Hyundai continues to amaze. With the addition of the all-new, 2007 Hyundai Veracruz crossover to its line, it now offers no fewer than nine models in the U.S., ranging from the subcompact Accent to the upscale Azera sedan to the mainstream Entourage minivan to the Santa Fe and Tucson SUVs to the sporty Tiburon. And with the Veracruz, Hyundai isn't just filling a heretofore unnoticed empty spot on its dealers' showroom floors. It's also taking another step up market in price, quality and performance.
The all-new Hyundai Veracruz is no tentative, exploratory step. Its powertrain goes head to head with the competition, primarily the Honda Pilot, the Toyota Highlander, and the Subaru Tribeca. There's no weak-kneed four-cylinder engine or aging four-speed automatic transmission, either. Instead, the Veracruz gets a modern V6 more powerful than competing engines and just as frugal at the gas pump. The transmission is a thoroughly modern, six-speed automatic, putting it one gear up Honda, Toyota and Subaru. There's also a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, again giving away nothing to the competition.
The Veracruz also enjoys a styling advantage. This is Hyundai's first venture into the crossover market, so it has no mistakes to be corrected, no design vocabulary that has to be slavishly followed, no legacies to be exorcised. It's all a clean-screen project, but with the additional benefit of being able to learn from what others have tried. And learn Hyundai has. The Veracruz presents a clean, uncluttered face, a balanced, sleekly executed profile and maybe a bit of a copycat rear aspect, but if it is, it's at least a copy of a winner.
Inside, there's everything anybody needs except a navigation system.
Besides well-designed and smartly packaged seating for seven, including easy access to the third-row seats, a host of upscale features are standard on the Hyundai Veracruz GLS, the base model. Anything missing there is available on the SE or Limited or in an option package, including a rear-seat entertainment system with wireless headphones and remote.
Veracruz is put together with care, too. Gaps between body panels, while not Lexus or BMW grade, are close and consistent. Interior trim materials feel as good as they look, and they look very good. Gauges and controls look and feel good, with interesting blue-tone night-time instrument lighting and just the right amount of clickiness and rotational resistance.
Suspension is independent all the way around (preferred for ride and handling), with comfortable, front-to-rear shock absorber and spring balance over a longish wheelbase that smoothes out most freeway pavement heaves. A wide stance and responsive steering combine with four-wheel disc brakes, which aren't numbingly over-managed by computerized mappings and algorithms, to earn a refreshingly high, fun-to-drive rating.
Finally, Hyundai left nothing on the shelf when it came to outfitting the Veracruz with safety gear. There are six airbags, including side-curtain coverage for all three rows of seats. Antilock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution are standard. So is a full-featured, electronic stability system. And the front seats have active head restraints that move up and forward to cushion the head in rear-impact crashes.
Deeper bottom cushions on the front seats would be nice. So would a height adjustment on the front passenger seat. We also prefer the slot for the Shiftronic, manual-like shift function to be on the driver's side of the main shift gate, instead of on the outside, away from the driver. There was some wind noise on one consumer-ready test vehicle that wasn't on the other. But other than these nit picks, we're hard put to find anything about which to complain.
The 2007 Hyundai Veracruz is a seven-passenger crossover that comes with front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive (AWD). The sole engine is a 260-hp V6, the transmission a six-speed automatic with a semi-manual shifting feature called Shiftronic.
Veracruz GLS ($26,305) and GLS AWD ($28,005) come with a respectable quantity of standard features, starting with air conditioning with secondary rear-seat controls; cruise control; AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio system with six speakers and three-month XM trial subscription; tilt-and telescope steering wheel with cruise and redundant audio controls; the common collection of powered accessories; and P245/65R17 tires on aluminum alloy wheels. Front buckets with fold-flat, passenger-side seatback; 60/40-split, flip-and-fold second row; and 50/50-split, fold-into-floor third row comprise the seating arrangement. The sole, factory option on the GLS is a Premium Package ($1950) adding a power, tilt-and-slide sunroof; eight-way power driver's seat; heated front seats; leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; and backup warning system.
SE ($28,005) and SE AWD ($28,705) adds the power driver's seat, auto-dimming inside and outside rearview mirrors, programmable garage/gate remote, automatic headlights, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, roof rack (cross rails available separately), cooled front center console storage bin, fog lights, and P245/60R18 tires on 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels. Options include the Premium & Leather Package ($3350) with leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, sunroof, backup warning system, and an Infinity audio system with CD6/MP3 plus subwoofer and external amplifier. The Entertainment Package ($1600) comes with a DVD-based, rear-seat, eight-inch LCD screen, two wireless headphones and remote and surround-sound audio system, an auxiliary 115-volt power outlet, and a fish-eye conversation mirror.
The Limited ($32,305) and Limited AWD ($34,005) add leather seating surfaces; the heated front seats; a dual-zone, automatic climate control with auto-recirculation; the Infinity audio system and conversation mirror; the sunroof; a powered liftgate; and a windshield wiper de-icer. The Ultimate Package ($2950) adds power-adjustable pedals; powered tilt-and-telescope steering wheel; two driver-memory settings for pedals, steering wheel and outside mirrors; the rear-seat entertainment system and 115-volt power outlet; rain-sensing windshield wipers; lighted door scuff plates; and proximity lock/unlock key fob. Another package adds high-grade, premium saddle leather seating surfaces with black carpeting and interior trim ($3200).
Safety features include the mandated front airbags plus side-impact airbags for front-seat passengers (torso protection), full-cabin side curtain airbags (for head protection), three-point seatbelts and height-adjustable head restraints at all seating positions; active front seat head restraints; and child safety seat anchors and latches in the second-row seats. Wear those seatbelts because they are your first line of defense in an accident. A backup warning system that warns of unseen objects and assists when parking and maneuvering in tight places is optional and we strongly recommend it because it can help the driver avoid a tragic accident. Antilock brakes (which allow the driver to steer the car through panic stops) are standard and augmented by electronic brake-force distribution (which optimizes brake application front to rear) and brake assist (which quickens brake application in emergency stops). Standard, too, are an electronic stability control system (which helps the driver keep the vehicle from spinning out in turns or in emergency maneuvers) and traction control (which limits tire spin in slick conditions).