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The Veracruz is large; parking can be tricky in crowded lots, although the back-up parking aid helps. On the highway, it's stable and secure.

Overall Rating
The Hyundai Veracruz is a steal compared with the competition
Looks Rating
It looks strikingly similar to a Lexus RX, but at a fraction of the price.
Interior Rating
Surprisingly upscale interior, but the third-row seats are tight for kids.
Ride Rating
Ride and handling aren't as sporty, nimble or agile as some of the competition.
Safety Rating
It's a Top Safety Pick in the mid-size SUV category from the U.S. IIHS.
Green Rating
It could do more on the green front. It's large and thirsty.

It's the most expensive Hyundai on the market and the largest vehicle in the brand's lineup. But the Hyundai Veracruz is a steal compared with the competition.

It's a seven-seater, mid-size SUV with serious cargo- and people-carrying capacity. Plus, it's surprisingly luxurious for a Hyundai.

And, starting at $36,999, it's cheaper than most of the competition - the Lexus RX350 starts at $46,900, the Audi Q7 at $54,200, the Lincoln MKT at $51,500 and the Acura MDX at $52,500.

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The start price gets you the base front-wheel-drive GL trim. This Veracruz is well-equipped with heated front seats, wood grain interior trim, air conditioning, keyless entry, power door locks and windows, power driver's seat, a sunroof, rear parking assist, six airbags, steering-wheel-mounted cruise and audio control and third-row seats with separate rear HVAC controls.

Move up the ladder to the mid-level GLS model at $40,999 to add all-wheel-drive, larger 18-inch alloy wheels, leather seats and rain-sensing wipers.

My tester was a top-of-the-line Veracruz Limited AWD SUV that costs $47,299. The extra goodies include power-adjustable pedals, a power tailgate, power front passenger seat, an Infinity AM/FM/XM/six-disc CD/MP3 audio player with 10 speakers and a rear-seat entertainment system.

Under the hood, all trims share the same engine; it's a 3.8-litre V-6 with 260 hp and 257 lb ft of torque. Mated to the engine is a six-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic, which lets you manually shift gears.

This vehicle is large and feels heavy to drive. Parking can be tricky in crowded lots, too, although the back-up parking aid helps. On the highway, it's stable and secure. But the ride is soft and floaty and the handling isn't as sporty, agile or nimble as that of some competitors.

However, it's perfectly suitable for a daily driver. The all-wheel-drive system is excellent; it has a differential lock that can provide up to 50/50 torque split to redistribute power between the front and rear wheels as needed.

On the safety front, the Veracruz excels in crash tests - it was a Top Safety Pick by the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety; it received a good performance rating in front, side, and rear crash tests.

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The AWD Veracruz gets 13.9 L/100 km city and 9 on the highway, and it takes regular fuel, an added bonus.

And even though Hyundai doesn't have the same cache as a Lexus, the brand's quality is improving and Hyundai's excellent warranty should ease your mind; it's one of the best in the business - five-year/100,000- km basic, five-year/100,000-km powertrain, plus three-year/unlimited-kilometre roadside assistance.

From the exterior, it's obvious who Hyundai modelled the Veracruz after - you'll notice a striking resemblance to a more expensive Lexus RX. Both share clean, attractive lines.

My tester adds a few nice touches such as chrome exterior door handles, rear combination LED tail lights, illuminated front door scuff panels and a rear spoiler.

The interior, too, is surprisingly upscale, spacious and quiet. The controls are simple and straightforward. The overall layout is smart and intuitive.

Smart details such as the location of the gas-cap release button are appreciated for the driver. It's located conveniently on the driver's door. It's easy to find and use even in the dark - you don't have to search under seats or the dashboard every time you fill up.

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While there's no key to insert into the ignition of my tester, you still have to turn the ignition to start the engine, which is a bit redundant.

The rear-seat entertainment system will keep kids occupied for hours on long drives. It comes with an eight-inch, roof-mounted LCD screen with DVD player mounted at the back of the front console armrest, two wireless headsets and a remote.

The front-row leather seats are supportive and provide a commanding view of the road ahead. The driver's seat is eight-way power-adjustable with lumbar support; the front passenger seat is also power-adjustable. The step-in is low to the ground, but you can add side steps for an extra $833.95 if you need an extra boost.

The second-row 60/40-split fold-flat seats have adjustable head restraints and are as comfortable as the front seats. The third-row 50/50 seats, however, are tight and cramped even for kids. But the seats fold into the floor easily and quickly for a nice flat cargo area. When all seats are in use the cargo space is a little small, but drop the third-row seats and there's much more useable space for groceries and other goodies.

The Veracruz is an affordable and practical set of wheels that looks as good and drives as well as the competition.



Type: Seven-passenger, mid-size SUV

Price: $47,299

Engine: 3.8-litre, DOHC, V-6

Horsepower/Torque: 260 hp/257 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Drive: All-wheel-drive

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 13.9 city/9.0 highway; regular gas

Alternatives: Acura MDX, Mazda CX-7, Nissan Murano, Chevrolet Traverse, Lexus RX, Lincoln MKT

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About the Author

Petrina Gentile is an award-winning automotive journalist - one of the few women who cover cars in Canada. Her life revolves around wheels. She has been writing for the Drive section since 2004. Besides auto reviews, she also interviews celebrities like Norman Jewison, Patrick Dempsey, Rick Hansen, Dean McDermott, Russell Peters, and Ron MacLean for her My Car column. More

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