2012 Hyundai Veloster Tech Road Test Review

Simon Hill - CAP staff
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Published on January 27, 2012

With the doors shut, the Veloster looks coupe-like from any angle. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on January 27, 2012

Published on January 27, 2012

From the driver's side the Veloster exhibits pure coupe styling, with a truncated tail end and a hunkered-down stance. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on January 27, 2012

Published on January 27, 2012

Published on January 27, 2012

Published on January 27, 2012

At the rear there are deep scallops inboard of the taillights and a huge rear diffuser panel with a central exhaust outlet. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on January 27, 2012

Published on January 27, 2012

Published on January 27, 2012

Published on January 27, 2012

Published on January 27, 2012

Published on January 27, 2012

Published on January 27, 2012

On the passenger's side, a small rear door is concealed behind the front door. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on January 27, 2012

Published on January 27, 2012

Published on January 27, 2012

Published on January 27, 2012

The Veloster is as stylish inside as it is on the outside, and even base models come with a seven-inch touchscreen multimedia interface. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on January 27, 2012

Published on January 27, 2012

Published on January 27, 2012

Published on January 27, 2012

Published on January 27, 2012

Published on January 27, 2012

Published on January 27, 2012

Published on January 27, 2012

Published on January 27, 2012

Published on January 27, 2012

Under the hood the Veloster gets a 1.6-litre 4-cylinder that delivers 138 horsepower. Peak torque of 123 lb-ft arrives at a lofty 4,850 rpm. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on January 27, 2012

Colour-keyed alloy wheels are a nice touch. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on January 27, 2012

Introduced to North America in 2011 as a 2012 model, the Hyundai Veloster is the latest interpretation of the idea of a "user-friendly four-seat coupe," following a path blazed by cars including the Saturn SC Coupe, the Saturn Ion Coupe and the Mazda RX-8. Those cars took a unique approach to improving rear-seat access, with small rear-hinged doors that could be opened once the front doors were opened (the SC Coupe had just one rear door on the driver's side, while the later Ion Coupe and the RX-8 had rear doors on both sides).

The Veloster takes an even more unique approach: Like the original Saturn SC Coupe it has only one rear door, but it is on the passenger's side and is a normal - albeit small - front-hinged door that can be opened and closed entirely independently of the front door. To make room for the two doors on the passenger's side, the passenger's side front door is also significantly shorter than the lone driver's side door, giving the Veloster a subtle but distinctive asymmetry.

Someone really ought to invent a name for this "two-and-a-bit-door" style of car. Saturn called the Ion a "quad coupe," but that's a bit restrictive, eliminating unique approaches like the original SC Coupe or the Veloster. Contractions like "scoupe" or "coudan" might work, but they're both a bit clunky and anyway Hyundai already used "Scoupe" for its Excel-based 2-door from the early 1990s. So I'm nominating the descriptive and nicely inclusive "demi-coupe," derived from the French "demi" which means "half" (I'd originally thought "semi-coupe," but that sounds too much like some sort of sporty tractor-trailer rig, and coupe is already French - it means "to cut" - so demi is a perfect fit).

The Veloster's quirky styling doesn't end with it's unique door layout - this is a car with plenty of character, and only from directly in front would anyone ever accuse it of being conventional-looking (and that's only when you look past the air scoop inlets under the headlights, the abundance of edges and character lines, the curved reverse hood scoops and the tightly swept back look of the front fascia).

The side view reveals a car with a slightly boxy profile, sculpted side panels and a truncated back end. Viewed from behind, the Veloster looks, more than anything else, like a Chrysler Crossfire, with deep scallops inboard of the taillights and a huge rear diffuser panel with a central split trapezoidal exhaust outlet. Taken as a whole, the Veloster isn't as conventionally good-looking as, say, the Scion tC or the Kia Forte Koup, but it does have a nice "hunkered down" look and an undeniably attention-getting style.

Inside, the Veloster is equally stylish, and while it uses a fair amount of hard plastic (as expected in this segment) everything fits together well and the materials look good. The sculpted dash features abundant metallic-look accents and swoops down to the centre console, making room for a V-shaped centre stack. Details include individual rear buckets with a small console (with cupholders) between them, and metallic-look interior door pulls that resemble the rear-passenger grab bars on a sport bike. The real news inside the Veloster is the high level of standard equipment: Every Veloster comes with a six-speaker audio system that includes a seven-inch touchscreen multimedia interface with AM/FM/XM/MP3/CD compatibility, iPod/USB/auxiliary jacks, Bluetooth connectivity and a rearview camera. On top of that there's proximity entry with pushbutton start, cruise control, a trip computer and heated front seats, plus of course power locks, power windows, air conditioning and all the expected safety equipment in the way of airbags, ABS brakes and stability control.

My Tech Package test cars (I drove both the standard and the automatic) added a range of extra equipment: Each featured a panoramic sunroof, aluminum pedals, navigation system, leather wrapped steering wheel, 110-volt power outlet, automatic light control and deeply bolstered, comfortable front seats (the rear seats are also relatively comfortable, but they are tight on headroom, especially for passengers over about 5'10"). Outside, the Tech package upgrades the Veloster's 17-inch alloy wheels to 18-inch alloys.

Under the hood, the Veloster gets a 1.6-litre direct-injection 4-cylinder engine that produces 138 horsepower and 123 lb-ft of torque. This is hooked up to either a slick-shifting 6-speed manual transmission or a sophisticated 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual. The latter comes with steering wheel-mounted paddle-shifters and I found it worked very well, shifting smoothly and seamlessly on its own in automatic mode, or providing a decent dose of driving engagement in manual-shift mode. My preference runs to the manual transmission, however. This is partly because even in manual mode the automatic transmission would anticipate redline and take control, upshifting a fraction of a second before I flicked the lever, so I never felt as if I was in full control. But more to the point, with only 123 lb-ft of torque from the 1.6-litre engine (and that coming at a peaky 4,850 rpm) the automatic just couldn't launch the Veloster like I could with the manual. And anyway, I like manual transmissions and this one is a joy to use, snicking between the gears with quick, precise engagement.

The Veloster's power goes to the front wheels, and it uses a fairly conventional MacPherson-strut front / torsion-beam rear suspension setup tuned to minimize body roll without imposing a harsh ride. On the road, under normal driving conditions, I found the Veloster nimble but perhaps a little underpowered - it is perfectly capable of keeping up with (and passing) traffic, but you need to work it fairly hard to keep it moving along. Strangely however, during spirited driving the relative lack of power became almost a virtue - even on public roads I was able to thrash the Veloster along without undue risk to my license, and in turn the Veloster made all the right noises, accelerated fast enough to keep a smile on my face, and whipped around the corners with confidence (my only real complaint is that the tail end steps out to a disconcerting degree over mid-corner bumps).

The real benefit that accrues from the Veloster's relatively small engine comes at the pump: Despite the thrashing I handed out, the manual-equipped Veloster (which is the one I drove the majority of the time) turned in very respectable overall fuel economy - the official city/highway rating with the automatic is 7.0 / 4.9 L/100km, and I got surprisingly close to these numbers driving the manual-equipped car in a most uneconomical manner.

Suggested pricing for the Hyundai Veloster starts at $18,999 (plus $1,495 in delivery charges) for the 6-speed car, with the Tech package adding $3,500 and the automatic transmission adding another $1,400, giving a top-range sticker of $23,899. In both spirit and price this puts it squarely in the same camp as Scion's tC and Kia's Forte Koup, but the Veloster occupies a unique spot in that camp thanks to its distinctive demi-coupe style and unparalleled multimedia connectivity.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Coupe, Hyundai, 2012, Veloster, $10,000 - $19,999, $20,000 - $29,999,

Organizations: Hyundai

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