2008 Hyundai Veracruz Review

By Igor Holas with Melissa J. Sanchez

06.16.2008


When you drive cars owned by others, your biggest fear is wrecking one. And while we did not do quite that in the Veracruz, it did suffer from a hit-and-run. On the last day of having this big crossover from Hyundai, we came back after work to find the rear passenger door badly mangled but what appeared to be a bike or a motorcycle.

So while we will forever remember the Veracruz as our first hit-and-run experience, we will also remember it as an extremely well executed, extremely luxurious crossover. The third row is not full-size, there are a few important interior missteps, and the city fuel economy is abysmal, but the accommodations inside surpass even the LR2 and the Murano. How is that for a stable mate of the Accent?

What we drove
The car we drove was an almost fully loaded 2008 Veracruz Limited FWD model (AWD is available). The base price for the Limited trim is $34,050 and it includes keyless entry and ignition, leather, power adjustable seat, steering wheel, and pedals (all with memory), auto dimming rear view and side view mirrors, sunroof, full array of air bags, stability control, ABS, and active headrests, upgraded Infinity 6 CD changer, XM satellite radio, and rear parking sensors – in other words – the base Limited is already fully loaded. Our test vehicle added upgraded carpet floor mats ($125), roof cross rails ($205), and further upgraded Infinity stereo with navigation ($1,750). The total price, including destination came to $36,825.

A car in this segment and at this equipment level for under $37,000 seems like a bargain, and while the Taurus X is another $2,000 cheaper, others cost far more. Surprisingly, the one closest to the Hyundai’s price is the newly released 2009 Honda Pilot (Pilot costs $600 more). The Saturn Outlook is $1,600 more expensive, the Toyota Highlander is $2,300 costlier, and the Mazda CX-9 will ask for $3,000 more from your wallet. Other models, such as the GMC Acadia, Ford Flex, and Buick Enclave are even more expensive. That said, minivans, including Hyundai’s own Entourage, are $2,000 to $3,000 cheaper.


Exterior
We should probably tell you up front that we were not too fond of the Veracruz’ styling. In the plainest terms, it looked to us like an over-inflated 2000 Ford Taurus Wagon. The proportions were OK, but Hyundai did not pay enough attention to them to sculpt a body that would highlight them.

With that off our chests, the Veracruz is not ugly – far from it. It might be a little bland and generic–looking, but so are the vast majority of other cars on the market, and of the ones that aren’t, many of those are self consciously awkward.

The overall shape is functional and without any glaring missteps. The front mask looks a little bland, and cheap, but the headlamps pack projectors, something largely absent in this segment (save for the GM trio and the Flex). The rear of the car is very rounded, and while good-looking, it compromises rear utility. As with other crossovers, the rear windshield does not open separately from the lift gate.

Interior
When you enter the Veracruz, the first thing you will notice is the abundance of luxury crammed inside. The leather is attractive brown and very soft, the dash is covered in soft materials, the door panels are luxuriously covered in leather, and all the storage compartments in the center console are covered by smooth moving doors. All driver’s adjustments, including the steering wheel and pedals, are power operated and memory linked, and the headrests not only adjust for height, but also fore-aft for the perfect seating position. To add to all this, the outside side view mirrors dim, and the door sill plates light up at night. In short – the front cabin of the Veracruz rivals the best we have driven to date, including the Land Rover LR2 and the Nissan Murano, and gives an aura of attention to detail uncommon at this price level.


As with every car, there are a few ergonomic mistakes in the front cabin. The steering wheel is covered in cheap, slippery, grain-less “leather,” and the navigation screen is tilted upwards and washes out on bright days. The Navigation system also seemed slow to respond with lengthy “Map Loading” screen and “3D” display that was not 3D at all, and the there is no Bluetooth interface available (it will be added for 2009 models). Overall, we were very impressed with the cabin. However the grain-less steering wheel and the ill-positioned navigation screen did a great job of spoiling the interior’s daily usability.

The second-row seats were no less comfortable than the fronts, with recline, armrest, separate HVAC controls and just-as-luxurious door panels. With a pull on a lever, the seat-back folded up and the seat slid forward for access to the third row; and while the access was not as easy as the Taurus X’s, it was sufficient.

One thing that was not sufficient was the third row of seats. On paper and in person, the third row seats offer sufficient leg, foot, shoulder, and headroom for my 5’11’’ frame, but the seats suffer from the oft-present uncomfortable butt-down knees-up seating position. The back of the cushion sits right atop the floor, forcing your knees to rise up to create any useable legroom. This position is definitely doable for shorter trips – probably under an hour – but it is definitely uncomfortable, and makes the third row a children-only zone or an emergency-use feature. This is a major omission, and many similarly-priced competitors, such as the Taurus X, Acadia, CX-9 and others offer true adults-allowed third row seats.

Another omission in the Veracruz’ packaging is in the trunk. With the third row up, there is measly 6.5 cubic feet of cargo space. That is less than the tiny Accent sedan, and just a little more than the Miata. In real world use, the space is useable for common items like cat litter, or grocery bags, but anything of any size, such as a 40-pound bag of dog food requires you to fold the seats.

Once the third row seats are folded, there is ample space, but the soft carpeting lacks any friction and anything in the back will slide around during the drive. There are tie-downs, however, so you can secure your cargo. The second row seats also fold flat and open up a large and useable space, but the front passenger seat does not fold, limiting the Veracruz’ utility for hauling long items.

Overall, the Veracruz’ interior packs in a number of clever features and luxurious materials that spoil the drivers, but with two big omissions in the front cabin, children-only third row seats, uselessly small cargo space, and non-folding front passenger seat, the crossover lags its competition in utility.


Driving
The Veracruz follows the traditional crossover formula of front-wheel drive (all-wheel drive optional) chassis with V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission. However Hyundai needed 3.8 liters of displacement to deliver the requisite 260 horsepower, and unfortunately the fuel mileage suffers from this bigger engine. While we managed at least eleven miles per gallon in city driving from every other crossover we have tested, the Veracruz was safely in the single-digit territory with 8.5 to 9.3 miles per gallon. On a more open road, the big Hyundai delivered EPA and competition-matching 24 to 25 miles per gallon, and in mixed suburban driving, we managed respectable 16 to 18 mpg. The message: if you drive in the city, Veracruz will hurt bad at the pump – nine miles per gallon is territory of full-size body-on-frame V8 powered SUV’s which can tow a house – and all of Veracruz’ competition will do much better. However, if you drive exclusively (or mostly) on the highway, or in the more-open suburbs, the Veracruz is perfectly competitive.

Besides sub-par city mileage, the Veracruz is a sure footed, competent driver with perfectly satisfactory acceleration and braking. I tried my best to upset this tall and heavy car, but the Veracruz refused to lose composure. It does not beg to be driven the way the Murano does, but it does not embarrass itself either.

Conclusion
To say the Veracruz surprised us would be an understatement. We expected a well-sorted-out car with some nice features, but the luxury in the car surpassed anything else we have driven to date. The car is indeed well-sorted-out and shows great attention to detail in practicality all aspects of its interior.

Unfortunately, it does fail in several aspects, and unfortunately, it is the key ones. The interior lacks utility of its competitors, and the engine is too thirsty. These two factors would be enough for Melissa and me to look elsewhere, and while we are not saying you should immediately do the same, you should consider your options carefully. It is a true shame that Hyundai fumbled on these two fronts, as in the current market, utility and efficiency seem to be gaining importance almost daily.

HIGH RESOLUTION GALLERY: For more images of the Hyundai Veracruz go HERE

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Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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3 Comments

  1. The way you open up this review doesn’t match your conclusion. You can’t say it’s wonderful and then conclude with that it’s not.

    Which is it? Would you buy this with your own money if you were a buyer in this part of the vehicle market?

  2. to me it sounds like the Hyundai is a really good deal compared to the competition

  3. Maybe he was torn between the value and gaps in quality

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