Category Archives: Hyundai

2008 Hyundai Tucson SE 4-WD (714)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2008 Hyundai Tucson SE 4WD. If you gotta have an SUV / Crossover and you don’t need huge, I guess this is a pretty good choice. And 90% of you will never need 4-wheel drive so you can save a bunch of money without it. As much as $5,000 less with the GLS 2.0 2-Wheel Drive.

Hyundai is probably one of the most impressive startup companies in the car business in recent years. Lots of good product without a lot of fan fare. And if I didn’t mention comments from friend and colleague Merkel about how poorly management treats their employees at Hyundai it would be a perfect world. Merkel is a guest writer for my column and as a design engineer and professor of engineering in a prior life he knows a lot about cars and people in the industry. Friends of his who’ve worked for the company tell him the management style and philosophy of Hyundai management is abrasive. When you’re the new kid on the block you surely don’t want other kids talking about what a jerk you are. Well, that’s his opinion and whatever the gossip is, Hyundai products are very impressive, so it can’t be as bad as he suggests. If you work for Hyundai and can add to these comments email me.

Happy cows produce great cheese and unhappy workers can make the company look bad in time.

General Info:

Parts –  US/Canadian 1%. Korea 97%.

Assembly – Ulsan, Korea

Class:  – Crossover / suv.

Cars: – Accent, Azera, Elantra, Entourage, Santa Fe, Sonata, Tiburon, Tucson & Veracruz.

Observation:

Good news and bad news… Bad news first. Gas prices are obscenely high; Good news is there is less traffic on the highways.

Handling & Performance:

Even with the2.7 liter engine you only get 173 hp so it won’t jump out of its skin for instant acceleration. The 2.0 liter develops 140 horses but I didn’t test that one. The 173 was not particularly impressive. But it must overcome the 4-Wheel Drive anchor weight so the 2-WD may not be as sluggish.

Styling:

This is a nice size SUV for most uses and provides decent storage space. On the other hand I wouldn’t suggest it to son Mike with 4 kids as it is just not large enough for a large family.

Fit and Finish:

Good.

Cost:

Pricing is very competitive in class. The South Korean’s are enjoying the fruits of capitalism and the labor pool is still affordable to manufacturers. Remember when Japan was like that? Well, that advantage will soon disappear and they, like Japan, will eventually need to begin assembling cars in China where the labor market is less than $1.00 per hour and even less in some trades.

At the Detroit Auto Show (on at this writing), Chinese cars were a hot topic. The fact is it is inevitable they will not only be the assemblers of tomorrow they have already begun making their own products being sold in Asia and Europe. They are where the Japanese were in the 1960s and the Koreans were in the 1980s.

Conveniences and comfort:

All good stuff, but the important features are the disc brakes, stability and traction control.

Consumer Recommendation:

Take advantage of the price point benefit today because of cheaper labor in Korea. The product is capable and the feel and performance is a good value for the money.

Recognized Competition:

Hyundai Tucson $17-23,000, Toyota RAV4 $22-27,000, Jeep Liberty $21-27,000, Honda CRV $21-28,000, Mitsubishi Outlander $20-25,000, Jeep Wrangler $20-30,000, Kia Sportage $16-23,000, Kia Rondo $16-20,000, Suzuki Grand Vitara $19-25,000.

2009 Ford Escape $20-27,000, Ford Escape Hybrid $28-32,000, Subaru Forester $20-28,000, Pontiac Torrent $24-31,000, Saturn Vue Hybrid $ n/a, Acura RDX $34-37,000, VW Tiguan $23-31,000, Chevrolet Equinox $24-31,000 and Mazda CX-7 $24-28,000 .

Good News:

Price competitive advantage, solid feel, fairly good fuel economy and excellent safety tests.

Bad News:

Some will think it a bit underpowered.

Standard Equipment:

2.6 liter engine 173 hp V6 engine, 4-speed auto transmission, 4-WD system, electronic stability and traction control, power assist 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, tire pressure monitoring system, front, side and curtain air bags, audio system with cassette, CD/MP3 player and 6-speakers, keyless entry, power windows and locks, air conditioning, power windows and locks, cruise control, leather wrapped steering wheel, power mirrors, fog lights, 60/40 rear split folding seat, 16” alloy wheels and roof rack.

Gas Stats:

$4.09/ Gal avg. August 5, ‘08

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

17 City and 23 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $22,735.

2008 Hyundai Accent SE (713)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2008 Hyundai Accent SE three door that has some pretty good Fuel Economy numbers. Small is beautiful today more than ever. But to American buyers small meant Porsche, Ferrari, and Corvette. Today with $5 / gallon gas small has been modified in the US. Less is better will resonate more every day.

It just goes to show you how much we have come to lean on large companies to tell us what’s ok, what we want and need. Friend Richard would say “It doesn’t have to be true to be a good story”. Amen Richard, you got that right.

General Info:

Parts –  US/Canadian 1%. Korea 99%.

Assembly – Ulsan, Korea

Class:  – Compact cars

Cars: – Accent, Azera, Elantra, Entourage, Santa Fe, Sonata, Tiburon, Tucson & Veracruz.

Handling & Performance:

Manual Transmission Pea Popper that will take you to your destination without any fan fare. But you’ll reach for your wallet much less often and keep food on the table and be able to buy shoes for the kids.

One thing I have to complain about is the gearing on this car. In Korea it may not be a problem, but on the highways of the rest of the world you’ll experience 4,000 rpm way too much. I believe the solution would be a longer high gear. 4th and 5th are too close together.

Styling:

Hyundai Accent is a Smart Car with a rear seat and larger cargo area and a little less in fuel economy. I like these two little cars but not for their beauty but rather for how practical they are.

They need to do some more work on the A/C vents. I don’t like the adjustments available.

Fit and Finish:

Good.

Cost:

Pricing is very competitive in class.

Conveniences and comfort:

This doesn’t have a built in hands free blue tooth but if you don’t already know about the portable kinds you can lose the ear piece “growth” hanging uncomfortably from the side of your head. The clip onto the visor versions only cost about $40 and work through your radio and will cost less than built in versions, and of course are movable.

Basic cars like this Accent keep cost down, in part, by smaller engines and eliminating features such as cruise control. That is a bad thing. I can give up a lot but cruise is not one of those. Traveling beyond a usual commute or around town stuff cruise becomes a necessity, not a luxury. However this is really a commuter and thus you rarely need cruise.

Consumer Recommendation:

My recommendation thus far has been to hang on to your big vehicles and don’t fall into the trap of dumping your big SUV at a huge loss. A knee jerk reaction and will surely be needlessly expensive.

Encourage your friends to support candidates who represent us who will push for more domestic drilling and watch the price of gas come back down to where you can drive that truck and SUV again until our friends in government and auto industry produce more fuel efficient vehicles for us to buy. Case in point is that past house speaker Newt Gingrich was right on when he said the price per barrel will go down by using the rainy day US reserves of oil thus eliminating being held hostage by mid east oil Sheiks and speculators.  In fact just the serious discussion had pulled the rug out from under those bad guys and the price per barrel dropped $20. I have news for our elected officials, it’s raining out there!

Look out for the quick fix to the fear of high gas prices. Don’t just buy a hybrid because it gets good mileage. Consider this Hyundai and Toyota Yaris instead of the higher demand Prius and other hybrids because the perception is they are better because they use alternate energy. They don’t get a lot more fuel economy and the cost of batteries and technology repairs is still unknown. Conventional looks better every time you take a closer look.

Recognized Competition:

Hyundai Accent $11-15,000, Dodge Caliber $15-23,000, Volkswagen Rabbit $16-18,000, Mazda 3 $14-20,000, Honda Fit $14-16,000, Honda Civic $15-25,000, Kia Rio  $11-14,000, Toyota Yaris $12-15,000, Mini Cooper $18-25,000, Suzuki Reno $14,000, Suzuki SX4 Sport $15-16,000, Ford Focus $14-17,000, Nissan Versa $13-16,000, Smart for 2 $12-17,000.

Good News:

Seating for 4 or 5, great fuel economy and great commuter.

Bad News:

Small, basic, no cruise control.

Standard Equipment:

1.6 liter engine, 5-speed manual transmission, sport tuned suspension, power rack and pinion steering, leather wrapped tilt steering wheel, front, side and curtain air bags, tire pressure monitoring, 16” alloy wheels, fog lights, rear wiper, air conditioning, power windows, mirrors and door locks, remote keyless entry, audio system with CD player and 6-speakers and 60/40 rear split folding seat.

Gas Stats:

$4.17/ Gal avg. July 25, ‘08

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

27 City and 32 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $14,575.

 

2008 Hyundai Veracruz Limited (701)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2008 Hyundai Veracruz Limited. I’ve been testing Hyundai since they joined the market fight in the US. I’ve tested all of them now with this week’s test of the new Veracruz. It will surprise you. It did me, but it shouldn’t have since I had a good feeling about cars from Hyundai when I told my kids to look closely at the Santa Fe when I first tested it in 2003. And I’ve been happy with all models since then.

General Info:

Parts – US/Canadian 7%, Korea 80%, Transmission parts from Japan.

Assembly – Ulsan, Korea

Class:  – Special Purpose

Cars: – Accent, Azera, Elantra, Entourage, Santa Fe, Sonata, Tiburon, Tucson and Veracruz.

Observation:

World price of gas at the pump http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/2653 in June 2007 will put car buying decision into perspective. The majority of the world is paying from $4.00 to over $8.00 per gallon of gas. When will we ever learn that it is up to the consumer to make a change in the oil company’s attitude about building more refineries to lower the price of gas? They pushed us into cheap gas to get us hooked and then they stick it to us. Sounds like the Columbians learned from the oil companies. What’s your drug of choice? Seems to be oil for most of us. Count on gas going to world levels in the next year or two at the most. Be smart and make the change now.

Handling & Performance:

Handles as well as all the others I’ve tested in class but all are pitifully bad when it comes to fuel economy.

Styling:

Classy and nearly indistinguishable from the best – correction – oldest badges on the market. It is implied that because they are the oldest they are the best. Not necessarily true and Hyundai and other new comers are making that point clear. And they have an advantage because they are the underdog and we all know we tend to pull for the underdog.

Fit and Finish:

As good as the rest – generally.

Cost:

Veracruz is priced from a few to several thousand less than most of the competition but I’m sure Hyundai has not reached the level of acceptance by consumers to overlook the badges it is pitted against. When you’re spending this much money most folks would be willing to pop for a few thousand more and buy a Lexus or other brand that has been around much longer.

Features and Conveniences:

Some features can get away from you if you’re not careful. I pushed the close button on the power lift gate and it went down, but as I reached in my pocket for the key fob I must have pushed the lift gate button by mistake. Well, of course it lifted up and I thought there was an eerie open feeling when I looked in the rear view mirror and thought this thing has great visibility. I was lucky my computer didn’t fall out. They need to fix that glitch as it shouldn’t open or at least warn you that it is open while in a drive position.

Consumer Recommendation:

Resource – www.safercar.gov

Buy a fuel efficient car. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Recognized Competition:

Hyundai Veracruz $27-36,000, Mazda CX-9 $29-35,000, Cadillac SRX $38-45,000, GMC Envoy $28-37,000, Subaru Tribeca $30-34,000, Mercury Mountaineer $27-33,000, Infiniti FX $38-50,000, Mercedes M-Class $44-87,000,  Acura MDX $40-48,000, Nissan Murano $26-36,000, Saab 9-7X $40-46,000, Lincoln MKX $36-38,000, Jeep Grand Cherokee $29-43,000, BMW X5 $46-55,000, Lexus RX 350 $38-39,000, Volkswagen Touareg 2 $39-68,000.

Good News:

Generally priced much better than competition.

Bad News:

Challenging longer established badges with greater prestige, equally as bad fuel economy as others in this class, so you may be buying a dinosaur as fuel prices soar.

Standard Equipment:

3.8 liter 260 horsepower V6 engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, front wheel drive, electronic stability control, traction control, anti locking brake force distribution system, front and side airbags, tire pressure system, backup warning system, climate control, power tilt and slide sunroof, audio with CD player and XM satellite, steering wheel audio controls, smart key system with alarm, power front seats, power tailgate, windows and locks, power mirrors, leather seating, power adjustable pedals, power steering wheel and driver memory settings.

Options: Navigation system $1,750, roof rails $205.

Gas Stats:

$3.79/ Gal regular gas. May 12, ‘08

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

16 City and 23 Highway MPG

www.safercar.gov  or   888-327-4236

Pricing:

MSRP $36,825.

2008 Hyundai Azera Limited (698)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2008 Hyundai Azera Limited. These Korean’s are beginning to amaze me. If they weren’t tainted by their Northern relatives there’s no telling how high they could climb up the ladder. South Korea, of course, is a perfect example of Capitalism in action. That alone is reason enough to support their efforts. The world is ever changing and it isn’t just us who are promoting their success. Their historical enemy, Japan, also has several of their cars assembled in Korea. What a turn of events, eh?

Just when I was going to say “it’s time for Americans to support American made products including automobiles”, I test drive this Korean made luxury car. To some, it is a contradiction in terms that a 3rd world country could or should produce a luxury car. But there it is, and it is entirely the product of that country. Impressive. “The gods must be Crazy”. Fun movie, by the way.

General Info:

Parts – US/ Canadian 4%, Korea 93%. Engine and Transmission – Korea

Assembly – Asan, Korea

Class:  – Midsize cars.

Cars: – Accent, Azera, Elantra, Entourage, Santa Fe, Sonata, Tiburon, Tucson & Veracruz.

Observation:

Well it is becoming more confusing whether to drive or fly these days. Gas at nearly $4.00 a gallon prompts you to fly in many more cases. Then just when you made up your mind to do just that, the airline industry gets caught ignoring safety for profit. Ok, so they are falling like flies. Scary thought. It makes you want to drive all the more, in spite of the fact that it is still safer to fly. Well, in any case, I still hold to the guideline that if the trip is 500 miles or less – DRIVE. It is cheaper and faster and more convenient. And if you are traveling with one or more passengers all the better. Then you have a car when you get there. Another reason for driving can’t be ignored. It is a hassle getting through security.

And while I’m on that, remember the ABC expose that pointed out that airport security strip searches grandma and they take away her nail file that got picked up in the scan process. But according to the ABC News program, if she went through the line after midnight (after closing) she’d waltz through with guys carrying back packs, or with boxes on hand trucks while security snores in careless slumber. Are these airport security people nuts, or what? An idiot is smarter than they are!

Handling & Performance:

Excellent. A joy to drive.

Styling:

Outstanding, in my humble opinion.

Fit and Finish:

Easily as good as the competition – and don’t forget the competition has endorsed Korean car manufacturers by using them to build their cars as well.

Cost:

Impressive among some tough seasoned competition. These guys came to play.

Features and Conveniences:

You can’t help but be impressed with standard equipment included for the price. This car will surely surprise you. Why, because they are still the underdog and new kid on the block. They have to try harder; they do; and they are making inroads into the industry much faster than I ever expected.

Consumer Recommendation: Resource � www.safercar.gov

Five years ago a Korean car would not be included in this class of cars. It demands that you also include it in your search for the family car. I’m sure you’ll be as impressed as I was. What’s more important is that you must know that when a product is looking for acceptance it is usually the best time to buy – if you’re willing to take the risk on the new kid. Me – I like it and I think it will be a reasonable risk and you’ll get a lot for your money. Another thing to consider is that US and Japanese car makers trust the Koreans to assemble their cars. If that isn’t a powerful endorsement I don’t know what is.

Recognized Competition:

Hyundai Azera $25-29,000, Cadillac CTS $33-35,000, Mercury Montego $24-29,000, Ford Taurus $24-29,000, Lincoln MKZ $31-33,000, Volkswagen Passat $24-38,000, Buick Lacerne $27-39,000, Chrysler 300 $25-42,000, Toyota Avalon $27-34,000, Nissan Maxima $28-31,000.

Good News:

Well priced, well equipped,

Bad News:

None noted.

Standard Equipment:

3.8 liter 263 horsepower V6 engine w/ variable intake system, 5-speed automatic transmission, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes with brake assist, traction control, electronic stability control, front and side and side curtain airbags, 17” alloy wheels, independent suspension, remote keyless entry with alarm, heated power front seats, 60/40 split fold rear seat, auto air conditioning, power rear sunshade, cruise control, auto headlights, power windows, locks and mirrors, audio with 6 in-dash CD and MP3 format, steering wheel controls, power sunroof w/ tilt and shade.

Gas Stats:

$3.74/ Gal avg. April 21, ‘08

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

17 City and 26 Highway MPG  www.safercar.gov    or     888-327-4236

Pricing:

MSRP $28,550.

2007 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD SUV. (660)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD SUV. And I gave it an extended test of over 1,000 miles on a trek to Lake Tahoe, CA. The last time I drove this car was in 2003 and it has come along nicely. Since then they have added the Azera, Entourage, Tucson and Veracruz and dropped the XG350.

Hyundai is looking to provide an upscale sleek alternative to existing SUV’s. I know when I first drove the Santa Fe I showed it to my kids to encourage them to consider this as an option to some of the larger SUVs with far worse fuel consumption and purchase price. The two model years are not drastically different outwardly, but they have concentrated on providing a lot of the safety technology features only available in more expensive SUVs. That helps to explain the sizeable increase in MSRP of about $10,000 over the 2003 year model.

General Info:

Parts – Korea 65%, U.S/ Canadian 35%.

Assembly – Montegomery, Alabama, U.S.A.

Class:  – SUV

Cars: – Accent, Azera, Elantra, Entourage, Santa Fe, Sonata, Tiburon, Tucson and Veracruz.

Handling & Performance:

This ‘07 year model 3.3 liter V6 develops 242 horsepower in contrast to the ’03 model that was 3.5 liter and only developed 195 horsepower. And interestingly enough, today’s model improves fuel performance by a few miles per gallon in spite of the added horsepower.

Styling:

Improved design for 2007 makes the appearance more like higher priced luxury makes and models. They have achieved that more stylish look from older model years and you can’t tell without looking closely at the badge. Unless you’re a snob about badges you’ll be delighted with this Korean made SUV and save a bunch of money in the process.

Fit and Finish:

Excellent. You’re sure to be as impressed as I was.

Cost:

In the past four years the MSRP has climbed from $18,000 to $28,000 for 2007 which is mostly for the additions of several safety features. Inflation accounts for the rest.

Conveniences and comfort:

The conveniences are not so different as mentioned but the real change comes in hidden features that are more important to consumers safety and performance.

Recognized Competition:

Hyundai Santa Fe $21-28,000,  Toyota RAV4 $21-27,000, Mitsubishi Outlander $21-25,000, Chevrolet Equinox $22-29,000, Buick Rendezvous $25-29,000, Jeep Liberty $22-27,000, Nissan Xterra $20-28,000, Mercury Mariner $21-26,000, Mazda CX-7 $24-28,000, Honda CR-V $21-28,000, Hyundai Elantra $13-17,000, Ford Escape $19-26,000,  Saturn Vue $21-29,000, Kia Sorento $20-26,000.

Good News:

More powerful V6 coupled with significant fuel enconomy improvement.

Bad News:

A little pricey for most ‘badge sensitive” buyers who would likely opt for BMW, Lexus,

Standard Equipment:

3.3 liter 242 hp V6, 5-speed auto trans,

Gas Stats:

$2.99/ Gal avg. July 23 ‘07

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

19 City and 24 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $27,945.

2006 Hyundai Azera Limited (627)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the new for 2006 Hyundai Azera Limited 4 door sedan that will knock your socks off for a car that speaks more than the sticker price would indicate. This is a very nice automobile. Ok, so it doesn’t have the fancy badge but you won’t pay a premium for the quality either.

There are a growing number of cars that will continue to make a name for themselves as quality cars with a price point that won’t break the bank – ‘your bank’ and this is one of those cars. The model year difference is not enough to wait for the 2007 and you’ll have much more bargaining power with the 2006.

General Info:

Parts – US/Canadian 5%, Korea 93%

Assembly – Asan , Korea

Class: – Large Car

Cars: – Accent, Azera, Elantra, Entourage, Santa Fe , Sonata, Tiburon and Tucson .

Handling & Performance:

Superb for the money. The important thing here is that you’ll get features only available on cars costing much more.

Styling:

Cookie cutter to some extent but what isn’t these days. But hold onto your hat because the young lions in the design departments have been given the go ahead to put their ideas out there for the 21st century. Some have paid dividends, like the PT Cruiser from Chrysler but I have real doubts over some new ‘youth oriented’ designs by young surfer type designers in today’s world. Know what I mean.

Ford, on the other hand unveiled the new Italian designed Mustang at the LA Auto Show. The Italian designer, in broken English, explained his design to the press November 29th to a packed Media event. This first to be seen new Mustang Concept is sure to hit the showroom floors soon – because it is a winner and more importantly because Ford needs a positive shot in the arm. It is flat out beautiful and I would own one. Bravo Ford.

Fit and Finish:

Back to the Hyundai Azera that is sure to impress you as much as it has me.

Cost:

Outstanding bang for your buck Pocahontas was heard to say. And I agree with her but you can bet the price will go up when consumers begin to buy these lovely sedans.

Conveniences and comfort:

Excellent. This is a 10 in my book.

Consumer Recommendation:

You’ve gotta include this in your search for a family passenger sedan if in the $35,000 price range. You figure what to do with the other $9,000 you won’t give to its competition.

By the way, if you need confidence in the Korean car maker, consider that Toyota and other Japanese car makers are having their cars assembled in Korea . South Korea , of course. Face it; nothing exists in North Korea ‘s hold over of Communist form of Government. What a testimony to Western economic systems.

Incidentally you should be able to deal on a new 2006 model as they clear out stock for 2007 model year cars.

Recognized Competition:

Hyundai Azera $24-27,000, Ford Five Hundred $23-28,000, Buick Lucerne $26-35,000, Toyota Avalon $27-34,000, Chrysler 300 $24-40,000, Mercury Montego $24-29,000.

Good News:

Great handling and performance, nice styling and a roomy passenger sedan that is found in more expensive brands. Decent fuel economy (I got just over 25 mpg average). Very Good warranty.

Bad News:

Road noise is noticeable but didn’t deter me from recommending this for your consideration.

Gas Stats:

$2.37/ Gal avg. Nov 06

19 City and 28 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $26,835.

2006 Hyundai Accent GLS (603)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2006 Hyundai Accent GLS 4-door compact sedan. Pretty basic you say. Indeed it is. And it takes a self confident person to drive an inexpensive car without a snooty badge. Consider my assertion that the price one is willing to pay for a car is directly proportional to their ego.

Patrick said, “You’ll be pretty impressed with this little sedan”. Pat was right because for the money these little commuters with great fuel economy are becoming more attractive every day. I’ve said for several years when we reach $4.00 per gallon in the US , (gas price in Europe in 1997 and much of the rest of the world) we’d get serious about conserving oil. Well, today we’re close to the industry stabilizing at $4.00 in the US while Europe is up to over $7.00 per gallon.

Many will assume the oil industry is playing with us and manipulating prices. Well to some extent that is true from personal auditing experience. However, we need to consider the pressure on the world supply by emerging countries like China that will continue to gobble up larger and larger quantities of the gooey stuff.

General Info:

Parts – Engine and Transmission – Korea

Assembly – Ulsan , Korea ,

Class: – Compact

Cars: – Accent, Azera, Elantra, Entourage, Santa Fe , Sonata, Tiburon and Tucson .

Handling & Performance:

Well, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is perhaps the first thing you notice when entering a freeway in this Hyundai is that you struggle with only 110 horsepower at your disposal. It takes longer to get up to speed but then the good news is you’ll pass more gas stations than most of the cars out there.

Styling:

If you’ve ever wanted the definition of basic this is it. The styling blends into many of today’s commuter cars. Non-descript is another definition. But they aren’t selling styling or they would put a BMW emblem on the car and sell it for twice the money.

Fit and Finish:

Inexpensive cars today are actually put together quite well. The seams are close and straight. Nothing looked out of sorts.

Cost:

Competitively priced but it jumps to $14,805 with options that are pretty common these days.

Conveniences:

You know what – you don’t really realize how good cruise control is until you don’t have it. This little pea popper didn’t and it has got to be a first car I’ve tested that didn’t have it in a long long time. I got accustomed to having what I now consider a necessity. It is not only convenient it is a public service if used by highway drivers since it keeps speeds more consistent.

A spare tire is becoming a thing of the past. Some cars are eliminating them as standard equipment. However I was very glad to have an emergency wheel and tire when I found it had a flat returning from a nice day at the J. Paul Getty, Museum in West Los Angeles , CA . It is at these times you appreciate the convenience of having one built into the trunk. And everyone should experience a “Pea Popper” car in these circumstances. You can almost pick the car up with one hand and change the tire with the other. Not quite, but you get the idea. And then when we got back on the road with a “Max speed of 50 mph, we learned to appreciate the country side you seldom see traveling at higher speeds. Truly amazing what you can see when you “can’t” be in a hurry.

Next week I’ll comment on the newest in tires – The Tweel.

Consumer Recommendation:

One has to wonder if it wouldn’t be better to buy a brand new small compact commuter car rather than what the same money could buy in a more expensive brand. I used to buy big used Cadillac’s as the family grew and I wanted larger car perceived safety, comfort and other conveniences. However when I was in college and newly married the VW Bug was just what the budget ordered. This Hyundai and the competition make for great economical transportation.

Recognized Competition:

Hyundai Accent $13,305, Chevrolet Aveo $9-13,000, Ford Focus $13-17,000, Saturn Ion $12-19,000, Toyota Corolla $14-18,000, Kia Rio $11-12,000, Mazda 3 $14-19,000, Subaru Impreza $18-33,000, Suzuki Aerio $14-17,000 and Honda Civic $15-22,000.

Good News:

Very good fuel economy.

Bad News:

Light weight vehicle.

Standard Equipment:

1.6 liter inline 4 cylinder 110 horsepower engine, 4-speed automatic transmission, dual front and side air bags, 4-wheel abs brake system, adjustable head rests, power rack and

pinion steering, tilt steering column, driver’s seat folding armrest, variable intermittent wipers, tachometer and digital clock, remote fuel door and trunk release, illuminated vanity mirrors, tinted glass, rear window defroster, audio system w/ 6 speakers, 60/40 split folding rear seat, rear center armrest, seatback pockets, door storage pockets.

Options: Air conditioning, power windows and door locks, power heated mirrors, remote keyless entry – $1,500.

Gas Stats:

28 City and 36 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $13,305.

2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS (466)

Overview:
This week I returned to earth and test-drove the 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS. Coming out of the all-new 2004 Jaguar XJR was a leap of faith that I will continue to have no trouble returning the keys to such magnificent automobiles. But for the tidy sum of $60,000 more than this Santa Fe I can adapt quite well thank you.

n any case, whether in the Jaguar or in this delightful little SUV I\’m confident you’ll get where you’re going. Of course, it is all relative and some may feel a more expensive car is a must, and I don’t know about you but I can find a lot of things to do with $60K.

Then the following week I tested the Volvo XC90 AWD SUV for over $45,000. Guess what? This $21,000 Hyundai is looking better all the time. In context, you have to consider you won’t be going “From here to Eternity” in your car. You can only use the horsepower to propel you at the legal speed limit that both expensive and inexpensive will do exactly the same. You will need to carry people and property and both have similar volumes. You will be imperceptibly more comfortable in the Volvo. So what’s all the hoop-la about? Why pay double the price? Pride? Ego? I believe it is because we’re so hammered with ads that play up the rich and famous and beautiful people who drive the most expensive. We’ve been conditioned to believe that if it costs that much more it must be better. Hogwash. I’ve been testing cars unofficially and officially for decades, and it just ain’t so folks.

Living in a “Throw away” world, it just doesn’t make sense to spend more than you have to, to do the job essentially the same way. Consider the computer, cell phones, and other electronics… it is cheaper to replace them than repair them. The moral of that story is to buy less expensive and replace them often. Also consider the least expensive car today is safer, more powerful, has better brakes engine and transmission and gets better gas mileage than anything made just a couple of decades ago.

General Info:

Parts – N/A

Assembly – Korea (You can bet it’s not North Korea). Headquarters Seoul.

Class: – Special Purpose

Cars: – Accent, Elantra, Santa Fe, Sonata, Tiburon and XG350.

Handling & Performance:

The base model is a 2.4 liter 138 hp inline 4-cylinder engine. I tested the 3.5 liter 195 hp V6 that has impressive acceleration. You’ll also feel very little difference in the ride from the most expensive SUV’s out there, and of the closest competition it is easily at the top of the list. Bravo South Korea, now ditch North Korea.

Styling:

SUV… Almost nothing more need be said since they are all very similar. But I will explore one anomaly, which is the interesting comparison or likeness to the Star Wars Klingon (creature) culture. Certain design lines are suspect. Speaking of suspect, I got to tell you a funny story. While doing “Spell Check” the alternative word for Klingon was Clinton. Do you think they’re interchangeable?

Fit and Finish:

Very good considering the cost. You’ll be impressed and wonder why you need to spend up to twice the money to get an SUV that is so competitive and capable.

Conveniences:

Very good. The list and kind of features is broad for the price, which translates into Value.

Cost:

Luxury has its price and practical has its rewards as we see in the relative cost to function between the Jaguar XJR at $80,000 or the Volvo XC90 at $45,000 and this Hyundai Santa Fe at about $21,000.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you have unlimited resources buy a Rolls Royce, hire a chauffeur and pilot to jet you anywhere you want to go in your own airplane. But if you are like 99.9% of the rest of the world who have other needs, and believe there is more to life than an expensive mode of transportation buy the Hyundai and drive it yourself.

The Competition:

Base Models.

Hyundai Santa Fe $18,000, Chevrolet Tracker $20,000, Ford Escape $19,000, Honda CR-V $19,000, Jeep Liberty $18,000, Kia Sportage $15,000, Mazda Tribute $18,000, Mitsubishi Montero $32,000, Subaru Forester $21,000, Toyota RAV4 $17,000.

Good News:

Grouped with several under $20,000 to provide a good size SUV and lots of power with the 3.5-liter engine and a good array of standard equipment.

Bad News:

Korean – how stable with the current political climate in that country?

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter 195 hp V6, 5-speed automatic trans, anti Lock braking system with traction control, power steering, alloy wheels, roof rack, remote keyless entry, in glass antenna, intermittent wipers, air conditioning, stereo with cassette and CD, power windows and locks, heated power mirrors, cruise control, tilt column, dual front and side airbags.

Gas Stats:

16 City and 22 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $21,499.