The Entourage is Hyundai’s first minivan, based on the second-generation Sedona from Kia, a subsidiary of Hyundai. Like its sister van, the Entourage is a model that impresses not only shoppers who are unfamiliar with the brand, but also those who have followed the South Korean brands’ improvements and growth. I tested the base, GLS, trim level, which is fairly stripped-down, but for the money it comes with many of the most important features, including high-value equipment like six airbags and an electronic stability system. More standard features come on the SE and Limited versions, which are competitive with similarly priced competitors.
If you’re looking for high fashion, you’re shopping in the wrong vehicle class. That said, the Hyundai Entourage is a nice-looking minivan — not as homely (GM) or polarizing (Nissan Quest) as some. The base GLS is respectably adorned with body-colored rather than low-rent black door handles and side mirrors. The SE and Limited trim levels have chrome handles. That these two add fog lights isn’t as notable as how the GLS treats its lack thereof: The spaces in the bumper, which are usually barren, have chrome domes. Slick. I can’t say I’ve seen this treatment before.
As for the wheels, 16-inch steel is standard on the GLS and SE. For the GLS, wheel covers are optional. The SE can step up to 17-inch alloy wheels, which are standard on the Limited in seven-spoke form.
To get too deep into the issue of minivan ride and handling would be pointless; they’re all lumbering vehicles, and there’s even less difference among models now than ever before. I found the Hyundai Entourage’s ride quality to be comfortable but not too mushy. It handles well enough, with notable push, or understeer, when taking corners too fast. It is mainly in this type of at-the-limit driving that models act differently. I drove Honda’s Odyssey on a racetrack, at the company’s behest, and it definitely performed the best of any minivan I’ve experienced. I’m not sure how important this kind of thing is or should be. If you conclude that track performance portends better control in an emergency maneuver, then it’s a reasonable attribute to consider. I think driver ability trumps the other issues. The Entourage’s standard stability system goes a long way in assisting drivers as well.
The Entourage’s turning circle of 39.6 feet is about 3 feet wider than the Odyssey’s and the Toyota Sienna’s. Three feet is a lot when you’re making a U-turn, but I have to say I was always surprised by how easily I was able to nose the Hyundai into a parking-lot space.
The Hyundai Entourage’s only engine is a 3.8-liter V6 that sends 250 horsepower and 253 pounds-feet of torque to the front wheels only. (Originally reported here as 242 hp and 251 pounds-feet of torque, the specs were revised by Hyundai in February 2007.) For modest vehicles like minivans, I break acceleration down into three categories: not quick enough, quick enough and more than quick enough. The Entourage is certainly quick enough, though it won’t be setting any records, despite having a large engine. It underscores that engine ratings aren’t the last word in how a model performs. The five-speed automatic transmission does its job admirably, and it includes a clutchless-manual feature standard in case you want to pretend you’re in something other than a minivan. (I say give it up.)
The areas where Hyundai and Kia have been slow to catch up are gas mileage and pollution emissions, but the new generation, including the Entourage, make a huge step in addressing it. With ratings of 18/25 mpg (city/highway) — up from 16/22 in the first-generation Sedona — the new models are competitive, though not up to the best that Honda and Toyota offer.
The stability system means there’s also basic traction control. The brakes are four-wheel discs with ABS, again standard.
The Hyundai Entourage’s interior is similar to the Sedona’s, and that’s good because the Sedona has lifted every worthwhile feature and functionality from the minivan class leaders. The quality is in keeping with other new Hyundais: not just good enough to surprise the unsuspecting, but competitive with the big guys. It easily matches or exceeds the rather dated design and quality of the Chrysler and Dodge vans. That said, I’m not sold on my stripped-down GLS model’s velour-style upholstery, which appears on the door panels in addition to the seats. It gives the cabin a warmer feel than some of the new woven-cloth fabrics that are spreading throughout the market, but the latter give a higher-quality impression.
One downer in my GLS test van was that it was full of blank buttons — those placeholders that show where you would control a feature that you don’t have. Aside from the main windows and locks, this van had power nothing. The overhead console alone had seven blanks. There were three more on the steering wheel, three on the dash by my left knee and another one or two on the center control panel. Somehow I felt like every time I saw the overhead console it reminded me that I was a cheapskate and a loser. Hmmmm. Maybe that’s why Hyundai uses the blanks instead of a clean console. One look at that thing in the showroom and you order some options. Who wants to be taunted by a vehicle?
My van’s standard driver’s seat had a manual jack-style height adjustment, which is a breeze to use when seated. It has a generous range to accommodate tall and short alike. I noticed, though, that in swinging my legs out to drop to the ground when exiting I occasionally dropped on the lever and lowered the seat. There’s a continuously variable lumbar adjustment lever on the backrest’s left side. The passenger seat lacks this and the height adjustment.
Though unpowered, the sliding doors were easy enough to use. Like previous van models, they don’t open as far when their windows are rolled down; this prevents passengers from lopping limbs off against the C-pillar. The other downside is that the doors don’t latch open unless the window’s up. If you park on a hill, they’ll close on you — well, hopefully not on you.
My complaints from the front seats are negligible. There are decent door pockets with integral bottle holders, a total of four cupholders including a drawer and the flip-up tray between the seats, two overhead sunglass holders and two glove compartments. The lower one locks and has a light inside — exactly the kind of feature that is often omitted to cut costs. Another bin at the base of the dashboard can hold a generous handful of CD cases.
The second-row captain’s chairs slide fore and aft, and both are flanked by a pair of swing-down armrests; there’s no feeling that Hyundai has skimped. There’s ample headroom, and legroom is decent for a 6-foot adult when the seat is slid back all the way. My knees were raised somewhat, making it less comfortable than the Toyota Sienna, whose seats are a bit higher, but it’s better than some other models, including the Nissan Quest and the Chrysler and Dodge vans with Stow ‘n Go. (They’re about as uncomfortable to sit on as they are compelling to fold.)
Third-row access is eased by a second row that folds and tumbles forward in one motion. The bench is good for three kids or two adults. Legroom is quite good, even with the second row fully back, though one sits lower to the floor here than in the second row. The rear head restraints collapse deep into the backrests for visibility and ease of folding — and they demand that you raise and use them; otherwise they jab you in the back. Straps on either side allow you to adjust the angle of the 60/40-split backrest segments. There’s a dedicated dome light and overhead vents, as in the other seat rows, and three cupholders total for drinks of varying sizes. There’s a little storage in the left armrest. The seatbacks in front of this row don’t have pockets, but they present plastic trays when folded down — supposedly for Happy Meals and such.
As of this review, the Hyundai Entourage and its Sedona sister are the top-rated minivans in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s crash tests, earning Gold Top Pick status for their performance in frontal, side and rear impacts. The results certainly rely on the standard safety features, including side-impact torso airbags for the front-seat occupants, curtain airbags that line the side windows of all three seat rows in a side impact, and active head restraints for the front seats. The Entourage’s stability system is another critical, high-value standard feature that — when offered in other vans — is often optional. There’s a shoulder belt and head restraint for all seats.
Minivans are the true utility vehicles, with loads of interior room relative to their exterior size. With the same cargo dimensions as the Sedona, the Entourage falls slightly behind the majority of other minivan models, but the difference is likely to go unnoticed by most drivers.
|Cargo Capacities Compared (cu. ft. volume)
|Behind third-row seat
|Second row folded or removed
|All seats folded or removed
A direct copy of the similar body-type Sienna, the Hyundai Entourage uses powerful spring-loaded mechanisms to guide the 60/40-split third-row segments into the well behind them to create a flat cargo floor. Ostensibly they can be operated with one hand, but it might require an extra shove to get them down all the way. Overall, it’s practically effortless.
The second-row captain’s chairs are as easy to fold and tumble forward, as shown in the photos, but removing them is another story. Releasing them from their anchors requires muscle, as does lifting them; they weigh more than 60 pounds apiece. Neither this nor the struggle to line them up and reattach them is Hyundai’s alone. All vans are pretty bad in this regard, and attaching seats improperly can be extremely dangerous. If not secure, they can come loose in a collision and injure their occupant and others. Toyota recently recalled its captain’s chairs for this reason, and I highly suspect this will become a marketwide issue.
Once all rear seats are folded or removed, the Hyundai Entourage can contain 4×8-foot sheets of building material flat on the floor with the liftgate closed. There’s a drawback, though: The hatch opening is too narrow along the floor, so the stock must be raised a few inches to load it (see the photos). It’s workable, but it will be harder with heavy materials like drywall or plywood because it can’t be slid in.
The towing capacity is 3,500 pounds for a trailer with its own brakes. If relying on the Entourage’s braking, the maximum is 1,000 pounds.
The Kia Sedona was the Korean model that showed how competitive the country’s exports had become. Developed in North America, it came out of the chute prepared to go toe-to-toe not with the average van but with the class leaders, at least in terms of design and features. Quality was nothing to laugh at either. The new generation is better still, and so is this new Hyundai version.
Why do there have to be two similarly priced versions from what is basically the same company? It’s because the Sedona is successful enough to justify spreading the wealth to eager Hyundai dealers, rounding out a complete product lineup. To you, the buyer, the difference simply boils down to features and price. The equipment is similar, and both brands carry the aptly named America’s Best Warranty of 5/60,000 (years/miles, whichever comes first) bumper-to-bumper and 10/100,000 drivetrain. The best way to compare is to click on the Side-by-Side Comparison link atop this page and select the Sedona or any other minivan model you’re considering.