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2020 Hyundai Palisade: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With the introduction of the Palisade, its all-new midsize crossover SUV, Hyundai lines up for a long-distance race against its sister company’s similarly homologated entry.

That’s because the three-row Palisade starts life as a direct competitor of the also all-new Kia Telluride. The two vehicles even share many of the same genes.

Large-38050-2020PalisadeSouth Korea’s Kia is a subsidiary of Hyundai, and the two brands share engines and transmissions, though they operate independently and do their own interior and exterior designs, as well as suspension system tuning and other components.

With similar DNA, you’d expect the Palisade to be something of a knockoff of the Telluride. But no. They were developed in parallel automotive universes and each is distinctive in its own dimension.

However, both vehicles are excellent contenders in the midsize, three-row crossover category, against such worthy competition as the Honda Pilot, Subaru Ascent, Volkswagen Atlas, Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, Mazda CX-9 and Nissan Pathfinder.

Large-36538-2020PalisadeThe conclusion here in an earlier review was that the Kia Telluriderolls as an example of the heights of perfection that vehicle manufacturers have achieved, getting to the point where reviewers are reduced to criticizing at ever-narrowing margins.

The same applies to the Palisade. With the departure of Hyundai’s Genesis nameplate to become its own brand, the Palisade now is Hyundai’s flagship — the model at the top of its pyramid of sedans, hatchbacks and crossovers with gasoline, hybrid, electric and fuel-cell power trains.

As is usual in all-new vehicle introductions, Hyundai put its best bumper forward at the national news media introduction. So the focus inevitably — at least for this review — settles onto the top-line, fully equipped Limited model.

There are half a dozen trim lines, three with front-wheel drive and three with all-wheel drive, including the version that is the subject here. If you don’t live in a place where nasty conditions prevail, you can save $1,700 by ordering the Palisade with front-wheel drive.

Large-36542-2020PalisadeHowever, if you customarily trundle the kids and their gear off to winter family vacations, you’ll want the tested Palisade Limited with all-wheel drive. It comes as a fully-equipped, near-luxury, three-row crossover SUV with about every feature you’d want. The $47,445 price reflects that.

It includes such items as an exclusive blind-view monitoring system. When you click the left or right turn signal, the rear view on either side shows up directly on the instruments, substituting briefly for the speedometer or tachometer.

It means you can check the blind spots without looking at the outside rear-view mirrors. Of course, if you are among the few drivers who actually know how to adjust the original blind-spot monitors — the outside mirrors — you don’t need the system. Still, it’s a comfort for the vast majority.

Large-36544-2020PalisadeOther Limited features include an auto-leveling rear suspension system, second-row captain’s chairs, leather upholstery, automatic climate control, panoramic sunroof, 20-inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing windshield wipers, third-row power folding and reclining seats, heated and ventilated Nappa leather seats, high-zoot Harman Kardon audio system and a speaker system to yell at the kids in back without raising your voice. (They don’t get the assist if they talk back).

But you can also get a satisfactory Palisade SE model for as little as $32,595, assuming you don’t want any options. Still, it is decently equipped with all the same basics as the higher trim levels, including the 291-hp, 3.8-liter V6 engine with 262 lb-ft of torque, eight–speed automatic transmission and the capability to tow a trailer weighing 5,000 lbs.

The Palisade is three inches shorter than the Telluride, weighs 246 lbs less and has slightly less passenger and cargo space — 157 cubic feet for passengers versus 167, and 18 cubic feet versus 21 for cargo. But it’s a distinction without much of a difference. Both vehicles earn city/highway/combined EPA fuel economy numbers of 19/24/21 mpg on regular gasoline.

Large-36545-2020PalisadeIn the top-level trims, the Telluride is slightly less expensive. The SX all-wheel drive tested earlier had a sticker price of $46,860, or $485 less.

In the end, with two family-oriented vehicles as closely matched as these two, it will come down to individual reactions, mainly due to styling. Like other Kia models up against those from its sister division, the Hyundai Palisade comes across as more mainstream in its orientation, while the Kia Telluride presents a slightly more sporting personality.

Pay your money and take your choice. You can’t go wrong either way.

Large-37498-2020PalisadeSpecifications

  • Model: 2020 Hyundai Palisade Limited four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.8-liter V6; 291 hp, 262 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 157/18 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,236 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 5,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/24/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $47,445.
  • Price as tested: $47,605.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

Large-34822-2020PalisadePhotos (c) Hyundai

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2019 Hyundai Elantra Limited: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

As other manufacturers have done, Hyundai has designed its compact Elantra to bridge the divide between buyers looking for economy with comfort and those more focused on entertainment and sport.

The former is represented quite capably with the 2019 Elantra Limited four-door sedan and the latter by the 2019 Elantra GT N-Line four-door hatchback.

Large-34143-2019ElantraFor reference, think of the Volkswagen Golf and Volkswagen GTI. Or the Honda Civic and Civic Si or R-Type. In both cases, the base cars are oriented toward economy and everyday duty, while the others promise excitement.

Usually, the base cars come with less powerful engines and automatic transmissions while the performance variants are equipped with manual gearboxes exclusively or a choice of automatic or manual.

Both Elantra versions were driven for this review at the annual Spring Rally of the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) at the Road America racetrack in Elkhart Lake, Wis. Manufacturers provided 80 cars and light trucks for driving by about 100 automotive journalists. Some vehicles were designated for track use and autocross; others for street driving and off-roading.

Large-34144-2019ElantraThe Hyundai Elantra Limited four-door is powered by a 147-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 136 lb-ft of torque. It acquitted itself well as an economical and comfortable tourer that never felt short of passing power. Quiet on smooth asphalt highways, road noise intruded on rougher surfaces. It rode comfortably but needed frequent steering corrections.

Averaging 43.8 mpg of regular gasoline over 140 miles of highway driving at speeds up to 75 mph, the tester beat its EPA city/highway/combined fuel economy rating of 28/37/32 mpg.

It had a base price of $23,485, including the destination charge. The price included forward collision and blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and lane keeping assist, as well as dual-zone automatic climate control, SXM satellite radio, Android Auto and Apple Car Play, power driver’s seat with lumbar support, leather upholstery with heated front seats and hands-free trunk opening.

Large-33684-2019ElantraThe tester also came with a $3,350 option package that included adaptive cruise control, navigation system, collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, motorized sunroof, and memory settings for outside mirrors and driver’s seat. All that brought the bottom-line tested price to $26,960, or about $10,000 less than the current average price of a new car.

Though marketed as a compact, the Elantra sedan qualifies as a midsize according to the EPA’s definition, though just barely. The back seat is a bit tight but can accommodate two average-sized adults. However, the center-rear fifth passenger sits on a cramped and uncomfortable perch.

At the other end of the Elantra spectrum is the N-line. Hyundai has chosen N as the designation for its line of high-performance variants, not unlike BMW’s M vehicles or the AMG models from Mercedes-Benz. The N badge comes from Hyundai’s research and development facility in Namyang, South Korea, and also refers to its testing at the famed Nürburgring track in Germany.

Large-33665-2019ElantraAs a four-door hatchback, the 2019 Elantra N-Line is nine inches shorter than the sedan but has more room inside: 97 cubic feet for passengers and 25 cubic feet for cargo under the hatch, compared to 96 cubic feet for passengers and a trunk of 14 cubic feet in the sedan.

The N-Line also has a smaller 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, more powerful than the base 2.0-liter at 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque because it is turbocharged. It comes standard with a slick, easy-shifting six-speed manual gearbox, though a dual-clutch automatic is optional.

Equipped with full basic safety equipment but few of the frills on the Limited sedan, the Elantra N had a bottom-line sticker price of $24,195, or $2,775 lower than the Limited. For any enthusiast, what’s not to like?

Large-33966-2019ElantraThe base price included heated sport seats upholstered in sturdy cloth that hold the torso in place in hard cornering, pushbutton starting, dual-zone automatic climate control, 18-inch alloy wheels with summer performance tires, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, LED headlights and taillights, audio system with SXM satellite radio, and Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity.

Some estimates put the number of U.S. drivers who know how to shift for themselves at something like 2%. It’s a shame because that other 98% would not experience the joy of driving the Elantra GT N-Line or, for that matter, a stick-shift Mazda3, Volkswagen GTI or Honda Civic Si.

The shift linkage of the Elantra N-Line’s six-speed gearbox and clutch action are so easy-going that shifts up and down seem to happen almost by thought control.

Large-33686-2019ElantraSpecifications

  • Model: 2019 Hyundai Elantra Limited four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; 147 hp, 136 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 2 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 96/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,844 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 28/37/32 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $23,485.
  • Price as tested: $26,960.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Large-34119-2019ElantraPhotos (c) Hyundai

Musings on the Detroit Auto Show

by Jason Fogelson

The 2019 North American International Auto Show press days are in the books. Some of my colleagues are calling it “The Last Detroit Auto Show,” because in 2020, NAIAS will move to June, avoiding the Michigan winter. The move promises to open up all kinds of new possibilities for ancillary events, like rides-and-drives, demos and other outdoor activities that are just not possible in January. Organizers claim Detroit’s downtown renaissance will support the timing, and it will be a big party. Or will it?

Rescheduling to June takes NAIAS out of the traditional auto show calendar, and indeed, out of the model year cadence. Will manufacturers see the show as a venue for early introductions of next year’s models? Or will they see the move as a return to the show’s roots as a regional event for the Detroit Auto Dealers Association to market cars to local consumers?

Looking at this year’s show, it was apparent that something had to be done. All of the European luxury brands, including Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW, Land Rover, Jaguar, Aston Martin, Bentley, Rolls-Royce and others, were conspicuous in their absence. Only about a dozen new cars and concepts made their debuts at the show. As a journalist covering new cars, I only had to spend one day at NAIAS this year in order to catch all of the relevant press conferences and to see all of the unveilings. It wasn’t a dirge like 2009, but it was a definite down year.

Peering through the end-of-an-era cloud hanging over the Cobo Center, I saw signs of the future in the mist.

Yu-Jun-speech

The final vehicle reveal press conference of the first media day was held by GAC Motor (Guangzhou Automobile Group Motor Co., LTD), a Chinese company that is a subsidiary of GAC Group. GAC debuted its Entranze EV concept vehicle. The concept was the first public display of a product designed in GAC’s California-based design studio, which was established in 2018. The concept itself is fine, a futuristic minivan with sliding glass doors and 3+2+2 seating. It’s the kind of thing that will never get built, but may serve as a design inspiration.

img_1833The memorable aspect of the GAC presentation was not the concept or the products on display; it was the culturally tone-deaf presentation by GAC. Once the assembled press — about 200 – 300 participants, I’d estimate – settled in, a GAC spokesperson introduced a lineup of company executives and VIP guests, one by one. Each person stood and acknowledged the crowd’s polite applause. Then, the spokesperson introduced an officer of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association (DADA), who read a brief message from a script with the enthusiasm of a war hostage. The spokesperson then introduced Mr. Yu Jun, President of GAC Motor, who gave a transliterated speech in English that was as stilted as it was incomprehensible and self-congratulatory. Time to unveil the concept car – cue the modern dancers! A troupe of eight (four men, four women) dressed in chiffon and spandex, performed a two-minute dance to modern classical music, then whisked the silk off of the concept car to muted applause. Another executive from GAC stumbled through a speech with the details, and the press conference was mercifully concluded.

img_1846Audience members walked away with a gift bag containing a scale model of the company’s flagship SUV, the GS8, a fancy USB drive loaded with vehicle information, photos and GAC info, and two glossy brochures: one with vehicle photos, descriptions and features; and one entitled “The Road to Greatness: GAC Motor,” which is a 32-page photo essay/manifesto/propaganda piece extolling the virtues of the company. It opens with this poem:

The Road to Greatness

This is GAC Motor.

I say no to mediocracy,

and stay committed to my own path.

I never compromise of give in.

With fearless resolution,

I endeavor to make breakthroughs and strive forward,

To develop a brand that I take pride in.

GAC Motor believes greatness does not belong to the few.

Everyone has the potential to be great.

As long as you dare to dream, have courage and keep striving,

You are already on the path of greatness.

The Road to Greatness, GAC Motor.

Wow.

Now, this might have been a state-of-the-art presentation at the Shanghai Motor Show, but in Detroit in 2019, it was out of touch and a little sad. I have little doubt that Chinese vehicles will soon be sold in the United States under their own brand names, and the quality of the vehicles will rapidly improve to meet the marketplace standard. Look at how rapidly Hyundai and Kia vehicles have developed in the past decade as a model for assimilation.

img_1830Even better, look at Toyota Motor Company’s press conference this year as they revealed the 2020 Supra. No less an eminence than Akio Toyoda, TMC’s President, handled the presentation himself. In stark contrast to the GAC presentation, Toyoda was relaxed, joyous, poised and funny. His command of the English language isn’t a whole lot better than the Chinese executives, but it didn’t stand in the way of his passion and charm. Toyoda won the crowd over with his buoyant nature. It was a very American presentation, but still entirely appropriate to a Japanese product and executive.

GAC Motor can learn a lot from Toyota, Hyundai and other companies who have found the keys to conquering the United States. You don’t have to make the US bend to your will – you only have to slide into the openings that are always available, and make the most of the opportunities you find there.

Photos (c) Jason Fogelson, NAIAS, GAC Motor

2019 Car, Utility and Truck of the Year: A DriveWays Report…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Detroit, Mich.—South Korea’s Hyundai swept the honors Monday (Jan. 14), winning both the North American Car of the Year and Utility of the Year trophies for the Genesis G70 and Hyundai Kona.

The announcement came at the opening of the annual North American International Automobile Show (NAIAS) here.

large-1094-genesisg70The Genesis G70, the newest model from Hyundai’s separate luxury brand, was voted Car of the Year by an independent panel of 54 automotive journalists from the United States and Canada.

large-34508-2019konaelectricTaking the prize for North American Utility of the Year was the Hyundai Kona, a subcompact crossover sport utility vehicle that is available with a gasoline engine, as a plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid and as a pure electric with 248 miles of range.

2019 Ram 1500 Rebel 12A product of  Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the Ram 1500 was voted Truck of the Year. It features a new system called eTorque that combines a belt-drive electric motor generator with a 48-volt battery, which provides short boosts of extra power for the gasoline engine. It also enables a sophisticated idle stop-start function for improved fuel economy.

The North American Car of the Year Organization (NACTOY) is composed of  automotive journalists from print, online, television and broadcast organizations who pay annual dues and are required to drive and evaluate nominated new vehicles, culminating in the vote for the winners. They are independent of NAIAS and have no connections or relationships with any of the vehicle manufacturers.

The Genesis G70 fared better than its fraternal cousin, the Kia Stinger, which was a finalist for Car of the Year in 2018 but lost the honor to the Honda Accord.

Hyundai owns about 38% of Kia and the two cars share engines and drivetrains. Both the Stinger and the Genesis G70 are four-doors except that the midsize Stinger is a hatchback and the compact G70 is a conventional four-door sedan with a trunk. Prices range from the low $30,000 range to the low $50,000 range.

Both come with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive with turbocharged four-cylinder or V6 engines and eight-speed automatic transmissions. One  advantage for the G70 is that it also is available with a six-speed manual gearbox. The Stinger does not offer a manual transmission.

Hyundai’s Kona is a stylish subcompact crossover with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. It comes with a four-cylinder gasoline engine, as a plug-in hybrid and, most recently as a dedicated electric. Prices range from slightly more than $20,000 for the base gasoline model to nearly $40,000 for the electric, which can be reduced to around $30,000 with tax and other incentives.

Kona models offer such modern safety installations as forward collision warning and braking, lane-keeping assist, rear cross traffic alert, blind-spot collision warning and driver attention warning, as well as torque vectoring braking, which selectively applies the inside brakes to ease cornering.

There were three finalists in each category. Besides the Genesis G70, Car of the Year nominees were the compact Honda Insight hybrid and the Volvo S60 sedan and V60 station wagon, both midsize.

The Kona’s competition finalists consisted of the all-new luxury compact crossover, the Acura RDX, and the Jaguar I-Pace, an all-electric midsize luxury crossover. In the truck category, the Ram’s competitors were the Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra.

Chris Paukert, NACTOY’s vice-president, commented, “The Genesis G70 doesn’t just go toe-to-toe with segment mainstays like the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class—it beats them all in driver engagement while positively slaying them on value for the dollar.” Paukert is executive editor of Roadshow by CNET.

“The Kona Electric is the first mass-market electric car that truly works for the mass market,” said NACTOY juror Jamie Page Deaton, executive editor at U.S. News & World Report Best Cars. “A livable EV range, affordable price and practical cabin combine with lively driving dynamics to make the Kona EV a true pleasure.”

“Ram continues to lead the way in making a big truck double as a big family pleaser with as much attention paid to interior conveniences and ride comfort as to cargo hauling and towing,” said John Davis, executive producer at Maryland public television’s MotorWeek.

NACTOY President Lauren Fix, owner of the online The Car Coach, thanked the vehicle manufacturers for ‘taking the time and effort to work with us throughout the year as our jurors rigorously tested, evaluated and debated the best new vehicles on the market. Now in our 25th year, we are proud that both automakers and consumers recognize the value our awards provide to new car buyers.”

2019 Hyundai Veloster N: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Now fielding the 2019 Veloster N, Hyundai could be whistled for encroachment.

It has happened before. The South Korean manufacturer has been steadily and successfully insinuating its products into almost every space in the automotive firmament: sedans of various sizes and power trains, crossover sport utility vehicles and even luxury cars. The last, Genesis, became its own luxury brand.

Now Hyundai is intruding into the small but image-important “hot hatch” group of relatively inexpensive high-performance hatchbacks. There are only a few, the most familiar of which is the Volkswagen GTI, with competition from the Honda Civic Type R and the Ford Focus ST.

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

What these machines have in common is that they are based on practical runabouts for people on tight budgets. Emulating the kids who buy old Honda Civics and hop them up to be faster and more agile, the automakers do the same to create new excitements.

The GTI, for example, is based on the ubiquitous Golf, Volkswagen’s entry-level U.S. offering. Similarly, Hyundai already marketed the Veloster, a compact hatchback with two conventional doors in the front and a single third door in back on the passenger side. Despite its unusual layout, it has been reasonably successful, though slipping lately with 12,658 sales in 2017 and running at an annual rate of 10,581 in 2018.

Now it should get a boost as it vies for the “hot hatch” title with the N, which stands for Namyang, the site of Hyundai’s technology center in South Korea. The N also obliquely refers to the Nürburgring Nordschleife, the famed test track in Germany where some of the N’s development was carried out.

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

Under the tutelage of Albert Biermann, Hyundai’s head of vehicle performance, the Veloster was not simply given additional power. Biermann, formerly chief of BMW’s M performance group, took a holistic approach to give the Veloster a stiffer chassis, sophisticated racing suspension system, more accurate steering with enhanced feedback, tires with more grip and, of course, robust power.

The goal, Bierman says, was to give the Veloster “real racetrack capability” in a machine that is easy and entertaining for novices to drive on the track and in everyday environments.

Power comes from a gasoline direct injection, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 250 hp with 260 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force. A six-speed manual gearbox — the only transmission available so far — sends the force to the front wheels.

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

To make things even easier for inexperienced drivers, the transmission comes with automatic rev-matching. On downshifts, the system raises the engine revolutions to match the speed of the car—particularly useful during braking on racetrack corners. Launch control also is included, which minimizes wheel spin on acceleration runs. Hyundai doesn’t publish zero-to-60 miles an hour times, but an educated estimate is in the five-second range.

Overall, the stick shift is delightful, with easy, short throws of the shift lever on both upshifts and downshifts. The rev-matching eliminates  jerkiness from sloppy shifting. Along with brake-induced torque vectoring to hasten maneuvers around corners, the system infuses the N with forgiving and delightful manners on a road-racing course.

Biermann says that’s what the Veloster is all about. He calls it accessible and affordable high performance for average drivers. To keep the cost reasonable, the N uses in-house brakes instead of something like Brembo racing brakes, although high-performance brake pads are available for serious racers.

Large-31055-2019VelosterN

Base prices for Veloster N will start at $27,785, including the destination charge. A special performance package tacks on an additional $2,000 and bumps the horsepower to 275. It includes a special “corner carving” differential, 19-inch alloy wheels, Pirelli P Zero performance tires, larger brake rotors and variable exhaust valves.

Standard equipment on all Velosters includes full modern safety equipment, 18-inch alloy wheels with Michelin Super Sport tires, LED headlights and taillights, automatic climate control, Apple Car Play and Android Auto connectivity, and premium audio with SXM satellite radio.

So no enthusiast will mistake the N from its lower-performing siblings, it comes with exclusive styling of the grille and front fascia, as well as special rear treatments, including a spoiler with brake light.

N prices are lower than those of the 306-hp Honda Civic Type R and the 220-hp Volkswagen GTI Autobahn, both of which have prices in the mid to high $30,000 range. More comparable to the N is the Ford Focus ST, which starts in the mid-$20,000 range.

Large-33464-2019VelosterNSpecifications

  • Model: 2019 Hyundai Veloster N three-door hatchback.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 275 hp, 260 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual with rev-matching and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet.
  • Height: 4 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 90/20 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,117 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/28/25 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $27,785.
  • Price as tested: $29,885. 

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

Large-31123-2019VelosterNPhotos (c) Hyundai

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Playing hardball with its exceptional 2019 Santa Fe, Hyundai is on the verge of realizing its full competitive lineup of crossover sport utility vehicles.

It’s an important milestone, given the phenomenon of crossover sales that lately have been overpowering traditional sedans and coupes. In the 2017 model year, the South Korean company offered just two nameplates: the compact Tucson and the Santa Fe, a midsize offered with either two or three rows of seats. An earlier Veracruz model had been dropped in 2011.

Large-34014-2019SantaFeEarly in 2018, the brash new Kona arrived as smaller sibling of the Tucson. Now comes the two-row, midsize Santa Fe, formerly called the Santa Fe Sport, which will be followed by an all-new, as yet unnamed, large three-row, eight-passenger crossover. That will complete the lineup unless Hyundai decides to squeeze in another something someplace.

The existing three-row Santa Fe continues unchanged for about a year, after which it will be consigned to that great crossover retirement community in the sky. It will be sold as the Santa Fe XL until its replacement arrives.

The Santa Fe comes in five trim levels — SE, SEL, SEL Plus, Limited and Ultimate — with a starting price of $26,485, including the destination charge. All come with front-wheel drive standard. Hyundai’s HTRAC all-wheel drive costs an additional $1,700.

As some other manufacturers have done, the Santa Fe eschews stand-alone options in favor of escalating lists of features for each trim level. The tested top-of-the-line Ultimate, at $39,905, had only one minor option of $125 for carpeted floor maps.

Large-34019-2019SantaFeThere are two powertrains: 185-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 178 lb-ft of torque on the S, SEL and SEL Plus trims, and a 235-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with 260 lb-ft of torque on the Limited and Ultimate models. All versions come with eight-speed automatic transmissions and idle stop-start.

Most notable from a peace of mind standpoint are two safety innovations. Rear Occupant Alert monitors the back seats with an ultrasonic sensor that detects movement of children or pets. As with some other vehicles, the system alerts drivers to check the rear seats after stopping and before exiting.

But the Santa Fe takes it to another important level. If for some reason a distracted driver forgets or ignores the warning, leaves the vehicle and locks the doors, the system honks the horn and sends an alert to the driver’s smart phone via Hyundai’s Blue Link connected car system. The innovation could prevent some of the 37 deaths that occur annually in the U.S., on average, of children left in hot cars.

Large-34023-2019SantaFeThe other system mimics blind-spot warning. If a rear-seat passenger tries to open a door and an oncoming car is detected, both visual and audio warnings are triggered. Also, it will prevent the driver from deactivating the electronic child safety lock until the oncoming car has passed.

Besides those safety features, the Santa Fe also comes with Hyundai Safety Sense, which includes forward collision avoidance, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot and lane-departure warning.

On the road, the tested all-wheel drive Santa Fe Ultimate delivered strong acceleration, a resilient ride and responsive handling. Tactile steering feedback felt more like a capable sedan than a tall crossover. Partly responsible was the all-wheel drive torque vectoring that apportioned the power to the rear wheels depending on road conditions, abetted by relocation of the rear shock absorbers.

Large-34029-2019SantaFeThere are three drive modes that adjust steering feel, ride motions and transmission shift points. Normal is the main setting for daily driving. Smart enhances fuel economy and Sport tightens everything up for improved performance, especially in challenging conditions like twisting mountain roads.

The eight-speed automatic transmission shifted unobtrusively and can be manually shifted. However, shifting must be done with the console-mounted lever; there are no steering-wheel mounted paddles.

On smooth roads, the Santa Fe Ultimate was almost eerily quiet with only vague road and mechanical noises. There was no detectable wind noise. Comfort was first-cabin with the headliner and pillars upholstered in a soft cloth that would do justice to a living-room divan.

Contributing to the comfort were “variable density” front seats with power extensions to provide extra thigh support, as well as acoustic glass and a rigid body structure that makes extensive use of high-strength steel and strong structural adhesives.

Summing up, the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate competes handily and almost lazily against other midsize crossover contenders.

Large-34046-2019SantaFeSpecifications

  • Model: 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0T AWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; 235 hp, 260 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 8 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 111/36 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,960 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/24/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $39,780.
  • Price as tested: $39,905.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

Large-34008-2019SantaFePhotos (c) Hyundai

2019 Hyundai Veloster: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

If you’ve ever seen a three-legged cat, you have some idea of the 2019 Hyundai Veloster, except that this all-new Veloster is not handicapped in any way.

There’s nothing like it in the market today — a compact hatchback with a tailgate and three passenger doors. The third door is at the right-rear and opens conventionally. Except for earlier Velosters, the concept has not been seen since the 2001 Saturn SC, which had a rear-opening third door on the driver’s side.

VELOSTER TURBO-6571The Veloster shares its power trains with a trio of other sport compacts from South Korea: the Hyundai Elantra Sport sedan; Kia Forte5 hatchback; and Hyundai Elantra GT Sport hatchback. They compete against performance hatchbacks that include the Volkswagen GTI, Mazda3 and Ford Fiesta ST.

Tested for this review was the top-of-the-line Veloster, the Turbo Ultimate, which comes equipped with all available options except carpeted floor mats for $29,035. It is powered by a 201-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 195 lb-ft of torque. It gets its power to the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode.

Zero to 60 mph ticks off in the mid-six second range, with a top speed of 135 mph. Moreover, you can enjoy the ride as raucous as you like it. Taking a cue from expensive performance sports cars like Porsche and Jaguar, Veloster turbo models, including the Ultimate, have different drive modes and can customize exhaust and engine sounds.

VELOSTER TURBO-6581Drive modes, controlled by a button on the console, are Sport, Normal and Smart. Sport is the most aggressive, holding shift points to higher engine revolutions and tightening up the steering. Normal is, well, normal and Smart moves the Veloster into economy leisure.

Go to the big center touch screen and you can choose how much exhaust noise reverberates through the cabin. The choices are Off, Minimized, Normal and Advanced, with the last the noisiest, especially under hard acceleration combined with the Sport drive mode.

It’s entertaining to switch among the choices when underway.

The Turbo Ultimate is the best equipped of five Veloster trim levels. Two entry-level versions, the 2.0 and 2.0 Premium, use a two-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that makes 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque.

VELOSTER TURBO-8848At $19,385, including the destination charge, the 2.0 comes with a six-speed manual gearbox. A six-speed automatic is a $1,000 option. The $23,635 2.0 Premium comes only with the  six-speed automatic transmission.

Equipment on the tested Turbo Ultimate included the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, although it also can be ordered with the six-speed manual. Other features included adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, forward collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot warning, navigation system, head-up display, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, motorized sunroof, SXM satellite radio, wireless smart phone charging, LED headlights and taillights — in short, almost everything any car buyer wants.

It also had a power lumbar adjustment for the driver’s seat, although the seat itself came with manual adjustments.

The Veloster’s 2019 styling is striking, with defined fender lines and an aggressive grille that attract immediate attention. Even given its hatchback design, it has a streamlined look that implies motion when it’s standing still.

VELOSTER-8950Unlike other hatchbacks, however, it makes no pretense of accommodating up to five passengers. There are seatbelts for four, with a small divider between the two back seats. They can be accessed from either side, though the easiest is through the right-rear door. Anyone getting in back from the other side must squeeze past the driver’s seatback.

Once inside, however, there is ample — though not generous — knee and headroom. The small hatch at the back provides access to a cargo area with 20 cubic feet of volume, which expands to 45 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded.

For all of the Turbo Ultimate’s virtues, however, the choice here — from an enthusiast’s and price perspective — should be the Veloster R-Spec version. It comes with the turbo engine but only the six-speed manual gearbox, which has such a slick linkage that it’s satisfying and joyful.

The R-Spec has cloth upholstery but no sunroof, heated seats, head-up display or charging pad. It does have18-inch alloy wheels, premium audio, SXM radio, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Like other turbo Velosters, it also has the customized exhaust sounds.

All that comes with a $23,785 price tag, a bargain for an exhilarating, sweet handling sports car disguised as a hatchback.

VELOSTER TURBO-8572Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Ultimate three-door hatchback.
  • Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 201 hp, 195 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual-shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 13 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 90/20 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,987 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 28/34/30 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $29,035.
  • Price as tested: $29,160.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

VELOSTER TURBO-6609Photos (c) Hyundai

 

2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer 

Large-31740-2018KonaStart with a blank screen or a clean sheet of paper, designers and engineers who understand the territory, and you can deliver a vehicle like the 2018 Hyundai Kona.

It is an all-new, sharply competitive compact crossover sport utility vehicle from the South Korean manufacturer, which arrives at a time when it targets the sweet spot in U.S. automotive preferences. All crossovers, but especially the affordable compacts and mid-sizes, are threatening to overwhelm the market.

They are proliferating like mechanical rabbits, as witness the Kona’s competitors, which include the Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HR, Kia Soul, Chevrolet Trax, Mazda CX-3, Subaru Crosstrek and Jeep Renegade.

Large-31653-2018Kona2.0-litermodelCrossover SUVs generally are described as vehicles built with car-like unit-body construction, with front-wheel or optional all-wheel drive, and configured like jacked-up station wagons with hatchbacks to access  the rear cargo areas. The definition doesn’t apply across the board because some, like the Toyota CH-R and Kia Soul, do not offer all-wheel drive.

The Kona, however, does have that as well as a comprehensive package that checks all the crossover boxes, and not only among the affordables. Its full range of features also makes it competitive with more expensive compacts.

For example, it offers such modern safety installations as forward collision warning and braking, lane-keeping assist, rear cross traffic alert, blind-spot collision warning and driver attention warning. Though included for improved handling on curving roads but which also qualifies as a safety feature, the Kona offers torque vectoring braking, which selectively applies the inside brakes to ease cornering.

Large-30381-2018KONANot all of this comes in the base package. To get different features, the buyer chooses from trim levels. There are four: Base S, with a $20,450 price tag, including the destination charge; SEL, at $22,100; Limited, $25,650, and the focus here, the top-Line Ultimate with Lime interior trim at $29,660.

Keeping options to a minimum is not a new concept, but the powers at Hyundai correctly decided that keeping pricing simple was customer-friendly. 

In all trim levels, the Kona delivers a rigid and tidy package that enhances handling, delivers unexpected stability and a comfortable and quiet ride. Fifty-two percent of its innards are constructed of high-strength steel and the body incorporates 375 feet of structural adhesives.

Large-31685-2018KonaIt’s apparent the first time you get behind the wheel. The tested Ultimate delivered a solid and planted feel. It also tracked true with few corrections needed from the nicely weighted steering. That same feel came through in a shorter drive of the less expensive all-wheel-drive SEL. 

All-wheel drive models share an independent, multi-link rear suspension system, which contributes the secure handling. Front-wheel drive versions use a less sophisticated torsion beam rear axle. Front-drivers were not among the testers at the national press introduction in namesake Kona, an area on the big island of Hawai’i. But they are likely to be the models of choice in sunbelt areas.

Large-31647-2018KonaThe Kona is available with two drive trains. The S and SEL models come with a 147-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 132 pound feet of torque mated to six-speed automatic transmission. The package delivers EPA-rated city/highway/combined fuel consumption of 25/30/27 miles to the gallon.

The Limited and tested Ultimate are equipped with a 175-hp, 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 195 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic delivers instant, smooth shifts and rapid acceleration. The EPA rating is 26/29/27 mpg.

Though the S and SEL models have less power and slower acceleration, they share the body rigidity and stable feel with their more powerful siblings. Cornering is fuss-free with little body roll. The more powerful Limited and Ultimate models, with driver-selectable Normal and Sport modes that adjust transmission shifting and steering feel, are quicker. 

Large-31688-2018KonaLarge-31737-2018KonaTypically with Hyundai, the new Kona is uncommonly well-equipped. On the tested Ultimate model, they included LED gauges, a power driver’s seat, heated leather seats, motorized sunroof, automatic climate control, 18-inch alloy wheels and an innovative head-up display screen that rises from the dashboard and offers comprehensive information on a screen mounted in the driver’s line of sight.

The eight-inch center touch screen displays vehicle functions as well as navigation, Apple Car Play and Android Auto. In what Hyundai says is a first in the class, the Kona also offers wireless smart phone charging. It also is equipped with Hyundai’s Blue Link system, which offers a variety of services, including remote starting.

Large-31689-2018KonaSpecifications

    • Model: 2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD Lime four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
    • Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 175 hp, 195 lb-ft torque.
    • Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
    • Overall length: 13 feet 8 inches.
    • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 92/19 cubic feet. (46 2nd folded)
    • Weight: 3,344 pounds.
    • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 26/29/27 mpg.
    • Base price, including destination charge: $29,660.
    • Price as tested: $29,775.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Large-31649-2018Kona2.0-litermodelPhotos (c) Hyundai.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Any cook who uses all-purpose flour will understand the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT, which stands out as an all-purpose automobile.

It is a compact four-door hatchback sedan which seats four adults comfortably — five in a pinch — and has ample cargo space — 25 cubic feet, or about double that in the trunk of a typical compact notchback sedan.

On a day trip with another couple? Open the hatch and toss all your bags, purses, sweaters, ponchos and umbrellas inside. There’s room left over for shopping spree items. Also, at 14 feet 3 inches long, the Elantra GT parks easily almost anywhere.

2018 Elantra GT

Want to cruise your state and visit historical sites? Load your valises and makeup cases into the cargo hold and forget them until you check in for the night. Any overflow can go on the back seat or you can fold the split rear seatback.

Need to help the kid move into the college dorm? Drop both rear seatbacks, load the stuff up to the headliner and hope there are a few square inches for a view to the rear. Adjust your outside mirrors to minimize blind spots.

Of course, there’s nothing unique about the utility of a compact four-door hatchback, which maximizes interior space. With a total of 122 cubic feet of area inside — 97 for passengers — the Elantra GT actually qualifies as a large car according to the government’s size classifications.

Large-30103-2018ElantraGTSportMoreover, there are plenty of choices out there. What distinguishes the Elantra GT is how well it integrates all of those practical touches into a pleasant, quality conveyance that lightens a chore, eases a commute, and delivers fuel economy, comfort, power and handling on multiple all-day drives.

The GT is one of half a dozen Elantra models. Four are sedans, including the tantalizing and inexpensive Elantra Sport. The others are the GT hatchback, tested here, and its more powerful sibling, the GT Sport. Sport models feature a 201-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with 195 lb-ft of torque and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The non-Sport GT model, though less powerful, has plenty of punch for its all-purpose duties: a 161-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 150 lb-ft of torque. It accelerates to 60 mph in about eight seconds, which is modest by modern standards. The $4,000 upgrade to the GT Sport’s power train gets you a zero-to-60 time of about 6.5 seconds.

2018 Elantra GT

Either engine is available with a slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox. The GT tested here had a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode, which costs $1,000 more than the manual.

With dazzling white paint that reflected sunlight and helped the air conditioning cope with Florida temperatures, the South Korean-made GT displayed handsome, European-oriented styling. It came with a starting price of $21,235 that included a solid list of features: basic safety equipment, the six-speed automatic, 17-inch alloy wheels, Android Auto and Apple Car Play infotainment, an eight-inch center screen, Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning, cruise control, power windows and locks, and a rear-view camera.

But the tester also was equipped with two options packages that elevated the features and price but fell short on safety equipment. The $1,800 Style package added blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert along with dual-zone automatic climate control, proximity key with pushbutton starting, heated front seats and a power driver’s seat with lumbar support.

2018 Elantra GT

An additional $4,300 for the Tech package brought a panoramic sunroof, full LED headlights and taillights, navigation system, electronic parking brake, Hyundai’s Bluelink telematics services, premium Infinity audio system, leather upholstery, auto-dimming rearview mirror and a smart-phone charging pad.

All of that brought the GT’s tested price to $27,460, not overly expensive in an era when the average price of a new car is more than $34,000.

2018 Elantra GT

Although the GT uses a relatively simple torsion beam rear suspension system (the GT Sport has a more sophisticated independent multilink rear suspension), the handling is fuss free and the GT tracks cleanly on the freeway and cruises easily at speeds of more than 75 mph.

On smooth paved surfaces, the Elantra GT is quiet and fatigue-free over long distances. However, rougher pavement transmits noises that make their annoying way through the tires and suspension system into the cabin.

A major shortcoming is that some modern safety measures are available only on the more expensive GT Sport with its Tech package, which includes such desirable equipment as forward collision warning, emergency braking and lane-departure warning.

2018 Elantra GT
2018 Elantra GT

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT four-door hatchback sedan.
  • Engine: 0-liter four-cylinder, 161 hp, 150 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 3 inches
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 97/25 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,925 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 24/32/27 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $21,235.
  • Price as tested: $27,460.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2018 Elantra GT

Photos (c) Hyundai.

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