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08 November 2008

Korean tour de force | 2008 Hyundai Veracruz

Words and photos by Eric Ayrton S. Soriano
My first intimate encounter with a Hyundai occurred on the driver’s seat of its austere entry-level subcompact sedan last year. I wasn’t really impressed by the interior appointments of the Accent econo-car. That, plus Korean cars’ old reputation as cheaper but great-value alternatives to the Japanese mass-market brands, left me with modest expectations of the entire Hyundai lineup. 

Test-driving the Hyundai Veracruz and experiencing its remarkable fit, finish, and build quality in an opulent package was therefore quite a surprise to me. The more kilometers I logged on the seven-seater crossover, more of its stellar qualities shined through. It was like falling in love at first sight with your gorgeous blind date and later on discovering that she has great dancing, culinary, and athletic skills; a fantastic sense of humor; and a pure heart that nevertheless doesn’t keep her from turning on her naughty side. She may have a few imperfections such as a tad too much hair above her upper lip but you overlook those because like the Veracruz, all her other fine qualities outweigh these.
To help the Veracruz compete in the upscale SUV and crossover segment, the Veracruz was fitted with a long list of standard features and top-notch materials usually found only in luxury vehicles. 

Keys me
The keyless entry and start systems allow you to board the vehicle and start it without having to take the remote control cum key from your pocket. Once you are inside the vehicle, you can insert the key in the ignition slot and fire up the engine the conventional way although that isn’t necessary for you could just twist the ignition slot with your thumb and index finger. I sometimes tried to amuse my passengers by holding my hand up high to show them it was empty and then start the engine without a key. However, I wished Hyundai did away with the twist action altogether and just installed a Start button similar to what some vehicles have. 

The dual-zone air-con is powerful and easily overcomes the heat dished out by the summer sun. And no matter which among the seven seats you take, you are sure to have a steady flow of cool air as there are vents on the ceiling, the B-pillars, and on the console between the two front seatbacks. 

Comfort and convenience
Other comfort and convenience features include the MP3-compatible Infinity 6-CD sound system with eight speakers; sunroof; power tailgate; light-sensitive glass windows that darken as sunlight intensifies; rain-sensing wipers; HID headlamps with washer; trip computer - the list goes on. 

With a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat, it’s no surprise that finding a comfortable position was a breeze. I did have a couple of complaints on the leather used for the interiors: one, the shade of the leather for the seats were too milk chocolaty and two, the leather on the steering wheel was too smooth and slippery. 

Third-row seating is quite tight and is best left to kids - or overly talkative passengers.

The speed-sensitive door locks engage automatically once you hit 45 km/h. However, Metro Manila traffic could have you traveling for an hour without hitting 45 km/h so I prefer automatic door locks that engage when the engine is started or when the transmission is put on Drive. Throw in six airbags, ABS, and Electronic Stability Program (ESP), and outstanding crash test results and you have one of the safest vehicles in the full-size CUV class. 
For me, one of the most endearing things about the Veracruz was the 3.5-liter V6 common rail direct injection turbo diesel engine mated to a smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission with manual mode. This sophisticated engine is good for 237 hp and 451.5 Nm of torque, making for effortless blasts at triple-digit speeds. The 4WD system distributes torque according to each wheel’s level of grip but a switch on the dash can lock the torque distribution between the front and rear wheels at 50:50. During my four days with the Veracruz, I averaged a reasonable 7.7 km per liter in city driving. 

The ride is comfortable and hardly a squeak or rattle is emitted by the chassis even in rough roads - testament to the Veracruz’s outstanding build quality.  From most angles, the shape and styling of the Veracruz is quite winsome but it is marred big time by the headlights, grille, and bumper that give the Veracruz a face that only a blind mother could love. The handsome and beefy alloy wheels wrapped in 245/60 R18 Hankooks help make up for the design blunder up front.

Make no mistake about it - the Veracruz is not designed to be a cheaper alternative to the upscale SUVs and crossovers from Japan, the US, or even Europe because for one, the Veracruz itself is not cheap with a retail price of P2.798 million. But more importantly, this classy crossover from Korea kicks many of its rivals’ @$$e$ with amazing aplomb. For those shopping for a sub-P3 million SUV or crossover, the Veracruz should be at the top of your shopping list.

Originally published in Manual magazine November 2008 issue.