Pros: Sufficient power, 7-passenger seating.

Cons: Subpar fuel economy, aging interior styling.

Introduction

The 2012 Hyundai Veracruz is a seemingly forgotten player in Hyundai's ongoing drama. Amid the Korean giant's unprecedented product revolution, which has seen most vehicles receive thorough makeovers, the Veracruz soldiers on with much the same feature set it offered at its 2007 debut. Let's be clear: that's not necessarily a bad thing. The Veracruz has long been one of our favorite values among full-size crossover SUVs. But time waits for no automobile, and the largely unchanged Veracruz is starting to look its age.

Having said that, we can't help but reflect on why we've always liked the Veracruz. Fundamentally, there's a no-nonsense attitude to this Hyundai that we really dig. It ticks all the basic boxes for large-crossover buyers-elevated driving position, three rows, carlike dynamics, confident acceleration-but it does so quietly, without drawing attention to itself. Indeed, the Veracruz is so good at what it does that it's easy to take it for granted. That's a sign of greatness, and it's rare that we notice it in such a utilitarian vehicle.

So the Veracruz remains a solid crossover; that much is clear. But there's still the matter of its advancing age, to which Hyundai presently appears indifferent. We're sure there will be a new Veracruz before long, but in the meantime, crossover shoppers will have to decide whether a six-year-old design is worth their time. We think it definitely is, but we know not everyone will share our soft spot for Hyundai's venerable SUV.

Comfort & Utility

The 2012 Hyundai Veracruz is offered in two trim levels: GLS and Limited. The GLS starts with 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, a leather-wrapped tilt-telescopic steering wheel, cloth upholstery, cruise control, a trip computer, manual air-conditioning with separate rear controls and a six-speaker audio system with iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity.

The Limited gets 18-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, a power tailgate, leather upholstery, heated power front seats with driver memory and height/lumbar adjustments, dual-zone automatic climate control and an eight-speaker, 314-watt Infinity audio system with a quaint 6-CD changer.

Some of the Limited's niceties are optional on the GLS, but it's the Limited that gets most of the optional love, including an Alpine navigation system with a 7-inch touchscreen and a 10-speaker, 605-watt Infinity audio system with Pandora internet radio access for iPhone users. Note that Bluetooth is optional on both trim levels.

The Veracruz's front seats are among the most elevated we can remember. If you're looking for a commanding driving position, trust us, you've found it. Apart from being high, though, the front seats are unremarkable, providing decent long-haul comfort but basically nothing in the way of lateral support. From the driver's vantage point, the gauges look so simple that they seem generic-we'd like to see the electroluminescent gauges that are featured in other high-end Hyundai products.

The central control panel is definitely out of the mid-2000s with its silver plastic design theme and basic blue displays, and its myriad similar-looking buttons require some getting used to. We like the overall look of the dashboard, though, even if it is dated. Hyundai's benchmark for the Veracruz was the contemporaneous Lexus RX, and we think the interior is a pretty impressive imitation. Materials quality isn't quite Lexus-like (at least, not mid-2000s-Lexus-like; maybe current-Lexus-like), but it's satisfactory.

The Veracruz's second row provides adult-friendly passenger space, but we expected reclining and sliding functionality as well. As for the third row, it's so tight that it's more or less for kids only, so you'll want a larger vehicle like the Ford Flex or a minivan if third-row space is a priority.

Cargo space measures a weak 13.4 cubic feet behind the third row but expands to 40 cubic feet with the third row stowed. With the second row folded down, 86.8 cubic feet of space is available.

Technology

We're glad to see that Hyundai has been keeping the Veracruz current with its standard tech features, including iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity. But one look at the Limited's feature set tells you all you need to know about the Veracruz's age: a 6-CD changer comes standard! At least the Limited's optional Alpine navigation system-which doesn't have the most intuitive or modern-looking interface we've seen-now features Pandora functionality in conjunction with compatible smartphones.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The Veracruz is powered by a 3.8-liter V6 rated at 260 horsepower and 257 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is a six-speed automatic. This is kind of an old-school V6, thick with low-end torque but not especially powerful for its size. That's not a bad combination for a large crossover, though. Unfortunately, fuel economy is kind of old-school, too, at 17 mpg city/22 mpg highway with standard front-wheel drive and 16/21 mpg with optional all-wheel drive.

Safety

The 2012 Hyundai Veracruz comes with standard stability control, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, active front head restraints and six airbags (front, front-side, full-length side-curtain).

The government has not crash-tested a Veracruz, but the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Veracruz its highest rating of "Good" in all measured categories.

Driving Impressions

Because the Veracruz is a bit narrower than the typical three-row crossover behemoth, it feels noticeably more nimble from behind the wheel. The steering is standard-issue Hyundai-light and numb-but the Veracruz will actually dance a little if you ask it to. Of course, most people just want to know how the Veracruz handles bumps and such, and the answer is, "like a pro." Cabin noise is kept to a minimum.

Other Cars to Consider

Ford Flex - The Flex doesn't come cheap, but it does offer a very hospitable third row and optional turbocharged power.

Kia Sorento - The Veracruz's little cousin offers a third-row seat of its own, and its optional V6 makes us wonder whether the Veracruz really adds that much value to the Sorento's formula.

Toyota Highlander - One of our favorite all-around crossovers, the Camry-based Highlander is a cinch to drive, and we're fans of its looks.

AutoTrader Recommends

We'd like to suggest staying where the value is, but the Limited just has too many desirable features. So make ours a Limited with front-wheel drive.

author photo

Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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