Monday, April 24, 2006

2006 Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 Long-Term Test Update No. 1

2006 Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 Long-Term Test Update No. 1 September 6, 2005 By West Coast Office / American Auto Press A New Midsize Benchmark? When the all-new 2006 Sonata first appeared in sneak preview photographs I wasn’t sure what to think. Sure its lines were attractive in an understated way, but I had liked the dare-to-be-different attitude of the previous two models and maybe wasn’t ready for Hyundai’s midsize model to go mainstream. But all this changed when I spent time with the car during its media launch in San Francisco last May. After a full day’s drive and a couple of evening jaunts around town, I saw the Sonata in a new light. Its conservative lines quickly grew on me, and after some contemplation my belief now is that the new car will enjoy greater staying power than the outgoing model. One things for sure, it’s a fine lot better looking the most of its Japanese competition, at least those at the forefront of the sales charts. And as I stated in the review it also performs equal to, and in some ways better than those top-selling imports. And I’m not just talking about driving dynamics, but real life performance like getting stuff in and out of the trunk, accommodating rear seat passengers, working the audio and HVAC systems, and delivering reliable transportation day in and day out. So now that Hyundai has delivered a well optioned Sonata GLS V6 to our west coast office for a long-term test, well be able to see first hand if it holds up to the daily duties our staffers will put it through. It should, of course, as the previous generation car was recently awarded most reliable car overall by Consumer Reports magazine, but the new Sonata is an altogether different animal. It features new chassis architecture, a new drive train, new electronics - yes, pretty well new everything. But before getting into the initial log entries, its probably best to go over the specific model Hyundai has supplied us with, including its various features. First of all, its not top of the line, but then again it comes pretty close. Actually, the only items that are missing is an automatic climate control system, adjustable foot pedals, an auto dimming rear view mirror, traction and stability control, a trip computer, garage door opener and compass. OK, that’s a fairly extensive list. For our purposes, you can appreciate that while well be commenting on the various standard features our Sonata GLS V6 includes, for a very reasonable $19,395, you wont be hearing any mention of traction and stability control, or automatic climate control, or any of the other options not included. You will, however, get feedback about the cars many power amenities, standard air conditioning system, 6CD in-dash audio system, leather seating surfaces, refined six-cylinder engine, five-speed automatic transmission, interior room, trunk space, fit and finish, reliability, dealer service experience, etc. So, enough of these editors drive, on with the Sonata GLS V6 test logs: Odometer: 1,193 miles Trevor: Unlike our previous long-term vehicle, the Sonata arrived broken in already. While this isn’t quite the same as buying a new car, I’m looking at it as if we purchased a slightly used demo. The good part of this is that well be able to rack up more miles during our six month test, and the more miles on the odometer means the more opportunity to see how the Sonata fares over the long haul. Odometer: 1,203 miles Trevor: Home from Hyundai’s local press liaison and parked the "Deep Water Blue" Sonata in its covered stall. It looks good in there, but it doesn’t take up as much space as I initially though it would. Its not that the car looks big from the outside, as it appears slimmer and trimmer than the outgoing model and tidier than most of its peers, but when I got inside I found it so accommodating I was beginning to worry that it would take up more real estate than I had parking space. A quick look at the Sonatas specs say otherwise, with Hyundai’s new entry actually measuring shorter than the top-selling Honda Accord and Toyota Camry rivals, by a miniscule 0.5 and 0.2 inches respectively, mind you. The Sonata is slightly wider than both Japanese competitors, but again only 0.7 inches over the Accord and a slightly more substantial 1.5 inches over the Camry, while it splits the difference in height, measuring 1.02 inches taller than the Accord and 0.6 inches lower to the ground than the Camry. Again it measures directly in between the Accord and Camry in wheelbase, 0.4 inches shorter than the Accord but 0.4 inches longer than the Camry. But as far as curb weight goes, its the heaviest of the bunch in base and top-tier trim. I think its base weight gain is due to the much longer list of standard features compared to the two Japanese cars, because when measuring our almost fully loaded tester against decked out Accords and Camry’s the weights are nearly dead on, with the Sonata GLS V6 only 48 kilograms heavier than the Accord EX V6 and 14 kilos over the Camry XLE V6. The only area where one of the two comparative rivals beats the Sonata, dimensionally, at least, is in trunk size, with the Camry inching away from the Sonata with 0.4 additional cubic feet of space. Both trounce on the Accords smallish "boot" by a substantial margin, the Sonata offering 2.3 cubic feet more cargo volume. Odometer: 1,210 miles Jennifer: OK, I’m not usually a four-door sedan kind of girl so the addition of this largish midsize model wasn’t a particularly thrilling prospect, but that is such an attractive deep blue metallic that I might be persuaded to get behind the wheel. Odometer: 1,215 miles Jennifer: I can’t say I’m in love with the light gray interior motif, but it’s well made and the leather seats are quite comfortable. This is also a really easy car to drive, with pretty decent power and an ultra smooth transmission. Odometer: 1,241 miles Alexandra: I’m really impressed with what Hyundai has done with the Sonata. Not only is it comfortable to sit and drive, but it looks exceptionally good. I might even be so bold to say that it looks much better than the Honda Accord, and even the Toyota Camry. During my time with the new Sonata, I also had a Chevrolet Cobalt SS, which is another great car. Despite the SS being sport-oriented and a heck of a lot of fun, I often preferred driving the Sonata. Why? Because sometimes I appreciated the larger cars comfort, and the convenience of four doors as opposed to the flashy sports coupes two. The Sonatas understated might not have a big wing on the back, but its five-speed automatic transmission was more agreeable in city traffic. Odometer: 1,256 miles Alexandra: I went to a couple of press conferences downtown and, of course, took the more agreeable Sonata. After my meetings were done, I ended up getting together with a couple of friends who were also downtown. I picked the first up and the question of "Which car is this?" was posed. When I told her it was a Hyundai Sonata, she asked "Really?" It reminded me of that Hyundai TV ad where a man is about to be questioned on something and he immediately answers "Yes" before the question is even asked. At the end of the commercial, the last interrogator asks, "Is that a Hyundai?!" And of course the answer is "Yes!" And yes, it’s just that good. The interior of the Sonata is also something to rave about. I like the way its set up. The in-dash CD changer is located higher than the air vents, which I find much more practical because audio system controls are easier to read and the air from the vents is directed more towards the body than other setups. I am also a fan of the leather seating surfaces with front butt warmers. Of course its still mildly temperate here on the West Coast so I haven’t used them yet, but give it a few more weeks and they’ll be on full blast! Odometer: 1,266 miles Trevor: Wow, Jennifer is right. This GLS V6 is so smooth and quiet on the highway that I’m surprised its steering wheel doesn’t have Lexus stylized "L" fixed to the hub. The GLS features upgraded surfaces on the center stack, either in wood grain or a carbon fiber-like design. Our tester has the latter and it’s quite tastefully done. Either upgrade looks miles better than the gray plastic surface of the base Sonatas center stack too. The audio system, sitting high on the dash, sounds superb. I’m really glad for this, as our previous long-term vehicle had an excellent stereo and my regular need for pumping out tunes at high volume needs to be satisfied sans distortion. This system, along with its 6-disc in-dash CD changer will do just fine. Source:

2006 Hyundai Sonata Road Test

2006 Hyundai Sonata Road Test May 6, 2005 by Trevor Hofmann / American Auto Press Building a New Midsize Benchmark Just how good the upcoming Sonata is came as no surprise to me when I tested it last week in and around the San Francisco area. It seems that everything Hyundai has brought out in recent years has either been leading its respective market segment, for quality, driving dynamics and refinement, or on par with the front runners. I was duly impressed with the current generation Sonata when it was introduced in 2001 as a 2002 model. It featured a well put together interior, comparable ride and handling characteristics to its Japanese competitors, a long list of standard and optional features for a value packed price, plus dramatic styling. The new 2006 Sonata follows the same well-proven pattern as the old car, with tight, perfectly aligned body panel gap tolerances, an impressively executed interior worthy of comparison to the segments best, Lexus-like silence from the engine compartment, a wonderfully sorted chassis that delivers a comfortable ride while still managing to feel sporty through the corners, an even longer list of standard and optional features, and slightly less dramatic but nevertheless very attractive styling. Starting with my last point, the new Sonata isn’t trying to appear like a premium product anymore, a criticism initially given to the current generation car that features a bold grille, Mercedes-Benz-like circular headlamp clusters, a Jaguar-like profile and a considerable dollop of chrome bright work. I happen to like the old cars styling very much, and to Hyundai’s credit one was on hand to remind all present at the event just how good the outgoing car is. The new Sonata has doffed its stately image, however, for a much sportier one. Then again, its not attempting to take on the likes of the Mazda6 or Nissan Altima for sports sedan buyers, as no manual transmission will be offered with its 6-cylinder engine, but compared to a current Toyota Camry or Honda Accord, the new Sonata looks lithe and limber, capable of taking on hill, dale, undulating underpass or bending byway, serpentine S-curves or seemingly unending freeway straights, at high speed. To that end, the Sonata doesn’t merely talk the sport sedan talk, but it unabashedly walks the walk. The winding coastal roadways north of San Francisco, which included the stunningly picturesque Highway 1, were ideal test-beds for the new Hyundai. Not only are these routes overly circuitous, but during some stretches pavement is at a premium, making driver and passenger appreciative of a compliant suspension. Despite the heroic ride quality, the Sonata was even more confidence inspiring through the corners. Body lean was surprisingly limited, tire squeal only noticeable when the car began to under steer slightly, and then only as a precautionary measure necessary to impress upon the driver that inertia must eventually pay tribute to the forces of gravity. In other words, this thing handles so well that the aggressively piloted BMW 5-Series to my rear was never once held up by the comparatively "pedestrian" Hyundai. I use the somewhat derogatory term only because Hyundai’s have long been respected for value, but by the general populace, never considered to be driver’s cars per se. The new Sonata, like the sporty compact Tucson SUV that was launched earlier this year, will go far in redefining the South Korean brands image. Getting technical, the suspension responsible for the taut handling is independent all-round, featuring a double wishbone setup with coil springs, gas-charged hydraulic shock absorbers and a 25 (0.98 inch) to 26 mm (1.02 inch) diameter anti-roll bar, depending on 4- or 6-cylinder applications respectively, up front, while the rear suspension gets a sophisticated independent multilink design, featuring coil springs, gas-charged hydraulic shock absorbers and a 15 mm (0.59 inch) anti-roll bar. The steering system is rack and pinion, and power assisted. There’s no noticeable torque steer at anytime either, which makes for controlled full throttle acceleration. Building the cars image up even further is a winning drive train combination. Base Sonatas receive a rev-happy 2.4-liter 4-cylinder, with all the technologically advanced trappings of its Japanese counterparts. Counter-rotating balancing shafts make it so smooth at idle, that my colleague and I had trouble determining if it was actually running. A quick stab at the throttle confirmed it was primed and ready for action, a realization that was immediately backed up by a willingness to perform. I found the base model, with the 5-speed manual, as enjoyable to drive as the five-speed automatic-equipped 3.3-liter V6, but for different reasons. First, I love do-it-yourself gearboxes, and the Sonatas is a real treat. The clutch associated with it is also extremely easy to operate, a touch on the light side, but this should be appreciated by the majority of users. Its 162-horsepower moved the large car along at a brisk pace, not as quickly as the V6, of course, but plenty fast for even an above average, or maybe I should rephrase, enthusiastic driver. The engine makes 164 lb-ft of torque, which makes tractability with an automatic quite decent as well, and the base four-speed unit features Sportronic manual-mode, unusual for base engines in the midsize sedan class. The autobox is ultra-smooth during shifting too, while shifting down when needed for passing without hesitation. The five-speed automatic and 3.3-liter V6 is an even smoother combination, while delivering up all the motivation needed to hustle the big sedan down the road at a brisk pace. A maximum of 235-horsepower is available at 6,000 rpm, with a full 226 lb-ft of torque coming on at a very tractable 3,500 rpm, which all translates into an extremely energetic car off the line or while passing on the highway. Its continuously variable valve timing (CVVT) system optimizes power delivery as well as fuel economy, which in base GL trim with a five-speed manual equals a stellar 25 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway. I think what makes the Sonatas performance and fuel economy numbers so impressive is the sheer size of the car. Yes, its larger than any of its main competitors despite looking efficiently sized, especially noticeable inside the cabin. A person can positively stretch out in back and there’s so much headroom that I heard no complaints of cramped quarters during the launch. Its trunk is also gigantic at 16.3 cubic feet. The trunk lid pulls up high and out of the way, creating a large opening capable of swallowing more than most of its competitors. The rear seatbacks fold flat too, which makes for a very utilitarian hauler when called upon. Hydraulic motor mounts, generous use of sound deadening materials and that compliant suspension make sure that the Sonatas cabin is as quiet as it is comfortable, no matter the velocity or road surface conditions. The car was so refined that it has me quite certain the Korean brand could one day soon take on the best in the business with a premium product, mirroring what Toyota did with Lexus fifteen years ago. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The Sonata isn’t about to dissuade any Lexus ES 330 buyers away from their trusted brand, but it no doubt will continue to shake up the Japanese status quo as its predecessor did. This last point was made crystal clear when the brands Hyundai Sonata was awarded top Entry Midsize Car in the 2004 J. D. Power and Associates 2004 Initial Quality Study (IQS), which came out last year. In the same U.S.-based survey, the Hyundai nameplate ranked 7th out of 37 brands with 102 problems per 100 vehicles, which was second among entry-level brands behind 4th place Honda, with 99 problems per 100 vehicles, and 9th place Toyota, with 104 problems per 100. While J. D. Power and Associates 2004 Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) showed Hyundai near the bottom of the barrel, ranked in 32nd of 37 nameplates, with 375 problems per 100 vehicles, the study surveys owners of three year old vehicles, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the ownership experience a new 2005 model year buyer can expect. Rather, the brands rise in J.D. Powers IQS, placing it ahead of Toyota, is a sign that its VDS scores are about to dramatically improve as well. Driving this point home is a new survey by another independent and highly influential organization, Consumer Reports magazine, which rates the Sonata highly to say the least. With only 2 problems for every 100 vehicles sold, Consumer Reports has dubbed the 2004 Sonata the "single most reliable vehicle" available in the U.S. This Consumer Reports rating, of course, has the Sonata besting Hondas Accord and Toyotas Camry for top dependability honors, as well as every other midsize rival on the market. The Hyundai brand overall is also the entry-level class leader at 11 problems per 100 vehicles, tied with luxury nameplates Lexus, made by Toyota, and Infiniti, Nissans premium division. So how did Consumer Reports arrive at its decision? It surveyed its subscribers and came up with more than 810,000 responses of car owners and lessees, which incidentally is about 20 percent more than last years 675,000 respondents. This total is the greatest number of car owners surveyed by any independent organization, J. D. Power and Associates included, making the results all the more satisfying for Hyundai’s team of executives and employees as well as its many Sonata owners. You’d think that with North Americas most reliable vehicle Hyundai could charge a premium, but the opposite is true. The well-equipped base GL will start at only $17,895, and feature air conditioning, cruise control, power windows and locks, keyless entry with an alarm, power heated exterior mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system, active headrests, six airbags, ABS brakes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), traction control, and more, all standard. It only takes an extra $900 for an automatic, or $1,500 for the GLS 4-cylinder model, that includes the automatic gearbox, audio controls mounted on the steering wheel, drivers seat lumbar support, automatic light control, trip computer, premium door sill plates, floor mats and fog lights. The GLS is also equipped with chrome window belt molding, metal-grain interior trim accents (with gray interior) or wood grain interior trim accents (with beige interior), and 16-inch alloy wheels - 16-inch steel wheels with wheel covers and Michelin MXV tires are standard on the GL. An additional package adds a power glass sunroof and power driver’s seat and an electro chromic auto-dimming rear view mirror with Home Link and a compass. The GLS V6, at $20,895, adds the upgraded engine and transmission, of course, plus all option package items offered with the top-line 4-cylinder model. An additional Premium-Sport package includes the power/tilt sunroof, 17-inch alloy wheel/Michelin Pilot tire package, power driver’s seat and an electro chromic auto-dimming rear view mirror with Home Link and a compass. The top-line LX, starting at $22,895, includes everything offered in the other packages as standard equipment, plus leather seats with heated cushions up front, a powered driver’s seat, wood grain interior accents, a comfortable sliding center armrest between the two front seats, a telescopic steering wheel, and solar control glass. Also included are adjustable foot pedals, automatic climate control with air filtration, an electronic chromic mirror, a trip computer and Home link system with an integrated compass. Additionally, a package can be added which includes the power/tilt sunroof and a CD changer with subwoofer and component amplifier. Altogether, a fully loaded Sonata LX comes at a price where most of its rivals are merely warming up. Truly, opt for similar features with Accord, Altima or Camry, and you’ll be paying at least $4,000 more. Yes, Hyundai’s rivals had better keep a sharp lookout for the rising South Korean automaker, both here at home and abroad. The South Korean automaker wont catch up to the Japanese giants global dominance for quite some time, or maybe never, but Hyundai will be a constant thorn in Toyotas side as it vies for many of the same customers by offering top-tier reliability, attractive styling, and with the addition of its upcoming all-new 2006 Sonata, enhanced performance and superb interior quality. The brands low prices and better than average warranty won’t hurt its prospects either. I’m not going to go so far as to say the Sonata is the hands-down class leader, because there are too many good cars in the midsize class, with varying biases toward sport and/or comfort. The Sonata is, however, one of the best at balancing the sport/comfort equation, and therefore should find an ever increasing following. Opt for similar features with Accord, Altima or Camry, and you’ll be paying at least $4,000 more. Yes, Hyundai’s rivals had better keep a sharp lookout for the rising South Korean automaker, both here at home and abroad. The South Korean automaker wont catch up to the Japanese giants global dominance for quite some time, or maybe never, but Hyundai will be a constant thorn in Toyotas side as it vies for many of the same customers by offering top-tier reliability, attractive styling, and with the addition of its upcoming all-new 2006 Sonata, enhanced performance and superb interior quality. The brands low prices and better than average warranty won’t hurt its prospects either. Source:

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

All-New 2007 Hyundai Entourage Earns The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick Award

All-New 2007 Hyundai Entourage Earns The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick Award Entourage Earns Good Ratings in All Institute Tests April 17, 2006 FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif. - The Hyundai Entourage has earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) highest honor - the gold "TOP SAFETY PICK" award - the best rating ever for a minivan in a recent evaluation by the Institute. Entourage is also the first Hyundai to receive a gold award for good crashworthiness ratings. "We are thrilled that Entourage is the gold standard for safety among minivans," said John Krafcik, Hyundai's vice-president of product development and strategic planning. "This award demonstrates our growing leadership in occupant protection, and complements our industry-leading position in the standard application of the industry's most effective life-saving technologies, such as Electronic Stability Control." The Entourage achieved this award by receiving a "good" rating for front, side and rear crash protection.
The all-new 2007 Entourage continues Hyundai's leadership in standardizing the industry's most effective safety technologies. The new Entourage features six standard airbags, including side air curtains for all three rows of seats and Electronic Stability Control. Head- and torso-protecting side impact protection and active driver aids such as ESC have been proven to be extremely effective in reducing fatalities on the nation's roads: * Head-and Torso-Protecting Side Air Bags: The (IIHS) reports a 45 percent fatality reduction among drivers involved in driver-side collisions when protected by a combination of torso-protecting side air bags and head-protecting side air curtains1. * ESC: The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports a 35 percent reduction in single vehicle crashes for passenger cars, and a 30 percent reduction in fatal single vehicle crashes in cars equipped with this technology. For SUVs, the numbers are even higher, with a 67 percent reduction in single vehicle crashes for SUVs and a 63 percent reduction in fatalities. ESC compares the driver's intended course with the vehicle's actual response. ESC then brakes individual front or rear wheels and/or reduces engine power as needed in certain driving circumstances to help correct understeer or oversteer. Entourage joins Santa Fe, Tucson, Sonata and Azera in Hyundai's growing lineup with standard ESC - a commitment to this sophisticated and effective automotive safety technology that is unmatched by any other non-luxury automotive brand. By the end of 2006, vehicles representing approximately 70 percent of Hyundai's sales volume will come equipped with standard ESC, a level unsurpassed by any non-luxury brand. Front (11.7-in.) and rear (11.9-in.) disc brakes are standard and are coupled with a four-channel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) that includes Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) to optimize brake performance even with differing vehicle loading. All seating positions feature three-point seatbelts and adjustable head restraints. Front seat active head restraints help prevent whiplash by automatically reducing the space between a front occupant's head and the head restraint during a rear collision, and are highly recommended by safety-focused organizations such as IIHS.
Hyundai's commitment to standardizing key safety features began with the application of standard side airbag protection across its lineup in 2003 - making it the first non-luxury brand to achieve this level of passive safety technology. In 2004, Hyundai introduced the Tucson, the first under-$20,000 SUV with standard ESC and six standard airbags. And in the spring of 2005, Hyundai introduced the all-new 2006 Sonata, the industry's first and only mid-size sedan with standard ESC and six airbags, all at a starting price well under $20,000.
The all-new 2006 Azera full-size premium sedan took Hyundai's safety package one step further. Azera integrates standard rear seat-mounted side-impact airbags to the already impressive package found on Sonata and Tucson, bringing the total number of airbags to eight. It also features anti-whiplash front active head restraints and ESC. The redesigned 2006 Accent set a new benchmark in the entry-level car category by being the first vehicle in its class with standard ABS and six airbags. Even Hyundai's sporty Tiburon coupe already comes complete with standard ABS and seat-mounted side-impact airbags. The completely redesigned 2007 Santa Fe SUV, will also lead its segment in standard safety features including ESC, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, side-curtain airbags for all three rows and active front head restraints, when it goes on sale this summer. Hyundai's all-new 2007 Elantra, just revealed at the New York International Auto Show, features segment-leading standard safety technology, including six airbags, 4-wheel disc brakes, active head restraints and ABS. "Other manufacturers have recently introduced all-new products and have chosen to make side air bags or ABS expensive options, to give the impression of a low starting price," said John Krafcik, Hyundai's vice-president of product development and strategic planning. "Our customers tell us overwhelmingly that they expect effective safety technologies to be standard in every car, and we agree. From the premium Azera full-size car to the entry-level Accent, each new Hyundai model is equipped to lead its segment in the standard application of the industry's most effective safety technologies." 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 700 Hyundai dealerships nationwide. 1Braver, E.R. and Kyrychenko S.Y. 2003. Efficacy of side airbags in reducing driver deaths in driver-side collisions. Arlington, VA: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. 2NHTSA's Light Vehicle ESC Research Program, June 9, 2005, Dr. W. Riley Garrott, Garrick J. Forkenbrock; National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Research and Test Center. Source:

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

2007 Hyundai Entourage Preview

Think back, say ten years ago. And imagine, back then, pulling up at your little one’s school in a Hyundai minivan. Oooh, how the mothers would talk. No amount of cookie dough donations would rid you – and your family – of the nasty poor family reputation in suburbia. Pretty soon there would be care packages, hand-me-downs, and job offers at “my husband’s” plant… Things sure have changed since then. Today, pull up in a Hyundai minivan and the mothers’ tongues will still wag – this time, however, it would be about how smart you are, despite your public school education. Hyundai’s come a long way, indeed, and the debut of its new 2007 Entourage minivan at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show will serve to cement the Korean company’s reputation as a major, reputable automaker in the U.S.

The 2007 Hyundai Entourage is a pretty minivan rolling out right when Ford and GM are pulling back in this segment, leaving the small yet important group of family-minded buyers to imports and Dodge Caravans. Hyundai’s family conveyance stands a good chance of being considered an excellent choice for those looking to save a little money over segment leaders like the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, and who don’t like the features and/or styling of the Kia Sedona. Of course, that’s a little disingenuous: the Entourage is Hyundai’s version of Kia’s successful Sedona. At first glance that may seem silly – to sell essentially the same minivan with two different brands – but heck, Chrysler, Ford, and GM have been doing it for years. Okay, so maybe that’s not such a hot example. Shoppers can rest easy, however, in the knowledge that there will be plenty of differences between the Entourage and the Sedona. Similarities, however, will be the things people love about Korean-built cars, namely the price, the warranty and their increasing reputation as quality-built vehicles. Available in GLS, SE and Limited trims, the Entourage is well-equipped no matter which one you buy. For example, a 2007 Entourage, with standard Electronic Stability Control (ESC), six airbags, anti-whiplash active front head restraints, a 3.8-liter V6 engine, and more will be priced at $23,795. Highlights of the GLS model include those features plus an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), 16-inch wheels, power windows, power door locks and remote keyless entry. Roof rack side rails are also standard. Inside are active front head restraints, dual front airbags, front seat side-impact airbags, and side curtain airbags. Other features include premium cloth seats, a tilt steering wheel, cruise control, dual vanity mirrors, a front armrest, and a fold-flat third-row seat. Hyundai SE and Limited models add more luxury, 17-inch wheels, heated seats, and a rear seat entertainment system, among other features.

Someone once said the minivan segment was dead. Hah. It was only taking a nap, and it’s back now, with a strong import vibe that’s only getting stronger with the introduction of the 2007 Hyundai Entourage. For Ford and GM, this minivan is bad news of the worst kind: obsessed with losing market share to Japanese automakers such as Honda and Toyota, the two domestic automakers have recently all but conceded the minivan market to the likes of the Odyssey and the Sienna. Now, here comes Hyundai/Kia, with the impressive Entourage and Sedona. Should the Hyundai Entourage get a warm reception from American families, it will make regaining minivan competitiveness all but impossible for Ford and GM, and put pressure on DaimlerChrysler’s Grand Caravan.

All Hyundai Entourage minivans get a 3.8-liter V6 engine that produces 242 horsepower and 251 lb.-ft. of torque, and is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic manual control. The Entourage rides on the same minivan platform as the Sedona, with a 118.9-inch wheelbase that is longer and wider than the competition, according to Hyundai. Hyundai engineers also claim that the Entourage has the tightest turning radius in its class, a big deal for minivan drivers. Steering is handled by a speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion system, and the Entourage rides on a four-wheel independent suspension system. Perhaps most notable about the Entourage, however, is the long list of standard safety features. All Entourages get a bevy of passive and active safety systems, including side impact and side curtain airbags, traction control and more. Just these two safety devices – traction control and side curtain airbags – can make any car significantly safer to drive.

The 2007 Hyundai Entourage looks to offer most of the features a minivan family requires. For example, there’s a folding center tray table with four cupholders, folding sideview mirrors, a tilt steering wheel, optional power adjustable pedals, power dual rear sliding doors, power windows, and an adjustable conversation mirror. The interior has a two-tone color scheme with wood grain or metal grain accents. Leather seats are standard in the Limited model, as are a power tailgate, heated front seats, and an electroluminescent instrument cluster. A rear-seat entertainment system with an eight-inch LCD monitor, backup warning sensors, and a premium audio system with surround sound are also available. The Entourage also features flip-and-fold second-row seats, and a hiding third-row seat with a 60/40 split fold-into-the-floor design.

Ford, with its aging Freestar, may as well close that plant in addition to all the others that are getting shut down. General Motors – that Theta platform on which you’re building a new generation of crossover vehicles better be pretty darn good, ‘cause if it’s not, or if the features and safety equipment fall short compared to the likes of the 2007 Hyundai Entourage, well, gee, maybe you can make up the difference in Tahoe sales. Based on our drive of the Sedona and the price and features of the Entourage, we’d say that Kia and Hyundai are in the minivan game big time.

The 2007 Hyundai Entourage will be available this spring. Sticker price for a well-equipped Entourage is about $23,795. The Entourage comes in three distinct trim levels: The well-equipped GLS, high-value SE, and premium Limited.

Base Price: $23,795 Engine Size and Type: 3.8-liter V6 Engine Horsepower: 242 at 6,000 rpm Engine Torque: 251 lb.-ft. at 3,500 rpm Transmission: Five-speed automatic with manual mode Curb weight: 4,378 - 4,646 lbs. EPA Fuel Economy: 17/27 mpg Length: 202 inches Width: 78.1 inches Wheelbase: 118.9 inches Height: 75.1 inches Max. Seating Capacity: 7 Max. Cargo Volume: 141.5 cu.-ft. (seats removed) Competitors: Buick Terraza, Chevrolet Uplander, Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Ford Freestar, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona, Mazda MPV, Mercury Monterey, Nissan Quest, Pontiac Montana SV6, Saturn Relay, Toyota Sienna