Thursday, May 31, 2007

Hyundai's New Accent On The Positive

Hyundai's New Accent On The Positive



You could have knocked me down with a feather! Hyundai's entry level car, the Accent, may be just an inexpensive little econobox, but despite its low-end lineage, I loved it!

The new Accent is the latest major redesign from Hyundai to up the ante considerably over its previous version. The old Accent was a nice little car, but nothing particularly special, as was expected generally from Hyundai back then. But the most recent Hyundais I've driven, from the reborn Santa Fe and Sonata to the all-new Azera and Entourage, are vehicles that can compete head-to-head with the competition from anywhere in the world.

This Accent continues that happy trend. If you're looking at something in the Fit/Yaris ball park, this one's well worth consideration.

My tester was a 3 door (two door hatchback) model in Ebony Black, and from its puppy dog charming front, side character lines, and integrated rear spoiler, it's cute as a bug's ear. It's also a comparative blast to drive, which is quite surprising considering that its performance is hardly exhilarating and my tester came with an automatic transmission that epitomizes the term "slush box."

How can that be? I dunno. But I do know that after spending a week in the Accent, including the usual city driving and even a multi-hour trip to a neighboring city and back again, I was thinking that this is a car I'd buy if I were looking at this market segment.

And talk about standard features! My tester was the base model with only a few extras, yet it came with stuff like variable intermittent wipers up front, a rear wiper/washer (that really should have an intermittent setting, but doesn't), tilt steering wheel, a nearly perfectly-placed armrest on the driver's seat, tachometer (though why you need one with a generic automatic transmission is still a question for the ages), advanced dual front airbags, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, roof-mounted curtain side-impact airbags. And more.

All for a price that starts at $10,415 U.S./ $13,495 Canadian!

The Accent's weakest link is its power, which comes from a 1.6 liter DOHC 16-valve inline 4-cylinder engine with continuously variable valve timing. Horsepower is rated at 110 @ 6000 rpm with torque of 106 @ 4500, though it doesn't feel quite that peppy when you put your boot on the gas. You can harness it with a 5-speed manual that would probably add a lot of fun and some better performance to the mix, but the four speed automatic with overdrive to which my tester was shackled tried as hard as it could to be a "fun killer".

And yet even it couldn't kill the fun of the little Accent.

As equipped, my tester's peel outs from traffic lights were, well, leisurely. And if you're on the highway and need to pass some slowpoke, you'll have to plan your move accordingly.

But once you get the car up to a particular speed, it seems perfectly content to run all day, and it's aerodynamic enough that, unlike its predecessor, it doesn't get blown around much on the highway when in the slip stream of semi trailers.

Remember, too, that this is an entry level car; you can't expect rocket sled performance for this price.

The Accent runs on a MacPherson Strut front suspension and a coupled torsion beam rear axle that combine to give handing that, if not exactly cat like, is far better than I expected. Despite gobs of typical front drive understeer, you can still carve up corners in a manner far more sporting that you might expect from a vehicle at this place in the market.

And if that isn't enough, a sport tuned suspension is available.

Brakes are power-assisted discs up front and drums in the rear. ABS and electronic brake force distribution are available on the top trim level. Brake feel is good, neither mushy or grabby. My tester had optional wheels (well, wheels are standard, of course, but these were a little nicer than the stock ones) with some low profile tires mounted on them and this undoubtedly helped enhance the car's quite spirited handling.

The interior is roomy, comfortable, and straightforward. The driver's seat features eight way adjustments and the steering wheel tilts manually. Instruments are analog and easy to read, while the center stack's audio and HVAC controls also feature no brainer operation. The AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA stereo features four speakers, all of which would probably love to have a little more clean power going to them than what the rather anemic head unit puts out. Sound quality's okay, though.

The seats of my tester featured a fabric that acts as a magnet for cat hair. I didn't take a cat into the car, but just wearing a shirt into it that had some "hirsute feline deposit" on it was enough to ensure the seats needed a shave. Other than that, however, they're very comfortable and supportive; my highway jaunt was accomplished without numb bum.

And to be fair, the "cat hair magnet" aspect isn't by any means unique to Hyundai or to this car.

The rear seat's pretty good, too, though I wouldn't want to be the person in the middle on a long voyage. But getting in and out is easy thanks to a front passenger's seat that tilts and slides quite far forward to open up quite a large entry way.

The rear seat features a fold down center armrest with cup holders, and it splits 60/40 and folds down to create extra carrying space. This may come in handy, because in a small car like this hauling capacity is at a premium.

The rear side windows don't open - there isn't even a pop open feature - but my tester was equipped with both air conditioning and a power sunroof (with one touch opening), which saved me from venting about the car's ventilation.

My tester also came with power windows and door locks, with keyless entry.

All in all, the Accent is a terrific little car and offers more fun to drive - and more features - than I had expected. Well done, again, Hyundai!

By Jim Bray
May 29, 2007
TechnoFile.com Magazine

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

2008 Sonata Delivers Higher Value With New Equipment And Engine Choices

2008 Sonata Delivers Higher Value With New Equipment And Engine Choices

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, CALIF., 05/29/2007 Hyundai Motor America announced pricing today for the 2008 Hyundai Sonata lineup. As gas prices surge, Hyundai is smartly offering the powerful, yet fuel-efficient 2.4-liter DOHC inline-four cylinder engine in all trim levels, including SE and Limited models, for the first time. Shoppers still looking for low-priced V6 performance can now find the Sonata GLS V6 for $450 less than last year's lowest price V6 model. The sporty SE version has also been upgraded with standard performance tires, decklid spoiler and a power driver seat. The previously optional Infinity® AM/FM/XM Satellite Radio®/6-CD Changer/MP3 audio system is now standard on the Limited model.

GLS 2.4L I4 5-Speed M/T $18,195 including $650 freight
GLS 2.4L I4 4-Speed A/T with SHIFTRONIC® $19,395 including freight
GLS V6 3.3L V6 5-Speed A/T with SHIFTRONIC® $21,645 including $650 freight
SE 2.4L I4 5-Speed M/T $19,895 including $650 freight
SE V6 3.3L V6 5-Speed A/T with SHIFTRONIC® $22,745 including $650 freight
Limited 2.4L I4 4-Speed A/T with SHIFTRONIC® $22,995 including $650 freight
Limited 3.3L V6 5-Speed A/T with SHIFTRONIC® $24,695 including $650 freight


NEW EQUIPMENT HIGHLIGHTS

  • GLS V6 offered
  • Eight-way power driver's seat now standard on SE
  • New SE performance tire and standard decklid spoiler
  • Limited model now features the Infinity® AM/FM/XM Satellite Radio/6-CD Changer/MP3 with six speakers, subwoofer and component amplifier as standard equipment
  • New aluminum bodyside molding on Limited
  • New premium seat cloth on GLS and SE


THREE ENHANCED, WELL-EQUIPPED MODELS

From the well-equipped GLS, to the sport-focused SE, to the downright luxurious Limited, the 2008 Sonata lineup addresses the needs and desires of midsize-sedan customers with a highly competitive mix of features and benefits. Each model delivers a level of standard equipment that is a cut above comparable models.

SONATA GLS

With an MSRP of $18,195 (including freight), the 2008 Sonata GLS continues to provide a sizable price advantage compared to its four-cylinder competition, undercutting the lesser-equipped base 2007 Honda Accord and 2007 Toyota Camry by $1,025 and $895 respectively. All Sonata models have standard Electronic Stability Control (ESC), the most effective lifesaving technology since the seatbelt, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In comparison, Accord four-cylinder models are not available with ESC, while Toyota offers ESC as a $650 option on the 2007 Camry.

Sonata features a sophisticated 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine matched to a smooth-shifting five-speed manual transmission, with a four-speed SHIFTRONIC® automatic transmission optional. The new Sonata GLS V6 starts at $21,645 - that's $2,515 less than the lowest price 2007 Camry V6 model, and $2,300 less than the lowest price 2007 Accord V6 sedan.

The Sonata GLS features an impressive array of standard active and passive safety features including ESC, a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), six airbags, Anti-lock Brakes (ABS) and active front head restraints. Other standard features include new premium seat cloth, power windows, door locks and outside heated mirrors, keyless entry with alarm, an AM/FM/XM Satellite/CD/MP3 audio system, 60/40 split fold-down rear seats, air conditioning, cruise control and tilt-adjustable steering column.

The Popular Equipment Package includes automatic headlights, chrome window belt moldings, metalgrain/woodgrain interior accents, power driver seat with lumbar support, steering wheel audio controls and a trip computer.

SONATA SE - V6 OR I4 PERFORMANCE, REMARKABLE VALUE

The sport-focused SE adds a responsive, fuel-efficient 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine as standard equipment for 2008, matched with a smooth-shifting five-speed manual transmission. Other performance-oriented SE features include 17-inch alloy wheels with new 215/55R17 all season performance tires, a new rear decklid spoiler, fog lights, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and an eight-way power driver's seat with lumbar support (optional in 2007 MY). The new tires have stiffer sidewalls and a unique tread design for more responsive steering and capable handling. The Sonata SE V6 adds a five-speed automatic transmission and dual chrome exhaust tips.

Other standard features include automatic headlights, chrome window belt moldings, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, chrome window belt moldings, telescoping steering wheel and a trip computer. The Premium Package includes an AM/FM/XM Satellite Radio/6-CD Changer/MP3 audio system with six speakers, subwoofer and component amplifier, power/tilt sunroof and an electrochromic auto-dimming rear view mirror with HomeLink® and a compass.

SONATA LIMITED

Priced at $22,995 (including freight), the range-topping Sonata Limited is a fully equipped luxury model for midsize buyers who want it all—at a great price. Distinguishing exterior features include new aluminum bodyside moldings, chrome center-bar grille and chrome-accented exterior door handles. The interior features luxurious leather seating surfaces, a standard Infinity® AM/FM/XM Satellite/6-CD Changer/MP3 audio system with six speakers, subwoofer and component amplifier (optional in 2007 MY), an eight-way power driver's seat and heated front seats. Other upgrades include automatic temperature control, an electrochromic auto-dimming rear view mirror with HomeLink® and compass, sliding center armrest, premium scuff plates and 215/55R17 tires. The Sonata Limited is so well equipped that the only option is a power/tilt sunroof. The Sonata Limited four-cylinder comes with a four-speed automatic transmission, while the V6 features a five-speed automatic transmission. Both include the added control of the SHIFTRONIC® manual shifting.

WARRANTY

The all-new 2008 Hyundai Sonata is protected by the Hyundai Advantage, America's Best Warranty™. Coverage includes five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper protection, 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, five-year/unlimited mileage roadside assistance and seven-year/unlimited mileage anti-perforation coverage. In addition, Sonata buyers receive 24-hour roadside assistance coverage at no extra charge for five years (no mileage limit) that includes emergency towing, lockout service and limited coverage for trip-interruption expenses.

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

Friday, May 25, 2007

Hyundai's New Crossover in Lexus Mold

Hyundai's new crossover in Lexus mold



CHICAGO - The rush is on to create new entries in the crossover segment.

Crossovers are alternatives to sport-utility vehicles and minivans with far better ride, handling and mileage.

They also offer all-wheel-drive so those leaving SUVs don't have to give up the feature that attracted them to a brute - rough ride and all - in the first place.

Hyundai of South Korea has gotten with the program. It sells the compact Tucson and slightly larger, slightly more upscale Santa Fe and adds the even larger and more upscale midsize Veracruz.

Hyundai says the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and Nissan Murano are its targets but, when trying to be recognized as a key player in the crossovers, you might as well aim for the leader, the midsize Lexus RX350.

And Hyundai has with Veracruz. We can't help but feel it's not just coincidence that it even looks like the Lexus.

The theme, as with any Hyundai, is being just as good and offering just as many amenities as the sales leader in the segment, only for a lot less money.

The base price is $32,000 plus change for Veracruz versus $38,000 plus change for an RX350, but the spread is more than $7,700 in Veracruz's favor when the two are similarly equipped.

Putting $7,700 in your pocket rather than the dealer's is like winning the lottery.

Santa Fe was derived from a stretch of the Sonata sedan platform. Veracruz is a stretch of that stretch with a more refined suspension. Hyundai says no even larger crossover is planned.

Veracruz is offered in GLS, SE and top-of-the-line Limited versions in front- or all-wheel-drive. We drove the FWD Limited.

Only engine is a 3.8-liter, 260-horsepower, 24-valve V-6 teamed with a new 6-speed automatic with manual shifting. The engine has the spunk, but not the whisper quiet, you'd expect of a V-6. The mileage rating is 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway, appropriate for the power, but more generous than reality, considering the frequent stops for a shot of $3 a gallon energy.No quarrels with the suspension, which kept road harshness from filtering through the seat as well as the steering wheel. You keep planted in your seat without getting jolted around the cabin. And there's no top-heaviness.

The wide-profile 18-inch radials did a good job of minimizing lean in corners and turns, though ease off the throttle if the corner is very sharp or the turn very tight. The suspension may be user-friendly, but it isn't race-tuned.

Windshield, side and rear glass are expansive for an excellent view all around. Exceptional visibility doesn't always get the credit it deserves for the safety it provides.

Though the $7,700 savings versus a Lexus is a strong point, Veracruz doesn't compromise on safety. Side-curtain air bags for all three rows, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control with traction control are standard.

Upfront the leather seats are well cushioned and supportive for long-distance travel and aren't the slip-and-slide type that make each turn an adventure.

Nice touches include eye-soothing blue backlighting for gauges, switches and buttons as well as cupholders and door sills; lined glove box and console storage bin rather than exposed plastic; cupholders built into the rear sidewalls and a small covered container over the wheel well in the third row; a 115-volt power outlet in the cargo hold; and keyless start so you only have to twist the lever in the dash to get going, as long as the magical key fob is in the vehicle. You do away with a key, but not the fob so what's gained?

Also, there's a pop down conversation mirror in the ceiling below the eyeglasses holder so you can see the folks in the second and third rows while you chat or watch the kids back there; a pair of center console storage pockets; a pair of cupholders in front of the console; a power outlet and cell-phone holder in the dash; a power liftgate operated by a key-fob button; and storage under the cargo floor.

The test vehicle also came with an optional DVD entertainment system. The screen slips down from the ceiling, and the player is in the back of the console between the front seats. A pull-down armrest between the second-row seats holds the earphones as well as a couple of cupholders.

Though a Lexus wannabe in looks, it falls short in comfort once you move into the second and third seats. To provide enough knee room for those in the second seat, large indents were carved out of the backs of the front seats.And while the second-row seats slide forward to create an aisle to the third row, the aisle is narrow and there isn't much footing needed to slip in back. Once there, head and knee room are tight.

With the third-row seats up, you have spots for a couple kids, but not so much cargo room. With the seat backs flipped flat onto the floor, the cargo space is generous. With second- and third-row seat backs folded flat, cargo capacity is abundant. If hauling a ladder, the passenger seat back reclines to provide the room.

The Veracruz Limited starts at $32,305 (add $1,700 for AWD, a wise choice for the Snow Belt) and includes air conditioning; power tilt and sliding sunroof; AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio system with steering wheel audio/cruise controls; heated power side mirrors with puddle lights and redundant turn signals; remote keyless entry; power windows, door locks and seats; tire-pressure monitor; trip computer; and fog lamps.The optional Ultimate package at $2,950 adds adjustable pedals, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, the DVD system, 115-volt outlet, rain-sensing wipers and keyless ignition.

Consumers always benefit from competition as the rivals try to outdo each other. That's why Veracruz is welcome and so will be the other crossovers coming soon.

By Jim Mateja
Chicago Tribune
Tuesday, May 22, 2007 8:52 PM CDT

Monday, May 21, 2007

Hyundai Santa Fe Crossover SUV Hits High Benchmakrs

Hyundai Santa Fe Crossover SUV Hits High Benchmarks

By : Steve Schaefer :: Auto Editor : 5/15/07

Hyundai has established an enviable reputation for providing motorists with value for their money. While vehicle quality wasn’t stellar when the cars first appeared in America in the 1980s, today they match up pretty closely with top contenders in their respective market segments. The Santa Fe, Hyundai's midsize crossover SUV, is a good example of this growth and development.

Completely redone for 2007, it blends carlike styling with the tall utility of a gas-guzzling SUV, but with better mileage and more comfort. And, which vehicles did Hyundai use as benchmarks? They studied the entry-luxury Lexus RX, Acura MDX and Volvo XC90. Those are upscale players in the crossover segment, not economy contenders.

The new Santa Fe is larger than the previous model, stretching seven inches longer, an inch wider and nearly two inches taller. It feels spacious inside. You can even order third-row seating as an option.

What you get with the new Santa Fe is a moderately priced car that feels like more than it is. If anyone had an issue with the plastics in early Hyundais, the Santa Fe is a good example of how far the brand has come in 20 years. The black, tan and silver interior of my Silver Blue test vehicle was as elegant and well-fitted as any Honda or Toyota I've experienced, with a confidence of line and a solid, well-crafted feel. I saw some of those luxury SUV cues in there, too.

Despite being the entry level GLS model, my tester was filled with the things buyers want in a car — all standard. That includes daily conveniences and pleasures such as power windows, locks and mirrors (heated), air conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry, and 16-inch alloy wheels.

The Santa Fe also packs in real safety benefits like four-wheel disc brakes with antilock and Electronic Stability Control with Traction Control. Other safety standard features include a full complement of six airbags, a tire pressure monitor system and active head restraints.

That's just for starters. If you want more, Hyundai will gladly sell or lease you an SE model with a larger, more powerful engine, five-speed automatic transmission, 18-inch alloy wheels, and a few other goodies. Or step up to the top-of-the-line Limited, which adds leather-covered seats, heated up front and with power adjustments for the driver. The Limited also boasts dual-zone automatic climate control and a shiny chrome grille.

You can add the seven-passenger Touring package to any Santa Fe. Hyundai claims that its third row is one of the more commodious. You can also add an all-wheel-drive system, which, in a crossover, may prove to be unnecessary if offroading isn't in your plans.

Choose from two engines in the Santa Fe, both V6s and both improved over their predecessors. The standard 2.7-liter V6 has higher horsepower and torque than before — 185 and 183 respectively — and is more fuel efficient too, with EPA ratings of 21 City, 26 Highway versus 19/25 for the 2006. The 3.3-liter V6, standard in the SE and Limited models, boosts horsepower to 242, with 236 lb.-ft. of torque, keeping it competitive with the leading upscale crossovers. Mileage is 19 City, 24 Highway, an improvement over the previous 3.5-liter V6's 17/23 rating.

The EPA Green Vehicle Guide gives the standard engine with automatic transmission a 7 Air Pollution score and a 6 for the Greenhouse Gases score. That puts it in the top 20 percent of tested vehicles. The 3.3-liter V6 is almost as good, with a 7/5 rating. All Santa Fes are rated as Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV).

I found the 2.7-liter V6 perfectly capable for cruising the freeways and running around town. Hyundais are quiet these days, thanks to things such as laminated steel and triple-seal doors. It makes it easy to enjoy the standard AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system.

Prices for the new Santa Fe begin at just $21,145 for the GLS with manual five-speed transmission. You can add the automatic gearbox to the GLS for $1,200. The SE starts at $23,845 and the Limited starts at $26,145. Add all-wheel drive to any of them for $2,000. These prices do not include shipping charges.

The Hyundai story is a happy one, with a growing range of high-quality vehicles at reasonable prices, with a great warranty too. The new Santa Fe, assembled in Montgomery, Alabama, is another step in the company's upward direction.

Friday, May 18, 2007

First Drive: 2007 Hyundai Veracruz

First Drive: 2007 Hyundai Veracruz

The new Veracruz is an impressive, upscale SUV—but will consumers buy a $40,000 Hyundai?

Up Front
Does the U.S. market really need yet another midsize sport-utility vehicle? And, if it does, is anyone going to pay upwards of $40,000 for a Hyundai?

Those questions were running through my mind as I recently spent a morning test-driving the new '07 Hyundai Veracruz at a press event in upstate New York. The Korean carmaker scored a big hit with its redesigned Santa Fe SUV last year. The Santa Fe is now by far Hyundai's hottest product: U.S. sales doubled, to 27,982 units, during the first four months of this year, and the company expects to sell 90,000 units by yearend.

My guess is that the all-new, bigger, and more expensive Veracruz is going to have a tougher time of it than the Santa Fe did. It's a well-designed midsize sport-utility vehicle with three rows of seats and a seven-passenger capacity, making it ideal for carpooling. And, like the Santa Fe, it has a quiet ride, high-quality interior, and loads of standard features.

But the Veracruz also is coming out just as gasoline prices are soaring and are projected to rise a lot more this summer. And the Veracruz doesn't have any great fuel-efficiency advantage over its main rivals: With front-wheel drive, it gets 18 miles per gallon in the city and 25 on the highway, dropping to 17/24 mpg with all-wheel drive—about the same as the Honda (HMC) Pilot and Toyota (TM) Highlander. My guess is that this summer American consumers will again be turning away from SUVs, and the Hyundai's price advantage won't make up for the fact that it's a new, untested model coming out in a tough market.

The Veracruz is available in three trim levels: the GLS, SE, and Limited, all of them powered by a 3.8 liter, 260-horsepower V8 coupled with a six-speed automatic transmission. The base model GLS is fairly pricey. It starts at $27,000 with front-wheel drive and $28,695 with all-wheel drive. But it also comes loaded with standard equipment, including electronic stability control; traction control; anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution; tire pressure monitors; a trip computer; a CD player with steering wheel-mounted audio controls; auto-dimming inside and outside mirrors; a tilting and telescoping steering wheel; active head restraints; front, side, and side curtain airbags; and power windows, doors, and locks. The Veracruz also has excellent crash-test ratings.

The loaded-up Limited version of the Veracruz with all-wheel drive, a power sunroof, rear-seat entertainment system, leather upholstery, and just about every other bell and whistle you can think of, tops out at about $38,000. For the moment, the Veracruz isn't offered with a navigation system, but when that option is added, probably on the '08 model, the price will top out at just under $40,000.

That makes the Veracruz a big move upscale for Hyundai. Indeed, the company figures 40% of sales will be of the expensive, high-end trim level. However, as with other Hyundai models, the Veracruz's main selling point is its relatively low price. Hyundai figures it has a $3,300 price advantage over the 2007 Highlander and a $3,700 edge over the Pilot, once you factor in differences in standard equipment.

Behind the Wheel
For me, the big appeal of the Veracruz is the quality and practicality of its interior. When you hop into a higher-end version of this vehicle, you can't believe it's a Hyundai. The saddle-leather upholstery is soft and well-made, the dash and center stack are tastefully designed, and all the instruments are intuitive to use.

The seats—front and back—are comfortable and supportive. And there's adequate head and leg room in both the front and second-row seats. I test-drove the vehicle with a rangy fellow who was six feet, four inches tall. Up front, he was comfortable (though a little cramped) with the driver's seat all the way back. But even with the driver's seat as far back as possible, he had plenty of knee space in the second-row seat. The only problem I had in the second row was that foot space was a bit tight.

Leg space in the third-row seats, as always, is tight, barely 30 inches. But it's far easier to get into the Veracruz's third row than it is in most SUVs. The second-row seats slide and fold forward, creating room for you to actually get a foothold as you crawl in. Even my lanky co-pilot was able to get in and out with relative ease.

Another thoughtful design touch that comes in handy if you have kids: Like the Toyota Sienna, the Veracruz has a second, convex rearview mirror under the conventional one that allows the driver to survey activity in the entire cabin, including the relatively distant third-row seats, at a glance.

Hyundai has packed the Veracruz's cabin with noise-deadening materials and anti-vibration gear, making it remarkably quiet at every speed. The company says the Veracruz is quieter at idle than the Pilot, Highlander, and even the Lexus RX350. At highway speed (62 mph), Hyundai figures cabin noise is about the same as in the Honda Pilot and slightly less than in the Lexus.

The Veracruz has a lot of hauling capacity, too. The third-row seats fold down flat, and the second-row seats go nearly flat. Maxmium towing capacity is 3,500 lbs., plenty for pulling small boats and trailers. The main downside of the design is that, as with the Santa Fe, there's only minimal luggage space behind the third-row seats. If you were taking a family trip with several kids, you would probably have to buy a roof rack for your luggage.

The vehicle's main disadvantage is that it isn't much fun to drive. The Veracruz has a slightly more powerful engine than the Santa Fe, and its automatic transmission has a manual shifting mode that's supposed to make it seem sporty. But the Veracruz also is several hundred pounds heavier than the Santa Fe, so acceleration is sluggish. The steering feels squishy, and I sensed a fair amount of body roll going around curves. The ride is smooth, and seemed less boat-like than I remember the Santa Fe being, but road feel is minimal.

The bottom line is that this isn't a driver's SUV like, say, the Acura MDX. Like the Santa Fe, the Veracruz has been heavily focus-grouped. And it has the soft, comfortable ride and easy-steer handling that appeals to suburbanites.

Buy It or Bag It?

The Veracruz offers excellent value for your money. But Hyundai is moving upscale a little too fast for my taste. The Veracruz would be more attractive if some of its standard equipment were available as stand-alone options, so shoppers on a budget could get the price down. It's also annoying that on the GLS and SE versions, you can only get a sunroof as part of option packages that cost $2,000 or more.

In this category, you have tons of other models to choose from. In addition to the Pilot and Highlander, the possibilities include the Saturn Outlook, the Mazda CX-9, and the Chrysler Pacifica. Some of the rival models are already being discounted: For instance, General Motors (GM) has slapped a $1,000 rebate on the Outlook, and DaimlerChrysler (DCX) is offering $2,500 or more off on the Pacifica. If gas prices continue to rise this summer, as projected, discount of SUV prices will probably be rife across the board.

If you're on a budget, I would consider buying a Santa Fe instead. The Santa Fe isn't all that much smaller than the Veracruz (only 6.5 inches shorter), and its entry price—around $22,000—is five grand lower than the cheapest version of the Veracruz. Plus, Hyundai is offering $1,000 rebates on the Santa Fe through May 31. If you want a sporty SUV at a budget price, another alternative is the Kia Sorento.

However, if you want a loaded-up, smooth-riding midsize family SUV, it's hard to find one at a better price than the Veracruz. Hyundai's quality ratings have soared in recent years. And if anything goes wrong, you always have the company's wonderful warranty, which includes 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain and a five-year/60,000 mile bumper-to-bumper general protection, plus five years of free roadside assistance, to fall back on. But if the available package at your Hyundai dealer isn't exactly what you want, shop around. It's going to be a buyer's market for SUVs all summer long.

by Thane Peterson

Thane Peterson reviews cars for BusinessWeek.com.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Power Reports: Gas Prices Begin to Sway New-Vehcile Buyers Toward Smaller Versions of Trucks and Utility Vehicles

Power Reports: Gas Prices Begin to Sway New-Vehicle Buyers Toward Smaller Versions of Trucks and Utility Vehicles

Demand for Small Vehicles Increases as Gas Prices Rise

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif., May 16 -- Rising gasoline prices have some owners of large and midsize trucks trading to smaller vehicles, according to real-time retail transaction data from the Power Information Network (PIN), a division of J.D. Power and Associates.

Gasoline prices have surged more than 20 cents in recent weeks to a record nationwide average of $3.10 per gallon, surpassing the previous record of $3.07 per gallon set in September 2005, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. As gas prices rise, owner loyalty in the large pickup and midsize and large utility vehicle segments drops, according to PIN data gathered between February and April 2007. Owner loyalty is measured by the percent of owners in any given segment who trade for another vehicle in the same segment.

"We're seeing a broad, long-term -- but gradual -- movement to smaller vehicles," says Tom Libby, senior director of industry analysis at PIN. "For example, during periods of high gas prices over the past two years, we've seen movement from larger to smaller SUVs. However, the total SUV pie remains largely intact."

While rising gas prices are having a negative effect on large vehicle segments, owner loyalty has increased for small cars. Additionally, sales of small vehicles, including cars and light trucks, as a percentage of total new-vehicle retail sales, have risen from 26.3 percent in the first quarter of 2004 to 31.8 percent in the first quarter of 2007. Furthermore, PIN data shows that higher gas prices have had only a moderate impact on repeat purchases of midsize crossovers. The fact that several new midsize crossovers have just entered the market likely has softened the impact of rising gas prices on the segment, Libby said.

Not every new-vehicle segment has been affected by rising gas prices. For example, PIN findings show that owner loyalty for large and midsize cars, small crossovers, and small SUVs has remained relatively unchanged in recent months.

Libby notes that all of these trends are consistent with the patterns observed in spring 2006 when gas prices also rose.

Increased demand for smaller vehicles, coupled with higher gas prices, has also given four-cylinder engines a boost in powertrain market share. Four-cylinder engines as a percent of total retail sales has increased from 27.5 percent in April 2004 to 35.7 percent in April 2007.

While vehicles powered by four-cylinder engines are receiving a lift from rising gas prices, so are new vehicles powered by hybrid-electric engines. Hybrid vehicle sales have shown a strong correlation to gas prices. For more than two years, hybrid sales have increased as gas prices have risen and have decreased as gas prices have fallen.

Additionally, PIN data shows that the retail turn rates -- the amount of time a new vehicle spends on a dealership lot before being sold -- decrease for both new and used small cars as the price of gas increases. In particular, these retail turn rates suggest that certain parts of the used-vehicle market, such as small cars, compact basic cars and small luxury crossovers benefit when fuel prices rise.

PIN and J.D. Power and Associates data suggest that the small car market -- both new and used -- will continue to strengthen as fuel prices escalate.

"The recent strength of the small vehicle segments -- pricing, styling and an increasing number of new models -- is receiving an additional boost from high gas prices," said Bob Schnorbus, chief economist at J.D. Power and Associates. "We're expecting the small vehicle segments to continue to grow, regardless of gas prices, but higher gas prices certainly will help these segments relative to others."

About Power Information Network (PIN)

PIN's automotive solutions are based on the collection and analysis of daily new- and used-vehicle retail transaction information from more than 10,000 automotive dealership franchises in North America. PIN's industry-leading automotive solutions incorporate consumer demand and sales information to improve business for automotive dealers, manufacturers, lenders, and other companies in the industry. Additional information is available at www.powerinfonet.com.

About J.D. Power and Associates

Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is an ISO 9001-registered global marketing information services firm operating in key business sectors including market research, forecasting, performance improvement, training and customer satisfaction. The firm's quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually. For more information on car reviews and ratings, car insurance, health insurance, cell phone ratings, and more, please visit JDPower.com. J.D. Power and Associates is a business unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies.

About The McGraw-Hill Companies:

Founded in 1888, The McGraw-Hill Companies is a leading global information services provider meeting worldwide needs in the financial services, education and business information markets through leading brands such as Standard & Poor's, McGraw-Hill Education, BusinessWeek and J.D. Power and Associates. The Corporation has more than 280 offices in 40 countries. Sales in 2006 were $6.3 billion. Additional information is available at www.mcgraw-hill.com.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Hyundai's Santa Fe Bulks Up

Hyundai's Santa Fe bulks up



What a difference a year makes, now that we've just had a generation change with Hyundai's Santa Fe.

The Santa Fe, Hyundai's sport utility, landed here from Korea six years ago as a 2001 model. It had the usual designer earmarks of a medium-size sport ute -- prominent grille, aggressive-looking tires -- and, coupled with its utterly generous warranty (10 years or 100,000 miles for the power train) and low price, it sold all over. Keep in mind that it looked and felt like a medium-size car -- at its biggest.

Now the ute is back, with a serious face-lift and everything-else-lift from last year's model. The differences are instructive. The 2007 model is 7 inches longer, more than 2 inches wider, almost 2 inches higher and weighs 175 pounds more. The 2007 gets better gas mileage -- 19 and 24 mpg versus 17 and 23 mpg from 2006 -- and yet the 2007 model, for all its extra bulk, has only six-tenths of a cubic foot extra interior room when you have the rear seats folded down.

What is happening here, I think, is the inexorable, if incremental growth habit of the car industry. A new model gets introduced. It's small, or fairly small. When it has a generation change -- this usually happens every four or five years; in Hyundai's case, it took six years -- the car gets bigger. It happened with the Honda Civic, and it has happened with nearly every other car out there. (There's also the fact that Hyundai has a smaller SUV, the Tucson, and there's little point in having it compete with the Santa Fe. Because they're progressing westward in their car-naming process -- Santa Fe to Tucson -- when do we see the Hyundai Bakersfield?)

First, a word about Hyundai, which has had a checkered history in the United States. It came here 20 years ago with the execrable Excel, a car so unreliable it became the universal butt of bad-car jokes. So Hyundai, an enormous and rich Korean company, invested a lot of money in making cars the right way and eventually redeemed itself in the eyes of U.S. buyers, not to mention the consulting firms that compile those widely distributed Best in Quality lists.

That said, what do we get in our new, bigger Santa Fe? Actually, quite a lot. Parked near its predecessor, the 2007 does look bigger, but not outrageously so. Keep in mind that this crossover utility vehicle is shorter than most midsize sedans (including Hyundai's own Azera and Sonata), so it is actually pretty easy to get through traffic.

The real thing you learn in driving the Santa Fe is that Hyundai appears to have taken that bruising of 20 years ago to heart. The fit and finish of the Santa Fe are fine. There is little to no grousing from suspension parts, even on rough roads. The doors have a satisfying thunk when they close.

Inside, all the usual modern-day gizmos have been provided and their placement has been well thought out. Electric window lifts fall to hand and are not hidden behind a door pull or some other obstacle. But there are some nits. Instead of the foot-operated pedal clumsily installed where your left leg would like to be most of the time, I think Hyundai could have provided an emergency brake operated by a console-mounted handle.

The Santa Fe shines, however, once it's on the road. The suspension is supple and smooth, about right for a tall station wagon that is not going to be climbing a quarry wall while towing a Boston Whaler with a 200-horse engine on the transom. This is the civilized city/sport ute, and it comes in front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive models. With all-wheel drive, the system either "automatically routes power to the wheels that have the best traction," as Hyundai says on its Web site, or "The driver-selectable AWD lock provides a continuous 50/50 torque split between front and rear wheels during off-road situations."

Power comes from a 2.7-liter, 185-horsepower V6 or a bigger V6, with 3.3 liters and 242 horses. Buying the less potent version gives you a choice between five-speed automatic or four-speed manual transmissions, and the bigger engine comes only with a five-speed automatic. We had the 3.3-liter version, with the optional third row seat, and there was plenty of power, even with four people in the car.

Of course, the big thing about Hyundai is its astonishing warranty -- five years/60,000 miles bumper to bumper and 10 years/100,000 miles on the power train. Psychologically, of course, it's a great pacifier, that giant warranty, no matter that most people don't even keep their cars 10 years. But the idea that a company would stand behind its product for 10 years is amazing. Comforting. Like toast and jam in the morning.

Then again, because we're talking about warranties, let's say that during that initial five-year period lots of little things go wrong. Unless you have a battery of servants to run back and forth, you end up spending a lot of time going to and from the Hyundai (or any other brand) dealer trying to get the car to work right. Yes, they'll do it on warranty, but how much is your time worth? And then if the engine or transmission go out at 90,000 or 95,000 miles, it's a long sojourn at the dealer's repair shop while the car is being fixed.

But it's a lot better than shelling out several thousand dollars long after a less-generous warranty has expired.


2007 Hyundai Santa Fe

Type: SUV, front engine, front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive

Base price: $25,945

Price as tested: $26,140

Power train: 3.3-liter V6 242-horsepower engine. Five-speed automatic transmission

Curb weight: 4,121 pounds

Seating capacity: seven

Mileage: 19 city; 24 highway

Fuel tank capacity: 19.8 gallons

Dimensions: Length 184.1 inches; width 74.4 inches; height 67.9 inches; wheelbase 106.3 inches

Warranty: bumper to bumper, five years/60,000 miles; power train, 10 years, 100,000 miles

Source: Hyundai Motor America; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (www.fueleconomy.gov)

Michael Taylor, Chronicle Auto Editor
Friday, May 11, 2007, San Fransisco Chronicle

Friday, May 11, 2007

Autoblog First Drive: 2007 Hyundai Veracruz

Autoblog First Drive: 2007 Hyundai Veracruz

Back in January at the Detroit Auto Show, Hyundai finally peeled the camo off its newest product, the Veracruz. The Veracruz is aimed right at the heart of the increasingly popular mid-sized crossover segment that includes such perennial best sellers as the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander and new entries like the Saturn Outlook and Ford Edge. Hyundai identifies the Honda and Toyota entries as their main competitors, but interestingly neither was their primary benchmark. That honor falls to the Lexus RX350. More on that in a bit.

Hyundai invited a group of automotive media to a park in northern Oakland County north of Chrysler's headquarters for a first drive of the new Veracruz. We set out on a cool rainy morning in a fleet of new vehicles in various trim levels and front- and all-wheel drive configurations. We only had about an hour and a half to drive, so this was strictly a first impression.

Before we got to hit the road in the biggest Korean CUV to date, Hyundai's Miles Johnson and Product Planning Manager Mike Mino gave us some background on the company's recent history and design goals for the Veracruz. The biggest problem with using existing vehicles as benchmarks to design a car is that anything on the market was designed at least 4-5 years before and the carmakers are already well on their way to the next generation. Hyundai tackled this problem by using a vehicle one level up as the benchmark for the market they wanted to compete in. So while they wanted to compete with the Pilot and Highlander, they claim to have used the RX350 as their benchmark.

The result is a vehicle that is generally better equipped and yet still priced lower than it's direct competitors, a typical Hyundai move. The test vehicle we drove was a high-end Limited model with most of the goodies like a sunroof, dual-zone climate controls and a leather interior. The look and finish of the interior was top notch with soft touch surfaces and well located controls. Like the latest Chrysler small and mid-sized cars, chilled air from the A/C system is ducted through the center console compartment to keep drinks cool.

The front seats were comfortable and felt reasonably supportive over the relatively short drive. The second- and third-row seats, on the other hand, are pretty flat. The second-row bench can slide fore and aft providing plenty of leg room for three passengers, though. The rear door openings are large and access to the third row is fairly easy. Even with the middle row pushed all the way back, my knees didn't touch the seat backs from the back row, which is a minor miracle.

On the road, the 3.8L V-6 moves the 4,300 lb. wagon without seeming to run short of breath. The six-speed automatic shifts imperceptibly and kicks down quickly and smoothly when you put your foot in it. The ride was well controlled with no wallowing over a number of different surfaces and body roll never got out of hand, although it was never really pushed too hard. The steering was nicely weighted with no center slop. The only major flaw that cropped up on our rainy day ride occurred during a full throttle lunch launch at an intersection. On the uneven road surface with intermittent puddles, the traction control seemed to loose its way and started to oscillate applying the brakes back and forth across the front axle generating some very nasty wheel hop. Several later launch attempts on wet pavement, gravel and a split didn't reproduce the shuddering, however.

A decade ago driving a mid-size to large SUV was usually a very unpleasant experience for a typical car lover. They were always based on trucks with terrible handling and ride, sloppy steering that was all over the road and mushy, weak brakes. Sport utilities and crossovers have come a long way in the intervening period and overall the Veracruz was a pleasant ride and very livable. Hopefully in the very near future, we'll be able to give you a better picture of what it's like to live with a Veracruz on a day-to-day basis. In the meantime, if you can't wait, the Veracruz is available now starting at $27,000 and ranging into the upper thirties for the loaded Limited models.

Posted Apr 27th 2007 1:47PM by Sam Abuelsamid

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Hyundai Earns Largest Opinion Improvement From AutoPacific

Hyundai Earns Largest Opinion Improvement From Autopacific

Image Consideration And Tracking Research Lists Hyundai Higher Than Nine Manufacturers

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., 05/09/2007 AutoPacific, an automotive consulting firm, reported Hyundai had the largest opinion improvement among nine manufacturers in its initial wave of Image and Consideration Tracking Research.

AutoPacific analysts stated, "The surprise (or not so surprising) winner of the most improved manufacturer was Hyundai Motor America. Comments surrounding the performance of Hyundai gave Hyundai credit for substantially improved styling, newly-found high durability/quality/reliability, a strong value message and a great warranty program. Positive comments outweighed negative comments by about four to one."

Nine manufacturers were evaluated including, General Motors, Toyota, Ford Motor, Chrysler Group, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai, VW, and BMW. 1,254 panelists responded to an Internet survey concerning their opinion of automakers in the USA. The key question in the survey was whether the respondent's opinion of a manufacturer had changed since this time last year. Over 5,000 verbatim comments were collected in relation to opinion and attitude toward various aspects of a manufacturer's image.

"In 2006, JD Power and Associates ranked Hyundai as the highest non-premium nameplate in its Initial Quality Study and BusinessWeek named us a top '100 Global Brand' for 2006," said John Krafcik, vice president of Strategic Planning and Product Development, Hyundai Motor America. "AutoPacific's report that Hyundai now has the largest opinion improvement over nine competing manufacturers is another example of how Hyundai is continuing to improve brand image through its commitment to quality and value."

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 750 dealerships nationwide.

AUTOPACIFIC

AutoPacific is a future-oriented automotive marketing and product-consulting firm with headquarters in Tustin, California, with an affiliate office in the Detroit area. AutoPacific specializes in the analysis and research of the automobile industry. For over almost twenty years, AutoPacific has served the automotive industry with expertise in product development, product planning, marketing and consumer research.

2007 Hyundai Santa Fe Expert Review

2007 Hyundai Santa Fe Expert Review



If we were to pick the best redesigned SUVs for 2007, Hyundai's Santa Fe would be among the finalists. The overhaul gives new life to a model that was desperately in need of an update to stay competitive in the midsize SUV segment.

The new Santa Fe is larger and its engines are more powerful, but it also gets better gas mileage than its predecessor. The newly optional third-row seat increases the maximum seat count to seven, and the new cabin's overall refinement is surprisingly good. It also has numerous standard safety features and an impressive warranty.

Going & Stopping
The Santa Fe is offered with a choice of two V-6 engines. The base GLS has a 2.7-liter V-6 while the midlevel SE and top-of-the-line Limited — the trim level I tested — feature a larger 3.3-liter V-6. A five-speed manual transmission is standard in the GLS, but a four-speed automatic is optional. The SE and Limited have a five-speed automatic. Front- and all-wheel-drive models are offered.

Hyundai Santa Fe Engines
  2.7-liter V-6 3.3-liter V-6
Horsepower (@ rpm) 185 @ 6,000 242 @ 6,000
Torque (lbs.-ft. @ rpm) 183 @ 4,000 226 @ 4,500
Required gasoline Regular Regular
EPA-estimated
gas mileage
(city/highway, mpg)
Manual: 20/25
Automatic:
21/26 (FWD)
19/25 (AWD)
19/24
Source: Manufacturer


With the 3.3-liter V-6, the Santa Fe is swift enough to easily handle most drivers' power needs. It's a rather smooth engine, too. Whether it's accelerating hard when merging onto the highway or just making its way through traffic, the five-speed automatic transmission always seems to be in a sensible gear for conditions. Shifts are smooth, even those that occur under full-throttle acceleration. Both automatics include Hyundai's Shiftronic clutchless-manual mode that gives the driver control over gear changes.

The Santa Fe's all-disc brakes have no trouble stopping the SUV, and pedal feel is nice and natural.

Ride & Handling
The Santa Fe's very stiff suspension was probably the most surprising aspect of the SUV. It didn't help that most of my driving was done in the Land of Potholes — a.k.a. Chicago in the spring — where smooth pavement is hard to find. Even so, a little more damping would have been appreciated. The Limited's 18-inch alloy wheels wear lower-profile tires than the ones mounted on the GLS' 16-inch wheels, which might offer a little more ride comfort than the 18s. The Santa Fe steers just fine, but don't expect it to be a source of driving joy.

Other aspects of the Santa Fe's handling capabilities are certainly praiseworthy. The Santa Fe's manageable size feels stable on the highway, where it's surprisingly quiet even on concrete interstates adept at generating cabin noise. Wind noise levels are low, too. Body roll is noticeable through tight corners, but it's by no means excessive for this class.

The Inside
The Santa Fe's all-new cabin is a big improvement over its predecessor's aging design. The Limited trim level had a number of unexpected details, like dual sunglass holders, a woven headliner, thick carpeted floormats, rich bluish-purple lighting and active head restraints for the front seats that adjust forward and back as well as up and down.

That's not to say it got everything right. While the silver-colored trim pieces in Hyundai's new Veracruz three-row crossover actually look pretty good, the treatment in the Santa Fe looks a little cheap; black plastic would have been fine instead. The brown faux wood trim is unconvincing, and the turn-signal stalk has a notchy feel. That said, other trim and dashboard plastic has nice graining, and the overall fit and finish is good.

The cabin had a hint of the chemically new-car smell that's plagued a number of Hyundais we've tested, but it wasn't as bad as others, and it should fade over time. Cloth seats are standard and leather ones are optional. The leather front bucket seats have firm cushioning but offer a comfortable driving position. Even though the Santa Fe's side windows taper upward toward the rear of the cabin, overall visibility from the driver's seat is good.

The second-row seat offers just enough legroom for tall adults (my knees were touching the back of the front seat) but there's good foot room and generous headroom. As in the front of the cabin, the second row has extra details like air-conditioning vents in the B-pillars.

Reclining the 60/40-split second-row seats in our five-person Santa Fe meant lifting a handle at the top of the seat. While it works just fine, it's not as convenient as the low-mounted lever on the side of the seat cushion that some SUVs have. The optional Touring Package includes a 50/50-split third-row seat that increases the Santa Fe's seat count to seven.

Safety
In the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's frontal-offset crash test, the Santa Fe received a Good overall rating, the best possible score. As of this writing, the new generation hasn't been tested for side-impact protection by IIHS. All trim levels have standard antilock brakes, side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags and an electronic stability system.

Cargo & Towing
The cargo area features a clean design that maximizes usable space thanks to minimal wheel-well intrusion and generous underfloor storage space in the two-row model. There's 34.2 cubic feet of cargo room behind the second-row seats, and folding those seats flat creates 78.2 cubic feet of total space. The inclusion of both a strap and handle to close the liftgate is a thoughtful touch. Three-row models have only 10 cubic feet of room behind the third row and lose the larger of the two underfloor storage bins.

The Santa Fe can tow up to 2,000 pounds without any special preparation, but pulling the maximum 2,800 (GLS) or 3,500 (SE and Limited) pounds requires a Touring Package that includes a transmission cooler, upgraded radiator and fan, and trailer wiring.

Features
The SUV can be equipped with most of the comfort and entertainment features you might expect, including a power sunroof, a power driver's seat with power lumbar adjustment, an Infinity premium sound system and rear-seat video. Two notable options — a navigation system and a rearview camera — aren't offered. Most Santa Fe options are part of packages, which makes it impossible to pick and choose many features individually.

Santa Fe in the Market
With competitors constantly pushing the level of features, technology and refinement with each redesign, I can see how a product planner for midsize SUVs could have a lot of sleepless nights. After driving the Santa Fe, it's clear that Hyundai cares about getting the small things right in a vehicle, and it got enough things right in this SUV that those planners should be sleeping just fine these days . . . at least for a few months.

By Mike Hanley
Cars.com
May 9, 2007

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

2007 Hyundai Veracruz Moving Up in the World

2007 Hyundai Veracruz Moving up in the world.



Let me start out with a moment of complete candor. There was a time, not all that long ago, when I'd avoid any assignment involving products bearing the Hyundai badge. And among automotive journalists, I wasn't alone. The best you could say, if you were searching for compliments, was that the brand's products were "cheap and cheerful." When friends asked, I'd often recommend they look at a certified used car, instead.

That began to change when the first-generation Hyundai Santa Fe showed up in my driveway. Reluctantly, I took it for a drive, and after a couple hours behind the wheel, I walked away with a big smile on my face. Later in the day, when a colleague asked what I thought, I replied, "Pretty good product." What I notably didn't need was the modifier, "for a Hyundai."

Recently, a second generation of that game-changing crossover came to market, and it shows the continuing, rapid evolution of the Hyundai brand - a transformation underscored by the steady move to larger, more lavish and expensive products, including the Korean carmaker's newest crossover, the Veracruz. This time, offered a chance to take a spin, I hesitated not a moment.

Picking up on the Southwest naming strategy Hyundai has adopted for its truck-like offerings, the Veracruz is the latest entry in a rapidly growing market niche: affordable, three-row crossovers. Of course, the concept of what's affordable is a matter of individual perception, and those who still remember the original Hyundai Pony, or even current, entry-level offerings, like the Accent or Elantra, might be in for a bit of sticker shock.

The most stripped-down version of the Veracruz comes in near $27,000 - around $1,000 more than a base, two-row Ford Edge - while a fully-loaded Limited model will nudge $38,000. That's lofty territory, even for a more established brand with a reputation less dependent on price.

So that raises two critical questions: is the Veracruz worth the money, and can Hyundai win over the sort of buyers who'd cough up that cash, folks who traditionally opt for from more established alternatives, such as the Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot?

Shapely and sporty

After spending time with the new crossover, we're convinced that while the Veracruz stretches the perceptive definition of the Hyundai brand, it seems worth the money. Not only will it challenge Mazda's and Saturn's new offerings, but it may draw some interest from folks looking even higher up the automotive price spectrum, at products like the Nissan Murano and Lexus RX350.

Indeed, at first glance, you might mistake the Hyundai for Lexus' curvaceous offering, especially from the side. The styling is subtle yet elegant and also brings to mind the new and toned-down remake of Subaru's Tribeca. The wraparound head and taillights are a particularly nice upscale touch and we appreciate the fact that Hyundai stylists didn't feel the need to turn those lamps into overly complicated, sci-fi-like exercises in design excess.

Hyundai tosses in side mirrors with puddle lighting and built-in turn signals. Roof rails are standard, by the way. So are dual exhaust outlets and a rear spoiler.

All in all, the goal was to give the Veracruz a sporty look, and designers succeeded reasonably well. But let's face it-like its competitors, what Hyundai is really selling is a thinly-disguised minivan.

Okay, there are no sliding doors, but with the Veracruz, three-row seating is standard. The good news is that unlike so many other entries into this segment, the back row is more than just a line on a spec sheet. Would I want to ride back there on a cross-country journey? Probably not, but I'd have no problem hopping in for a trip to the store or a morning commute with the car pool. This is no penalty box. Access is easy with the fold-away second-row seats and there's actually a reasonable amount of knee room for third-row passengers.

Front, middle or back, seating is comfortable and supportive. For the driver, you get a commanding view of the road with great visibility all around. Most of the seats tilt, slide or fold away, as well, and with everything but the driver's seat laid flat, there's a positively cavernous, 86.8 cubic-foot cargo compartment.

First-rate interior

If you want to get a sense of how far Hyundai has come, just take a look inside the new Veracruz. Fit-and-finish is first rate, with a surprisingly refined use of materials and colors. Plastics are largely soft-touch and Hyundai has dealt directly with one of our pet peeves, the acres of dull black plastic many manufacturers layer onto the instrument panel. The center stack is trimmed in silver and gray, with large, easy to read, easy to operate displays and controls. Nissan should pay particular attention for its next-generation Murano.

When Hyundai first burst onto the American scene, nearly 20 years ago, the automaker emphasized pricing. But rock-bottom prices don't make a good deal if quality lags at the back of the pack.. The Korean carmaker's turnaround was triggered by a best-in-the-industry, 10-year warranty, and a surge in the quality charts.

Now Hyundai is pushing design and value, maintaining segment-best pricing and tossing in a surprising array of features. With the Veracruz, there are plenty, even on the base-level version.

Start with safety, where the crossover has earned NHTSA five-star ratings in both front and side crash tests. It also garnered four stars for rollover, equal to the best in the SUV category. There are six airbags, including side-curtain protection for all three rows. Anti-lock brakes, traction control and stability control are standard, as well, along with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Force Distribution systems and active front headrests, which help reduce the risk of whiplash.

The Veracruz comes with an AM/FM/CD sound system, and tosses in XM satellite radio, with a trial subscription to the pay service. Oddly, while there's an available plug for your MP3 player, it's a pay-for option. There's a second-row climate control, and you can heat or cool the center console. Second-row reading lamps are standard, along with a "conversation mirror" best used to keep an eye on the kids.

When you move up to the SE and topline Limited models, you get additional features, especially if you opt for the Ultimate Package, with power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, rain-sensing windshield wipers, keyless entry and remote engine start.

What that means is that you can load up a Veracruz for a lot less than a stripped-down competitor. By Hyundai's count, there's a $3,300 advantage over a comparably-equipped Highlander, for example.

Soaking up the Veracruz

Of course, all this looks good on paper. The question is how does the new crossover drive? To get a feel for the Veracruz, we took a well-equipped GLS out for a run through the rain-soaked Detroit exurbs.

Fire up the standard, 260-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6 and you're greeted with a well-balanced exhaust note. The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic that also offers manual-shift mode. The powertrain combination is reasonably quick, though not the segment's 0-60 benchmark. The transmission is worthy of praise. It's smooth-shifting without any sense of hunt-and-seek. Hyundai claims a towing capacity of 3,500 pounds.

Hyundai is offering the Veracruz in both front- and all-wheel-drive configurations, and expects the former to account for about 60 percent of its volume. There's a moderate amount of ground clearance, but this crossover is built for nothing more than gravel or snow-covered highways, rather than anything close to real off-roading. FWD gets you 18 mpg city/25 highway, while the numbers slip to 17/24 mpg in AWD. Either way, that's pretty much in the middle of the pack.

Hyundai engineers spent a lot of time tuning the Veracruz for comfortable driving. With its triple door seals and four layers of under-carpet padding, this is one uncannily quiet SUV - arguably to Lexus levels.

Meanwhile, the four-wheel independent suspension with its front and rear stabilizer bars, has been set up for cruising. On highway and smooth, flat roads, it's absolutely stable. Throw the Veracruz into a hard turn and there's a fair amount of body roll, however, reflecting the crossover's heft. (All that high-strength steel, used to enhance crash protection, adds up, after all.)

As that suggests, the Veracruz is not intended to be what you might call a "driver's vehicle." The steering is a tad numb and there could be a bit more on-center feel. The brakes will stop you fast, but they're just a little squishy.

The Veracruz is a solid and credible offering at a surprisingly affordable price. Is it cheap? No, but it's got a real leg up on the competition when it comes to sticker price. And there's a lot more to like about this new Hyundai.

Like the Santa Fe before it, the new Veracruz is likely to take by surprise those who haven't taken a serious look at Hyundai in awhile - if at all. The reality is that barely one in four American motorists even consider the Korean brand. A decade ago, there was good reason. These days, that's a mistake.

2007 Hyundai Veracruz
Base price: $26,995 (base, front-drive GLS) to $38,000 (fully-loaded, all-wheel-drive Limited)
Engine: 3.8-liter V-6, 260 hp/257 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front- or all-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 190.6 x 76.6 x 68.9 in
Wheelbase: 110.4 in
Curb weight: 4,266 lb
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): 18/25 mpg (FWD); 17/24 mpg (AWD)
Major standard features: Air conditioning; power windows/locks/mirrors; AM/FM/CD/XM; manual tilt/telescope (power on up-line models); puddle lamps; second-row reading lights; climate control
Safety features: Six airbags; anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control; active front headrests; tire pressure monitors
Warranty: Five years /60,000 miles

by Paul A. Eisenstein (2007-05-03)

Monday, May 07, 2007

2007 Hyundai Hope on Wheels Program

2007 Hyundai Hope on Wheels Program



We are excited and pleased to announce the continuation of the Hyundai Hope on Wheels program for 2007.

Hope on Wheels History
Hyundai dealers have been proud to help kids fight cancer by contributing to pediatric cancer research in the US since 1998. The program began with Boston-area Hyundai dealers who donated funds to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's Jimmy Fund program. In 2001, the program was extended to include all Hyundai dealers nationwide. And in 2004, the name Hope on Wheels was adopted and the white iconic Hyundai Hope on Wheels vehicle with children's handprints rolled across America

Hope on Wheels demonstrates in communities all over the country what Hyundai dealers stand for: not just a great sales organization, but one that deeply cares about the communities in which they live. Since its inception, over $8 million has been donated by Hyundai dealers, resulting in more than 70 research studies. Doctors, research institutes and families all over the country tell thousands of children of children have benefited and lives have been saved as a result.

2007 Hope on Wheels Program
In 2007, a sub-committee of the National Dealer Council and Hyundai Executives have worked hard together to improve the program's core elements. The basic elements of the 2007 Hope on Wheels Program are:

  • 100% of dealer funds will be donated to Cancer Research;
  • HMA will cut administrative cost by more than 40% from last year;
  • HMA will donate 6 - 2007 Santa Fe's to serve as the Hope on Wheels vehicles;
  • Dealers contribute $4 per car out of the 1% advertising allowance;
  • Creation of a dealer council sub-committee governance board;
  • Over 30 research programs to be awarded donations in 2007;
  • Hope on Wheels integrated in consumer marketing, brochures and events;
  • Website, www.hopeonwheels.com will be redesigned;
  • Localized support of Hope on Wheels ceremonies with more dealer participation;
  • Collateral materials for showrooms to promote the Hope on Wheels store; and
  • Inclusion of a national spoke's-kid to represent the program


You may know that pediatric cancer remains the leading cause of death among children under the age of 14 years old. The importance of the work begun by the Boston-area dealers in 1998 to fight pediatric cancer is still relevant today, and indeed our ability to address this dreaded disease improves every day. Hyundai dealers can be proud that we are making a difference.

Hyundai Motor America Executive Leadership Team

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Automobile Magazine: 2007 Hyundai Veracruz

AUTOMOBILE MAGAZINE: 2007 Hyundai Veracruz

What do you think of when you hear the name Hyundai? Value for money? Great warranty? Lots of equipment? Lexus-rivaling interior?

Lest you snort cappuccino out your nose in reaction to that last one, let us assure you, it's no joke. From the soft-touch materials to the superb fit and finish, the new Veracruz seven-seat crossover has an interior that feels expensive and luxurious like no other Hyundai cabin ever has. And as for the exterior styling, it may be anonymous, but it's also inoffensive, and that seems to be the benchmark for this unadventurous segment.

he Veracruz is easily a match for the Honda Pilot and the Subaru Tribeca in interior quality and packaging--the third-row seats are particularly easy to get into--and it's competitively priced. But it also deploys that other Hyundai tactic: throw so much content at the thing that upmarket players such as the Lexus RX350 and the Acura MDX begin to look like viable targets. To that end, the Veracruz Limited's standard equipment list includes leather, dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors, heated seats, and a power tailgate. And the list goes on (and on).

Mechanically, the Veracruz is equally impressive. The 260-hp V-6 is mated to a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic that allows manual shifting. It's a responsive powertrain, although that V-6 is a little too vocal at high revs. There's also too much torque steer under hard throttle, especially through sharp corners in the front-wheel-drive model (all-wheel drive is optional).

Dynamically, the Veracruz is pretty forgettable, with little in the way of steering feedback and the kind of body control that discourages aggressive direction changes. Ride quality is decent enough, but the suspension clunks loudly over bumps and potholes. Those deficiencies arguably matter less in this class (although Subaru managed to make the Tribeca engaging). The Veracruz hasn't reset the benchmark, but you'd be foolish not to check it out if you're looking at crossovers in this price range--the GLS starts at $26,995.

It's also further evidence--along with the recent unveiling of the V-8-powered Genesis concept, which will be Korea's first luxury sport sedan--that Hyundai is taking big strides toward the upper reaches now occupied by the likes of Lexus. But convincing American buyers that "Hyundai" is synonymous with "Lexus"? Well, sir, that's going to take a lot longer.

By Gavin Conway

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Hyundai Motor Ameriac Reports April 2007 Sales

Hyundai Motor America Reports April 2007 Sales

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., 05/01/2007 Hyundai Motor America today reported April sales of 39,137. The all-new 2007 Santa Fe showed strong gains over the previous year, posting an 85 percent increase. However, sales were down 4.6 percent from Hyundai's record April sales in 2006.

"The industry continues to be very competitive," said Dave Zuchowski, Hyundai's vice president of national sales. "We are encouraged with the sales increase of our all-new 2007 Santa Fe and our premium sedan Azera and are confident our sales growth will continue across all models, despite the fact overall consumer spending is down for the first quarter of 2007."All Hyundai vehicles sold in the U.S. are covered by the Hyundai Advantage, America's Best Warranty. Hyundai buyers are protected by a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a 7-year/unlimited-mile anti-perforation warranty and 5-year/unlimited-mile roadside assistance protection.

CARLINE APR/2007 APR/2006 CY2007 CY2006
ACCENT 2,918 3,491 11,190 8,256
SONATA 10,434 15,716 40,431 58,587
ELANTRA 8,166 9,121 30,998 34,906
TIBURON 1,154 1,674 4,047 5,337
SANTA FE 6,743 3,639 27,982 14,091
XG350/AZERA 2,812 2,601 8,676 8,861
TUCSON 3,653 4,657 13,257 16,849
ENTOURAGE 2,697 126 5,923 126
VERACRUZ 650 0 828 0
TOTAL 39,137 41,025 143,342 147,013


Newcomers: 2007 Hyundai Veracruz

Newcomers: 2007 Hyundai Veracruz





When Hyundai announced pricing of its all-new seven-passenger Veracruz-starting at just $26,995-Toyota no doubt breathed an irritated sigh of discomfort, especially considering its seven-seat V-6 Highlander, which offers less horsepower and standard equipment, costs nearly $500 more. And Honda? Probably feeling a bit squirmy, too-its Pilot, equipped with fewer horses and goodies, runs almost $700 extra.

More for less is a persuasive formula that's proved of great value, so to speak, for Hyundai. Yet it hasn't garnered the brand-copious comparison-test victories in this magazine. Hyundais often come close, but while high on value and warranty, they've tended to register a notch lower in such categories as handling and refinement. That said, with each new model the gap shrinks.

While we're not ready to declare the Veracruz as the Hyundai that bridges the gap-we'll wait until we can conduct an extensive comparison evaluation-it certainly offers the credentials and dynamics seemingly to be that vehicle. Hyundai sure thinks so. At the press launch near San Diego, the Korean challenger brought along a Lexus RX 350 for comparison. Target: Toyota? Make that Lexus.

The Veracruz crafts a compelling argument as an easy-on-the-pocket RX 350. For roughly $11,000 less, the Hyundai offers more torque (257 pound-feet versus 251) and nearly as much horsepower (260 versus 270) from its 3.8-liter Lambda V-6, while providing two additional seats and an extra cog in its tranny, thanks to a new Aisin six-speed manumatic. Styling? As fresh and clean as the bod of any Lexus sport/ute, with a front fascia that suggests the RX and a rakish D-pillar like a Honda CR-V's.

The Hyundai Veracruz's interior is as Lexus as, well, a Lexus, based on the luxuries in our Limited test vehicle. Senior photographer John Kiewicz notes, "Were you to remove the Hyundai logo from the steering wheel, then look around at the Veracruz's interior, would it make you think you were in a new Lexus? Absolutely."

Dimensionally, the Veracruz, at 190.6 inches long, 76.6 wide, and 68.9 tall, closely copies the Honda Pilot and the upcoming 2008 Highlander and is a smidge longer than both. Third-row room is paramount in these minivan alternatives-at least the idea of it-and the Veracruz delivers ample space for kids and enough freedom for six-footers on a jaunt. Moreover, access to the third row is trouble-free, as the second-row cushions and seatbacks move forward for easier ingress and egress. And with the second and third rows folded flat, cargo room, at 86.8 cubic feet, dwarfs that (83.3) of a Mercedes-Benz GL450.

Besides wanting a dozen or so additional pound-feet of torque, more responsive on-center steering, and an integrated nav system (Hyundai says this option will be available later in the year), we came away impressed with the Veracruz. Three model trims-base $26,995 GLS, midlevel $28,695 SE, and flagship $32,995 Limited-allow a wide breadth of budgets and tastes, with each level available in front or all-wheel drive, the latter at a $1700 premium that includes an Intelligent Torque Controlled Coupling and a lock mode for a 50:50 torque ratio. The GLS is packed with six airbags, stability control, active front head restraints, rear-seat HVAC controls, heated sideview mirrors, 17-inch alloys, and a six-speaker MP3/XM audio system. Move up to the SE for some sporty flavor, and Hyundai tacks on 18-inch wheels, foglamps, a power driver's seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and a cooled front center console. Got more greenbacks in the wallet? Then opt for the Limited, which adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a sunroof, an ultrasonic backup warning system, and an Infinity audio system with a subwoofer. Options include an Entertainment Package (rear-seat DVD system with eight-inch LCD) and an Ultimate Package (power-adjustable steering wheel and power tailgate).

The Veracruz is a formidable player in the seven-passenger crossover segment and will no doubt be a strong contender in next year's Sport/Utility of the Year competition. Every automaker, not just Toyota and Honda, should be nervous.

By Ron Kiino

2007 Hyundai Veracruz
Base price $26,995-$34,695
Vehicle Layout Front engine, FWD or AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 3.8L/260-hp/257-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight 4300-4450 lb (mfr)
Wheelbase 110.4 in
Length x width x height 190.6 x 76.6 x 68.9 in
0-60 mph 8.0 sec (est)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 17-18/24-25 mpg
On sale in U.S. Currently


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Hyundai Named "Top 10 Coolest New Car Under $18,000"

Hyundai Named "Top 10 Coolest New Car Under $18,000"



2007 Hyundai Tiburon Earns Kelley Blue Book Honors For Sporty Styling And Affordability

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., 04/27/2007 Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.com), the leading provider of new- and used-vehicle information, named the 2007 Hyundai Tiburon to its annual list of "Top 10 Coolest New Cars Under $18,000."

The list includes the top 10 coolest and affordable new vehicles on the market. The editors at Kelley Blue Book focused on sporty stylishness and fuel economy, while thoroughly examining performance and fun-to-drive factor. Safety, environmental impact, interior size and comfort were also taken into account.

"Hyundai’s sporty Tiburon combines the presence of a $30,000 sports coupe with energetic driving dynamics and the value expected from the brand," said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst, Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com. "Updates for the 2007 model year include freshened front and rear styling."

The Tiburon offers life-saving active and passive safety features, track-inspired design and V6 performance handling of a sports coupe at a four-cylinder price. Kelley Blue Book editors chose the $18,000 price point as a logical demarcation of affordability.

"This recognition reinforces Hyundai’s commitment to providing terrific vehicles at affordable prices," said John Krafcik, vice president of Strategic Planning and Product Development, Hyundai Motor America. "Tiburon is perfect for the enthusiast looking for an entry-level sports coupe with great quality and lots of standard safety features."

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 750 dealerships nationwide.

KELLEY BLUE BOOK

Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com is America's most used and trusted vehicle pricing, values and information resource. The top-rated Web site provides the most up-to-date pricing and values for thousands of new and used vehicles, including the Blue Book® New Car Value, which reveals what people actually are paying for new cars. Since 1926, car buyers and sellers have relied upon Kelley Blue Book for authoritative and unbiased information to make well-informed automotive decisions. The company also reports vehicle prices and values via products and services, including the famous Blue Book® Official Guide and software products. Kbb.com also has been named the No. 1 automotive information site by Nielsen//NetRatings and J.D. Power and Associates seven years in a row. No other medium reaches more in-market vehicle shoppers than kbb.com; one in every three American car buyers complete their research on kbb.com.