2012 Hyundai Veloster Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO
SEE ALSO: Hyundai Buyers Guide
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
2012 Hyundai Veloster
Hyundai is aggressively growing and expanding its product offerings into new niches. It has had a presence in the usual categories -- subcompact, compact, and mid-size sedans, even a large luxury sedan (the Equus), crossovers of various sizes, and even a quick rear-wheel drive sports coupe the Genesis Coupe. So what's left?
How about a fun, affordable, and economical small front-wheel drive sports coupe? That would be the Hyundai Veloster. Two coupes in the lineup is unusual today, but back in the 80s and early 90s was the norm, with Toyota offering the rear-wheel drive Supra and front-wheel drive Celica, and Nissan the rwd 300ZX and fwd NX.
The Veloster is not your typical small coupe. Most apparently, at least from the passenger side, it has three doors. Nothing new there, Saturn Coupes of the 90s and the Mini Cooper Clubman both have passenger-side rear doors. But those are hinged at the rear and require the front door to be open in order to be used. The Veloster's extra door is hinged at the front and can be used on its own, for easy access to the rear seat. The body shape isn't traditional fastback coupe, but it's lower and longer in proportion than your typical hatchback. And there are precedents for the side profile: the Maserati Tipo 151 and a one-off "breadvan" body on a Ferrari 250 GTO in the early 1960s and, even closer in profile, the Lola GT that was the predecessor to the Ford GT40.
Old racing cars probably weren't consciously in the minds of the Veloster's designers. Contemporary style and functionality definitely were. As was fuel economy. Hyundai touts 40 mpg highway mileage, and yes the Veloster does that handily, at real highway speeds. Its 1.6-liter "Gamma" four-cylinder engine uses direct fuel injection and other state-of-the-art technologies to make 138 horsepower with low emissions and minimal fuel use. Relatively light weight, 2600 to 2800 pounds depending on options, means spirited small-displacement performance -- and if more power is desired, a 200-horsepower turbo version is coming.
Transmissions are six-speed, either manual or dual-clutch automated manual. The latter was chosen over a traditional torque-converter automatic for its greater efficiency, and is called the EcoShift.
Even more than in performance and economy, the Veloster is differentiated from any competition by its comprehensive suite of standard equipment. A good audio system with all expected sources, trip computer, power windows, mirrors and locks with remote keyless entry, a tilt- and telescope-adjustable steering wheel with cruise, phone, and audio controls, Bluetooth® connectivity, filtration climate control, and a seven-inch touchscreen for audio and other systems are surprises for standard equipment at the Veloster's modest base price. But there's more -- a 90-day trial of the Hyundai Blue Link™telematics system is also included. Blue Link, in conjunction with a Bluetooth smartphone, allows download of points of interest, voice text messaging, roadside assistance, automatic crash notification, remote lock/unlock, and a variety of stolen vehicle services (not to thieves - don't steal a Hyundai with this system) and valet protection.
It's well-equipped, it's fun to drive and uses little fuel, and the Veloster is a well-made automobile that offers good comfort for up to four people. Hey, it's likely to be the only car for most people in its young and young-at-heart (and wallet) target market, so it has to do everything. And it does. It's not just a weekend toy.
Watch TACH's exclusive Hyundai Veloster promo video
APPEARANCE: The Veloster got plenty of looks while I was driving, and complimentary comments. It's a unique implementation of Hyundai's "Fluidic Sculpture" design language, with busy surfaces and complex shapes, and it works. The front is quite similar to the newest Elantra, the sides are dominated by bulging wheel arches that manage to look right, and not cartoonish at all, and the rear gets an interesting blacked-out faux venturi panel in the lower part of the bumper, with centered twin rectangular exhausts. The roof profile is too low to be "hatchback" and too rounded at the rear to be "kammback" but suits the car well -- and adds welcome headroom for rear passengers. Alloy wheels are standard for all versions, with body-color inserts for some.
COMFORT: If this is your only car, it has to do around-town errands, haul stuff, help you move, and still be roomy and comfortable for road trips. No problems there with the Veloster. There is room for four when necessary, although the rear seat may be cozy for larger people, and rear access is a snap thanks to that third door. Which also helps load and locate cargo, either in the rear seat or, with the 60/40 rear seatback down, after it's put through the hatch. It's as useful and versatile as any compact hatchback, and more stylish. The interior design is cohesive with the exterior, and soft-touch textured materials for the dash and door trim add class and eliminate glare. Instrumentation is beyond complete, even in standard trim, with backlit analog tach and speedometer and a digital trip information display centered in front of the driver. The tilt- and reach-adjustable steering wheel features controls for cruise, audio, and phone systems. Standard audio choices include AM, FM, and XM/Sirius radio, CDs, and an auxiliary jack and USB/iPod connection, placed conveniently at the bottom of the stack between two power points. Seats and steering wheel are manually-adjustable; windows and sunroof (part of the Style Package) are power. Front seat comfort is very good, and not just for the low-budget class. My test car was "fully loaded", with both the Style Package and Tech Package, at $2,000 each. That meant 18" alloy wheels, panoramic sunroof, premium audio, backup warning and camera systems, navigation system, pushbutton start/stop and lock/unlock, and more -- and still under $23,000. Good value and not just gold-plated mediocrity. Far, far from that.
SAFETY: A strong unibody structure made of high-tensile steel surrounds the Veloster's passenger cabin. Front, front side, and side-curtain airbags add passive protection, while strong four-wheel antilock disc brakes with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Force Distribution add active protection. As does the Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) system, comprised of electronic stability control and the electric power steering assist system, which can help the car react quicker in emergencies.
RIDE AND HANDLING: As is, the Veloster is more "sporty" than pure "sports", and that will endear it to a much larger audience. If its independent MacPherson strut front, semi-independent torsion beam axle rear suspension is standard fare for the class, it is tuned well, with a careful match of spring and damping rates giving a comfortably compliant ride quality, in the sporty manner, with minimal body roll and good control for enthusiastic driving. Steering effort through the electrically-assisted steering is moderate, appropriately heavier than the Elantra's. The result is a car that is fun to drive, anywhere and anytime.
PERFORMANCE: Light weight, by today's standards, and good power output give the Veloster good performance for its class and potentially excellent fuel economy. The all-aluminum "Gamma" four-cylinder engine displaces 1.6 liters and uses direct fuel injection, continuously-variable cam phasing on intake and exhaust cams, variable induction, and high-tech low-friction coatings on critical internal parts to make 138 horsepower (at 6300 rpm) and 123 lb-ft of torque (at 4850 rpm). There is a reasonable amount of low-end torque, but best performance is found above 3000 rpm in lower gears and above 4000 in fourth and above. The six-speed manual gearbox in my test car shifted easily, quickly, and positively, and added to driving enjoyment. Note that running the engine harder will not give you exemplary fuel economy around town or in the twisties -- if you play, you're gonna pay (at the pump). Conversely, upshifting when recommended by the display between the tach and speedo will provide good economy on level ground, but the electronic throttle is programmed to ignore hard inputs that would lug the engine (and potentially damage rod and crankshaft bearings so good!) so a quick downshift or three may be in order. Play hard in the lower gears and you'll see high teens for mileage. More normal driving around town is good for high twenties, and no problem getting 40+ on the highway thanks to fifth and sixth gears being overdrives. If that 138hp isn't enough for you, a turbocharged version with 200hp was recently announced as a 2013 model at the Detroit Auto Show…
CONCLUSIONS: Hyundai has a unique small coupe in the Veloster.
2012 Hyundai Veloster
Base Price $ 17,300 Price As Tested $ 21,300 Engine Type DOHC 16-valve aluminum alloy inline 4-cylinder with direct fuel injection and continuously-variable cam phasing Engine Size 1.6 liters / 97 cu. in. Horsepower 138 @ 6300 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 123 @ 4850 rpm Transmission 6-speed manual Wheelbase / Length 104.3 in. / 166.1 in. Curb Weight 2740 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 19.9 Fuel Capacity 13.2 gal. Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline Tires P215/40R18 85V Kumho Solus KH25(opt) Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, EBD, BA, ESC standard Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / torsion beam axle Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 28 / 40 / 32 0 to 60 mph 8.5 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES Style Package - includes: 18" alloy wheels with P215/40 tires, chrome grille surround with piano black highlights, fog lights, panoramic sunroof, Dimension premium audio with 8 speakers, external amp, and subwoofer, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, alloy pedals, driver's window auto-up $ 2,000 Tech Package - includes: unique alloy wheels with painted inserts, backup warning system, navigation system, rearview camera, automatic headlights, proximity key entry with electronic pushbutton start/stop, 115VAC outlet $ 2,000