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2016 Hyundai Veloster Turbo review notes

Weird and enjoyable


ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: What an odd little car. I’ll admit that I’m partial to the Veloster, or at least the idea of it. I like the bold styling, I like the useful 2-plus-1 door configuration and I like the name. It sounds fast! I’ll even own up to digging the hipster-bait C3 Roll Top concept Hyundai rolled out a few years ago. I think with a little bit of refinement, it could be a really great car -- certainly, it’s got a lot of character to play with.

As it is, it’s still a decent car that offers a great value. But it’s not exactly a modern incarnation of … a CRX, maybe? I’m not sure exactly what the Veloster is trying to be, except funky. Which might partially explain why it’s not quite the exceptionally awesome overall package it might have been.

2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid review notes

Smooth operator


DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: The Sonata Hybrid is so good it may have saved my marriage.

OK, so that's overselling it a bit, but it did prevent another argument over air conditioning thanks to a simple, brilliant feature: On the climate control panel, there's a button marked "Driver Only" with a fan symbol. Press it, and the fan only blows out of the driver's side vents, keeping the passenger from getting blasted by icy cold a/c on a hot summer day. Why said passenger wouldn't want air conditioning is beyond the scope of this article, but for the first time in a decade, all members of my immediate family were happy with the temperature in the same car at the same time.

Miracles, indeed.

The rest of our Sonata Hybrid Limited was more of the same -- it's an extremely well thought-out car, and what it may lack in sheer driving excitement is balanced by solid engineering and some careful attention to detail. For example, hybrid sedans have traditionally sacrificed interior room and trunk space for the sake of electrification. If the Sonata steals battery space, you'd never know it. The trunk is huge and flat, and rear passengers have as much legroom as I'd typically expect from cars a size larger like the Toyota Avalon or Hyundai's own Azera.

Our long-term 2015 Hyundai Genesis basically does everything right.

Getting the nod

2015 Hyundai Genesis 3.8 sedan second-quarter update


Hyundai Genesis sales are up more than 20 percent over last year, and it’s easy to see why. The already-good engine-trans combination was snuck into a new chassis underneath a gorgeous new body. That’s among the reasons we picked it for a year-long review.

“No, it’s probably not the last word in high-speed dynamics, but it is extraordinarily comfortable, capable and just plain right for daily use,” said one editor.

“At 80 mph, it felt surefooted and solid,” said another.

That was the general consensus for our second quarter with the plush sedan. We put about 3,000 miles on it, a bit less than last quarter—we’ve had a lot of new sheetmetal passing through our fleet. 

Sonata Hybrid’s Nu engine produces 154 hp and 140 lb-ft of torque.

First drive

2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid


What is it?

Recent low fuel prices have made electrified vehicles of all types a hard sell. Cheap gas means SUVs and crossovers are flying off dealer lots while more efficient hybrids and plug-ins sit there with a layer of dust and a few bucks on their hoods. That’s not exactly a welcome environment in which to launch a pair of new hybrids.

“Prices are going to go back up,” says Michael O'Brien, Hyundai’s vice president of corporate and product planning. “There’s no economist that would suggest otherwise. It’s just a matter of which month.”

Of course, Hyundai would like that timeframe to coincide with the summer and fall launches of their two newest Sonata models -- the Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid.

Hybrids in the Sonata’s class have all upped their game in the past few years. Now every one of them returns more than 40 mpg combined, meaning Hyundai had to comfortably clear that hurdle to stay on shopping lists. The previous Hybrid’s 2.4-liter “Theta II” four-cylinder was ditched for a new “Nu” 2.0-liter unit with direct injection paired with a smaller, lighter and more powerful 38 kW electric motor. But like the last Hybrid, it all runs through a six-speed automatic transmission instead of a CVT. And that’s good news. Aside from the Subaru WRX, we haven’t met a CVT that performs as well as a real automatic.

The Azera powertrain also has an Active Eco mode, which modifies engine and transmission control for improved fuel economy.

Almost large, almost luxury

2015 Hyundai Azera Limited review notes


EDITOR WES RAYNAL: For a tick under 40K, this is a hell of a car -- a rare bird I guessed cost substantially more. It could be the best large-ish almost-luxury car in the business. Anyone who still thinks Hyundai is about cheap wheels needs to drive this.

It’s a nice-looking car and I love the V6 and trans interaction. You have to rev it a wee bit to get the car moving (it ain’t exactly light) but there is plenty of power and it’s, dare I say it, Honda smooth. The car is so quiet and level cruising down the road, quite a bit above my expectations. The steering might be the biggest letdown: it’s a bit numb, and feels artificial.

The cabin is fantastic, though -- comfortable, well built, good materials, and huge, especially out back. Love the glass roof, too and the light blue ambient lighting peeking from under the dash/door panels is sweet. The center stack is intuitive and took about five seconds to figure out. Clearly Hyundai sweated the details in there.

If you’re in the market for an Avalon or Impala (or Chrysler 300 or Buick LaCrosse, I suppose) you’re cheating yourself if you don’t at least try the Azera. I submit Hyundai’s credibility is rising -- and fast. 

The 2015 Hyundai Genesis 3.8 sedan standard features include nine airbags, a rearview camera, acoustic laminated glass and Blue Link.

Rock star

Long-term 2015 Hyundai Genesis 3.8 sedan first-quarter update


Perhaps it’s worth noting that our long-term Hyundai Genesis racked up more miles in its most recent three-month stint than either our BMW M3 or Jaguar F-Type R. Admittedly, that’s less a commentary on the quality of enthusiast-oriented time spent behind each respective wheel than a statement on the overall practicality, comfort and ease of use of the big Korean sedan. But still, it’s worth noting.

Those qualities ensured that most staffers looking to strike out on longer drives often opted for the Genesis over the sportier rides.

“At 85 mph, it certainly doesn’t feel like you’re going 85,” said one editor about the Hyundai’s highway demeanor. “The cabin is very well isolated from both wind and road noise, the ride is amazingly well damped, steering is light and front bucket seats are rather comfortable.”

The 2015 Hyundai Genesis 3.8 sedan comes equipped with a 3.8-liter V6 engine and a eight speed automatic transmission.

Long-term 2015 Hyundai Genesis 3.8 sedan intro


Not a decade ago, the very notion of a Korean luxury car might have sent sniggers through any crowd: a seeming contradiction, an oxymoron, if not an outright absurdity. Fast-forward to today and ha-ha, the joke’s on us. Hyundai does a more-than-praiseworthy take on luxury with its Genesis large sedan, and when offered the opportunity to be swaddled by its leather-clad confines for a year, we happily abided.

The car in stock form starts under $39,000 and comes, as they say, nicely equipped. On top of the 311-hp 3.8-liter V6 and eight-speed automatic transmission, standard features include nine airbags, rearview camera, acoustic laminated glass, navigation, Blue Link (more on that later), push-button start, a trick hands-free trunk-opening feature and a piece sure to wow your friends (or make the cynical roll their eyes): dual power-folding, heated side mirrors with puddle lamps projecting the Genesis name and logo like a pair of mini-Bat-Signals.

2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco review notes


DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: Looking back at our first drive of the Sonata Eco, one sentence stands out: “Hyundai readily admits they don’t expect to sell a lot of Eco variants.”

Really? As we discovered in that first drive, the Sonata Eco is an extraordinarily nice midsize sedan, well-equipped and capable of delivering outstanding fuel economy with very few sacrifices, all for a sticker price well under $30K. If Hyundai doesn't sell a lot of Sonata Ecos, the engineers who worked so hard to make this car as good as it is should institute a hostile takeover of the marketing department.

If you’ve read up on the new Sonata at all, you know the cabin gets a vaguely Teutonic restyle with high-quality materials throughout. Assembly quality is outstanding, too -- panel gaps are tight and fit/finish is impeccable, and the cockpit is luxury-car quiet. There’s also copious rear-seat room and a huge trunk. My only wish is that the steering column had more telescoping range -- I had to adopt a more outstretched arm position than I prefer 

2015 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 Sedan review notes


DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: We journalists are guilty of wondering out loud who’d ever pay $55,000 for a Hyundai, given the brand consciousness (read: status obsession) of luxury car buyers. That argument still holds. However, it occurs to me there also may be a subset of the car-buying population on the other side of the equation, a group who’s glad they can finally purchase a capable, powerful luxury sedan without having to subject themselves to the extortion practiced by German, and to some extent, Japanese, automakers.

Consider that a BMW 550i sedan starts $10,000 above where our loaded Genesis 5.0 tops out. Two years ago, the comparison would have ended there, but this new Genesis is a much closer match for the Mercedes-Benz E-class, 5-series and Audi A6 than anyone in Germany would likely care to admit.

My biggest complaint on the previous Genesis was a lack of stability at high speeds -- even freeway speeds -- and overly sensitive steering. Basically any kind of convincing German sedan impression it did fell apart as soon as the car was over 40 mph. Not so this new one. It’s perfectly stable at freeway velocity and offers the supreme confidence one gets at higher speeds from the best Autobahn-tuned vehicles.

2014 Hyundai Elantra Coupe review notes


WEST COAST EDITOR MARK VAUGHN: I love the Elantra GT, yet I don’t love this 2014 Hyundai Elantra coupe. Why is this? I should love it -- it has “…more fun-to-drive elements” than last year’s car, according to Hyundai. They added some sound insulation so it doesn’t resonate in your head like a bag of nails being dragged down the gutter. And there’s 25 more horsepower. I guess if you were stepping directly from last year’s Elantra Coupe, you would indeed be amazed at this year’s.

But I didn’t step directly from last year’s Elantra. So I noticed that the interior is slathered in hectares of hard gray plastic. Even a swath or two of cloth somewhere, anywhere on the interior, would have gone a long, long way toward making this feel less like a large Hasbro toy inside and more like a solid competitor in the class. The powertrain, a 173-hp four-cylinder pulling around between 2,861 and 2,934 pounds depending on options -- feels uninspiring, especially mated to the six-speed automatic, the only tranny you can get. And while I’m sure there are fewer dbas and dbbs crashing around inside than there were last year, the interior nonetheless fairly rattled with road, wind and engine noise.

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