2012 Hyundai Veloster Review
By Evan Griffey of MSN Autos
Hyundai has been a bright spot in the automotive industry. During a time when it's hard to sell cars, Hyundai is one of a handful of automakers selling them like hot cakes. In fact, the Korean automaker currently is selling cars faster than it makes them. The reasons? Chalk it up to Hyundai's inspired designs, quality mechanicals and refined interior treatments.
Hyundai's latest offering, the Veloster, is placed between the bargain-basement Accent and the midlevel Elantra. It is a 3-door hatchback with rear access provided by a door on the passenger side.
A design philosophy that combines fuel efficiency and fun in the same package is the driving force behind the Veloster. It is positioned as a techno-centric offering aimed squarely at beginning buyers with an affinity for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Facebook.
The question is not whether the Veloster has the winning formula — it does — but how big a success it will be up against some very, very tough competition.
A Style Package featuring 18-inch alloys, sunroof, fog lights, upgraded audio, leather-laced interior and some exterior touches can be added for around $2,000. With the Style Package on board the Tech Package can be ordered. It adds more exclusive 18-inch alloy wheels with body color inserts, navigation with a rear back-up camera system and a proximity key with push-button start for another $2,000; that's a lot of car for $21,300.
As sharp-looking as Hyundai's all-new Elantra is, the Veloster's design comes off a little quirky, with a silhouette too similar to the Honda CR-Z's. There also seems to be a lot going on visually along the side of the car, with its two separate contour lines and overstated wheel arches. The rear of the car also looks a bit busy. The Veloster counts the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, Honda CR-Z and Scion tC among its first-tier competitors, and the MINI Cooper and Fiat 500 among its secondary competition.
Under the Hood
A 6-speed manual provides gear selection in stock trim with the 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission stepping in when the aforementioned $1,250 premium is paid. The dual-clutch transmission, which is an advanced technology for such a low-cost car, uses dual dry clutches to facilitate shifts with one clutch pack overseeing first, third and fifth gears, and the other clutch operating second, fourth, sixth and reverse. The dual-clutch transmission provides direct transfer of power between engine and transmission via the clutches, whereas a traditional automatic uses hydraulics in the form of a torque converter to transfer power. So to change gears the dual-clutch system in effect changes clutches. When in first gear the first clutch pack is engaged and the other pack is ready to engage second. When in second the first pack is ready for third and so on. The system transitions into gears much faster than a manual or conventional automatic transmission.
With the manual transmission the Veloster reaches that pinnacle of mileage performance: 28 mpg city/40 mpg highway. Opting for the dual-clutch transmission drops that a bit, netting 29/38 mpg.
All Velosters are equipped with extensive steering-wheel controls and Bluetooth technology for hands-free smartphone operation. The Bluetooth downloads phone contacts and stores them on the media system hard drive making access a snap.
The Veloster is delivered with trial subscriptions of many popular Blue Link features, including XM Sports, XM Weather and XM Stocks. The system can also be configured for voice text messaging, and it has a location feature that shows where you are on your Facebook account.
Looking past the Veloster's techno blitz, the cabin is quiet and comfortable. The general layout of gauges and controls is very pleasing, and the cruise control, audio system and Bluetooth controls on the steering wheel give the Hyundai a decidedly upscale feel. The fit and finish of the interior, supportive bucket seats and the optional audio system are impressive.
We applaud the idea of the hidden third door and appreciate that it opens like a conventional door — not a suicide door. Our concerns begin once we get in said door. Passengers in the five-foot, 10-inch to 6-foot range will have major headroom problems.
On the Road
The Veloster's suspension makes good use of the standard low-profile tires, providing very predictable behavior when in apex-carving mode and offering a compliant ride in cruise mode.
Hyundai engineered the Veloster to be a featherweight, and at 2,584 pounds it's a whopping 470-plus pounds lighter than the sporty Scion tC and more than 50 pounds lighter than the miserly Honda CR-Z hybrid. You can feel this in the car's agility and ample on-ramp acceleration.
Right for You?
(As part of an automaker-sponsored press event, Hyundai provided MSN with travel and accommodations tofacilitate this report.)
Evan Griffey served as an editor of Turbo & High Tech Performance, a pioneering publication about sport-compacttuning. Today Griffey freelances for Import Tuner, Sport Compact Car, Car Audio and Siphon.