The Hyundai Veracruz crossover's initial impression may turn you off, but when you judge everything it has to offer it gets your full attention.
The exterior seems a little too reminiscent of its smaller Santa Fe sibling, more Ai Ai de las Alas than Rufa Mae Quinto. The head-scratching front grille doesn't help either, but this writer reminds all to look beyond this SUV's outside.
Inside, accommodations (including storage and driver controls) are handsome, numerous and logically placed. The a/c constantly blows ARCTIC cold air. Brushed metallic surfaces look upscale, but the wood grain trim sticks out like a pimple. The Infinity audio entertainment replicates clear sound on all tonal ranges. Oh, and there's a sunroof, too.
Second-row seaters enjoy deeply contoured seats with a wide range of fore-and-aft travel, and their own dedicated HVAC controls and air vents within the b-pillar and the ceiling. The third row is rather flat, and it's cramped unless the middle row gives up some legroom. Access in and out of it requires a little body contortion, but that's the usual rant with all third-row seats. Oh, and both rear rows fold flat to swallow three balikbayan boxes and seven large duffel bags.
The ride comfort is exceptional. This is due to a unibody that has enviable torsional and bending rigidity, helped by the use of sound-deadening materials throughout. It shares some hard points with the Santa Fe, but it's been stretched in all dimensions. Toss in all-new chassis hardware and electronically controlled engine mounts, and the Veracruz's minimal levels of noise, vibration and harshness are remarkable.
The P 2.798 million Veracruz feels like it has an appropriate power amount - not so fast, but not so slow, either. Powerband entry (2,000 rpm) and partial boost from the turbo (3,000 rpm) is just about right for its size; top speed is a tested 209 kph, and fuel consumption is a tested 9.01 km/l on five days of mixed driving.
Gearing is rather tall, but typical of a diesel tranny. The six-speed automatic is reluctant to downshift as the incline of a hill increases, but that's when the manual gate is handy. Manual shifts are more or less immediate, and overall upshifts or downshifts are smooth and crisp enough to escape the notice of all but the most car-savvy. The touch-button 4WD lock mode offers a 50:50 torque split, but the unit tends to bog down (in terms of revs) on soft, wet earth; it's most happy on pebbly roads and dry earth trails.
Hyundai also wants you to know that it's a company that's all about safety. A ton of standard safety features on the Veracruz (including bright exterior lighting, grippy brakes, and an easy-to-operate foot-oriented parking brake) gives a strong statement of purpose. Also, the SUV has earned four five-star crash ratings from the US NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) for driver and front-passenger protection and a four-star rollover rating, which is as good as any crossover could ever expect to earn.
The Hyundai Veracruz is the Korean auto equivalent of pro hoops' killer crossover, seemingly unimpressive with its looks - especially its front end - but given all that it has, it WILL leave you itching to get your checkbook and go to the nearest Hyundai dealer.