Hyundai Veloster: Unique, fun and frugal

2012 Hyundai VelosterThe new for 2012 Hyundai Veloster stands out in a crowd for several reasons: unique styling (it’s a 3-door sport hatchback), excellent fuel economy, affordable pricing, versatility, and fun to drive personality. In a world full of copycat cars the Hyundai Veloster dares to be different and succeeds. There are unique cars with minimal functionality, but the Veloster works both as a styling statement and sensible transportation.
The Hyundai Veloster value proposition is strong. Our tester had a list price just over $17,000, but two $2,000 option packages plus freight charges nudged the total past $22,000. We could do without the Tech Package (navigation system, backup camera, etc.), but we’d keep the Style Package (great panoramic sunroof, premium audio system, and various interior upgrades). Regardless of how it’s configured, the Veloster is a great deal.
Walkaround: You won’t have any trouble finding a Veloster in a crowded parking lot. The car is a blend of coupe and sedan. It looks coupe-like on the driver’s side with its single door and more sedan-like on the passenger side with its normal front door and smaller rear door. All doors are front-hinged, unlike some 3-door compact pickups that have a rear-hinged back door. The third door has to fit around the rear wheel well, but it’s workable.
The car’s profile is low and pretty sleek. The wheels are pushed toward the outer corners, which enhances the low look. Our tester had the $2,000 optional Style Package that included handsome 18-inch alloy wheels and P215/40R-18 tires. The flat face wheels look great, but they’re susceptible to curb rash.
A major component of the Style Package is the great panoramic sunroof. The massive glass roof greatly brightens the interior. There is a power shade to help keep the interior cool. The actual sunroof opening is on the small side, but it works well thanks to a nice wind deflector.
Interior: The interior is very spacious for the driver and front seat passenger. Legroom was so extensive that we had to move the seat up in order to work the clutch and we’re 6-2. The panoramic sunroof crowds headroom a little, but a seat height pump helps drivers find an ideal position.
The supportive seats were nicely contoured, as was the thick steering wheel. A tilt/telescopic steering column further eases the task of finding a perfect driving position. The front doors have unique, oversized door pulls, which are great for closing the wide doors. Interior storage bins are ample.
Lots of stainless trim and contrasting colors make the interior as bold as the exterior. The look fits the car’s personality. Material quality and execution is very good.
Overall cargo capacity is ample for a relatively small vehicle, but the space isn’t super easy to access. The split rear seats don’t fold completely flat and there is a noticeable height difference between the seat backs and trunk floor. The hatch opening is big, but the wide cargo area is restrictive for tall objects. The rear lift over is quite high. A lot of soft cargo can be accommodated, but tall, rigid boxes pose a challenge.
In keeping with the car’s high-tech styling, the interior was loaded with state-of-the-art electronics and info/entertainment/communications features, including Hyundai’s Blue Link Telematics System (it requires a subscription after the 90-day free introduction).
Under The Hood: Our tester was a 2012 model, which was only offered with a 1.6-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine rated at 138 horsepower and 123 lb-ft of torque. The smooth 6-speed manual transmission helped make the most of the modest horsepower and also contributed to an impressive EPA fuel economy rating of 28 mpg city/40 mpg highway.
The big news for 2013 is the availability of a new turbocharged and intercooled engine that produces 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque from the same 1.6-liter 4-cylinder powerplant. The turbo engine is available with either the 6-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed automatic with manual shifting capabilities. The turbo engine is more in keeping with the car’s swoopy styling.
Behind The Wheel: The ride quality was quite good. It’s a good blend of sporty and comfortable. Despite its styling the Veloster isn’t a hardcore sports car. That’s fine for most buyers. It’s sporty enough to be fun, but not so responsive as to be harsh. The freeway ride is generally smooth, but big expansion strips and potholes can be felt. The build quality is solid and sound insulation is decent. At high rpms the standard engine lets you know how hard it’s working. Otherwise, things are reasonably quiet. The excellent sound system is a big plus.
The driving experience is tied to one’s attitude. If you consider the Veloster a versatile, four-passenger economy car it exceeds category expectations, but if you’re looking for a sports car experience the 2013 turbocharged engine is a must.
Whines: The hatchback design and the rear seat headrests hamper rearward vision, although the backup camera helped a lot. The rear seat is best for children or short, flexible adults.
Bottom Line: We liked the Hyundai Veloster a lot. Unique styling and an overall sporty attitude pushed the Veloster well up the fun scale. Fuel economy that can hit the magic 40-mpg mark and prices in the very low twenties (high teens without the two $2,000 option packages or the new turbo engine) seal the deal. The Hyundai Veloster proves that practicality doesn’t have to be boring.