Hyundai vehicles entered the United States more than 20 years ago with an affordable alternative to the mainstream sedan. Poor build quality caused Hyundai's popularity to plummet as the affordable label deteriorated to a far less flattering image — cheap. We bring up this unflattering episode in Hyundai's history yet again because it was the best thing that could have happened, both for the Korean automaker and for the American driver.
Heavy investments in reliability paid dividends for the Korean brand when it reemerged in 2004. Ever since, Hyundai has led the industry in emphasizing reliability results and warranty coverage. When you say "Hyundai," the consumer now responds, "100,000-mile warranty." As a result, Hyundai attained an image of value — an excellent ratio between what is expected and what is delivered.
Hyundai has applied this thinking to each new category it has entered — mainstream sedans with the Sonata, luxury sedans with the Azera, and now premium sedans and coupes with the Genesis. With the Veracruz, we expected to apply these same standards of value to a crossover suited to the brand's luxury-for-less image. So Edmunds.com ordered up an all-wheel-drive 2008 Hyundai Veracruz SE and ran it through our durability gauntlet for 12 months and 22,000 miles.
Our first drive of the Veracruz drew instant comparisons to the Lexus RX 350. We found Hyundai products generally a step behind their luxury benchmarks in past tests. They could never quite reach that elite level of quality. But the Veracruz showed signs during our first drive that it might just be good enough to reach the brand's lofty objectives. Would this SUV look as fresh after 12 months as it did out of the box? We ordered one to find out.
Hyundai products have always fared well in comparison tests. Their value package sees to that. But now that we had the chance to test the durability of the Veracruz, would material wear in the passenger cabin be an issue as it was with our long-term Hyundai Azera and Sonata? In addition, the timely additions of the Buick Enclave and Mazda CX-9 crossovers to our fleet offered the potential for a three-way SUV durability comparison live on our blogs.
Our initial impressions of the Veracruz's driving manners left us apprehensive about its long-term prospects with us. The engine didn't offer quite the power we hoped for, and early fuel-economy figures were unimpressive. But as we spent more time behind the wheel, our opinions slowly changed.
Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton voiced some initial concerns about the Veracruz's ride quality on the long-term blog pages. Walton wrote, "I'm not particularly fond of the ride. Over smooth pavement it is quiet and compliant. Presented with seams or potholes, the Hyundai gets stiff-legged and boomy. The ride remains within tolerable levels, but the steering shudders slightly and the suspension transmits sound into the cabin in a way that reminds me I'm not in a Lexus."
Inside the cabin we found the 2008 Hyundai Veracruz and its numerous amenities a big plus: felt-lined storage bins, 100-volt auxiliary plug and powerpoint in the rear cargo area, multiple rear A/C vents and a power liftgate, just to name a few. Hyundai figured out that a lot of little pleasures add up to a better vehicle. It was right.
When it came to quality, the Hyundai's interior durability was impressive. The black leather interior seats were virtually indestructible. They easily managed to endure every dirty child and wet dog we could drag across them. By contrast, the beige leather interiors of our long-term Sonata and Azera took a beating under similar conditions. (If we took anything from this test it was to definitely choose the dark interior color for the kind of hard use to which we subject vehicles.) Fit and finish on the Veracruz was equally commendable, handily surpassing that of our long-term Mazda CX-9, which was a surprise to us.
Interior cargo capacity was ample, but there were times we wanted more. Our Veracruz was put to the ultimate cargo test when News Editor Kelly Toepke attempted to load it with 1,700 boxes of Girl Scout cookies (a record number in her Girl Scout region). Toepke recounted, "I needed 200 cubic feet or so of space, but none of the pickups or SUVs in our fleet were gonna do the job. What I needed was a minivan. But our long-term Kia Sedona was gone and our long-term Dodge Grand Caravan wasn't in yet. In the end, I drove the Veracruz to handle two-thirds of the load and another Brownie mom brought her Toyota Camry for the rest."
Our only real gripe was the blue interior light scheme, a color that Jaguar and Volkswagen have made very trendy in interior design. Engineering Editor Jason Kavanagh wrote, "The backlighting looks cool, but isn't. It's said that the rods in human eyes are most sensitive to wavelengths in the bluish-green range, which tend to bleach out a person's night vision. I'm not sure how effective night vision is when the headlights are on, but I can say that the blue illumination in our Veracruz makes things tough to focus on. I'd hazard a guess that is why automakers so rarely choose blue for dashboard lighting. It's simply the wrong thing to do."
We experienced two mechanical issues with the 2008 Hyundai Veracruz during its stay. The air-conditioning system and horn both failed.
The A/C unit began ticking and whirring unnaturally around the 3,000-mile mark before it shut down completely. It was most noticeable when the near-silent engine was at idle. We tracked the noise as it grew progressively louder and then finally quit. Cormier Hyundai in Carson, California, performed the A/C system test, recharged the system at no cost and sent us on our way. The issue never returned.
A few thousand miles later, the horn stopped working. We located the associated fuse and found it had burnt out. Within days our replacement fuse also failed, which confirmed we had a larger problem. Cormier completed this repair as well. Both high- and low-pitch horn assemblies were replaced under warranty. The horn has worked ever since.
We frequented Cormier Hyundai for the majority of our service needs. Our advisor, Jim Ivison, took care of our needs in a professional and timely manner. Out of convenience, Lithia Hyundai in Fresno, California, was also used for some of our routine maintenance needs. They, too, offered satisfactory levels of service. Our average service during 22,000 miles of Veracruz ownership was $41.
Total Body Repair Costs: None. (Yes, we can't believe it, either.)
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 12 months): $123.70
Additional Maintenance Costs: None.
Warranty Repairs: A/C compressor recharged. Horn replaced.
Non-Warranty Repairs: None.
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 3
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: None.
Days Out of Service: 1 day wait to special order horn parts.
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None.
Performance and Fuel Economy
From its first test at 1,000 miles to its final test more than 20,000 miles later, the 2008 Hyundai Veracruz proved durable. This was reflected in a consistent track performance at both tests.
When it came to power, there just wasn't the kind of torque we expect from the 3.8-liter Hyundai V6. Gearchange patterns were leisurely, even in manual mode, which added to our impression of leisurely performance. We recorded a 0-60-mph time from a standstill of 8.3 seconds and ran the quarter-mile in 16.6 seconds at 84.7 mph with the Veracruz. This is noticeably slower to 60 mph than its Enclave (7.9 seconds from a standstill) and CX-9 (7.4 seconds from a standstill) counterparts.
We also expected more from the Hyundai's 260-horsepower V6 in terms of fuel economy. Our best fuel economy from a tank of regular unleaded was nearly 22 mpg following a long highway drive. This number was difficult to repeat and we rarely broke the 20-mpg barrier during the 22,000-mile test. We averaged just 16 mpg overall, which ranks behind our long-term Enclave (17.5 mpg) and CX-9 (18.2).
Best Fuel Economy: 21.8 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 11.7 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 16.4 mpg
Yet another head-to-head battle that found the Hyundai bringing up the rear was that of retained value. Hyundai products are an excellent value at the time of purchase but resale value is historically low. The Veracruz is no exception. Edmunds' TMV® calculator valued the SUV at 29 percent lower than its $36,870 MSRP after our 22,000-mile test. Similar mileage took much less of a toll on the resale value of the Buick Enclave, which depreciated 23 percent. At the same time, our long-term Mazda CX-9 lost 28 percent in value by the end of its test.
True Market Value at service end: $26,121
Depreciation: $10,749 or 29% of original MSRP
Final Odometer Reading: 22,446
On an individual basis, the Hyundai Veracruz proved popular during its stay. Thoughtful luxury-oriented features went a long way toward winning us over. But when it came time to compare these features to competitive SUVs in our long-term fleet, the Hyundai lost some momentum. Smaller cabin dimensions, a third-row seat sized only for children and comparably poor fuel economy were limiting factors for this family road-tripper.
Hyundai products have broken from the poor quality stigma of their early years and become a true value leader in the industry. Our long-term 2008 Hyundai Veracruz SE is a perfect example of this. Like every Hyundai, it's affordable and boasts an incredible warranty. But in the resale market, the brand continues to struggle for respect. Because of the depreciation factor, Hyundai products should be bought and driven until they won't drive anymore. Those in search of a car to drive a few years and then sell off should look elsewhere.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.