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The 2012 Hyundai Veracruz is conservative to a fault. It lacks the pizazz of a seven-seat Ford Flex or the hybrid aura of a Toyota Highlander. Instead, it executes the basics of family vehicles very well, with ample room and good safety scores occasionally tempered by its lower gas mileage and cargo space.
Anonymous but handsome still, the Veracruz doesn't resort to the kinds of folds and creases that have turned some big crossovers into caricatures. It's simply a good-looking vehicle, relatively unadorned by details like the Chevy Traverse, but without the upscale ritz of a Buick Enclave. Hyundai says the inspiration was the Lexus RX, and that vehicle's sleek and flowing shape are smoothed out even more here--a complete departure from the Sonata, Accent and Veloster, Hyundai's latest styling efforts. It's more adventurously, slightly, inside, where attractive soft-touch finishes lift it above the dreary plastics found inside a Honda Pilot, for example. It's a flowing, curvaceous design without too many ergonomic foibles and no miscues.
A single powertrain drives the Veracruz. it's a 3.8-liter V-6 with 260 horsepower and 257 pound-feet of torque, teamed up with a six-speed automatic. Performance is adequate, not blistering, thanks to the Veracruz' chunky 4300-pound curb weight. It doesn't step off the line smartly, but once it's up to speed, the drivetrain keeps up with highway cruising pretty well. The transmission needs improvement: in our most recent drives, the automatic hesitated to downshift and had a lumpy shift quality not common with Hyundai's newer efforts. Even in manual mode, it won't allow redline shifts.
Softer handling is the Veracruz's defining trait compared with some of the big sellers in the class. Steering is light and doesn't have much feedback in corners. Body roll is plentiful, but that translates into a plush ride quality that's one of the Veracruz' best features. Slightly smaller than other seven-seat crossovers, the Veracruz can feel easier to maneuver and to park. All-wheel drive is an option, but the weight penalty and dip in gas mileage (to 16/21 mpg) means it's better left to those who live in four-season climates and really need it.
The Veracruz is spacious in the first two rows of seats, and adults will have enough room in the front four positions, with space in the second-row bench for a smaller person. The third-row seat isn't quite big enough for fully grown humans, though, in proportion with the rest of the Veracruz' body. Cargo space suffers from that too; the curvy rear end cuts into rear-end space that's a snap to tap in a Flex.
Safety scores are available from the IIHS, which gives the Veracruz "good" scores for front- and side-impact protection. The NHTSA hasn't re-tested it since a formula change in the 2011 model year, though. Curtain airbags and stability control are standard, but to get a rearview camera or Bluetooth, you'll have to order them as options. Blind-spot monitors and other more exotic tech innovations are not offered.
All Veracruz crossovers come with power windows, locks and mirrors; air conditioning; an AM/FM/CD player; tilt/telescoping steering; and a power driver seat. Major options include a sunroof; a CD changer; 18-inch wheels; and a power tailgate. A new feature this year is an Alpine audio system with satellite and HD radio, streaming radio via Pandora and Bluetooth, a rearview camera, DVD playback and touchscreen navigation--but it's only available on the Limited model.