Monday, July 30, 2007

Veracruz Does it Right

Veracruz does it right

I see trouble on the horizon. Not for you or me, but for the likes at Toyota, Honda, Nissan, etc. A few years ago Hyundai was not much of a concern to any car builder since they were not high on quality ratings. All that changed a few years ago, and today they are among the best vehicles made, and presto! They are selling faster than a dime dance at a lumber camp.

Hyundai is perhaps the fastest growing vehicle company now and ranking third in the J.D Power survey for overall quality just behind Porsche and Lexus, which gives potential Veracruz buyers a big incentive to buy that first Hyundai product. Hyundai has added five entirely new models in the past 10 years, and the latest one is an upscale SUV that continues the Hyundai western name theme.

The Veracruz moves Hyundai's growing line of SUV's into a more pricy company and a loaded Veracruz could reach around $38,000. As I found out at a Hyundai briefing, the move into the higher-price vehicles is apparently where Hyundai intends to go in the near future. The Veracruz is targeted at the upscale Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot SUV's. After the testing period, we see trouble for not only them but about everyone else along the SUV road. A lower price and more standard accessories, plus equal or better performance, will be the big selling points for the 2007 Veracruz. Actually the Veracruz should be labeled a 2008.

The styling is safe and should not engender any resentment but still exhibits some excitement at the tail-end with the last pie-shaped side-glass. The wheel-openings have an accented radius that adds to a sporty appearance.

Inside the Veracruz glows with the appointments that are found on SUV's that cost about another eight to ten thousand more. Nice leather and luxury appearing upholstery abounds, and most of the highly desirable accessories are standard like a 315 watt AM/FM/MP3 compatibility on the base GLS edition.

The top-line Limited can be optioned up to a 605-watt sound system with all of the above, plus a six-disc CD player XM satellite radio and 10-speaker surround sound, supported by a big chest-pounding sub-woofer. Our local movie theater doesn’t even have that fine of a sound system. An optional DVD player with an eight-inch screen is located on the headliner for the rear seat passengers enjoyment.

On that note; all Veracruz come with a third-row seat, something we think is unnecessary for most buyers and maybe a deterrent considering it adds cost to the base price. The third-row seats can be stowed and all but unnoticed; however, it still requires otherwise useful space. With the third-row and second-row seats laid-out there is about 87 cubic-feet of possible cargo room.

My little lady co-tester gives a thumbs, up for the power lift gate that is standard on the Limited model. I like the "proximity key" so I do not need to go digging for the keys to get going down the road. I don't even need to use the remote to unlock the doors, just have the key thing in my pocket and tap the door handle to unlock and climb-in. The 110-volt outlet is becoming a more frequent accessory, and I could have run my lap-top or blow-dry my hair with it. With summer finally here the duel drink holders will keep your Dr. Pepper chilled from the air-conditioning port located there for that purpose.

Hyundai does not offer a navigation system, and I can see why considering the factory price on most of them is around $2,000. Plus, the advent of the portable navigation at around three hundred bucks, and you can remove it to the next vehicle or even put it in your pocket for a guided walk around Chicago. All three Veracruz models are available with all-wheel drive at $1,700. The Veracruz has a base price of $26,995 and was $33,110 as tested.

The 260 horsepower V-6 engine is linked to a standard six-speed automatic transmission and that combination delivers plenty of performance. You forget how quiet a SUV can be in the Veracruz and that will be welcome on longer trips. Add to that the luxury of a comfortable ride that levels-out the bumps, and while the Veracruz may not corner like a Porsche we will opt for the comfortable ride and take the corners just a little slower. Keep your eye on Hyundai; they are going places.

July 26, 2007
BY ED NOBLE Special to Pioneer Press

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