Monthly Archives: June 2008

2009 Hyundai Genesis Luxury Sedan Review

Unapologetically and unequivocally, Hyundai has taken off its gloves. Its new Genesis is a no-holds-barred assault on luxury and near-luxury sedans from Japan, America, and Europe. Seriously, folks. Oh, we know what you’re thinking. You’ve heard that the second-generation Hyundai Santa Fe is a decent little competitor to the Honda CR-V, and you’ve read in these pages that the Hyundai Veracruz mid-size crossover introduced last year need not hide from the Toyota Highlander, the Honda Pilot, or even the Lexus RX350.

But front-wheel-drive-based people movers are one thing, and rear-wheel-drive sedans that might actually quicken your pulse are another. After all, cars like that have never been the province of the Korean automakers.

But now they are. My heart rate was certainly above its normal level as I circled Hyundai’s test track at 150 mph in a Genesis equipped with Hyundai’s advanced new 375-hp, 4.6-liter V-8 engine. The big sedan was composed, predictable, and vigorous as the high banks dumped us onto the long straights and the scenery blurred. Yes, I was driving a Hyundai. What is this world coming to?

“We set a number of high development goals for ourselves,” admits Bong-hwan Lee, executive vice president of Hyundai’s Vehicle Development Center. “We wanted to achieve the same scores as other premium sedans, including Lexus, in the J. D. Power Initial Quality and Vehicle Dependability Surveys.

Another priority was to attain the highest level of crash protection. We benchmarked the BMW 5-series, the Lexus GS and LS, and the Mercedes-Benz E-class.” Although Hyundai says that the Genesis’s body-in-white (the basic body structure, without paint, powertrain, suspension, or interior) is larger than those of the Lexus LS460 and the Mercedes S-class, the automaker claims that it is lighter than them and stiffer in torsion and bending properties.

In terms of size, the Genesis is bigger and roomier than most mid-size luxury sedans (see chart) and, in fact, is classified by the EPA as a “large” sedan. Its wheelbase is 115.6 inches, compared with 113.7 inches for the BMW 5-series, 112.4 inches for the Mercedes E-class, and 113.4 inches for the Cadillac CTS. With an overall length of 195.9 inches, it’s several inches longer than those three cars and only 2.5 inches shorter than a short-wheelbase 7-series. Although rear-seat room falls short of what you’d find in a long-wheelbase 7-series or a Lexus LS, the rear seats in the Genesis are still very accommodating, with plentiful legroom that outpaces the 5-series, the E-class, and the CTS.

Design editor Robert Cumberford delivers his verdict on the Genesis’s styling in the August issue of Automobile Magazine, but there is no question that the car has real road presence. If Hyundai’s designers borrowed from the Mercedes S-class, the Infiniti M35/M45, and the 5-series-and they most certainly did-the net effect is at worst benign, the car assuming a kind of generic upscale visage. At the Namyang test track, jumping among V-6 and V-8 Genesis models and also among competitor cars, I would peer across the sprawling slalom course, trying to figure out which car I’d drive next, and would continually do double-takes as the Genesis test cars were wheeled back onto the course, because from fifty yards away I mistook them for Mercedes-Benz E-classes.

Inside, the Genesis also plays to widespread notions of luxury, with a big sweep of an S-class-inspired dash, pleasingly lit instruments, and substantial, cushy seats astride a center console with a BMW iDrive-style spinning knob sprouting from it. There are lots of hits in here, plus a few misses. Fit and finish and material quality are very good, both in the plastics and in the standard leather seating. The instrument panel can be fitted with stitched leather as an option or with standard faux wood, but the former would be more convincing if it were French stitched, with two rows of stitching rather than one, which leaves a tiny flap of folded-over hide that’s ripe for collecting dirt.

Tradition dominates in the Genesis cabin, as there is no aluminum or aluminum-look trim. The headliner, a familiar polyester-knit fabric, is largely inoffensive, but it’s a long way from Alcantara. Double-glazing for the windows in the driver’s and front-passenger’s doors is a nice touch, though, as are fold-out map pockets in the doors and the available brown-and-black interior color scheme. The trunk is large, with a low liftover and sheathed hinges, but the interior grab handle for pulling the lid closed is mounted too far inward, making it awkward to use. And the cheap trunk lining is old-school Hyundai; surely they noticed the richly trimmed trunks in the cars they benchmarked?

Hyundai calls its iDrive-style controller DIS, or Driver Information System. The Koreans have had time to digest similar setups from BMW, Mercedes, Audi, and Acura and presumably have integrated what they thought were the best features of those systems while avoiding many of their pitfalls. We’ll have to wait until we have more street time in the Genesis to render a full verdict on DIS, but it seems intuitive, the knob feels good in the hand, if perhaps with not quite enough tension in it as one might like, and it’s easy to scroll among menus to control navigation and the stereo. The iPod connection works well, and the touch-screen function is as good as anyone’s. An optional 500-watt Lexicon stereo might not be the equal of the Mark Levinson system offered by Lexus, but it will meet the expectations of all but the pickiest audiophiles, and there’s easy access to the equalizer function.

Originally, Hyundai planned to offer the Genesis with both its 3.3-liter and 3.8-liter V-6s, which currently serve in the front-wheel-drive Azera, as well as the Tau V-8. But then it came to its senses and realized that the choice of three engines is a bit much for a vehicle with a modest annual sales goal of 30,000 units in the United States and only 80,000 units worldwide. (It’s interesting to note that, although Hyundai eagerly apes European sedans with the Genesis, it is not offering the car in the hypercompetitive Western Europe market; it’s already on sale in Korea and will be sold in China and Russia, among other markets.) And the 3.8-liter DOHC V-6 powertrain, no slouch with variable valve timing, 290 hp, and a six-speed automatic, handily allows Hyundai to boast that the Genesis offers more standard power than the Infiniti M35, the Pontiac G8, and the Chrysler 300C.

“We’ve tuned the Genesis to fall somewhere between the Lexus GS and the Infiniti M,” explains Wendell Collins, Jr., engineering manager for the ride and handling group at Hyundai Motor America. “We definitely wanted it to be sportier than the GS, but not as brutal as the M.” The suspension is by unequal-length control arms at the front, with a multi-link rear setup. V-6 models get seventeen-inch tires as standard, with eighteen-inchers optional; eighteens are standard with the V-8. The Genesis made pretty smooth work of lane-change and slalom courses at Namyang, with body control well in check, but the V-6 model is let down by a disappointing lack of steering feel, an old Korean-car bugaboo. Thankfully, V-8 models have electrohydraulic power steering, “which allowed us to define the steering curve for a very linear feel,” claims Collins, and which we found to provide a far clearer line of communication between the front wheels and the palms of our hands. We’re not talking BMW-like steering here, but it’s a far cry from the Toyota Camry’s or, for that matter, the Hyundai Sonata’s.

Both engines are very refined, eager to rev, and work seamlessly with their respective transmissions (the V-6 unit is from the Japanese supplier Aisin, while the German company ZF supplies the V-8’s six-speed box). There’s a manual-mode shift gate for both, but there are no steering wheel paddles in sight. Hammer the V-8, and some pleasing induction and valvetrain resonances will drift back into the cockpit, but more impressive is the strong torque band and the nice whack of acceleration that the Tau provides. We’ll wait until we can drive a Genesis stateside before running performance numbers, but Hyundai promises a 0-to-60-mph time of well under six seconds. And even the V-6 model stormed around the high-speed oval with little drama, the speedo needle swinging around to 100 mph in no time and then rising steadily to 135 mph.

Unfortunately, the Genesis has not shed that layer of isolation that so characterizes Lexus cars and, of course, most Hyundais. This car, especially in V-8 guise, has the power and the presence to hold its own with cars costing much more. But those looking for pure tactility will be disappointed, as I was reminded when I ran the 530i and the M35 through the same paces that I’d driven the Genesis. Especially around the handling track, those two cars were far more in tune with the driver’s intentions and better at communicating what was happening at the tire’s contact patches. We’ll grant Hyundai that the Genesis is more involving to drive than the Lexus GS (and certainly more so than the ES350), but for a sedan that so unabashedly aims for the best from Germany, it still needs a more Teutonic tilt to the chassis tuning: more road feel and steering feel, please. And although the brakes in both V-6 and V-8 Genesis models were responsive and progressive, they could use a more positive-feeling pedal.

Hyundai has a lot of irons in the fire. Between it and Kia, its subsidiary, it controls 75 percent of the Korean home market, and its sales are burgeoning in China, India, and other emerging markets. In fact, the United States comprises only 20 percent of Hyundai’s worldwide sales, so it’s little surprise that Hyundai decided, at least for now, not to launch a luxury sales channel here like Toyota and Nissan did two decades ago.

Instead, it is essentially dipping its toe into the luxury-car waters with the Genesis. If it is a success, more luxury products are likely to follow, and Hyundai co-chairman and CEO Dong-Jin Kim does not rule out the possibility of a luxury arm for the future: “Some day, when we are strong enough. But for now, we have concluded that a separate premium brand is premature.”

This means that, at least for the time being, the Genesis does without some of the baubles of the luxury-car establishment. No optional all-wheel drive. No direct injection or variable valve lift for the engines, no air suspensions or dual-clutch gearboxes, and more than likely, no special dealer treatment, just “a special, well-decorated corner [of the showroom] to display the Genesis,” says Kim. Hyundai Motor America will, however, take pains to ensure that salespeople more accustomed to pushing Elantras and Sonatas out the door are properly trained to sell the Genesis and to deal with its potential customer base.

That customer base, if Hyundai’s research proves accurate, will be a disparate group. “We will get people who normally graduate from an Accord type of car and make the leap to a luxury brand,” says Joel Ewanick, Hyundai Motor America’s vice-president of marketing, “but we’ll also get people coming down from the luxury brands. We already get buyers like that for the Azera, people who do a lot of research on cars who then realize, ‘this [a Hyundai] is a car that hasn’t been on my radar screen, but should have been.’?” As for pricing, Hyundai is positioning the Genesis squarely on top of the BMW 3-series and the Mercedes C-class, meaning the V-6 model starts at about $33,000 and stretches up near the V-8 model’s starting price of $38,000. Fully optioned, the V-8 will be priced in the mid-$40,000s. Bold strokes, these, since in reality the Genesis is also going to be cross-shopped with the Pontiac G8 and the 3.5-liter Chrysler 300C, which start at $27,595 and $29,290, respectively, and since Hyundai has yet to prove itself over the long haul in J. D. Power surveys and in resale values, although there has been recent progress on those fronts.

Hyundai might not be entering the luxury-car world with a new brand and shiny new dealerships, but there is nothing tentative about the Genesis itself, a car that represents the most ambitious engineering undertaking ever for the Korean automaker. Hyundai is a company that is very much looking forward but is also keenly aware of how far it has come. It didn’t even have the wherewithal to build its own engine until 1991, when it introduced its Alpha four-cylinder and no longer had to license engines from Mitsubishi. Now, here it is making its own, high-powered V-8 engine. The company insists that it will make money on every Genesis it sells, unlike Toyota, which sold its first Lexus cars at a loss to establish its luxury-car bonafides. In Hyundai’s case, it’s clear that, while the Genesis is a commodity product that will increase the bottom line, it’s also an emotional milestone for the company, a way to mark its place in the world. And there’s no need to apologize for that.

By Joe DeMatio
Automobile Magazine

Hyundai Drives Nearly New Sonata Into Sedan Headwind

Hyundai’s revamped Sonata

This is probably not the best time to launch a mid-sized sedan. The market is not only crowded, but it is crowded with a billet of new and newly redesigned — and well-reviewed vehicles like Malibu, Camry, Accord, Fusion and Altima. It is every automaker’s high-volume segment, and it is where automakers reputations are made or broken. And it is not necessarily consumers’ first choices when it comes to fuel efficiency, since smaller cars do get better mileage. Into this headwind Hyundai has recently launched its new, or almost new, Sonata.

The company did a refresh of the car, adding new features and redoing the interior as a stop-gap before the car gets a total redo in two years. The changes to the vehicle design, realized for the U.S. market in the company’s Ann Arbor, Mich., tech and design lab, comprise some thousand alterations — per Michael Deitz, manager of product planning — including new grill, headlamps, tail lamps, moldings, and a new instrument console between driver and passenger that has iPod and USB auxiliary inputs.

The car began rolling into dealerships in March, and ads began two weeks ago launching on “Where in the World is Matt Lauer?” Deitz says the car will bring in buyers from both domestic and import brands; and that the current gas prices should benefit sales. “We are looking to have this as a destination for people defecting from SUVs,” he says, adding that owners of domestics will see the car as a move-up vehicle, a far cry from Hyundai’s mid-1990s rep.

“And we have found from focus groups that domestic buyers really look as at Hyundai as a step-up brand,” he adds. The company this summer launches its first luxury sedan, Genesis, a limited-volume car emblematic of the company’s efforts to shift its portfolio — and image — up market.

Genesis is about showing consumers what we can do with a lower-volume, built-to-demand vehicle; it will show consumers what we can do with technology and performance capabilities,” he says, adding that the car will have 375 horses under the hood.

Deitz says Sonata and Genesis are part of the Korean automaker’s second 24/7 program (7 products in 24 months).

As far as gasoline prices go, Deitz says the company is benefiting from being weighted in with small cars like Accent and Elantra, the former a subcompact. “Right now, people with that mentality are coming to the brand, and resale values are also improving.” Currently, Hyundai, with a CAFE of 28.6 mpg, is third in the U.S. market for fuel economy after Toyota and Honda. The industry average is 25.3 mpg, per the EPA.

In sales, Hyundai has been No. 4 since 2002 behind Nissan, per Deitz, who says that for every customer Hyundai loses, it is gaining 2.2 new ones, putting the brand in the No. 2 spot after Toyota in terms of new-customer conquest.

Sonata has been a pillar of Hyundai’s sales growth over the past few years. Sales of the car have grown, on average, by 30% between 1998 and 2007. The company last introduced a new model of the car in 2006. Hyundai reports that its overall sales have increased 20% during that period, and that its U.S. market share has gone from about 0.6% to about 2.8%.

Deitz says marketing messages are focused on the car’s interior volume and mileage, partly to capture emigrants from the world of SUVs. “The message is interior volume, fuel economy and versatility, with features like the 40/60 split-fold rear seat. We are doing sales training to get to consumers coming out of larger vehicles and seeking better fuel economy.”

by Karl Greenberg

2008 Hyundai Veracruz: Small Price to Pay for Happiness

I recently took a trip to Carmel, California in our long-term 2008 Hyundai Veracruz AWD. There are so many little reasons to like this car. In fact, it’s the first time I’ve ever considered buying a Korean vehicle as my personal car.

Sure, I had a couple of gripes, which you can read on the Straightline blog: The “Cool Box” in the console doesn’t cool that well, it’s got too much wind and road noise for my taste, it could handle the bumps with more grace, and the horn wouldn’t work. But overall, this is a car I really enjoyed and would recommend. Here’s why:

First: It’s good-looking. I like the styling and didn’t feel like I was driving a boxy-looking SUV or egg-shaped minivan. I know it’s a matter of personal taste, but I really like its lines, particularly the sporty-looking back end.

Second: It’s spacious. We lowered the third row and filled the cargo area with the following: a large cooler, a large plastic container filled with non-perishable food, a large rolling duffel bag, an carry-on rolling bag (airline size), four backpacks, a guitar, a mandolin (don’t ask!), a men’s suit bag, a couple of shopping bags, a bunch of heavy jackets and sweater. Yeah, we overpack, don’t we?!

We were still able to see out the rear view. In fact, the rear view on this car is one of its very best features. The only thing that really hinders it, though, is the DVD screen. Not much you can do about that.

Next: It’s comfortable. I drove almost the entire way from L.A. to Carmel, which is about 5 1/2 hours if you do it without stopping. I never felt stiff or like my back ached (we had optional lumbar support). You know how after some road trips you have to get out and do the “back stretch”? Not so here. My kids were also comfortable the whole time. How do I know? They didn’t complain. The third row seat is also quite comfortable and not too difficult to access.

It’s functional: The controls on the dash are just plain easy to figure out. In my experience, more expensive cars often require a weekend of study to figure out all the electronics. Even things that should be easy, like air conditioning and the radio, require more time than they should. The Veracruz reminded me of Toyota in its design: not gorgeous, but simple.

And my six-year-old was able to open and close the rear doors, and climb in and out without any problem. I also liked the “conversation mirror” which lets you see the kids in back (below the sunglass holder), the rear-seat reading lights, and the substantial hooks for hanging dry cleaning, and the fuel door release conveniently located on the driver door. All small touches that make a difference in everyday use.

Handling and maneuverability were also good. Not performance-great, but perfectly adequate. And the Veracruz has all the latest safety features, including stability control, which is a must-have for me.

Finally, the cost of this all-new crossover SUV is a selling point. Starting at $26,900 MSRP and topping out at $35,750, it’s a lot more reasonable than many of its competitors and it has Hyundai’s terrific 10 yr /10,000 mile drivetrain warranty.

So if you’re looking for a vehicle that can seat up to 7 in comfort and style, drives well, is safe, and has a great warranty, then put the Veracruz on the list.

Source: The Driving Woman

Motor Mouth: Hyundai Accent saves money stylishly

In the small, rough parking lot at the bottom of the Edmands Path in New Hampshire’s Presidential Range, the first impulse of a hiker spilling out of the woods was to ask about my black Hyundai Accent.

I find the hatchback eye-catching myself. The small car is very nicely tailored, with a trim, rounded front and a neatly raked windshield. Accent’s roof line arches subtly to finish at a sloping back window that caps the car’s expansive rear hatch. Accent is handsomely monochromatic. The model I test-drove last week wore SE trim, with bold, five-spoke alloy wheels and a cowl-like spoiler shading the back glass. Its total sticker price was $15,280, although you can buy a starting-level Accent for around $11,000.

But much more than Accent’s appearance grabbed the hiker last week. Taken by its compact size, he asked about fuel economy. It’s the topic on everybody’s mind right now.

Yes, as you’d expect, Hyundai Accent earns very attractive EPA fuel-economy numbers. When equipped with a five-speed manual transmission, the car rates 27 miles per gallon in city driving, 32 mpg on the highway. If you pay the additional $1,000 to purchase Accent’s optional, four-speed automatic, city fuel economy drops noticeably to 24 mpg, while highway mileage gains a bit, to 33 mpg. Hyundai also sells a four-door sedan version of Accent, with a conventional trunk. Equipped with the same transmissions and the same, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, it earns the same fuel-economy ratings.

Small cars today are riding a popularity crest as fuel prices surge closer to $4 per gallon. Across America, sales of little runners grew by 7 percent in the first four months of the year, while the rest of the auto market sank, according to the research company Autodata. The Accent did even better, much better. Through April, Hyundai Motor America, the U.S. arm of the Korean auto company, sold 14,329 Accents, an increase of 28 percent over the same period last year.

But don’t get the idea that small cars are taking over. Their popularity is growing, but people still purchase far more midsize models. The popularity of medium-sized automobiles remained stable through April, with Autodata reporting total four-month sales of 1,145,000. That’s 44 percent higher than the small-car tally of 795,000.

In fact, even accursed SUVs continue to sell in much higher numbers than small cars. When you lump together traditional, truck-based SUVs and newer, automobile-based crossover SUVs, the four-month sales tally across the United States was 1,376,000 SUVs. That exceeds the small-car total by 73 percent.

Of course, a higher percentage of those sport utilities are smaller models that don’t gulp nearly as much fuel as once-popular whales like the Ford Expedition, GMC Yukon Denali or Nissan Armada. We Americans still insist on accommodations in vehicles, like spaciousness and cargo capacity, but we’ll accept scaled-down accommodations when economics insists.

At Salem Ford Hyundai in Salem, N.H., that balance between size and thrift shows up as a buyer preference for Hyundai Elantra, reported Nancy Rodriguez, sales manager. The four-door sedan is a step up from Accent in both size and price, starting at $14,145 and running to $17,845. Elantra provides 98 cubic feet of passenger space, while Accent gives you 92 cubic feet. But with an automatic transmission, Elantra earns slightly better fuel-economy ratings than the smaller Hyundai Accent. The EPA puts its fuel consumption at 25 mpg city, 33 mpg highway.

With the added help of some attractive buyer incentives from Hyundai, Elantra is outselling thrifty Accent in Salem, said Rodriguez.

Nationally, Elantra sales are more than double Accent sales. Its popularity is also growing, though slower than Accent’s ascent. Overall, Elantra sales have increased about 9 percent so far this year, Hyundai reports.

“We can’t keep Elantras in stock,” Rodriguez said. “For the price you get more car.”

Maybe so. But you pay more. Even though the two cars earn comparable fuel-use ratings, Accent is still the thriftier choice. An article I wrote recently for, an online publication of Forbes magazine, ranks Accent as the fifth most economical vehicle you can buy. That’s when you add up all the costs of car ownership over a five-year span, from insurance and finance charges to maintenance and, especially, depreciation. Elantra doesn’t make the top-10 list.

So a majority of people pay more not just to purchase Elantra over Accent, but also to keep it as the years roll past.

My run up the Edmands Path last week illustrates why so many people willingly pay more for larger vehicles.

Three of us, plus one canine, made the two-plus-hour drive into the White Mountains in the Hyundai Accent. Sonya, a medium-build mongrel, filled the cargo floor beneath the rear hatch. That left the passenger compartment for day packs and boots and such. Under those conditions, a fourth adventurer would never have fit. Accent was filled to its limit.

We did not feel crowded. I even managed to curl up for a half-hour snooze on the back seat. What’s more, we wouldn’t have done any better in Elantra, even though it’s a size larger. The sedan’s trunk would have handled our gear, but frisky young Sonya would have demanded half of the rear seat. At least in the Accent, a hatchback, the dog was isolated from the rear-seat rider. Such versatility makes hatchbacks a much better choice than sedans, especially in small cars.

But unavoidable limits like the one I experienced last week make drivers think twice about purchasing a small car of any type. When you consider the trade-offs, the decision to go with a larger vehicle is quite reasonable. You exchange some greater expense for the more expansive lifestyle you acquire by eliminating some limits on mobility.

2008 Hyundai Accent

Vehicle type: 5-passenger, front-wheel-drive, compact 2-door hatchback and 4-door sedan

Price range: $11,395 to $15,995 (plus options)

Warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles basic warranty; 10 years/100,000 miles powertrain warranty; 7 years/unlimited miles corrosion warranty; 5 years/unlimited miles roadside assistance

Engine: 1.6-liter 4 cylinder

Power: 110 horsepower at 6,000 rpm; 106 lb.-ft. torque at 4,500 rpm

Base transmission: 5-speed manual

Fuel economy: 27 mpg city; 32 mpg highway

Wheelbase: 98 inches

Length: 159 inches

Width: 67 inches

Height: 58 inches

Weight: 2,365 pounds

Fuel capacity: 11.9 gallons

Turning circle: 33.1 feet

By Jeffrey Zygmont
Motor Mouth
The Eagle-Tribune

Hyundai Elantra SE Gets Top Marks in Consumer Reports’ Small-Sedan Face-off

YONKERS, New York — The Hyundai Elantra SE outscored the Toyota Corolla in a new test of small sedans by Consumer Reports, providing a major boost to the Korean automaker at a time when consumers have made a seismic shift back to fuel-efficient cars.

Even though the Corolla achieved a whopping 32 mpg overall in what Consumer Reports calls its “real-world fuel economy tests,” the Elantra SE still took home the top prize. The consumer watchdog said the Elantra SE delivered a “respectable” fuel economy rating of 27 mpg overall in its testing.

The Corolla was knocked because its “interior fit and finish isn’t quite as good,” said Consumer Reports in a statement. “The Elantra SE is a well-rounded package with a quiet, roomy cabin, a comfortable ride and nice fit,” said Consumer Reports. “It provides excellent braking and very secure emergency handling, aided by the SE’s standard electronic stability control.” The Corolla LE in the test had optional electronic stability control and was $424 more expensive than the Hyundai.

Consumer Reports used the release of the small-car face-off results to give its glowing big-picture impressions of the progress of the Korean automaker versus Toyota. “The Elantra’s top rating in the small sedan class shows how far Hyundai has come in the last decade,” it said. “Its cars used to be unreliable and unrefined, with low scores in CR’s tests. Now, some compete with the best in their classes.”

In a further blow to Toyota, Consumer Reports said it is only recommending the Elantra, the Subaru Impreza and the Ford Focus — not the Corolla — among the group of six small sedans it tested. “CR doesn’t have reliability data yet on the redesigned Corolla,” it noted.

Consumer Reports leveled criticism at the Chevrolet Cobalt and Aveo in this latest round of testing. “Both ranked near the bottom of the pack,” it noted. The Cobalt was castigated for being “a lackluster car that falls short in several areas, including powertrain refinement, fit and finish, seat comfort and driving position,” said Consumer Reports. It added: “Recent tweaks have improved fuel economy and reduced engine noise a bit, but those changes also compromised acceleration, braking and cornering grip.”

The Chevrolet Aveo also came under fire from Consumer Reports for its “stiff ride, uncomfortable seats, a noisy cabin, clumsy handling and slow acceleration.” “Recent upgrades to the Aveo haven’t made it competitive in its class of subcompacts, which include Honda’s Fit and the Toyota Yaris,” it said.

It’s clear that Consumer Reports thinks the Focus is overdue for an overhaul. “Ford’s freshening of the Focus doesn’t hide the fact that the underpinnings for this car’s design are nine years old,” it said. “The Focus was once CR’s top-rated small car, but now it rates only midpack. It retains some of its strengths — agile handling, a composed ride and a roomy interior. But interior fit and finish and noise remain weak points.”

What this means to you: Here’s some useful information from Consumer Reports if you plan to shop for a small sedan this summer. — Anita Lienert, Correspondent


Hyundai Azera Named A Consumers’ Top Rated Sedan by

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, CALIF., 05/29/2008 The 2008 Hyundai Azera was awarded the “Consumers’ Top Rated Vehicle Award” in the $15,000 – $25,000 sedan category by’s visitors. The 2008 Azera received the average highest rating from the site’s audience as of April 30, 2008.

“This recognition further reinforces our brand philosophy on how smart consumers think about premium sedans,” said Scott Margason, national manager, Product Development at Hyundai Motor America. “Clearly, the Azera raises the bar by combining safety, luxury and value like no other vehicle in its segment. Consumers who want full-size sedan features, a smooth and powerful engine and a comfortable ride will be pleased with the Azera.” tabulated the results for 21 award categories by evaluating the feedback of thousands of site visitors. Awards were given for coupes, convertibles, sedans, wagons, SUVs, trucks, minivan/vans and hybrids.’s editors agree that Azera is a great choice for consumers looking for a family sedan with luxurious touches at an affordable price.

More and more customers are discovering the Hyundai Azera’s advantages. Enhanced design and convenience features, together with a comprehensive standard active and passive safety technology package, render the 2008 Azera a solid alternative to vehicles like the Lexus ES350, Toyota Avalon and Nissan Maxima. Spacious and luxurious, the Azera features more interior volume than more expensive luxury sedans, such as the Mercedes Benz E-Class and BMW 7-Series. Couple this with its continued accolades from independent automotive studies across the board and there’s no question that Azera is one of the smartest premium large sedan choices available in the American marketplace today.

Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif., is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Company of Korea. Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced by more than 790 Hyundai dealerships nationwide.

First Drive: 2009 Hyundai Genesis

Luxury by Numbers: On paper, the Genesis is all the luxury car you need

Numbers. It’s all about the numbers. Longer and wider, with a longer wheelbase and shorter turning radius than BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class, and Lexus ES. Lower coefficient of drag, 0.27, and better fuel economy than most. A stiffer body than those of the Bimmer, Benz, and the Lexus LS 430 (Hyundai sees much of the Lexus range as its competition). Its optional Tau V-8 is “best-in-class,” making more horses (375) than V-8s in the 550i, E550, GS 460, or Infiniti M45 and does 0-to-60 mph in well under six seconds. It’s built in the world’s largest auto factory, Hyundai’s 1.62-million unit-per-year Ulsan plant.

7 Series size, 5 Series performance, 3 Series price, Hyundai says.

Hyundai’s first indigenous rear-drive sedan and in-house-developed V-8 comes 41 years after the company began assembling knock-down Ford Cortinas, 34 years after it built its own first car, 17 years after it began building its own engine design. And at least four years before Ford can return to the rear-drive sedan business in North America. Impressive, by those numbers.

Words paint a different picture, however. When Hyundai confirmed it was working on a rear-drive sedan a couple years ago, the motoring press leapt to the words “sport sedan.” Hyundai subsequently toned down the hyperbole, saying the Genesis (developed under codename “BH”) would offer Infiniti/Lexus-like luxury and performance at a typically cut-rate Hyundai price.

The Genesis is no sport sedan. It is luxurious, yes, and the V-8 is strong. Heck, the base 290-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6 is really good in this car, and it’s coupled, as is the Tau V-8, to a ZF six-speed automatic transmission that ticks off smooth up- and downshifts. It also provides better balance, 52/48 front/rear versus 54/46 for the V-8, an engine that makes good, if overly muffled, sounds under full throttle.

A limited first drive at the Namyang Research & Development Center revealed Hyundai hasn’t strayed from its cushy car roots. You may have read about the Korean journalists who criticized the car as too soft when it launched in its home market last January. Hyundai’s American engineering team, led by ex-GM guy Wendell Collins Jr., reworked the sedan’s multilink front and rear suspension for our market, with stiffer springs, shocks, and damping. It’s worked, to the extent that extracting cushiness out of a suspension inherently designed for comfort can work. It’s no 1960s American floatmobile, having been stiffened up about as much as possible without sending the ride/handling equation off-kilter. Damping is especially good, reminiscent of a Honda Accord’s.

On Namyang’s tight handling course, the Genesis’s suspension handles transitions reasonably well. Push it hard, though, and the front tires scrub into the pavement. It’s not the kind of treatment you expect a large luxury sedan to take, but you do expect to try it on a sport sedan. The car is biased considerably toward understeer, and there’s no steering with the throttle, electronic stability control on or off. As with most any Lexus or Mercedes, you can’t turn ESP off completely.

The speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering is a bit numb and on the light side, offering less feedback than an Infiniti M35 provided for comparison, and requiring small corrections on the banks of Namyang’s high-speed oval. The Genesis V-6 tops out at a tire-limited 130 mph on the oval, and the V-8 will do an autobahn-friendly 155. Germany’s autobahn will not be the Genesis’s natural habitat, however. While smaller Hyundais and Kias have successfully attacked European rivals on their turf, Hyundai says it won’t export the Genesis to Western Europe as long as Lexus flounders there. The Genesis will be available in North America and much of Asia, Africa, and Russia.

It’ll be a hit with drivers who value maximum comfort and a modicum of prestige over handling dynamics. The Genesis is nicely trimmed, with the right amount of chrome and a two-tone interior featuring a leather-wrapped dash (which serves to minimize the unconvincing fake wood appliques), door panels, console lid, and seats. Its long list of features includes high-fidelity Lexicon Logic 7 audio (only the second car with that brand, after the Rolls-Royce Phantom) and a navigation system with backup camera. You control the HD radio, navigation, climate, and iPod with the Driver Information System, which looks like BMW’s iDrive button. Fortunately, it works much better, with controls duplicated elsewhere on the dash.

Fit and finish is generally good, with consistent stitching for the leather dash along the panel breaks. Hyundai didn’t sweat the details, though, because elsewhere they’re less impressive. The hood gap is a bit too wide. The Genesis has plastic-finished gooseneck hinges (not bad, but they’re not gas-filled shocks) and parcel shelf speaker and subwoofer bottoms of that high-end Lexicon system are left exposed. A $21k Chevy Malibu’s trunk is finished better.

Hyundai has big plans for its rear-drive platform, including the upcoming BK sport coupe. And it has big plans for its somewhat ill-timed V-8. Dong-Jin Kim, Hyundai’s vice chairman and CEO, says 4.6 liters is the small end; the engine can be bored and stroked up to 5.5 liters, which will serve nicely in the not-for-U.S. long-wheelbase Genesis, eight inches longer than the standard sedan and two inches longer than the front-drive Equus V-8 it replaces. The 4.6 will get gas direct-injection in a couple of years, pushing horsepower past 400, Kim says. Hyundai would have to raise the BK coupe’s hood to fit the Tau, “and why would we?” he asks. The BK V-6 “leaves a lot of room for the tuning guys.”

Finally, Hyundai has added the Chrysler 300C and Pontiac G8 GT to the Genesis V-8’s competitive set. This makes infinitely more sense than comparing the car with Mercedes and Lexus-the American cars are scratching and clawing for respect in their own country, where German icons and Japanese perfectionists rule the big luxury-car segment. The Hyundai Genesis will do well in a new, little sub-segment heretofore to be called “value-priced luxury cars.” Next to the Yank tanks, though, its bigger numbers don’t feel big enough to propel the car past your expectations of the Hyundai brand.

BASE PRICE RANGE $26,000-$30,000 (MT est)
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINES 3.8L/290-hp/264-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6;
4.6L/375-hp/333-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT 3750-4000 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE 115.6 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 195.9 x 73.4 x 58.3 in
0-60 MPH 5.6-6.8 sec (MT est)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 17-19/25-27 mpg
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.88-0.98 lb/mile
ON SALE IN U.S. Summer 2008

By Todd Lassa
Motor Trend