Specs & Details
'12 Hyundai Veloster
Engine 1.6 liter DOHC 16-valve inline 4-cylinder
Horsepower 138 at 6300 rpm
Torque 123 ft-lbs at 4850 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual or EcoShift Dual Clutch Automatic
Price Starting at $17,300
What do we look for when considering the purchase of a new car? Different people have varying requirements and taste — ask five people what they want from a new car and you’ll likely get five different responses. However, there are a few key elements that most everyone commonly has on their must-have list these days. Fuel economy has to be high on that list, no matter who you are, and I’d say that good gas mileage is at the top of the list for people who commute and spend a lot of time in their car. To not care about gas mileage at all would make you a fool, unnaturally wealthy or the most likely scenario: both. Behind fuel economy, practicality and cost of ownership come into play, along with environmental impact and, of course, safety. All of this is important stuff when considering a new ride, but there’s a big one we’re missing: what about the intangible element of style?
One of the greatest things about cars is that there’s so much variety to choose from. And yet, the market can seem monotonous at times, almost as if manufacturers are afraid to try something new, something a bit risky that the marketing teams might have a hard time giving the green light to. Thankfully, what Hyundai has done with the styling of its newest car, the Veloster, isn’t really like anything else out there, and that’s a refreshing addition to the small car market.
The first thing I noticed when I saw the Veloster was that it looked like it was missing a door. Or maybe it had an extra door — I wasn’t sure which, but the non-symmetrical design sits well with me once I got used to it. When you look at the driver side, the Veloster looks good as a 3-door. And from the opposite side, it still looks good as a 5-door hatchback (of sorts), with the rear door on the passenger side being well disguised thanks in part to the stealthy door handle and eye-catching body lines. The car’s front end is aggressive and unlike any other vehicle Hyundai has made before. Angular headlights and a large front grille give the Veloster a sporty look, aided by the subtle hood louvers and recessed area underneath the headlights. As pleasing as the front end looks, the rear is where it really shines. From the back, Veloster is pure hot hatch — the wide and low bulldog-esque stature of the body is serious-looking, and the center-exit exhaust looks right at home. Beefy 18-inch wheels finish off the exterior of our test mules, and with everything all said and done, the Veloster is undoubtedly a good-looking car. When I look at this car, I see a small rally inspired sports car body, and this is the first car from Hyundai that doesn’t really look like any other car out there.
The attention to detail and desire to bring a new level of affordable luxury to the masses, which drives Hyundai, extends beyond the Veloster’s exterior and personifies the interior and optional packages. When I first sit down in a new car, I like to take a few minutes to soak everything in. The Veloster’s cabin is comfortable and eye-pleasing from a design standpoint. With a center-mounted, 7-inch, touchscreen display as standard equipment, supportive leather upholstered bucket seats, and angular off-color dash and door panel accents, I don’t feel like I’m sitting in a car that costs less than $20,000. Granted, the $17K+ price tag may seem steep considering the powerplant, but the options package needs to be examined closely before jumping to any conclusions. A similarly equipped Honda CR-Z or Scion tC with SAT NAV will end up costing a little more than the Veloster, and you’ll certainly see more of them on the road — something worth keeping in mind.
Sadly, the Veloster’s one drawback brings itself to the forefront as soon as I fire up the push-button ignition. Sure, Veloster looks fast. But it isn’t. Not at all, in fact. The gearbox has a great solid feel between the gears, but the car just never quite feels like it wants to go anywhere when you step on it. However, I must remind myself to set aside my own preconceived notions of what a FWD car should be like when reviewing a car like this. The Veloster has been designed with many things in mind, one of the biggest areas being extremely high fuel efficiency. As one might imagine, balancing 40+ mpg with a high-performance engine is not only difficult but it’s almost impossible in the real world, especially at a price that’s affordable to most of the population. Sacrifices must be made, and Hyundai has chosen to keep the air cleaner and to keep you spending more time in the driver seat than at the gas pump. In this department, the Veloster excels, producing 40 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg in the city (with the 6-MT), which is excellent for a non-hybrid.
Allow me to revise my previous statement — the Veloster powerplant is not a drawback, but by the same token, it’s also very far from a sports car engine. And we mustn’t forget this is the first generation of a brand-new car, so maybe Hyundai will see fit to bless the speed-freak consumers like myself with something like a 2.0-liter turbocharged version in the next few years.
In the meantime, the Veloster is a great car in its segment. For a combination of top-notch fuel economy and clean air specifications, exciting exterior and interior styling, and ample cornering abilities (I’d call it a “momentum car,” meaning it handles well if you carry speed, but once you slow down, it takes a long time to get going again) this car leaves little to be desired. By the time this story is on newsstands, the Veloster should be available for test-drives, assuming they’re not sold out. Take a spin for yourself — Hyundai deserves a closer look if you don’t have them on your list, and the Veloster is certainly as solid a choice as any of the company’s other fuel-efficient, safe and economical models. We just hope they throw a turbo in there soon!