Thumbs Up: Looks great, delivers a lot of content for the price.
Thumbs Down: Rear seat head room, needs more power.
Buy This Car If: You want a solid alternative to the Civic, MINI and Golf
While the old Pontiac Aztek is an example of what happens when you design a car by committee, the Hyundai Veloster is the outcome of designing a car based on focus groups. Instead on relying on its executives and accountants to design a ride aimed straight at Millennial buyers, Hyundai opted to go directly to the source when it began designing the Veloster.
The end result is a car with fresh styling, great fuel economy and above-average connectivity. The Veloster won’t peel off a sub-14-second quarter mile, but it will deliver up to 38 mpg on the highway while hauling four adults in relative comfort. It’s got Hyundai’s BlueLink telematics system, it’s available with navigation and a premium Dimension audio system and it comes with a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment interface. Those may not be selling points to those of us with 10w30 in our veins, but it’s the feature set demanded by the generation that would rather text than drive.
That’s not to be critical of the Veloster, because it really is quite good at what it’s designed to do. Hyundai never intended the Veloster to join the Genesis Coupe in its sports-car lineup, and the Veloster presents itself as a solid alternative to the Honda Civic and even the base MINI Cooper. If you don’t like the Veloster, chances are good you’re simply in the wrong demographic.
On the outside, the Veloster doesn’t look like anything else on the road. The car uses Hyundai’s “fluidic design” styling, so elements like the hexagonal grille, the steeply raked windshield and the deep character lines across the door are common to the Sonata and Elantra as well. At first glance, the Veloster appears to be a three-door hatchback, but a closer inspection reveals a small door on the passenger side. It’s a great idea, and it really does make loading and unloading passengers easier. The sloping roofline, however, requires some agility for passengers to avoid hitting their heads on entry.
Inside, the dash features a bold design with a wing motif to it. On the passenger side, there’s a stepped and sculpted crash pad, which is an innovative way to break up monochrome plastic and vinyl without adding piano black, metallic or faux carbon fiber trim. In the center, metallic-plastic trimmed vents surround the seven-inch infotainment display and HVAC controls, while the driver gets a hood over the recessed tachometer and speedometer. Logical control layout and clean design make the Veloster’s interior a good place to spend time.
Front seats are supportive and reasonably well bolstered. which make them suitable for even reasonable spirited driving. Opt for the Style Package, and you’ll get leatherette bolsters with cloth seats; to be honest, we’re not sure that this is a plus, because we’ve always found cool-in-summer, warm-in-winter fabric seats preferable to anything that comes out of a test tube.
Rear seats get the same fabric and leatherette blend, and are split by a hard plastic drink holder and storage tray. If you’re using the third door, the passenger behind the driver will need to climb across this obstacle to get into place, which almost negates the advantage of the third door in the first place. While there’s a reasonable amount of legroom in the rear seat, headroom is lacking for passengers taller than six feet. In fact, Hyundai provide a pictographic warning label on the hatch, advising people to mind rear seat passengers’ heads before closing the hatch.
Under the hood is a 1.6-liter in-line four shared with the Hyundai Accent. It makes 138 horsepower but only 123 pound-feet of torque, which produces leisurely acceleration despite the Veloster’s sub-2,600 pound curb weight. Expect the run from 0 – 60 to take around 10 seconds, which is disappointing for any car with sporting intentions. For 2013, Hyundai will roll out the much-anticipated Veloster Turbo, which will come with a twin-scroll turbo version of the 1.6-liter four, good for 201 horsepower.
As you’d expect, fuel economy is quite good, with the Veloster delivering an EPA estimated 29 mpg city and 38 mpg highway. To put that in perspective, Honda’s “sport hybrid” CR-Z is rated at 31 mpg city and 37 mpg highway, which is certainly on par with the fuel economy delivered by the non-hybrid Veloster. In primarily city driving, I saw an indicated 31.6 mpg.
On the road, the Veloster’s appeal will likely vary by demographic. Those older that the targeted audience will likely find the Veloster to be loud and buzzy, especially when the engine is worked hard. Unfortunately, to make reasonable forward thrust, it’s necessary to work the engine hard all the time. On the flip side, if you’re more content to monitor your fuel economy via the onboard Eco-Coach while listening to the 450-watt Dimension audio system, you probably won’t have any complaints about noise, vibration and harshness.
When the road tightens up and throws in a few curves, the Veloster is a relatively willing dance partner. Credit goes to the car’s light weight, stiff chassis and sport-tuned suspension, although we’d prefer just a bit more weight in the steering. Brakes are up to the task of slowing the Veloster at any speed you’re likely to encounter on a public road.
If it sounds like we’re a bit harsh on the Veloster, we’ll admit that Hyundai did a perfect job of designing the car for a demographic that we’re just not in. Based on its research, the Veloster is exactly the car that focus groups told it to build, and we’re sure it will sell every single Veloster it imports. We suspect that the Veloster Turbo will be much more to our liking, and we can’t wait to get behind the wheel.
Hyundai supplied the 2012 Veloster Ecoshift DCT for our evaluation. Base price on the press-fleet tester was $19,310, including a destination fee of $760, and options included the $2,000 Tech Package (18-inch alloy wheels with painted inserts, backup warning sensors, navigation system with rearview camera, automatic headlights, keyless entry with push-button start, 115v outlet) and the $2,000 Style Package (18-inch wheels with 215/40R18 tires, chrome grille surround, front fog lights, panoramic sunroof, piano black interior accents, Dimension premium audio, leatherette bolsters, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, alloy pedals, driver’s window auto up) for a total sticker price of $22,550.
For comparison, a similarly equipped three-door Volkswagen Golf with the Sunroof and Convenience package would sticker for $22,525, but that doesn’t offer navigation or a telematics system. A comparable MINI Cooper would list at $28,450.