One of the most remarkable auto industry success stories in the past decade has been the Korean automaker Hyundai and its sister division Kia.

When Hyundai first began selling cars in North America more than a decade ago with super inexpensive vehicles — heck, let’s call them what they were, “cheap,” I wouldn’t have wagered a bet on them sticking around by the decade.

In fact, in the early days I cringed at the thought of receiving a Hyundai vehicle in the press fleet. There were even a few weeks I drove the test vehicle around the block, parked it and drove my personal car for the rest of the week because I felt safer in my 12-year-old “beater.”

It’s a story I’ve shared with the folks at Hyundai and I mention it now because a lot has changed since then.

Today, Hyundai and Kia are the fastest growing brands in the world.

And for good reason — they are making safe, stylish and affordable cars that folks not only want to own — they aspire to own.

The Veracruz crossover is just another example of Hyundai’s success.

The seven-passenger crossover is available in front- or all-wheel drive configurations and provides consumers with three distinct, yet well-equipped trim levels — GLS, SE and the top-of-the-line Limited.

All models are powered by a 3.8-liter V6 engine (260 horsepower) and mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

All Hyundai models come with a five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty with roadside assistance and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Standard safety features include anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, electronic stability control with traction control system, driver and front-passenger advanced airbags, dual front seat mounted side-impact airbags, roof-mounted side curtain airbags for all three rows of seating, occupant classification system, active front head restraints, tire pressure monitoring system, child-proof rear door locks, and remote keyless entry system with alarm.

The Veracruz has also received the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s top five-star rating for both front and side crash impact protection.

With a base price starting at $26,900, the base GLS is equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, 172-watt audio system with XM Satellite Radio, air conditioning with cabin filtration, steering wheel audio/cruise controls, heated power side mirrors with approach lighting and side turn signal repeaters, power windows and door locks, trip computer, tilt and telescoping steering wheel and Hyundai Hideaway third-row seat.

SE models add 18-inch wheels, power driver seat, electrochromic auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and HomeLink, fog lights, roof rack, center storage area with Cool Box, auto-dimming exterior mirrors and auto headlamps.

The Limited add leather, heated seats, power front passenger seat, sunroof and power lift gate.

The quality is there. The performance is there. The styling is there.

For those in the market for a premium midsize crossover, the Hyundai Veracruz is highly recommended for a test drive.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 15 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. Comments may be sent to Neal at