Hyundai Veracruz – 2007 Review: This is not a Lexus.
We say this for two reasons. First, Hyundai has done a credible job of making its Veracruz crossover look like that company’s RX 350 inside and out, at least at first glance, so we figure a little clarification is in order. Second, while the Veracruz does a credible job of offering up a near-luxury alternative to vehicles like the more workaday Mazda CX-9 and Toyota Highlander, we’re not sure it matches the Lexus in terms of overall refinement. Still, we can safely say that if you’re seeking prime rib on a hamburger budget, it’s definitely worth a look.
By Keith Buglewicz
Photo Credit: Ron Perry
What We Drove
For 2008, Hyundai repackaged the Limited model to include more standard features than our 2007 test car. With adjustable pedals, seat memory, power tilt and telescope steering wheel and keyless ignition now standard equipment, the starting price of a 2008 Limited is $34,745 including the $695 destination charge; this is $1,780 higher than the 2007. To equip a 2008 to the same level as our tester, add the $1,500 rear seat entertainment system, $205 roof rails and $125 floor mats, bringing the total to $36,575, only $50 higher than our 2007. Also for 2008, a $1,750 navigation system is available.
With 260 horsepower and 257 lb.-ft. of torque routed through a smooth and quick six-speed automatic, the Veracruz has little trouble accelerating to a comfortable cruising speed, but only got a so-so 17.2 mpg during its time with us. The engine is notably quiet, but sound quality counts as much as sound quantity sometimes, and the Veracruz lacks the auditory refinement of the Lexus V-6 in the RX 350 thanks to an uncomfortable groan as it approaches redline. The transmission downshifts quickly for passing, and avoids hunting in uphill grades. The manual mode is handy if you want to hold a certain gear, but its slow shifts aren’t much fun.
Veracruz buyers are probably more interested in ride quality than handling prowess, and the big Hyundai does an OK job. The ride is comfortable and controlled, but sharp impacts like freeway expansion joints are transmitted harshly to the cabin, and it gets annoying fast. Usually that kind of ride sharpness indicates good handling, but the Veracruz lacks that payoff. It’s not a bad vehicle to drive quickly, just not very inspiring, with too much lean in corners, and too-light steering with a too-aggressive turn in.
With so much glass, you’d think the Veracruz would be downright airy inside. Instead, it’s surprisingly pinched. That steeply raked windshield may look great from the outside, but the windshield pillars intrude on the driver’s vision so much that navigating a twisty road involves craning your neck to see around them. The big outside mirrors are helpful for seeing what’s behind and to the side, and drivers will rely on them a lot thanks to the miserable rear view. The small rear window and extremely thick rearmost pillars conspire to make reversing difficult, and the limited range on our test vehicle’s reverse sensors rendered them nearly useless.
Fun to Drive
Trying to have fun behind the wheel of a Veracruz is like casting Bob Newhart as the hero in an action movie: It just doesn’t work. It can go quickly if you ask it to, but there’s little reward in doing so, and the Veracruz’s protests make it easier to just cruise. Do that and it’s fine, as long as the road isn’t too pockmarked. There’s some fun in telling people that your new crossover is actually a Hyundai, and not a luxury Japanese brand, but enthusiasts will want to shop elsewhere for their driving thrills.
We had mixed opinions on the Veracruz’s front seat comfort. Some of us found the multi-adjustable seat to be very comfortable, even if it took some fiddling with the controls to get there. Others could never find that magic “sweet spot,” no matter how hard they tried. All of us thought that the soft leather on the seats, center console and steering wheel, and soft touch plastics on the door panels were of exceptional quality, better than many of its competitors at this price point. Still, a larger bottom cushion would go a long way toward improving the comfort for taller drivers.
The second row seating in the Veracruz is excellent, with a well shaped bottom cushion, adjustable backrest and soft touch surfaces nearly everywhere you’d wish to rest an elbow. The front seatbacks are hard, but covered in padded vinyl, so if your knees rub it’s not bad. The third row is a different story. Hard to get to despite the tilt-and-slide second-row seats, the seat itself is cramped for adults. If you want to put your kids back there, be warned that Hyundai subtly discourages the practice by not providing a LATCH point for child seats.
Get in, close the door, turn on the Veracruz, and you really are treated to Lexus-like quiet, so much so that at least one of us tried starting it after it was already running. However, get the works rolling down the road and things change. Road noise gets intrusive at speeds above 50 mph, and wind whooshing around the outside mirrors becomes clearly audible at 55. It’s never to the point where you’ll want earplugs, but it’s a noticeable crack in the Veracruz’s near-luxury veneer.
With the third row in place, cargo room in the Veracruz is extremely limited; a good-sized gym bag maxes it out. Fold the third row and you have plenty of room, a flat floor with recessed cargo hooks, and an acceptable liftover. The second row folds nearly flat for even larger objects, and doing so is quick and easy. The slow power hatch is the only real negative. The 10-plus seconds it takes to fully open after you hit the keyfob button feel endless, and we think shorter drivers will have a hard time reaching the close button on the hatch’s edge when it’s fully open.
One area where Hyundai has indisputably hit a Lexus-like stride is with its excellent build quality, and the Veracruz is the best example we’ve seen. Inside, everything fits as precisely as you’d expect in a car costing much more, with only a couple of very minor fit issues to mar an otherwise excellent assembly job. The same is true of the exterior panels, and overall it gives the impression of a very high quality vehicle. Little touches like the lighted sill plates are something buyers will notice outright, while the build quality says “luxury” on a more subconscious level.
Like the assembly quality, the materials used in the Veracruz are largely a step above what you see in the vehicle’s competition. Soft touch plastics are on the door sills and dash, even on the center console stack where your knee inevitably rests. The leather is smooth and soft to the touch, and the vinyl supplementing it feels almost as good, with none of the greasiness we often find in other vehicles. About the only downside is plastic pillar covers, made more obvious by the mesh headliner.
In silhouette, the Veracruz bears a striking resemblance to the Lexus RX 350. However, remove the backlighting and let the Hyundai stand on its own styling merits, and it quickly loses its Lexus facade. The front end features too-small headlights separated by a too-wide grille with a too-big grin. The rear end’s taillights are overstyled blobs of red and orange that mush across the rear, leaving too much sheetmetal between them. Hyundai was unabashed about aping the RX 350 interior, and consequently it looks excellent. It’s not a panel-per-panel replica, but the influence is obvious, and hey, if you’re going to copy someone...
We were surprised that the Veracruz offered limited knickknack storage inside. Front seat occupants have only two cupholders mounted in the center console, a two-tier bin under the arm rest – the lower portion of which can be cooled – and two narrow door pockets. The glove box is filled with the owner’s manual, and the other assorted small storage areas are too small to be useful. Second row folks get two cupholders, seatback pockets and small door pockets, while third row passengers get one cupholder each. One bright spot is the clever packaging of the remote control and headphones for the DVD system in the second-row fold-down armrest.
Opt for the in-dash navigation system in the 2008 Veracruz and you miss out on the straightforward layout of the standard audio system. The Infinity system sounds great, with a six-disc changer capable of playing MP3 and WMA formats. The two-knob setup is intuitive, we liked the redundant steering-wheel mounted controls, and the audio system leaves little to complain about.
Automatic climate control is great...when it works. As far as maintaining temperature is concerned, the Veracruz’s system did fine, and we like the separate controls for rear seat occupants and the cleverly integrated back-seat vents. We have only one fairly minor but long-winded complaint. The electronic nose that controls the automatic air recirculation has a case of the sniffles, as it rarely switched to recirc mode even behind the smelliest fume-spewing port-bound diesel cargo haulers in the Los Angeles area. To manually set it you have to exit the automatic mode. It’s not a huge hassle, but one we feel drivers shouldn’t have to deal with.
Press the buttons on the Veracruz and you’re greeted with the tactile sensibility of a luxury car. We especially like the treatment given to the controls for the power seat; not only are they beefy in your hands, but they’re trimmed in the same faux-titanium plastic found on the dash, a nice touch for something that most drivers won’t even look at very often. The only downside was the slightly glossy sheen on some of the controls – mainly those on the door – which we felt were beneath the image Hyundai wants to project with this car.
Hyundai wants people to cross-shop its Veracruz with the Lexus RX 350. We doubt that will happen, but if you do you’ll find the Veracruz is bigger, offers a third row not available in the Lexus, and is priced considerably lower. The Lexus still wins in outright cachet and design, and has an edge in refinement, but not as large as you might think. More realistically, the Veracruz goes up against the likes of the Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot. Compared to them, the Veracruz’s list of features and near-luxury feel bodes well for Hyundai’s big crossover.
2nd Opinion – Beamesderfer
Another crossover? Yep and an ambitious vehicle at that. Hyundai is looking potential buyers of the Lexus RX 350 square in the eye and saying the Veracruz is a better value because it has all the RX goodness and a lower price. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Lexus should feel pretty good because the Veracruz is a very good copy, right down to the mood lighting and illuminated “Veracruz” on the door sills. While our test vehicle was a 2007, Hyundai says the only difference between the ’07 and the ’08 is the availability of a navigation system.
MyRide Road Test Editor
2nd Opinion – Heywood
The 2007 Hyundai Veracruz Limited is hard to beat. It has a plethora of creature comforts, is well powered, but best of all, it’s affordable. Climbing into the driver’s seat of the Veracruz it’s easy to forget it’s a Hyundai and not a luxury crossover like the Acura MDX which has a starting price of $3000 more than our loaded Veracruz which priced out at $36,525.
MyRide Associate Editor