Friday, April 27, 2007

Hyundai's Veracruz Crossover is Stylish

Hyundai's Veracruz crossover is stylish



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the turning circle of 36.7 feet was surprisingly tidy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maximum towing capacity is 3,500 pounds.

By Ann M. Job

Hyundai Elantra To Get New Elantra Model

Hyundai Elantra to get New Wagon Model

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

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

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

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

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

April 27, 2007
by Justin Couture / American Auto Press

2007 Hyundai Veracruz Expert Review

2007 Hyundai Veracruz Expert Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Mike Hanley
Cars.com
April 25, 2007

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Suburban Dad: 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe

Suburban Dad: 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe



I have something of a history with the Hyundai Santa Fe. You might even call it a crush.

When I was looking for a new car back in 2002, among the cars I looked at was the Santa Fe. It was a brand-new model then, full of promise and good looks. It was appealing for its size, the cargo it could hold and its truck-like look and feel. In the end, my fears about buying a Hyundai, given their previous quality track record, held me back. My sister-in-law bought one, so I've been able to ride in it from time to time. It was like a long-distance romance.

Fast-forward to last fall, when I drove the Santa Fe for a few minutes and had mixed feelings about it. It looked great, had grown from its original size and was really comfortable. Unfortunately, it was also dragging. Although it had a V-6, I felt like we weren't getting anywhere.

Now, though, I've driven the Limited version of the Santa Fe, and my fears and concerns have melted away thanks to the Limited’s bigger V-6. It still has the same great looks, the creature comforts and a huge cargo area.

It may be love.

My wife was equally thrilled. "It's really sharp-looking," she enthused. She and I were both drawn to the debut version five years ago, but we see the new model as vastly superior. Even with three kids in the second row (the test vehicle didn’t come with the optional third row), we didn't feel cramped. All three kids sat comfortably — more comfortably than just about any SUV we've tested so far. "The width of it was nice," my wife pointed out. Of course, they still fought, but there's not a car out there that can solve that problem.

The interior seems a lot more refined than the earlier version. It doesn't seem as plasticky, although the original was not horrible. The light metal on the center console was nice, but automakers need to find a way to make these seem more substantial than they look. The faux wood along the bottom on the center console and around the gear shift didn't bug me, but I wonder what it'll look like after a few years in the sun.

The controls are a little over-the-top, especially the diagram that tells you how the climate control is working. And in a $25,000 car, can't Hyundai spring for a decent stereo? Plus, any automaker who isn't automatically placing an MP3 jack in its cars these days should be ashamed. More than 100 million iPods have been sold so far; I'm guessing that quite a few of the owners are even driving now.

Mileage was actually not bad, getting about 18 mpg in our mostly city driving. That's better than a lot of midsize SUVs I've driven over the last few months, and within the limits of what my wife and I will accept.

Would we buy this car? (Drum roll, please) Yes. We. Would.

"I've always liked the look of the Santa Fe," my wife said, "and they've improved it."

As tested, it was priced just under $27,000. Given the decent mileage it gets in relation to the room it has, and I think this one would make a perfect second car for us. And, as those who follow Suburban Dad know, that’s high praise indeed.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Hyundai Vehicles Named "Best Cars For Families"

Hyundai Vehicles Named "Best Cars For Families"

April 20, 2007 -- FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif. -- AAA (American Automobile Association) and Parents magazine named the 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe and Entourage as two of 2007's "Best Cars for Families."

The 15-vehicle list, now in its fifth year, appears with detailed reviews of each model in the April issue of Parents magazine. AAA's auto-safety experts and Parents' editors - who understand the wants and needs of families - created a list of sedans, economy cars, vans, SUVs, and crossovers they felt perfectly met everyday family demands.

According to AAA/Parents' judges, "The Santa Fe is packed with safety technology to protect your little ones, but the modest price tag leaves something for their college funds. Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and side-impact and side-curtain air bags are standard. Nice surprises include second-row A/C vents to keep your kids cool and a heated windshield wiper for melting through the ice." After a road test with the Hyundai Santa Fe, Sally Lee, editor-in-chief of Parents magazine said, "I loved the easy-to-read instrument panel and the great storage space. Car seats were a breeze to install. It's a lot of car for the money -- and stylish too."

AAA/Parents' judges said, "No van has more standard safety features: Three-row side-curtain air bags, [electronic] stability control, and antilock brakes are all standard. So are the Entourage's three-zone climate-control system, power windows in the sliding doors, a flat-folding third row, and all the obligatory storage nooks. And how's this for value: Even if you opt for power rear doors and tailgate, heated front seats, leather upholstery, and wood-grain accents, you'll pay less than $30,000."

"We are proud to accept recognition from two organizations that offer helpful information and advice to better the lives of consumers," said John Krafcik, vice president of Strategic Planning and Product Development, Hyundai Motor America. "Santa Fe and Entourage are great examples of Hyundai's continued commitment to providing affordable vehicles with standard life-saving technologies and convenience features that every family is looking for."

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.

PARENTS MAGAZINE

Parents' Magazine provides today's parents with the information they need to raise healthy, happy children. Topics covered include child health and safety, food and nutrition, behavior and development, family life and relationships, children's fashion, toys, travel and technology.

AAA

As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 50 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at www.aaa.com.

Hyundai's Veracruz Entices Luxury Market

Hyundai's Veracruz entices luxury market

Model is like Lexus RX350, but thousands of dollars less



Forget the myth. Hyundai Motor is not a tiny South Korean manufacturer of cheap little cars. It is a giant -- the largest car company in South Korea and, as a part of the Hyundai Kia Automotive Group, the sixth-largest car company in the world.

It is a threat to anyone making cars, economy or luxury.

It can topple General Motors. It can upset Toyota. It already has bypassed Nissan and Honda in global vehicle sales. It is as determined as any company to rank No. 1 on the world's automotive stage.

Hyundai has done well rolling out economy cars, wagons and compact sport utility vehicles for budget-minded consumers. It will continue to serve that segment. But there is more money to be made serving the rich -- upper-income professionals who traditionally shop Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Infiniti, Lexus, Lincoln or Mercedes-Benz.

Hyundai wants those upscale dollars and is implementing an audacious, risky strategy to get them. It plans to build better luxury vehicles than any existing competitor and to sell those models at prices below that of any segment rival.

Cheeky? Yes. Possible? Consider the 2007 Hyundai Veracruz Limited crossover utility vehicle, which easily runs against the likes of the excellent Lexus RX350 -- for thousands of dollars less.

I recently did a daylong, head-to-head driving comparison of the Veracruz and RX350 in San Diego and environs. There were obvious differences. The Veracruz, available with all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive, has seating for seven people. The RX350, also available with all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive, has space for five. The Veracruz has more standard equipment -- including some that is usually optional, such as third-row seating -- than the RX350.

In terms of crash-avoidance and impact-mitigation equipment, the Veracruz matches or surpasses all mainstream luxury vehicle manufacturers. For example, electronic stability control, side and head air bags, front-seat active head restraints, rear-seat head restraints, antilock brakes and electronic brake assistance are all standard on the Veracruz.

In design and creature comforts, the Veracruz -- especially the fully loaded Limited edition -- is an undisputed winner. It has a longer, more elegantly sculpted body than the RX350. Inside and out, it simply looks better. Inside, it also feels better -- more spacious, less cramped than the RX350. The leather-covered seats are comfortable. (Thankfully, here, Hyundai jettisoned the notion that all drivers' seats should fit the body as tightly as those in a race car. The Veracruz's seats recognize that many of us are older and that our bodies are slightly larger than they were in our youth.) The Veracruz has every onboard automotive gadget imaginable, except one. At the moment, there is no navigation system. Hyundai has taken some heat for that. And the company is likely to respond by offering onboard navigation as an option in the slightly updated 2008 Veracruz. I understand the concept of the customer always being right. However, in this case, I believe that both Hyundai and its customers are wrong.

Look at the portable, easily attachable navigation systems available at good consumer electronics shops. Most of them are more advanced and more accurate, and have more usable features than the best onboard navigation systems. And the portables, which can be updated more quickly than the fixed onboard models, often sell for half the price.

It thus makes as much sense for car companies to continue installing onboard systems as it does for them to install car phones, which have been surpassed in features, functionality and value by hand-held cell phones. Hyundai needs to save the money it's going to waste installing onboard systems and use it to do something else.

But who am I to talk? Hyundai, as represented by the Veracruz, seems to be doing quite well following its own sense of what's right and what works.

Consider the matter of engineering. The Veracruz comes with an easy-breathing, 260-horsepower, 3.8-liter V6. It uses regular unleaded fuel. The engine is linked to a remarkably smooth six-speed automatic transmission. The comparable RX350 comes with a 3.5-liter, 270-horsepower V6 that requires premium unleaded fuel. That engine is linked to a five-speed automatic transmission. Put another way, the Veracruz is less expensive to operate than the RX350. But it's every bit as much fun to drive.

Still, the problem for Hyundai remains consumer perception. It has to get consumers into the Veracruz to make them believe. That won't be easy to do in the luxury vehicle segment. Prestige is important to luxury bias. Fair or not, for the time being, "Lexus" still sounds better than "Hyundai."

2007 Hyundai Veracruz Limited

Complaint: Hyundai's problem isn't the Veracruz or any of the other eight vehicle lines it sells in the United States. Hyundai's problem is its "we're cheap" image, which hasn't been helped by marketing that emphasizes price more than it does the quality and integrity of its products.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Excellent ride handling. Acceleration is excellent in the flatlands, where the Veracruz easily cruises at highway speeds. But the engine gets a bit wheezy in the mountains.

Head-turning quotients: Many Californians thought the Veracruz came from one of the traditional high-end manufacturers. At least one such spectator, in La Jolla, thought it was the latest edition of the substantially more expensive Mercedes-Benz R-Class crossover.

Body style/layout: The Veracruz is a front-engine midsize luxury crossover utility vehicle (a station wagon, in reality). It has four side doors and a rear lift-gate. It is available with all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive, and it comes in three trim levels -- base GLS, mid-range SE and high-end Limited.

Engine/transmission: The Veracruz comes with a standard 3.8-liter V6 engine that develops 260 horsepower at 6,000 revolutions per minute and 257 foot-pounds of torque at 4,500 rpm. It is linked to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Capacities: There is seating for seven in the Veracruz. Maximum cargo capacity is 87 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 20.6 gallons of recommended regular unleaded gasoline.

Mileage: I averaged 23 miles per gallon in highway driving.

Safety: Standard equipment includes electronic stability control, front active head restraints, side and head air bags, antilock brakes and electronic brake assistance.

Price: Base price on the Limited with all-wheel drive is $34,005. Dealer's price on base model is $34,909. Price as tested is $37,645, including $2,950 in options and a $690 destination charge. Dealer's price as tested is $34,909. Base price on the comparable Lexus RX350 is $38,000. With comparable options, the RX350 is $43,570. Prices sourced from Hyundai, Lexus, www.cars.com, www.edmunds.com and www.kbb.com.

Purse-strings note: Compare with Lexus RX 350, Honda Pilot, Subaru B9 Tribeca, Nissan Murano and, I think, the GMC Acadia. Competitors had better start taking Hyundai seriously.

Warren Brown, Washington Post
Sunday, April 22, 2007
This article appeared on page J - 5 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday, April 19, 2007

AutoPacific Announces Automotive Brand Image Results

AutoPacific Announces Automotive Brand Image Results

Hyundai Brand Image Skyrockets, Chrysler Group Plummets

TUSTIN, Calif., April 18 -- A study released today by noted automotive consulting firm AutoPacific, Inc. summarizes the results of AutoPacific's Image and Consideration Tracking Study that will help manufacturers measure and manage their image.

1,254 VehicleVoice panelists responded to an Internet survey concerning their opinion of automakers in the USA. The key question in the VehicleVoice survey was whether the respondent's opinion of a manufacturer had changed since this time last year. AutoPacific received over 5,000 comments concerning these manufacturers.

The most improved manufacturer is Hyundai Motor Corporation. Comments surrounding the performance of Hyundai give Hyundai credit for substantially improved styling, high durability/quality/reliability, a strong value message and a great warranty program.

The opinion of the Japanese Big Three was higher than a year ago. The opinion of Toyota revolves around durability/quality/reliability, value and its hybrid technology. On the negative side, Toyota takes some flack for building a new "gas guzzling" big pickup truck at a new plant in Texas and having bland styling. The opinion of Honda is about durability/quality/reliability, value and concern for the environment. Nissan's scores for leading-edge styling, innovative technologies and good DQR somewhat offset by quality concerns for its large trucks.

The opinion of Volkswagen improved getting credit for its exterior and interior styling, interior materials and technology. These positive perceptions are offset by a reputation for poor reliability and deteriorating value story. Throughout the comments on Volkswagen were positive comments about Audi, "the new BMW."

BMW is rated the most pretentious of the manufacturers but gets good credit for its styling and technology. BMW's head stylist Chris Bangle was mentioned frequently. Negative comments about Bangle contend he has ruined BMW styling. Others credit him for the best styling in the industry. But one thing's certain, the panelists universally hate BMW's iDrive system.

The opinion of General Motors deteriorated over the past year, but not to the extent of Ford and Chrysler. This may be because the media feeding frenzy directed at GM was retargeted at Ford and most recently at Chrysler. VehicleVoice panelists give GM credit for improving products, better styling, better interior designs and using better materials. GM's new 100,000-mile warranty also received positive reviews.

he opinion of Ford Motor Company has deteriorated due to concerns about Ford's management and leadership, its financial situation, hourly and salaried staff cuts, and questions whether Ford has the resources necessary to develop high quality products. It appears that Ford's new Fusion/Milan/MKZ/Edge/MKX vehicles have struck a positive chord with panelists.

The most deterioration in opinion was for Chrysler Group. While Chrysler gets credit for great styling on the 300/Magnum/Charger, panelists criticize the styling of its other products as lackluster. The HEMI is praised for its image and performance and castigated for being a gas-guzzler. Chrysler is perceived as being behind in alternative fuel vehicles -- especially hybrids. But the biggest negative is that DaimlerChrysler put Chrysler Group up for sale and that a buyer has not yet been announced. There are negative comments about the "take-over" of Chrysler by Daimler-Benz. There are several comments to the effect "Why would anyone want a Chrysler product if even Daimler doesn't want it?"

AutoPacific is a future-oriented automotive marketing and product-consulting firm with headquarters in Tustin, California, with an affiliate office in the Detroit area.

To weigh in with comments concerning these results, you can comment on the VehicleVoice blog site, http://blog.vehiclevoice.com/.

AutoPacific, Inc.
2991 Dow Avenue
Tustin, California 92780-7219

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Fast Cars at Holyoke Mall

Fast cars at Holyoke Mall



Some fast cars raced into Holyoke Mall to help out the Jimmy Fund.

Dozens of cars were on display for patrons to see and to vote on. Drivers from Stafford Motor Speedway and Whip City Speedway were on hand at the event.

Diamond Racing and Gary Rome Hyundai also held a raffle to support the cancer research fund.

And one local speedway owner says the event was a success.

"Very impressed with the response of the people coming through the mall…anytime you can help a charity especially in today's day and age with things being a little bit tight," said Dave Pighetti of Whip City Speedway.No word on how much money was raised for the Jimmy Fund.

Click here for a video and more information.

By CBS3 Springfield

Monday, April 16, 2007

2007 Hyundai Elantra Expert Review

2007 Hyundai Elantra Expert Review

By the numbers, the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla are the most popular compact cars on the market. Beyond those two are more than a dozen alternatives, each vying for attention with its own mix of talents.

Among them is the Hyundai Elantra, a car whose chief distinctions once included its low price and long warranty. Times have changed — the redesigned 2007 Elantra is still a bargain, but now that it comes stocked with all the latest safety and convenience features, it no longer feels like a bargain-basement choice. On many levels, it's downright desirable. If you're considering a Civic or its peers, give the Elantra a good, hard look.

The Elantra comes in GLS, SE and Limited trim levels. A manual or automatic transmission is available with every trim level; I drove a manual SE.

Exterior & Styling
Dropping the previous generation's vaguely European styling, the new Elantra adopts a taller, curvier look. Hyundai says it follows the look of the full-size Azera sedan — which is not the most distinctive design, either. Even with fog lights and 16-inch alloy wheels, my test car looked too much like a Toyota Corolla, especially in the back. It won't repel anyone, but neither is it likely to attract a strong following.

Body-colored side mirrors and door handles are standard on all Elantras. They're a nice touch, given that some competitors have black plastic moldings on their base trim levels.

The Inside
Beyond some cheap door panels and a rubbery steering wheel, there was little to suggest the Elantra as tested cost less than $16,000. The dash is trimmed in soft-touch materials, the buttons feel high-quality and the ceiling has an upscale woven texture. Better yet are the abundant convenience features, most of which are rarities at this price — things like lighted vanity mirrors, a telescoping steering wheel, a sunglass holder and a rear armrest with cupholders.

The cloth seats are comfortable, with substantial cushions and ample back support. Leather is optional, but a lumbar adjustment for the driver's seat is not available.

Hyundai goes to great lengths to emphasize that the Elantra's cabin is from 5 to 10 percent larger than most competitors. Indeed, I found plenty of room up front. I'm just shy of 6 feet, and there was enough legroom, plus an inch of leftover headroom with the seat positioned at maximum height. (Tall drivers, take note: My Elantra came without a moonroof, which usually steals an inch or two of headroom.)

Unfortunately, none of that extra room goes in back. The seats are high enough off the ground that legroom is bearable, but headroom is tight. The seatback folds in a 60/40 split, exposing a small opening to the trunk. Trunk volume measures 14.2 cubic feet, which is more than nearly all the Elantra's major competitors.

Performance
The Elantra's 2.0-liter four-cylinder makes 138 horsepower. Paired with the easy-shifting five-speed manual, it was enough to get around town. Getting up to highway speeds requires revving the engine high, creating enough noise to drown out the stereo. Passing at highway speeds requires a downshift or two, and even then it takes patience and timing.

The wheels and suspension provide little in the way of sound deadening, so there's plenty of road noise at highway speeds. On a sustained stretch at 75 mph, there was some shimmy in the steering wheel and rattling in the headliner, and the wheels came unglued over any major bumps. Most compact cars fare about as well, but a few — most notably the Corolla — perform a bit better.

Standard four-wheel-disc antilock brakes bring things to a stop. On paper, they're a full class above the rear drum brakes many rivals use. In practice, they delivered sure-footed stopping power.

The EPA rates the Elantra's gas mileage at 28 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway with either the automatic or manual transmission. Here's how that compares to the competition:

EPA-Estimated Gas Mileage (City/Highway, mpg)
Honda Civic 30/40
Toyota Corolla 30/38
Nissan Sentra 29/38
Hyundai Elantra 28/36
Kia Spectra 27/35
Ford Focus 27/34
Mazda3 26/34
Chevrolet Cobalt 24/34
Dodge Caliber 26/30
All figures are for 2007 models with the base engine, automatic transmission and regular (87-octane) gasoline. Dodge Caliber figures are for the 2.0L engine; the 1.8L engine is offered only with the manual transmission. Remember that the EPA is adjusting its testing procedures for 2008 models, and the new mileage estimates will be lower.


Safety
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Elantra its highest score, Good, for frontal crash tests. As of this writing, IIHS has not tested the car for side impacts.

All Elantras come with many safety features, including side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain airbags for both rows. Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes are also standard, as are active head restraints, something rarely offered in this segment. An electronic stability system is not available.

All five seats have head restraints, and the front ones ratchet forward for better whiplash protection. Nice.

Trim Levels & Features
Before you add in the destination charge, the Elantra GLS starts at $13,395. That's quite a bargain, considering it comes with all those safety features, remote keyless entry and power windows, door locks and mirrors. Unfortunately, there's no CD player or radio. If you want music, go for a dealer-installed stereo or visit your local electronics store for an aftermarket choice. The optional AM/FM/CD system from Hyundai is bundled into the $1,700 Preferred Package, which also adds air conditioning, cruise control and fog lights.

At just under $16,000, the midlevel Elantra SE has those options, as well as alloy wheels and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. The Limited adds heated leather seats. Options available across the line include a sunroof and automatic transmission; expect a fully-loaded Elantra to cost about $19,000. All trim levels include Hyundai's 10 year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Elantra in the Market
Like the previous generation, this Elantra is a lot of car for the money. That it goes toe-to-toe with the Civic and Corolla is a relatively new thing for Hyundai, a company whose sedans have always offered impressive value, but only recently started delivering competitive quality. After a week behind the wheel, I'm certain the quality is here. If you're shopping for a compact car, the Elantra is worth a drive.

By Kelsey Mays
Cars.com
April 13, 2007

Hyundai, Seriously

Hyundai, seriously

LA JOLLA - Has it really been 20 years since South Korean automaker Hyundai stormed the U.S. market with its low-price Excel? That car, priced from under $5,000, was the best-selling car in California in 1987.

Has it been just 17 years since Excel became a late-night TV laughingstock with its poor reliability record? Jay Leno, quoted in Time magazine, joked that high gas prices of the late '80s only pleased Hyundai owners, as a full tank doubled the value of their cars.

Today, Hyundai offers a crossover utility that it says compares to a Lexus, and can cost as much as a car from that luxury brand or one from BMW. Hyundai will come to market next year with a rear-drive, V-8 sedan that many would consvider a luxury car. And the car maker says it's studying whether to launch a luxury division, similar to Toyota's Lexus or Nissan's Infiniti brands.

The symbol of that self-improvement, those years of transformation from abhorred to admired, is the Veracruz. The seven-passenger crossover-utility vehicle was exhibited last month on the lawn of the tony Lodge at Torrey Pines, a Craftsman-style, five-diamond resort hotel where the rooms go for about $500 a night.

Hyundai has seen large sales volume boosts over the past decade and regularly wins accolades for its improved quality. Still, the Veracruz - its virtues and its price - can be shocking.

"I can say that I've driven a $38,000 Hyundai and I never really thought I'd say that," said George Peterson, president of AutoPacific, an auto-industry researcher with offices in Tustin and Southfield, Mich. But, in back-to-back drives with the Lexus RX 350 SUV, the Veracruz "feels at least as good or even maybe better," he said.

Debut of Genesis

Before most were even aware the Veracruz was on sale, Hyundai Motor America unveiled the Genesis, a large, rear-drive sedan that arrived in concept form at last week's New York Auto Show. It featured a 4.6-liter V-8, a navigation system, eight air bags and more. Unlike some pie-in-the-sky concept, this one goes into production about a year from now.

"We're an ambitious company with ambitious, aggressive objectives," said Steve Wilhite, who as Hyundai Motor America's chief operating officer is the company's top non-Korean executive. "We've got a terrific product line and we're doing things necessary to grow our business."

And one of those things, conveyed in a conversation with Wilhite, the former Nissan, Volkswagen, Ford and Apple executive who joined Hyundai in August, might be establishing a luxury brand, a la Toyota's Lexus or Honda's Acura.

"We're a company that isn't bashful about exploring that space," said Wilhite. "It's very hard today as a global player, to look at the market, and to look at what our competitors have done, and not be intrigued by the luxury market and luxury branding."
Peterson, the analyst, thinks it's a done deal.

"They are considering another platform or two to populate an upscale second channel, to take Hyundai into the premium luxury car area," he said. "Boy, these guys are ambitious. They have their pedal to the metal."

When it arrived in the mid-'80s, Hyundai quickly became one of the most successful new automotive nameplates in U.S. history. But, within a few years, Consumer Reports pilloried the Excel for its poor quality. There was even a song parody, "Crappy Hyundai," done to the Bangles' tune "Manic Monday."

The brand retrenched, made improvements and slowly began rebuilding consumer confidence. This year, Consumer Reports gives four 2007 Hyundais its coveted checkmark recommendation. (The Veracruz is too new to be rated.) The brand ranked third, only behind Porsche and Lexus, and ahead of Toyota and Honda, in J.D. Power's 2006 Initial Quality Study.

Rapid sales growth

Hyundai, which totaled 108,468 sales in 1996, reached 455,520 in 2006. That's 320 percent growth. Toyota, which most observers see as the most successful car brand in the United States, grew 77 percent over the same time period. Hyundai dealers sold 42,000 vehicles last month, its best March ever. That total includes 178 Veracruz models.

Just two or three years ago, affordability and an industry-best 10-year powertrain warranty were the Top 2 reasons people bought a Hyundai, said John Krafcik, its vice president of product development and strategic planning.

This year, as Hyundai has added a minivan and a three-row SUV and made stability control technology that prevents rollover accidents standard throughout its lineup, safety has become the No. 1 purchase motivator.

The government and the insurance industry all endorse stability control. Krafcik says 73 percent of Hyundai vehicles sold this year have the technology, vs. 22 percent of Toyotas and 45 percent of Hondas.

"We're the leading popular brand in that technology," he said. "Unfortunately, nobody knows that yet."

Wilhite also makes this point. "The great news for us is that we have wonderful stories to tell. I mean, we don't have to make stuff up about our brand or our products," he said.

The company can talk about quality, safety, its expanding lineup, its increasing investments in the United States.

Still, Hyundai remains a secret to many. The number of people who said they are aware of Hyundai and would consider buying one has doubled since 2003, but that growth is from 11 to 22 percent. Honda and Toyota score in the 60s and 70s, Krafcik said.

Hyundai buyers believe they've made a smart purchase, but they're rather quiet about it.

"We need to turn them into brand evangelists and advocates," Wilhite said.

The Veracruz could help. More stylish than rivals such as the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander, it seats seven, has a 260-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6 and the brand's first six-speed automatic transmission. Six air bags, stability control and XM satellite radio are standard. All-wheel drive, a power lift-gate, rear-seat DVD entertainment are options or found standard on some trim levels. Prices range from $26,995 to $34,695 before options.

"(Veracruz) gives us a real nice entry into a growing segment of the market, the mid-size sport-utility crossover vehicle," Wilhite said. The company expects the segment to expand by 50,000 to 100,000 units a year through 2011.

Some stumbles

Yet not all is rosy for Hyundai. Its sales volume grew a scant 0.01 percent between 2005 and 2006. Executives blame a strike that limited the supply of four-cylinder engines.

Automotive News recently reported that Wilhite sent a strongly worded letter to 50 under-achieving dealers. The company has 754 U.S. dealers.

nd the embezzlement conviction of Chung Mong Koo, chairman of Hyundai's parent company, has been an embarrassment and has resulted in the slowdown of some management decisions, such as the Georgia factory for its Kia affiliate and its recently announced second engine factory in Alabama. Hyundai opened a U.S. plant that makes the Sonata sedan and Santa Fe sport-utility in Montgomery in 2005.

Wilhite praised Hyundai for listening to its U.S. executives. "We don't have carte blanche, but our voice is heard," he said.

He also notes that Seoul is the most wired city in the world, and that South Korean consumer-electronic companies such as LG and Samsung are now being recognized for their innovations, and not just their ability to make commodity products.

"It's an incredibly robust, dynamic, innovative environment," he said. "But it's not in alignment with Americans' perceptions."

By Matt Nauman
Mercury News

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hyundai Santa Fe is Ranked Among the Best Small SUVs Tested By Consumer Reports

Hyundai Santa Fe is Ranked Among the Best Small SUVs Tested By Consumer Reports

NEW YORK, April 10 -- Newly redesigned, the Hyundai Santa Fe Limited earned a "Very Good" overall rating -- surpassed only by the V6-powered Toyota RAV4 Limited -- in tests for the May issue of Consumer Reports.

The Santa Fe ranks second overall among some 20 small SUVs recently tested by Consumer Reports, including the highly rated Subaru Forester and Honda CR- V.

"The Santa Fe is quiet, comfortable riding, and it's refined," said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports Auto Test Center in East Haddam, Connecticut. "It has a versatile interior, yet its exterior dimensions are modest."

The Santa Fe was one of five small SUVs tested for the May issue. Other vehicles in the group were the Subaru Forester, Mitsubishi Outlander, Suzuki XL7, and Dodge Nitro. The RAV4 and CR-V are among the other small SUVs previously tested by CR. As tested, the SUVs ranged in price from $27,662 for the Subaru Forester Sports 2.5XT to $30,745 for the Santa Fe Limited equipped with a 3.3 liter engine.

Though not on par with the Santa Fe, the Forester, Outlander, and XL-7 all posted "Very Good" overall scores. The new Dodge Nitro scored at the bottom of the pack with a "Fair" score.

The May issue also includes updates on three previously-tested minivans -- the Toyota Sienna, Nissan Quest, and Chevrolet Uplander. As reported in the Annual April Auto Issue, the Sienna is CR's Top Pick in the minivan category. It posted an "Excellent" overall score. The Nissan Quest achieved a "Very Good" score and the Uplander is rated "Good".

Tests and ratings of the small SUVs and the three minivans appear in the May issue of Consumer Reports, which goes on sale April 10. The reports are also available to subscribers of www.consumerreports.org.

Among the SUVs in this test group, Consumer Reports recommends only the Forester. CR does not yet have reliability data on the Santa Fe, Outlander, and XL7. The Nitro scored too low to be recommended. Consumer Reports only recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR's Annual Car Reliability Survey of its own subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.

The redesigned Santa Fe is a big improvement over the old model. With an interior now big enough for a third row seat and excellent fit and finish, it is a refined and versatile package. The Santa Fe Limited ($30,745 Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price as tested) was tested with an optional 242-hp, 3.3-liter V6 engine and five-speed automatic transmission that deliver very good acceleration and smooth shifts -- but only 18 mpg overall in CR's fuel economy tests. The Santa Fe's third-row seat is suitable only for children, with a low cushion and very little leg room. The SUV has 37.5 cubic feet of storage area with the second- and third-row seats folded. Braking is very good overall.

The high-end Sports XT is the only Forester to currently offer electronic stability control. It is also quick and handles nimbly. But the ESC kicks in too late to prevent the SUV's tail from sliding. The Forester Sports XT ($27,662 MSRP as tested) is powered by a refined 224-hp, 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers acceleration matching that from many V6s. The four-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. The Forester has a substantial amount of cargo space for its size -- 32.0 cubic feet with the 60/40 rear seat folded forward. Braking performance is very good.

he redesigned Outlander is greatly improved and is now a competitive entry in this class. It has a refined, responsive powertrain and agile handling. The Outlander XLS ($30,615 MSRP as tested) is equipped with a 220- hp, 3.0-liter V6 that delivers smooth power and very good acceleration. It's mated to a slick, six-speed transmission. The interior is roomy and offers a tiny, third-row seat. With all the rear seatbacks folded, the Outlander has 33.5 cubic feet of storage space. Braking is very good.

The redesigned XL7 has moved past its truck roots and is now based on the Chevrolet Equinox. But it's longer than the Equinox and has enough room for a usable third row. Different suspension tuning gives it improved ride and handling over the Equinox. The XL7 Luxury ($29,284 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 252-hp, 3.6-liter V6 engine that provides ample performance. The XL7 pulled CR's 3,500-pound test trailer to 60 mph faster than any vehicle in this group. The five-speed automatic transmission shifts very smoothly. Cargo room is 36.5 cubic feet, and both 60/40 second-row and 50/50 third-row seatbacks fold forward for additional storage space. Braking distances are fairly good.

The Nitro shares a platform with the Jeep Liberty and has bold styling but otherwise falls flat. Handling is clumsy, and the ride is snappy and unsettled. The driving position is awkward, and fit and finish are below par. The Nitro SLT ($28, 875 MSRP as tested) is equipped with a 210-hp, 3.7-liter V6 engine that feels sluggish and gets 16 mpg, the group's worst. The four- speed transmission shifts smoothly but isn't particularly responsive to part throttle downshifts. Cargo area expands to 39.5 cubic feet by folding the 60/40 rear seatbacks. The tailgate rises for access to the cargo area, and the floor pulls out for loading. Stopping distances from 60 mph were long on both dry and wet pavement.

Consumer Reports is one of the most trusted sources for information and advice on consumer products and services. It conducts the most comprehensive auto-test program of any U.S. publication or Website; the magazine's auto experts have decades of experience in driving, testing, and reporting on cars. To subscribe to Consumer Reports, call 1-800-234-1645. Information and articles from the magazine can be accessed online at www.consumerreports.org.

© Consumers Union 2007. The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for commercial or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports® is published by Consumers Union, an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves. To achieve this mission, we test, inform, and protect. To maintain our independence and impartiality, Consumers Union accepts no outside advertising, no free test samples, and has no agenda other than the interests of consumers. Consumers Union supports itself through the sale of our information products and services, individual contributions, and a few noncommercial grants.

Source: Consumer Reports

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Hyundai Moves Up

G. Chambers Williams III: Hyundai moves up

An upscale SUV from Hyundai?

Yes, indeed.

Arriving now at your local dealers is the all-new Veracruz, a seven-passenger, midsize crossover that begins just under $27,000.

Hyundai says the vehicle was benchmarked against the luxury Lexus RX 350.

Now, I'm not ready to tell you that the Veracruz is quite as good as the Lexus, even though the folks at Hyundai are convinced of that. They gave me a chance to drive the RX and the Veracruz back to back for comparison, and the RX won rather easily.

But with prices starting $11,000 less than the RX 350, and with a similarly equipped Veracruz running $7,700 less than the base RX, the Hyundai does come across as quite a value.

That doesn't mean that many of the 9,000 customers who buy the RX 350 every month would check out the Hyundai first, and perhaps choose it instead. Those who would buy the Lexus and those who would choose the Hyundai are entirely different customers and won't be cross-shopping these two vehicles.

But when compared with two popular crossovers that Veracruz shoppers might consider - the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander - the Hyundai model still rings up as a bargain.

The base Veracruz GLS model with front-wheel drive lists for $3,265 less than a similarly equipped Highlander, and $3,712 less than the Pilot.

Here again, though, Hyundai has a hard sell ahead of it when trying to take customers away from the top Japanese brands. Honda and Toyota customers are loyal and probably wouldn't consider a Hyundai any more than a Lexus customer would.

Where Hyundai is going to be successful with the Veracruz - and make no mistake, the Veracruz is going to be a great success - is with customers who cross-shop it with many of the other crossovers on the market, particularly the domestic models such as the Ford Edge, Saturn Outlook, GMC Acadia, Chrysler Pacifica and Buick Rendezvous.

Unfortunately, Hyundai is still fighting an unfair perception on the part of many consumers that its vehicles are somehow lacking in quality, especially when compared with the main Japanese brands, Honda, Toyota, Nissan and Mazda.

J.D. Power quality rankings in the past few years solidly refute that notion, but Hyundai knows it has an image problem and will have to continue to prove itself to consumers who have that negative view of the company's products.

Those who have bought Hyundai products within the past few years, particularly since 2000, know better, and are among the smartest and most-astute car buyers on the planet. That's because Hyundai offers top-quality vehicles at what amounts to bargain prices and also throws in the nation's best warranty, which covers the drivetrain for up to 10 years or 100,000 miles.

The Veracruz is the third SUV in the Hyundai lineup, joining the entry compact Tucson and midsize Santa Fe. The Veracruz is built on a stretched and widened Santa Fe chassis to allow for a roomy third row of seating, letting it to hold up to seven people comfortably.

It has more total cargo volume - 86.8 cubic feet with the second and third rows of seats folded - than all of its direct competitors except for the Pilot (87.6 cubic feet), which has the edge because it's built from the architecture of the Honda Odyssey minivan. The Veracruz even has more cargo space than the full-size Mercedes-Benz GL500.

It's also among the most powerful midsize crossover utility vehicles.

Under the hood is a 3.8-liter V-6 engine rated at 260 horsepower and 257 foot-pounds of torque. This is a version of the engine found in the Azera, Hyundai's full-size premium sedan, which competes with the Toyota Avalon.

That's more than the 244 horsepower of the Pilot, the 240 horsepower of the Nissan Murano and the 215 horsepower of the current Highlander. (The redesigned, 2008 Highlander, which will arrive later this year, will have 270 horsepower, however.)

The Veracruz's engine is connected to a new six-speed automatic transmission, another feature distinguishing it from its competitors, most of which have five-speed automatics, including the Pilot and the Highlander (both the current model and the 2008).

The six-speed in the Veracruz comes with a manual-shift feature, too, which isn't available with the Pilot, Highlander or Murano (which has a continuously variable transmission with no discernable shift points).

Fuel-economy ratings of the Veracruz are nearly the same as those of its competitors. Using the 2007 EPA formula, the Veracruz is rated at 18 miles per gallon city/25 highway vs. 18/24 for the Pilot, 19/25 for the '07 Highlander and 19/24 for the Murano. No ratings have been released for the 2008 Highlander.

Hyundai claims to have a quieter cabin in the Veracruz than the Pilot, with levels of noise and vibration that match or exceed those of the Lexus RX.

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

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

HTSA estimates that 80 percent of fatal SUV rollover accidents could be prevented by having stability control in all of the vehicles, and that with ESC in the entire fleet of cars on the road, 10,000 lives could be saved annually.

The Veracruz's exterior styling is similar to that of several of the newer crossovers, including the RX 350, the Edge and Acura MDX. The car was styled by Hyundai's California design studio for American tastes, but is being built in Hyundai's home country, South Korea, and is sold in Europe and Asia as well as North America.

n other markets, the main engine is a diesel; but because of stricter U.S. smog regulations, that engine is not offered here.

Inside, the Veracruz has premium features and materials that give it a luxury look and feel. It is here that the vehicle has the closest comparisons to a more expensive vehicle such as the RX 350. Leather seats are optional, and there is wood-grain trim.

Among luxury options are a power rear liftgate, automatic climate control, a backup warning system and a keyless entry/start system like the one found in many luxury vehicles. The key can be left in the pocket; the doors unlock as the person with the key fob approaches.

The base audio system comes with a single-disc CD player that is MP3-capable, and it also has an auxiliary jack for connection of an iPod or other portable audio player. There are a couple of audio upgrades available. XM satellite radio is standard.

Also optional is a good rear DVD entertainment system, though. It has an 8-inch screen that drops down from the ceiling, and a pair of wireless headphones is included.

One flaw, though, is that no factory-installed navigation system is yet offered with the Veracruz. Hyundai says it's working on adding an in-dash nave system as an optional feature.

All-wheel drive is a $1,700 option and is available on all models. This system can direct up to half of the torque to the rear wheels, and there is a lock switch on the dash that can force it into the 50/50 mode.

The car has 8.1 inches of ground clearance, which makes it suitable for some light off-road use; but as with most crossovers, this vehicle is a soft-roader, not an off-roader. It's not suitable for the Rubicon Trail.

The Veracruz comes in three trim levels: base ($26,995, including freight), SE ($28,695) and top-of-the-line Limited ($32,995). With all-wheel drive, prices begin at $28,695. With all options, the Limited model with all-wheel drive tops out at about $38,000.

San Antonio Express-News
G. Chambers Williams III

Monday, April 09, 2007

That's No Lexus, It's a Hyundai

That's No Lexus, It's a Hyundai

Forget the myth. Hyundai Motor is not a tiny South Korean manufacturer of cheap little cars. It is a giant -- the largest car company in South Korea and, as a part of the Hyundai Kia Automotive Group, the sixth-largest car company in the world.

Nuts & Bolts


Complaint: Hyundai's problem isn't the Veracruz or any of the other eight vehicle lines it sells in the United States. Hyundai's problem is its "we're cheap" image, which hasn't been helped by marketing that emphasizes price more than it does the quality and integrity of its products.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Excellent ride handling. Acceleration is excellent in the flatlands, where the Veracruz easily cruises at highway speeds. But the engine gets a bit wheezy in the mountains.

Head-turning quotients: Many Californians thought the Veracruz came from one of the traditional high-end manufacturers. At least one such spectator, in La Jolla, thought it was the latest edition of the substantially more expensive Mercedes-Benz R-Class crossover.

Body style/layout: The Veracruz is a front-engine, mid-size, luxury crossover utility vehicle (a station wagon in reality). It has four side doors and a rear lift-gate. It is available with all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive, and it comes in three trim levels -- base GLS, mid-range SE and high-end Limited.

Engine/transmission: The Veracruz comes with a standard 3.8-liter V-6 engine that develops 260 horsepower at 6,000 revolutions per minute and 257 foot-pounds of torque at 4,500 rpm. It is linked to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Capacities: There is seating for seven in the Veracruz. Maximum cargo capacity is 87 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 20.6 gallons of recommended regular unleaded gasoline.

Mileage: I averaged 23 miles per gallon in highway driving.

Safety: Standard equipment includes electronic stability control, front active head restraints, side and head air bags, antilock brakes and electronic brake assistance.

Price: Base price on the Limited with all-wheel drive is $34,005. Dealer's price on base model is $34,909. Price as tested is $37,645, including $2,950 in options and a $690 destination charge. Dealer's price as tested is $34,909. Base price on the comparable Lexus RX350 is $38,000. With comparable options, the RX350 is $43,570. Prices sourced from Hyundai, Lexus, www.cars.com, www.edmunds.com and www.kbb.com.

Purse-strings note: Compare with Lexus RX 350, Honda Pilot, Subaru B9 Tribeca, Nissan Murano and, I think, the GMC Acadia. Competitors had better start taking Hyundai seriously.
It is a threat to anyone making cars, economy or luxury.

It can topple General Motors. It can upset Toyota. It already has bypassed Nissan and Honda in global vehicle sales. It is as determined as any company to rank No. 1 on the world's automotive stage.

You can be forgiven for being surprised. Until now, Hyundai has done well faking humility -- rolling out economy cars, wagons and compact sport-utility vehicles for budget-minded consumers. It will continue to serve that segment. Money is money. But there is more money to be made serving the rich -- upper-income professionals who traditionally shop Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Infiniti, Lexus, Lincoln or Mercedes-Benz.

Hyundai wants those upscale dollars and is implementing an audacious, risky strategy to get them. It plans to build better luxury vehicles than any existing competitor and to sell those models at prices below that of any segment rival.

Cheeky? Yes. Possible? Consider the 2007 Hyundai Veracruz Limited crossover utility vehicle, which easily runs against the likes of the excellent Lexus RX350 -- for thousands of dollars less.

I recently did a day-long, head-to-head driving comparison of the Veracruz and RX350 in San Diego and environs. There were obvious differences. The Veracruz, available with all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive, has seating for seven people. The RX350, also available with all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive, has space for five. The Veracruz has more standard equipment -- including some that is usually optional, such as third-row seating -- than the RX350.

In terms of crash-avoidance and impact-mitigation equipment, the Veracruz matches or surpasses all mainstream luxury vehicle manufacturers. For example, electronic stability control, side and head air bags, front-seat active head restraints, rear-seat head restraints, antilock brakes and electronic brake assistance are all standard on the Veracruz.

In design and creature comforts, the Veracruz -- especially the fully loaded Limited edition -- is an undisputed winner. It has a longer, more elegantly sculpted body than the RX350. Inside and out, it simply looks better. Inside, it also feels better -- more spacious, less cramped than the RX350. The leather-covered seats are comfortable. (Thankfully, here, Hyundai jettisoned the notion that all drivers' seats should fit the body as tightly as those in a race car. The Veracruz's seats recognize that many of us are older and that our bodies are slightly larger than they were in our youth.) The Veracruz has every onboard automotive gadget imaginable, except one. At the moment, there is no navigation system. Hyundai has taken some heat for that. And the company is likely to respond by offering onboard navigation as an option in the slightly updated 2008 Veracruz. I understand the concept of the customer always being right. However, in this case, I believe that both Hyundai and its customers are wrong.

Go to a good consumer electronics shop. Look at the portable, easily attachable navigation systems. Most of them are more advanced and more accurate, and have more usable features than the best onboard navigation systems. But the portables, which can be updated more quickly than the fixed onboard models, often sell for half the price.

It thus makes as much sense for car companies to continue installing onboard systems as it does for them to install car phones, which have been surpassed in features, functionality and value by hand-held cellphones. Hyundai needs to save the money it's going to waste installing onboard systems and use it to do something else.

But who am I to talk? Hyundai, as represented by the Veracruz, seems to be doing quite well following its own sense of what's right and what works.

Consider the matter of engineering. The Veracruz comes with an easy-breathing, 260-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6. It uses regular unleaded fuel. The engine is linked to a remarkably smooth six-speed automatic transmission. The comparable RX350 comes with a 3.5-liter, 270-horsepower V-6 that requires premium unleaded fuel. That engine is linked to a five-speed automatic transmission. Put another way, the Veracruz is less expensive to operate than the RX350. But it's every bit as much fun to drive.

Still, the problem for Hyundai remains consumer perception. It has to get consumers into the Veracruz to make them believe. That won't be easy to do in the luxury vehicle segment. Prestige is important to luxury bias. Fair or not, for the time being, "Lexus" still sounds better than "Hyundai."

By Warren Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 8, 2007

Friday, April 06, 2007

Hyundai's New 7-Passenger Veracruz a Sweet Deal

Hyundai's new 7-passenger Veracruz a sweet deal

Hyundai is positioning its all-new 2007 Veracruz seven-passenger crossover utility vehicle against venerable competition, models such as Honda's Pilot and Toyota's Highlander, boasting a better powertrain performance and more safety features, in addition to high-quality craftsmanship and sophisticated styling. Like other manufacturers, Hyundai clearly envisions a still-growing crossover marketplace in the U.S., as the South Korean manufacturer now includes three CUVs in its product portfolio.

On sale now, the new Veracruz is available in either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive configurations. The seven-seater may be optioned at three distinct trim levels. Hardly "entry level" in terms of equipment, base GLS models are outfitted with features such as electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, a multifunctional steering wheel that tilts and telescopes, power windows/locks/heated mirror with turn signal indicators, remote keyless entry and tire-pressure monitoring. This version is impressively priced at $26,995 as a front driver and $28,695 in AWD format.

That same $28,695 entry fee gets you inside a FWD Veracruz SE model, which adds 18-inch wheels, power driver's seat adjustment, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, front fog lights, roof rack and center storage console with the "Cool Box" feature to the already well-equipped base model. Hyundai Veracruz SE AWD models ring up at $30,395.

Anteing up $32,995 (FWD) or $34,695 (AWD) yields the comprehensive Limited package, which brings leather upholstery, power front passenger seat adjustment, heated front seats, a 315-watt Infinity audio system, power sunroof, power tailgate, automatic temperature control, windshield wiper de-icing, a conversation mirror and reverse warning. Chrome and brushed metal enhancements are also thoughtfully designed throughout.

Veracruz GLS models can be ordered with a $1,950 Premium Package that brings a sunroof, power driver's seat, front seat heaters, leather wrapped steering wheel/shift knob and reverse warning. At the SE level, this package becomes "Premium and Leather," commanding $3,350 while adding leather seats and an Infinity audio system, in addition to the GLS's Premium offering. Additionally, a $1,600 Entertainment Package tacks on rear-seat DVD entertainment, a 115-volt outlet and a conversation mirror (to enable front seat passengers to see rear seat passengers when talking. The Premium/Leather gear is required for the Entertainment Package to be checked.

Finally, Veracruz Limited models get exclusive rights to the $2,950 Ultimate Package, which delivers adjustable pedals, memory settings, a power tilting/telescoping wheel, rain-sensing wipers, proximity key, lighted door scuff plates and the 115-volt outlet and the conversation mirror. Another $250 yields Premium Black/Saddle interior materials.

All models are powered by an all-aluminum 3.8-liter V-6 engine shared with the Azera sedan and rated for 260 horsepower and 257 pound-feet of torque in front of a six-speed automatic transmission. Continuously variable valve timing helps optimize intake valve operation, while the variable intake system enhancing cylinder "breathing" at both low and high engine speeds. Semi-active engine mounts decrease motor vibration and, as Hyundai gleefully proclaims, allows the Veracruz to idle with less noise and vibration than a Lexus RX350. The transmission includes sporty Shiftronic manual control, and fuel economy rates at 18/25 city/highway miles per gallon as a FWD vehicle and 17/24 mpg with the AWD system.

That electronic all-wheel-drive setup includes a lock mode splitting torque 50:50 front to rear.

The unibody chassis, MacPherson front suspension, multilink rear independent suspension, gas-charged dampers, front and rear stabilizer bars, 245/65-series 17-inch tires and rack-and-pinion steering ensure carlike composure and crisp handling over a variety of road conditions. The optional 18-inch wheels maintain the same 245mm width tire, but the aspect ratio drops to 60 (lower profile).

Safety equipment is plentiful, including dual front air bags, driver and front passenger seat-mounted side impact air bags, head curtain air bags protecting all three rows, standard electronic stability control with traction control and adjustable active front head restraints that help reduce whiplash.

Three-point seat belts hold all occupants in place and second- and third-row headrests are adjustable. Solidifying Veracruz's safety are the five-star safety ratings in both front and side impact collisions awarded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

By Sue Mead
SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
April 6, 2007

Hyundai Looking to Build More Confident Brand

Hyundai Looking To Build More Confident Brand

Hyundai's Genesis Concept, unveiled at the New York International Auto Show, is a dissertation in sheet metal about where the Seoul, Korea, company sees itself in the North American market.

The car, a production version of which will see the inside of dealer showrooms next year, is a sleek sedan with design suggestive of BMW and Audi. If the car demonstrates how much the Fountain Valley, Calif.-based Hyundai Motor America wants a piece of the near-premium car market, Hyundai marketers say a larger goal is more consideration among consumers and a more confident brand image.

The company's new VP marketing, Joel Ewanick, who had been group director of brand planning at Hyundai's erstwhile agency, Richards Group, says the company is counting on the new agency--to be announced next week--to develop a brand essence that transcends the 10-year/100,000-mile Hyundai Advantage warranty for which the company may still be most famous.

He says the company must increase consideration, while building awareness of the breadth of Hyundai's offerings, which includes three SUVs, four sedans, a minivan and a sports coupe.

"At the end of the day, we are looking for an agency that can bring an idea," says Ewanick. "We no longer think we need to make model advertising the sole message."

He says Hyundai branding needs to close a "perception gap" between the truth about Hyundai vehicles and what consumers think they know about a brand that has relied on price and an industry-leading warranty to battled--mostly with success--collective memories of its shaky past.

"It's one thing for people to be aware of you and another to put you on the list; that's what we are working for," he says. "We have had success, but we need to accelerate the momentum."

Indeed, after several years of brisk growth in U.S. sales and market share, Hyundai's 2006 sales were flat, though the company posted record sales for the month just passed, with 41,984 vehicles delivered--a 22% increase versus February, and a 57% improvement versus March 2006.

Steve Wilhite, who became Hyundai Motor America's COO last August, says the company's brand efforts need to create a mosaic out of discrete brand truths. "Each piece is wonderful by itself, but in the hands of a mosaic artist, you step back and get a much richer picture of what's going on."

Pieces he'd like to include in the big picture are safety technology--"The fact that electronic stability control is standard in 70% of our vehicles"; technological innovation, value and financial security via its 10-year warranty. "We are looking for an agency that knows how to tell those stories in the context of Hyundai; we need to be much more brand-centric than model-centric," he says.

"If we walk through [the Javitz Center], very few people would be able to name all nine of our products. If I went to the prototypical soccer mom and asked her to tell me the name of our minivan, I'd guess one or two percent would know it. Electronic stability control is the single most important new safety technology since the deployment of seat belts. We haven't told that story."

He added that the company hasn't talked about its gains in active and passive safety or its production quality. "It's a function of a lack of confidence. And it's gotta change."

by Karl Greenberg, Friday, Apr 6, 2007 5:00 AM ET

Hyundai Looking at Diesel Lineup

Hyundai looking at diesel lineup

Engines would be hybrid alternative

NEW YORK -- Hyundai may offer diesel engines across its U.S. lineup of cars and trucks as an alternative to gasoline-electric hybrids if it can clear cost and technical hurdles, the automaker said Thursday.

Steve Wilhite, chief operating officer of Hyundai Motor America, said while Hyundai was developing its own hybrid technology, diesels made better financial sense for its customers.

"The highest priority on my personal wish list is bringing our diesel technology to the United States, and I'd like to bring that across all of our products," Wilhite said in an interview at the New York auto show. "It just seems like a much more elegant solution to me than a hybrid."

Every major automaker has been working on new diesel models for the United States as the federal government has finalized strict new emissions rules and lawmakers consider tougher fuel economy standards.

Honda Motor Co. has said it will offer a new diesel engine in 2009, and German automakers have been promising several diesel variants.

Wilhite did not say when he hoped production of Hyundai diesels might start.

Wilhite, who had been global marketing manager for Nissan before taking the Hyundai post in August, said if a diesel option costs about $1,000, it would pay for itself in fuel savings. Diesels and hybrids can post 40% better fuel economy than gasoline engines in some vehicles, but hybrids cost $2,000 to $3,000 more than standard models.

"Fundamentally, you don't get a payback on a hybrid," Wilhite said. "In a diesel, you more than cover the premium."

Wilhite also said that while Toyota Motor Co. has been successful with its Prius hybrid, part of that success has come from government tax incentives and state rules, especially in California, that allow hybrids in carpool lanes.

California ended that benefit last year, and USA Today recently reported that Priuses with permits for carpool lanes were worth $4,000 more on the used car market. Toyota has offered incentives on the Prius this year, and boosted the offers to up to $2,000 on Wednesday.

Hyundai already sells diesel models in Europe and Asia, but Wilhite said the company was still working on ways to meet the strict new U.S. standards.

Wilhite said Hyundai was targeting sales of about 500,000 vehicles in the United States this year, after recording flat sales of 455,000 in 2006. A run-up in the value of the Korean won currency forced Hyundai to raise its prices, which Wilhite said helped transaction prices but stunted sales.

While the company has expanded its lineup steadily and will add a near-luxury, rear-wheel-drive sedan in a couple of years based on the Genesis concept shown at the auto show, Wilhite said he had no desire to jump into the pickup market as Toyota, Honda and Nissan have done.

April 6, 2007
BY JUSTIN HYDE
FREE PRESS WASHINGTON STAFF

Jaguar, Hyundai to Offer HD Radio

Jaguar, Hyundai to offer HD Radio

Hyundai and Jaguar are adding HD Radio, a digital radio service pioneered by Columbia-based iBiquity Digital, as an option for luxury model vehicles, the automakers said at the New York Auto Show.

HD Radio offers higher quality audio through digital receivers. The two manufacturers are the second and third to adopt the technology -- BMW is already including it as an option in its entire 2007 line.

iBiquity launched HD Radio in 2004, and there are 1,200 stations nationwide that broadcast in the format. There are 11 in Maryland.

Radio stations that use HD broadcast both analog and digital signals, so all users can still listen. But HD Radio receivers can produce CD-quality audio because the receivers can sort through interference that occurs when signals bounce off objects, reducing static and fading, according to iBiquity.

Hyundai will include the technology option in its rear-wheel drive sports sedan scheduled for a 2008 release, according to a company release.

Jaguar will offer it in its 2008 luxury XJ sedan.

Baltimore Business Journal - 3:57 PM EDT Thursday, April 5, 2007
by Scott Dance