To some, a high point of the new Hyundai Veloster hatchback is its clever, practical three-door arrangement, with a second right-side door. But that’s not looking hard enough at this 2012 hatchback.
Indeed,the Veloster is a sporty, fuel-efficient model with a sculpted, sexy interior. The car shows Hyundai isn’t afraid to take chances, and we need more of that adventuresomeness today.
With its Tiburon and Accent coupe models gone, Hyundai needed a new car to fill a hole in the Hyundai lineup.
However, the front-wheel-drive Veloster could use more power to back up its sporty look and nimble handling. Its sophisticated 1.6-liter, 138-horsepower four-cylinder provided lively performance in my test six-speed manual-transmission Velostar’s lower gears, but fifth and sixth gears are strictly for highway cruising. A more-powerful turbocharged version is rumored to be on the way.
With the manual transmission, lots of shifting is needed for the best performance. Third gear is best in town, and a downshift to fourth or, preferably, third gear is required for decent 65-75 open-road passing. The moderate-effort clutch has a long throw.
A $1,250 six-speed dual-clutch automatic also is offered, but I didn’t drive the car with it and it’s said to slow acceleration a bit. As it is, the Veloster does 0-60 mph in 8.5 seconds with the manual if you accelerate aggressively.
On the flip side, fuel economy with the manual gearbox is an estimated 28 miles per gallon in the city and a sparkling mpg 40 on highways. Economy numbers with the automatic are estimated to be a few miles per gallon less.
The Veloster’s list prices are $17,300 for the manual and $18,550 with the automatic. Both versions are loaded with enough standard equipment to satisfy most.
Such equipment includes fairly wide (45-series) tires on 17-inch wheels, air conditioning, a good six-speaker sound system, tilt/telescopic steering column, steering wheel controls, driver seat-height adjustment, cruise control, 60/40 split-folding rear seat, remote keyless entry and power windows, locks and heated outside mirrors.
Safety features include plenty of air bags.
Options include a panoramic sunroof, push-button engine start, even wider (40-series) tires on larger 18-inch wheels and a navigation system with a rearview camera.
That second right-side door has a deftly “hidden” opener, so those who didn’t know any better would guess this is a two-door hatchback coupe. The single rear door opening is a bit narrow, but there’s plenty of room in back for two tall adults. However, a narrow center console with dual cupholders prevents the generally easy slide you get while moving across a small car’s conventional rear seat. At least the split rear seats are nicely padded.
There’s plenty of room up front in the quiet interior. Seats are supportive, and there are small but acceptable sound system and climate controls. The dashboard in the rakish-looking interior has lots of plastic, but it doesn’t look cheap. Front cupholders are conveniently placed, and there are storage and bottle pockets in front doors. But the glove compartment is small.
Steering is quick with a firm on-center feel to prevent “wandering” on highways. Handling is sharp, and electronic stability and traction control are standard. The ride is firm, but supple. And the all-disc brakes inspire confidence, especially with their electronic brake force distribution and brake-assist features for surer quick stops.
The heavy rear hatch raises on twin hydraulic struts. Although wide, the cargo opening is rather high and the trunk is not especially large. But rear seatbacks flip forward and sit flat to appreciably increase the cargo area.
The hood is held open with a prop rod, but fluid-filler areas can be easily reached.
The Veloster has some strong rivals, but none are quite as intriguing as this new Hyundai.
Pros: Sporty. Unique three-door design. Roomy interior. Well-equipped. High fuel economy.
Cons: Could used more power. High cargo opening. Long clutch throw.
Bottom Line: Delivers on most counts, but faster, upcoming turbo-charged version is likely.
Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read more of his new and vintage car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com