First Drive: 2007 Hyundai Veracruz hyundai first drives
2007 Hyundai Veracruz. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Paul Williams

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Photo Gallery: 2007 Hyundai Veracruz

Vancouver Island, British Columbia – According to some of the locals, Victoria’s exclusive Bear Mountain golf club and resort, along with its predicted thousands of multi-million dollar homes and timeshare condominiums, has caused something of a controversy here. Located on the outskirts of the city, it sprawls across hills and valleys that used to provide scenic vistas and private retreats on a Sunday afternoon. The endless sound of heavy equipment is changing all that.

Perhaps fittingly, it was Bear Mountain that served as the base for the introduction of Hyundai’s newest vehicle, the seven-passenger 2007 Veracruz SUV. It’s a vehicle you may also regard as controversial, as this former economy brand shoulders its way into luxury territory.

With a price ranging from $39,995-$45,995, Hyundai’s most expensive vehicle is all dressed up and ready to party with the likes of Acura’s MDX and the Lexus RX 350. Even the BMW X5 was mentioned by Hyundai executives as a target for the Veracruz. In true Hyundai tradition, however, the Veracruz costs about $10,000 less than the least expensive of those vehicles. The question is, does it belong with such illustrious company?

First Drive: 2007 Hyundai Veracruz hyundai first drives
First Drive: 2007 Hyundai Veracruz hyundai first drives
2007 Hyundai Veracruz. Click image to enlarge

Other seven-passenger contenders are numerous (this is a popular segment) and include the new GMC Acadia, the Mazda CX-9, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and the competitively priced, Cadillac powered, Suzuki XL-7.

Available in GLS and Limited versions, the Veracruz features all-wheel drive, standard 18-inch alloy wheels, perforated leather seats (even on the third-row seat, where some competitors use vinyl) and heated power front seats (power, for the driver). Heated mirrors are also standard, as are rain-sensing windshield wipers, manual tilt and telescoping steering column, multi-function steering wheel, auto-dimming mirror, dual zone automatic climate control, vehicle stability control, roll mitigation control, side curtain airbags, sunroof and a backup sensor.

All this in a swoopy and aerodynamic exterior package, with a unique-to-the-brand grille.

The Limited version includes the features of the GLS, and adds chrome exterior flourishes, a 10-speaker Infinity audio system with DVD entertainment for rear-seat passengers, premium leather with contrasting stitching, proximity key technology, auto-dimming interior and exterior mirrors, power adjustable pedals, power tilt and telescoping steering column, illuminated brushed metal sill plates, power rear liftgate, exterior auto-dimming mirrors, LED rear lighting and exterior puddle lights. The premium leather, by the way is available in brown or black, while the handsome beige leather interior is only available in the GLS.

First Drive: 2007 Hyundai Veracruz hyundai first drives
2007 Hyundai Veracruz. Click image to enlarge

Though it’s based on the Santa Fe platform, the Veracruz is bigger than that vehicle in every dimension. According to Hyundai, the Veracruz is the longest and widest vehicle in its class, at 4,840 millimetres and 1,945 mm respectively. However, its tidy lines ensure that it doesn’t appear excessive or unwieldy.

The Veracruz is powered with Hyundai’s all-aluminum, 3.8-litre V6 engine (which debuted in the Azera). Using no-maintenance timing chains and regular fuel, this engine generates 260 horsepower and 257 foot-pounds of torque, and is mated to a new six-speed automatic transmission with sport-shift. The “Torque-on-Demand” all-wheel drive system is lockable front-to-rear, maximizing traction in unusually slippery or challenging conditions.

First Drive: 2007 Hyundai Veracruz hyundai first drives
First Drive: 2007 Hyundai Veracruz hyundai first drives
2007 Hyundai Veracruz. Click image to enlarge

The interior of the Veracruz follows Santa Fe design themes, and like the Santa Fe, impresses as soon as the doors are opened. The instrument panel and centre stack, in particular, look modern and expensive.

Entry and exit are easily accomplished through the wide door openings, and even though the vehicle has over 200 millimetres (7.9 in.) of ground clearance, the seats are not so high that you can’t easily slide in. Second row passengers have excellent legroom from seats that have 241 millimetres (9.5 in.) of fore-aft travel, and move forward at the touch of a button to facilitate rear seat access (which is, thankfully, not too difficult). The third row seat is big enough to be useful for larger children or small adults, and folds flat into the floor when not required. Second and third-row seatbacks recline.

On the road, the Veracruz is exceedingly quiet and smooth, and these are really its signature characteristics. Gear shifts from the six-speed automatic transmission are often undetectable such is the fluidity of its operation. Likewise, the engine is notable for its virtually silent idle and whisper-quiet cruising. When accelerating, the engine is completely civilized and never intrusive. Power is sufficient for climbing the steep hills on Vancouver Island without fuss, and should easily handle the vehicle’s 3,500 pound towing capacity.

Fuel economy is rated at 13.9/9.0 L/100km, city/highway, and the Veracruz is fitted with a large 78-litre gas tank.

First Drive: 2007 Hyundai Veracruz hyundai first drives
2007 Hyundai Veracruz. Click image to enlarge

Steering and maneuverability are not an issue with this substantial vehicle, as it is both light and easily controlled. The brakes (apparently the largest rotors used on a Hyundai in North America) bring the Veracruz down from speed with authority. On none of the roads travelled in the southern region of Vancouver Island did the Veracruz exhibit anything but a calm and poised ride.

The Veracruz is an SUV designed for ride and comfort rather than performance handling. The Acura MDX and BMW X5, for instance, have performance driving characteristics that exceed the Veracruz. This is one of the differences between these vehicles and the Hyundai.

Another is the availability of some amenities that are de rigueur for vehicles of this class. The lack of a navigation system in the Veracruz, for instance, is an obvious omission, as is the absence of an auxiliary audio jack. Bluetooth is finding its way into many vehicles now, and its presence at least conveys an impression that the manufacturer is up-to-date – but it’s not available in the Veracruz.

First Drive: 2007 Hyundai Veracruz hyundai first drives
2007 Hyundai Veracruz. Click image to enlarge

Other quibbles include the lack of illumination for the instruments (unless the headlights are turned on), which appear dark and hard to read when wearing sunglasses. The parking brake pedal seems a crude protrusion in the footwell, menacingly positioned millimeters above the driver’s left ankle. Grab handles are thoughtfully supplied for the front and second row passengers (the front row passenger gets two!) but the driver goes without. A personal preference of mine would be for a somewhat thicker rim for the steering wheel, and finally, I felt I was sitting too high in the Veracruz, even though the height adjustable seat was positioned as far down as it would go.

Last year, Hyundai received glowing recommendations for its revised Santa Fe, and the company is on something of a roll when it comes to accolades for its vehicles. The Sonata and Azera both won awards in the the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s 2006 Canadian Car of the Year program (Best New Family Car, under and over $35,000 respectively), and organizations like J.D. Power and Associates regularly praise Hyundai’s build quality and trouble-free operation. The quality of Hyundai vehicles is not an issue, and any one of them offers excellent value for the money.

First Drive: 2007 Hyundai Veracruz hyundai first drives
2007 Hyundai Veracruz. Click image to enlarge

The challenge for Hyundai is getting people to part with over $45,000 for a heretofore economy brand. “Brand cachet,” so desired by luxury vehicle owners, is not yet associated with this Korean manufacturer (although judging from its Genesis luxury concept sedan recently shown in New York, it’s in the cards). Some buyers will opt to spend a little more to get an established luxury nameplate.

Still, even though there are alternatives in its price range (as listed above) none will surprise as much in terms of presentation and driving impressions as the Veracruz. “Smooth”, “quiet”, “spacious”, “well appointed”, and “attractive” are the adjectives that best describe the Veracruz. It’s luxury on a budget; the most expensive house on a modestly-priced block.


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About Paul Williams

Paul Williams is an Ottawa-based freelance automotive writer and senior writer for Autos. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).