RSS icon Home icon
  • 2014 Hyundai Elantra GT

    Five-door hatchback for active urbanites

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Hyundai Elantra GT

    2014 Hyundai Elantra GT

    When Hyundai introduced the newest version of its compact Elantra for the 2013 model year, product planners discontinued the former Touring wagon and introduced a five-door hatchback called the GT. This year, the GT gains a more powerful two-liter engine in place of the former 1.8-liter block, giving it 25 more horsepower and 23 additional foot-pounds of torque.

    The result is a stylish, fun-to-drive car with a small footprint that is ideal for active urbanites. Since the car weighs less than 3,000 pounds, it has a positive power-to-weight ratio, resulting in 28 mile-per-gallon average fuel economy and surprisingly peppy performance.

    Hyundai has built its reputation by offering buyers exceptional value. Base price for the Elantra GT is $18,750 excluding the $810 destination charge. Standard convenience features include air conditioning, power heated outside mirrors, satellite radio with Bluetooth interface, iPod and MP3 compatibility, remote keyless entry, cruise control, heated front seats and 60/40 split-folding rear seats that extend the cargo floor.

    A convenience package on the test car adds 17-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, power driver’s seat, aluminum pedals, a sport-tuned suspension, LED headlamps, under-floor storage in the cargo area and Hyundai Blue Link telematics. A tech package adds navigation, automatic headlamps, dual-zone climate control and a panoramic sunroof, bringing the final MSRP to $25,485. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T

    Five-passenger crossover gains new safety features

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

    2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

    There’s a reason Hyundai’s midsized crossover has been a fixture on American highways since it first rolled out for the 2001 model year: it offers more value than most competitors and has the versatility to fill a lot of squares.

    The 2014 car is basically a continuation of the five-passenger crossover first introduced for the 2012 model year, but with some appealing new safety features. Blind spot detection is now available on all trim levels and technology packages come with rear park assist. The same option package now includes high intensity discharge headlamps, LED tail lamps, front seat memory and ventilated front seats. Eighteen-inch rims are now standard on turbocharged models.

    The Santa Fe lineup is divided into two models: the five-passenger Sport and seven-passenger Santa Fe. The Sport is powered by either a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated engine or two-liter turbo. Of the two, the turbocharged block is the one to buy, with 264 horsepower and 269 foot-pounds of torque. Because turbocharged engines develop maximum torque at much slower engine speeds than naturally aspirated blocks, drivers will notice a considerable difference off the line.

    All models come with a six-speed automatic transmission and a choice of front or all-wheel drive.

    The all-wheel drive test car is priced from $32,400. There are two options: navigation that also adds premium audio and 19-inch wheels. Final MSRP including the $875 destination charge is $35,135. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Hyundai Equus

    Five-passenger luxury sport sedan

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Hyundai Equus

    2014 Hyundai Equus

    It was a gutsy move for Hyundai to enter the luxury market, since the company’s marketing impetus had traditionally been value-focused. Even gutsier was not creating a separate brand, as both Honda and Toyota did in launching the Acura and Lexus lines respectively.

    I respect Hyundai for departing from its comfort zone, and even more for introducing a product that maintains the brand’s core mission of offering buyers value for the money. Although a $61,000 sport sedan might not seem like a bargain, it is when compared to competitors with six-figure price tags.

    Power for the rear-wheel drive Equus comes from a 429-horsepower aluminum V-8 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. Drivers can choose between snow, normal and sport modes to vary throttle response according to road conditions.

    There are two trim levels: Signature (tested) and Ultimate. The Signature is more of a driver’s car while the Ultimate one to be driven in with fancier second-row seats.

    Pricing is monospec, saving buyers from haggling at the dealership over confusing option packages. Standard convenience features on the test car include keyless entry and start, tri-zone climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, a 7.1 surround sound audio system, 19-inch alloy wheels, high intensity discharge headlamps, adaptive cruise control, navigation, Blue Link telematics and more. Final MSRP, including the $920 delivery charge, is $61,920. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2013 Hyundai Azera

    Premium five-passenger sedan

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Hyundai Azera

    The second-generation Azera raises Hyundai’s bar to new heights, rivaling high-end sedans such as the Lexus ES 350 and Lincoln MKS in style and performance. Since it lacks the luxury nameplate, the Azera is more often compared to with premium products including the Toyota Avalon and Buick LaCrosse.

    One thing is for sure: the Azera is a lot of car for the money, with a powerful direct injection V-6 engine, six-speed automatic transmission, a host of comfort and safety features, priced just over $32,000. Hyundai’s new assurance program that adds three years of Connected Care on top of the ten-year/100,000 mile warranty makes the sedan’s value hard to match.

    The test car comes with a technology package that adds 19-inch wheels, xenon headlamps, an Infinity premium sound system, driver’s seat cushion extender, driver’s seat memory, power rear sunshade, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and ambient interior lighting. Carpeted floor mats and the $875 delivery charge bring the final MSRP to $37,225. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Heels and Wheels 2013

    Annual conference puts women in the driver’s seat

    By Nina Russin

    Aston Martin DB9

    I feel like the Queen: not the one with the Queen wave and frumpy clothes, but rather a Pussy Galore queen with Sean Connery by my side, oozing sex appeal and confidence. I don’t typically have Pussy Galore hallucinations, but I don’t usually get behind the wheel of an Aston Martin DB9 either. The experience was the highlight of my trip to the third annual Heels and Wheels women’s automotive conference in Bend, Oregon

    Of course, there was a more serious aspect to the event, its primary focus being the buying power of women, which currently accounts for at least 50 percent of all new car purchases and up to 80 percent of car buying decisions.

    According to Kelley Blue Book research Toyota, Honda, Ford, Chevrolet, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, Subaru, Mazda and Volkswagen are the most popular brands among female buyers. Women tend to favor crossover vehicles and SUVs over sports cars and pickup trucks, with models such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 topping the popularity charts.

    The internet has become the most popular source of information among women shopping for a new car, due partly to the unease with which many women approach dealerships. KBB visitors typically research a vehicle for two months, take about three more months for the purchasing process and keep their cars between 8 and 10 years.

    Connectivity features are playing a larger role in purchase decisions, with Bluetooth and GPS both included among must-haves. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD

    Value-packed five-passenger crossover

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

    It came as no surprise that the all-new Santa Fe Sport captured the 2013 Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year award in the Best Value On-Road category. Over the past two decades, Hyundai has evolved from a bit player to a major force in the North American car market by offering customers quality and style at an unbelievable value.

    How many five-passenger crossovers combine all-wheel drive, traction and stability control, keyless entry and start, satellite radio, telematics, 19-inch wheels and a 100,000-mile warranty for a base price of $29,450′ Frankly, it’s hard to find anything not to love about the new Santa Fe, with its peppy two-liter turbocharged engine rated at 264 horsepower, six-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel independent suspension.

    The test car comes with a premium package that adds leather upholstery, side mirror turn markers, heated front seats, reclining and folding second-row seats, dual-zone climate control and a rearview camera ($2450); carpeted floor mats ($100); a cargo net ($50) and cargo cover ($150). The $825 delivery charge brings the final MSRP to $33,025. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show

    OEMs predict a brighter 2013

    By Nina Russin

    The fourth-generation Range Rover made its North American debut in LA

    Los Angeles is the first of four major auto shows in the United States, and therefore sets the tenor for the remainder of the season. While sales statistics can be misleading, catering spreads which accompany the various press conferences are much more telling.

    Before the crash of 2008, the show floor was rife with the spoils of success. It was rare to find any press conference without an espresso machine and plates of scones. Full-fledged buffets with open bars were not unusual. I remember one automaker inviting journalists to take home folding chairs set out for the event. The chairs were nice enough to furnish a summer cabin.

    When things went black four years ago, it was hard to find a bottle of water on the show floor, much less a cappuccino. While I don’t condone swag wagons at editorial functions, the lack thereof was certainly telling.

    Gradually, the amenities came back, beginning with some ice buckets with refreshments and the occasional Danish pastry. But it was not until the 2012 show which opened to the media this week that “real food” made its reappearance on the show floor. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT and Veloster Turbo

    Active lifestyle vehicles with pumped-up style

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Hyundai Elantra GT

    While the current economic climate has many automotive manufacturers struggling to tread water, Hyundai continues to stride forward with leaps and bounds. The reason is that product planners listen to their customers, and deliver on three key attributes: value, performance and functionality.

    Hyundai’s two newest entries, the Veloster Turbo and Elantra GT, offer buyers with active lifestyles exceptional fuel economy and versatile interiors, priced under $25,000. Cargo areas are big enough to hold a bicycle or some camping equipment.

    Comfort and convenience features including air conditioning, Bluetooth interface, iPod compatibility, remote keyless entry, and split folding rear seats are standard equipment. So are important safety features such as electronic stability control, side curtain airbags and four-channel antilock brakes.
    Add in Hyundai’s ten year/100,000 mile warranty and the customer’s choice is simple: a four-door compact two-plus-two or slightly larger five-door hatch. The Veloster has edgier styling and a little more power, while the Elantra GT has more room in back for gear. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Grand Touring

    Sport coupe gains finesse under the hood and a head-turning exterior

    By Nina Russin


    2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe

    The 2013 Hyundai Genesis coupe isn’t a car for everyone. Nor is it simply a two-door version of the sedan. When engineers updated the platform for the 2013 model year, they targeted driving enthusiasts looking for sports car performance in a more practical package.

    The steering is heavy, the suspension is stiff, and the exhaust note is loud. A strut tower brace  minimizes body flex for better steering response, while gas-charged monotube shocks provide quick rebound during aggressive driving.

    The car rides on 18-inch wheels with low-profile tires. Large four-wheel disc brakes stop the coupe on a dime.

    The 3.8-liter V-6 direct injection engine is the larger of two available blocks. Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual gearbox, and a dual-clutch eight-speed automatic. Its powertrain technology alone makes the Genesis coupe a bargain at $32,000.

    But in typical Hyundai fashion, product planners didn’t stop with engineering updates. Standard equipment includes keyless entry and start, leather seating, automatic climate control, navigation, satellite radio, Bluetooth interface and Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system. An $875 delivery charge brings the price out-the-door to $32,875. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2012 Hyundai Veloster

    Three-door sport coupe designed for active lifestyles

    By Nina Russin

    2012 Hyundai Veloster

    The Veloster compact coupe is Hyundai’s answer to urbanites with active lifestyles. Designers modified a three-door liftback, adding a fourth door on the right-hand side. The rear door eases access and egress to the second-row seats.

    Under the hood, a direct injection 1.6-liter engine and six-speed manual transmission offer peppy performance with excellent fuel efficiency: 40 mpg on the highway, according to EPA estimates.

    The car’s small footprint gives it maneuverability for weaving through dense traffic and parking in small slots on the street. A versatile interior is bicycle-friendly, and the driver’s seat has enough room for an extremely tall driver. A friend who’s six-foot-five got behind the wheel and had room to spare.

    As with every Hyundai, the Veloster offers a high level of standard safety and convenience features at a remarkably low price. MSRP on the test car is $17,300, including delivery. The base car comes with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, a ten-year/100,000 mile factory warranty, alloy wheels, air conditioning, satellite radio, Hyundai’s proprietary telematics system, remote keyless entry, MP3 and IPod compatibility and Bluetooth interface.

    A style package upgrades the wheels to 18-inch rims, adds a panoramic sunroof, chrome grille, leather interior accents alloy pedals and audio upgrade ($2000). A technology package includes a navigation system with rearview camera, keyless start and a 115-volt power outlet ($2000), bringing the price as tested to $21,300. Read the rest of this entry »