2008 Hyundai Veracruz: Most Improved Player Award

Written by Virgil Moore

If there were ever an urban automotive award for most improved player, Hyundai would certainly win hands down! If you can recall Hyundai’s not so glamorous humble beginnings with their U.S. introduction of the Excel, then you know that they did not have a strong reputation for producing quality vehicles. Well the times have changed and so has Hyundai.

During a presentation to assembled media, Wayne Killen, Hyundai’s product planning director for the new Veracruz Crossover Utility Vehicle, stated that Hyundai’s strongest selling point these days is safety. The seven-passenger Veracruz earned NHTSA’s (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) highest five-star rating for both frontal and side crash tests. With six standard air bags, an anti-whiplash feature built into the front headrests, and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, the Veracruz certainly has the right apparatus to keep you and your loved ones safe when traveling.

Okay, so Hyundai has the safety features down pat. What about performance, style and comfort? The Veracruz produces 260 horses from a 3.8-liter engine coupled to a six-speed SHIFTRONIC manumatic transmission. With a McPherson Strut front suspension built on an extended and widened version of the Santa Fe’s platform, the Veracruz provides a controlled, stable ride and is easy to maneuver. Seventeen-inch alloy wheels are standard on the GLS and SE editions with 18” wheels standard on the Limited edition. When accelerating from zero to forty mph the Veracruz seemed to struggle. Once up to speed, the vehicle felt much more robust. Some additional ponies would not be a bad idea for future models.

The cabin is laced in premium saddle leather with wood trim tastefully displayed throughout the interior. The Veracruz provides an open and inviting cockpit that’s also ergonomically correct. Adjusting the controls felt seamless, allowing easy access that did not distract. The Infinity audio system comes standard with XM Satellite Radio (first three months free), AM/FM/CD and MP3 capabilities. Multiple storage compartments are a handy feature with a cooled center console armrest storage for your beverages. Rear under floor storage makes stowing your needed tools or first-aid kit a cinch. Optional interior features include a rear 8” LCD screen DVD system, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, a backup warning system that alerts the driver within 3 to 4 feet from any given object, a power lift gate and dual climate control. Another cool feature is a “proximity key” that unlocks the doors as you approach the vehicle.

With three rows of seating, the Veracruz is surprisingly roomy, though third row seating is a bit tight in headroom. The third row easily folds flat creating additional space for cargo.

While in development, the Veracruz design team benchmarked the ever popular Lexus RX 350 and the Nissan Murano. With sleek fender arches, projector headlamps and turn signals that are integrated into the side mirror housing along with refined overall bodylines, the Veracruz certainly makes a strong statement for Hyundai’s attempt to enter the near luxury CUV market.

The Veracruz is offered in three editions: the GLS, SE and Limited. The Limited model with AWD starts at about $33,000. Pricing for SE and GLS models start roughly at $27,000. Boasting “America’s Best Warranty (100K miles, bumper to bumper coverage),” the new Veracruz an easy pick for a sensible vehicle buyer.

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