georgia O'Keefe paintings and dried chili peppers. In styling and performance, the second-generation Santa Fe is a significant step up from the model originally introduced in 2000. It offers an optional third-row seat, which is becoming the price of admission even among the compact utility wagons once known as cute utes. It also incorporates many of the latest safety features found on much more expensive automobiles. Prices, which start around $21,000 and can reach $33,000, fall squarely in the middle of the hot crossover market. But like other Hyundais, the Santa Fe is priced to undercut similarly equipped competitors from Toyota, Honda, Nissan and others. My test vehicle was a Santa Fe Limited, the most expensive of three trim lines. With front drive, the Limited starts at $26,715. The base model GLS starts at $21,715 and the midrange SE at $24,415. Ordering all-wheel drive adds $2,000 to each price. Unlike several of its closest competitors, the Santa Fe does not come with a four-cylinder engine. The base GLS's engine, a 2.7-liter V-6, was carried over but upgraded with variable valve timing, a variable intake system and other improvements. It is rated at 185 horsepower and 183 pound-feet of torque. Alone in its class, this model comes with a five-speed manual transmission, although a four-speed automatic is optional. Optional on the SE and standard on the Limited is a new 3.3-liter V-6 with 242 horsepower and 226 pound-feet of torque. This engine comes only with a five-speed automatic. Both engines meet California's ultra-low-emission standards and burn regular-grade gasoline. As is common these days, the all-wheel drive system is electronically controlled and splits the torque to direct it to the wheels that can use it best. Uncommon on crossover utilities, however, is a lock control that will split the torque 50-50, front to rear, an advantage in mud, deep snow or off-road conditions. Hyundai has made an unusually strong commitment to standard safety equipment in the vehicles it sells in this country. The Santa Fe has six air bags, including side curtains that help to protect all three rows of seats. Bags like these have proved effective in reducing injuries and deaths in side-impact crashes. Also standard is another proven device, an electronic stability control, that helps the driver maintain control in sudden maneuvers or other emergency situations that could result in a spinout or rollover. Four-wheel antilock brakes are standard as well, and they incorporate two additional safety features: emergency brake assist, which applies full-force braking if sensors detect the need for an emergency stop, and electronic brake force distribution, which balances the braking force regardless of the vehicle's load. The Santa Fe has done well in crash tests. It received five stars, the highest rating, in front and side-impact tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And it earned a "good" rating in the front"offset test by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Styling verdicts are best left to the individual, but to my eye the new Santa Fe has a lot going for it. It eschews the zoomy rear quarter panels and small rear side windows of some Japanese utilities, which can create large blind spots for the driver. Instead, Hyundai's designers stuck to softly rounded corners without pronounced styling accents. This, in my view, is a big improvement over the strange sci-fi contours of the first-generation Santa Fe. While the Hyundai's size is similar to rivals like the Toyota RAV4 and Highlander, the Honda CR-V and the Chevrolet Equinox, it manages to eke out a bit more space inside. The third row, for example, is almost habitable. It is split 50/50 and can be folded flat. Yet I would pass up the third seat, even if it is one of the few that adults can use, in favor of the two-row version that has roomy rear storage with two convenient compartments. The second row folds nearly flat - no need to remove the head restraints - and locks in the down position. Atypically, the windows in the rear doors roll down all the way. Interiors are becoming ever more appealing, especially in European and Japanese models, with smart color choices and textures that give a feeling of luxury and value. The new Santa Fe incorporates many of these intangibles into a moderately priced wagon. Instruments are simple and clear, with blue lighting at night. The controls are logical, so there is no need to consult the manual. The console box is a roomy two-tier affair; there are sturdy cup holders. The redesign has improved the Santa Fe's performance in all respects. The new 3.3-liter engine in my test vehicle was responsive, and the overall performance was enhanced by the smooth-shifting automatic. The use of five speeds allows a more aggressive first gear and a fifth gear biased toward economy. With the larger engine, fuel economy is rated at 19 m.p.g. in town and 24 on the highway. While not class-leading figures, these numbers are competitive. My average was 20.6, a bit better than the 4-cylinder Toyota Highlander that I drove a while back, but not as good as my mileage (23 m.p.g.) with the 4-cylinder RAV4. With the 2.7-liter engine and automatic transmission, the Santa Fe is rated 21 in town, 26 on the highway. Steering and handling are smooth and steady and, while none too sporty, are certainly good enough in this class. The fairly tight turning circle (35.8 feet) was appreciated. The four-wheel disc brakes are firm, with a nice, progressive feel. The ride is about what I'd expected of a small crossover, firm and well controlled and not stiff or jerky like many truck-based S.U.V.'s. The highway ride is reasonably quiet, with low wind and tire noise. Consumers are learning that crossover wagons are worthwhile choices when a sedan doesn't seem to have enough space and heavy truck-based S.U.V.'s seem too clumsy and thirsty. There are many crossovers on the market, with more arriving every few months. There are a few standouts in this rather large group, including relatively compact models like the RAV4, the CR-V and the Subaru Forester. I would add the new Santa Fe to that group. It is roomy, cleanly designed, reasonably priced and it comes with a lot of safety features. • INSIDE TRACK: If you are thinking of crossing over, here's a crossover worthy of your short list. By BOB KNOLL Published: February 4, 2007 The New York Times

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Hyundai Earns Best Deal Honors In Cars.com Lifestyle Awards

Hyundai Earns "Best Deal" Honors In Cars.com Lifestyle Awards

2007 Hyundai Sonata And The Tucson Recognized As The "Best Deal For Small Families" And "Best Deal For Weekend Athletes" FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., 01/25/2007 Cars.com recognized the Hyundai Sonata as the "Best Deal for Small Families" and the Hyundai Tucson as the "Best Deal for Weekend Athletes" in its first annual Lifestyle Awards. Developed to recognize vehicles best suited for the lifestyle needs of today's car buyers, the Cars.com awards program honors the top "Best Deals" in a number of sub-categories. The awards are based on expert picks from Cars.com editors' experiences in dozens of test drives and their evaluation of criteria most important to shoppers in each respective lifestyle category. The Hyundai Sonata received the "Best Deal for Small Families" accolade by combining advanced standard safety features and interior comfort at an affordable price. The Hyundai Sonata sets the benchmark for value and standard safety technology in the midsize segment as the only midsize sedan under $20,000 with lifesaving Electronic Stability Control (ESC) as a standard feature. Every Sonata includes four-wheel disc brakes with Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS), six airbags-including dual front, front seat-mounted side-impact, and front and rear side curtain airbags-along with active front-seat head restraints. With a well-crafted interior and striking style, the Sonata is a sophisticated choice for the value conscious consumer. The Hyundai Tucson beat out the competition in the "Best Deal for Weekend Athletes" category with cargo versatility, value, quality and safety superiority. Versatility is a Tucson strong point. The standard 60/40-split fold-down rear seatback makes it easy to accommodate passengers and cargo. Single-lever operation and headrests that remain in place speed the conversion from passenger to cargo use. Another thoughtful touch: the front passenger seatback can fold flat either forward or backward, further adding to loading and cargo carrying versatility. To help secure cargo, there are three grocery bag hooks, six flush-mount metal tie-down anchor points and six cargo net mounting points. Tucson is ready to haul gear with an easy-to-clean composite load floor with a removable rear section. Underneath is an additional storage area and spare tire. Plenty of storage bins, compartments and eight cup holders are positioned throughout the interior, as are three 12-volt power points. Comfort and convenience features include a two-tier front storage console with a two-position padded armrest. The Tucson continues to rank high in quality and safety ratings with standard features including Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with traction control, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and six airbags. "Automakers design vehicles to address the needs of specific consumer lifestyles, so it's rewarding to be recognized for meeting those demands," said John Krafcik, vice president of Strategic Planning and Product Development, Hyundai Motor America. "We also know that a large part of Hyundai's consumer appeal is our commitment to quality, standard safety technologies and extraordinary value, which both the Sonata and Tucson capture as well." HYUNDAI MOTOR AMERICA 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 755 dealerships nationwide. CARS.COM Partnered with more than 200 leading metro newspapers, television stations and their websites, Cars.com is the most comprehensive destination for those looking to buy or sell a new or used car. The site lists more than 2 million vehicles from 13,000 dealer customers, classified advertisers and private parties to offer consumers the best selection of new and used cars online, as well as the content, tools and advice to support their shopping experience.