Since ’09, we’ve been gaining more and more respect for Hyundai. The Korean automaker introduced a sleek rear-wheel drive coupe called the Genesis—maybe you’ve heard of it. For $22k, you could get behind the wheel of a new sports car equipped with a 210hp 2.0-liter turbo, or upgrade to a 306hp 3.8-liter V6 for a few extra bucks. If you haven’t seen one on the streets, you’ve probably caught a glimpse of the 500+hp Genesis driven by Rhys Millen in Formula D. Hyundai is making some bold moves to create a new identity in North America and its ‘12 Veloster is just another example of good things to come.
The first thing that stands out about the new Veloster is its three-door design. It’s okay; you can laugh a little cause we did. Back in ’99, Saturn introduced this same concept. But we must admit, after spending a weekend with the three-door Hyundai, we thought this could actually work…
The idea behind the third door is to look like a coupe but have more versatility—for example if you have one extra passenger, you don’t need to fold up the seats. In the Veloster, the passenger-side gets the extra door and the handle is cleverly located near the window. So if you didn’t know any better, the car still looks like a two-door.
Aside from the gimmicky door, the Veloster is pretty much on point starting with its unique design. Not everyone will love the Veloster’s looks but Hyundai takes pride in a new vehicle that isn’t advertently ripped off another car. Hyundai tells us much of the Veloster’s styling is actually borrowed from a sport bike. You can kind of get that feeling by the black A-pillars and center-exit exhaust. We particularly liked the rear-end and sloping roof line but the hexagonal front is becoming a signature look for Hyundai.
Stepping inside the cockpit, the interior is surprisingly spacious. The Veloster boasts an interior volume of 105.3 cuft—that’s better than the CR-Z, tC and Mini. The feel of the interior is nice and has an edgy look from the dashboard to the air vents and center console.
But what really amazes us is the technology available. We could list all the features here but it would be overload. Some of our favorites start with the standard 7" touch screen display. That’s right—standard! From there, you can control the navigation (which has a voice recognition option). You also have more control of the music. For example, if you have your iPhone hooked up, and say either the song’s name, album or artist out loud, the recognition software will search and play the song straight from your playlist. The system also has an integrated Pandora feature that puts the app right onto the screen. How cool is that?
We’re also impressed with the video playback feature. Remember when it was cool to hook up a Super Nintendo and play it off of your flip-out head unit? Hyundai makes it easy enough for your five-year old nephew to do it by having an integrated RCA connection and 115-volt power outlet.
The Veloster also has a decent sound system. And with a car that’s not built for speed but for cruising around town, this is important. So the standard model gets 196-watt six-speaker system. Upgrade to the 450-watt system that has eight speakers plus an 8" sub and you’re bumpin’ all of the Swedish House Mafia you can stand.
But aside from the design and the cool technology, the two biggest selling points are the price and fuel economy. For $17k base model, you can have a car that gets 40mpg on the freeway! That’s better than a Honda CR-Z (a hybrid).
However, while we can all appreciate saving money at the pump, don’t expect the Veloster give you the best of both worlds. What it saves in gas is sacrificed in power with a 1.6-liter four cylinder. The engine uses direct injection which makes it more efficient, reliable and lowers emissions. On paper, the motor puts down 138hp and 123 lb-ft of torque. When we drove it, it had some trouble getting up onramps and overtaking cars on the freeway. We wished for a little more power but once again, don’t look at this car as a performance monster but something you could run around town in everyday.
We liked the six-speed manual—plenty of control despite a bulky shift knob. There’s also a six-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) that helps with fuel economy in the city. But when you want to accelerate and decelerate fast, the shift points feel off unless you’re shifting manually using the paddle shifters.
Now we’re not saying this car isn’t fun to drive. Once you get up to speed, it can get your heart pumping around the twisties. The handling is sharp and the steering is responsive. We tested our Veloster in backcountry and it held up like a champ through several long sweepers and tight corners at high speeds. Kudos to Hyundai for adding a 24mm front sway bar and a 23mm rear stabilizer bar integrated into the frame. The car was stable through our harsh abuse and even felt comfy above 100mph (Oops, we weren’t suppose to admit that. Sorry Hyundai!).
With all that being said, we commend Hyundai and their new Veloster. It’s not going to get you across the finish line the fastest, but it’ll give you everything you want out of a $17k street car—fuel economy, style, great features and an extra door.
Although it’ll cost a little extra, the Veloster has a new Blue Link system designed to make owning your Hyundai more convenient and safe than ever. There are three different packages so if you want more info, visit Hyundai’s website. Some of the new features that caught our eye included an instant crash notification. This will notify a Blue Link agent in the case you’re in an accident. And using GPS, they’ll know exactly where you are. The same technology is used for the roadside assistance and anti-theft features. There’s also another package, which helps you show off to your friends. You can setup up your phone with Blue Link to unlock/lock your doors, turn on/off the lights or horn, remote start the car or even send you a text message if the alarm is set off. There’s also a maintenance feature that’ll send you a report if you’re car needs an oil change or has a check engine light. If you’re a parent (or creepy boyfriend), you can even set up alerts to e-mail you when the car goes over a speed limit or driven past a certain time!
Because the Veloster isn’t your average car, we travelled to your not-so-average city to assess it—Portland, OR. The city is rooted with hipsters, lesbians and techies. When you’re not riding fixed-gear bikes or wearing Birkenstocks and flannel shirts, you’re drinking from one of the many microbreweries in the city. For our Oregon adventure, we hammered the Veloster on the back roads along the Columbia River to Hood River County. Also on our weekend, we cruised South to Eugene and displayed the Velosters in front of Autzen Stadium—home of the University of Oregon football team. Finally, it wouldn’t be a trip without some cruising and hardparking in downtown Portland. And did you know Portland has more strip clubs per capita than any other city in North America? Just sayin’…
Veloster On Roids
The Veloster doesn’t have to be boring as demonstrated by Rhys Millen Racing. Already campaigning a Genesis in Formula D, Rhys has transformed this Veloster for rally racing. Stripped down and carbon-fiber’d out, the hatchback weighs around 2600 lb and boasts 500hp, 600 lb-ft thanks to a turbocharged 2.0-liter motor swap and HKS upgrades. It’s also got a six-speed sequential tranny, all-wheel drive, Alcon brakes and HRE wheels.
That New Car Smell
2012 Hyundai Veloster
The Sticker from MSRP $17300
Engine 1.6L DOHC D-CVVT GDI
The Power 138hp at 6300rpm; 123 lb-ft at 4850rpm
Scale Tipping 2584-2740 lb (manual); 2657-2813 lb (DCT)
Layout Front engine, front-wheel-drive
Transmission six-speed manual transmission, six-speed EcoShift Dual Clutch Automatic transmission
Footwork & Chassis MacPherson strut front suspension; Coupled torsion rear axle; 24mm front/23mm rear stabilizer bars
Brakes 10" vented front disc brakes; 7.1" rear drum brakes
Wheels & Tires 17x7" alloy wheels with 215/45R17 tires; option 18x7.5" alloy wheels with 215/40R18 tires
At The Pump manual: 28(city) / 40(highway) / 32(combined); DCT: 29(city) / 38(highway) / 32(combined)
The Competition Scion tC, Honda CR-Z, Mini Cooper
Deep Thoughts Modern style, great fuel economy, an extra door, affordable price, awesome warranty… But when’s the 2.0-liter turbo coming Hyundai?