2008 Hyundai Veracruz Limited
2008 Hyundai Veracruz Limited. Click image to enlarge
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2007 Hyundai Veracruz, by Paul Williams

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2007 Hyundai Veracruz, by Chris Chase

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2008 Hyundai Veracruz

Oshawa, Ontario – Long known for its line-up of smaller, inexpensive vehicles, Hyundai has in recent years been branching out and moving uptown. At the top of the pack sits the Veracruz, the largest and most luxurious SUV the company has turned out to date.

Introduced for 2007, the Veracruz is built on a stretched version of the platform that underpins the redesigned Santa Fe. Offered in two model trims last year – the GLS and my tester, the Limited – the Veracruz now also comes in a base GL line for 2008. All three use a 3.8-litre V6 engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode, but while the GLS and Limited continue to come only with an all-wheel drive system, the new GL is front-wheel only.

The AWD is an on-demand system, running primarily in FWD and sending power to the rear wheels when it detects slippage. A button on the dash will lock it into AWD mode when you need extra power front and back; it’ll return to its automatic system once you get over 30 km/h, but it will lock again if your speed drops below that threshold.

2008 Hyundai Veracruz Limited
2008 Hyundai Veracruz Limited
2008 Hyundai Veracruz Limited
2008 Hyundai Veracruz Limited. Click image to enlarge

Unlike the Santa Fe, which puts a third row of seats in as an option, the Veracruz has standard seven-passenger seating in all models. The third row is tight, especially when it comes to headroom, but it’s one of the better of the bunch; while it’s doubtful full-size adults will clamor to sit back there, it’s no great hardship for an hour’s ride. The second-row seats are exceptionally roomy and comfortable, and slide forward for third-row access.

As with all three-row vehicles, the Veracruz’s capacity depends on whether you’re more interested in passengers or payload. With the third row up, the cargo area is 34 cm long; there are tie-downs, but a noticeable lack of grocery bag hooks. Once it’s down, you’ve got a flat floor that’s 110 cm long; take the second row down as well, and you’ve got 180 cm of carpeted cargo compartment length. A small storage box under the rear floor will take care of any little items that need to be hidden away.

The GL comes with cloth seats and the GLS with leather, while the Limited steps up to “Premium Saddle Leather”, a reddish-brown hue that looks really good against the black plastic and woodgrain trim. The cabin is very elegant and put together very precisely; there are no complaints about the quality of materials or workmanship. The lighting adds to the luxurious feeling, and the interior is gorgeous at night; backlighting is blue, and includes a “mood light” that illuminates the console (and can be shut off if preferred), sill plates that spell out the vehicle’s name in lights, and footwell lighting that glows when the shifter’s in Park and then gradually fades out as you drive away. The down side comes the next morning: there are a lot of identical buttons on the climate control and stereo, and the blue writing against the metallic surface is very hard to read in daylight. As attractive as the centre stack is, it requires too much attention away from the road when you want to make adjustments.

Features on all models include dual-zone automatic climate control, heated seats, eight-way power driver’s adjustment, heated mirrors with puddle lights and integrated turn signals, and a sunroof. The GLS adds auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic headlamps, rear parking assist and rain-sensing wipers, while the Limited tops everything with a six-CD stereo, rear-seat DVD, power tilt and telescopic wheel, power-adjustable pedals, garage door opener, auto-dimming side mirrors, power passenger seat, LED taillights, keyless start and a power liftgate.

2008 Hyundai Veracruz Limited
2008 Hyundai Veracruz Limited
2008 Hyundai Veracruz Limited
2008 Hyundai Veracruz Limited. Click image to enlarge

The GL starts at $35,995, the GLS at $39,995; the Limited packs a lot of features in for its $46,295 price, but only if you look at the comparable Canadian market. In the U.S., all Veracruz models are front-wheel drive with optional all-wheel, and you can get an optional navigation system that isn’t available here; take the U.S.-market Limited, add the optional DVD system to make it comparable to ours, and you’ll pay $37,250. The difference is almost enough to buy you the base Accent $9,995 deal.

As great as the Veracruz is inside, it could be somewhat better in the greasy bits. It’s wonderfully smooth and quiet on the highway, but it doesn’t do as well on rougher roads; the suspension crashes and bangs over road imperfections, and potholes make their way into the cabin. The steering is nicely weighted, but response could be sharper on hard turns. That’s probably a minor quibble, though, since I doubt most buyers will be taking the Veracruz’s two tonnes through a tight slalom anytime soon.

The engine is strong, and it’s quiet when it idles, but it can be somewhat growly as it works its way up to 80 km/h, where it smoothes out again; it’s certainly acceptable, but doesn’t feel as refined as some of its competitors. The acceleration also isn’t linear; when you ask for extra power on the highway, it hesitates a moment until it downshifts, and then it takes off like a scared rabbit. Against the published economy of 13.9 L/100 km in the city and 9.0 on the highway, I averaged 13.2.

Now, all of that sounds like the Veracruz isn’t much to drive, which isn’t true; it will undoubtedly please most of its intended audience in urban areas. Still, when an automaker moves up the ladder, everything on a vehicle has to kick up a notch.

The Veracruz would have been a lower-volume player in Hyundai’s stable anyway, but soaring gas prices will probably send many buyers to the Santa Fe, with its smaller and more fuel-efficient engine and lower sticker. For those who want all of the extras, though, the Veracruz delivers a range of features and interior quality that’s on par with its competition, but at a favourable price. In a crowded segment with a lot of models, the price, its long warranty and its safety score – a “top safety pick” with the IIHS, and five stars from NHTSA – go a long way.

Pricing: 2008 Hyundai Veracruz Limited

Base price: $46,295

Options: None
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $ 1,610
Price as tested: $48,005
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

Specifications
  • Specifications: 2008 Hyundai Veracruz

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