The all-new 2012 Hyundai Veloster is a clever interpretation of the modern hatchback, with sleek lines, aggressive details and an asymmetrical three-door layout. Yes, there are three real doors here, not two doors and a hatch or a rear-hinged mini door.
Hyundai achieved this by using a longer, coupe-like door on the driver's side and two smaller, sedan-like doors on the passenger side. The idea here is that you get sporty coupe styling without sacrificing convenience.
Built on a heavily revised Elantra platform, the front-wheel-drive Veloster is powered by a new 1.6-liter, direct-injected, inline four-cylinder engine rated at 138 horsepower.
Buyers have the choice of a standard six-speed manual transmission or a new six-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission (DCT) with shift paddles. It's an impressive powertrain either way, with agile performance that helps deliver an estimated 40 miles per gallon (mpg) on the highway.
A 208-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder Veloster is slated to debut next year.
As hatchbacks go, the 2012 Veloster delivers a decent amount of driving entertainment on twisting roads. The ride is mercifully compliant and the interior provides a fair amount of comfort. There is also a surprising number of standard features that are either options on other cars in this class or not available at all.
As the hip newcomer to the hatchback segment, the Veloster presents some nice advantages over its competitors, namely the Honda CR-Z hybrid, Scion tC, Mazda 3, Volkswagen Beetle, Fiat 500 and the Mini Cooper and Clubman.
While some of these competitors may offer a more premium experience, the Veloster counters with more standard features while coming in at a much lower price. The Veloster with the six-speed manual transmission has a suggested retail price in Puerto Rico of $23,495, while our tested vehicle, with the automated DCT, starts at $24,995.
Lots of standard features
The Veloster is a four-passenger, three-door hatchback that is offered in one very well-appointed trim level. Standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, light-emitting diode (LED) accent lights, heated side-view mirrors, a rear spoiler, air conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, full power accessories, a cargo cover, cloth upholstery, height-adjustable driver's seat, split-folding rear seats, Bluetooth and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and USB/iPod connectivity.
GREAT FUEL ECONOMY
The new Veloster's engine produces 123 foot-pounds of torque. Drivability and fuel economy are bolstered by the vehicle's low curb weight—just 2,584 pounds for manual-transmission models and only 2,657 pounds for dual-clutch automatics.
Estimated fuel economy is 28 mpg city/40 mpg highway and 32 mpg in combined driving for the manual-transmission model, while the DCT is rated at 29/38/32 mpg. The Veloster accelerates from a standstill to 60 miles per hour in just under eight seconds, which is on the quick side for hatchbacks in this price range.
BIG ON SAFETY
The Veloster doesn't cut corners when it comes to safety. Standard safety features include four-channel antilock disc brakes, traction & stability control and six airbags, including front-seat side airbags and full-length side-curtain airbags.
In addition, the Veloster uses large amounts of high-strength steel to deliver a body that is strong and stiff, yet light. In fact, the Veloster has a higher torsional rigidity than the Volkswagen Scirocco, a global industry benchmark.
Clearly, the most prominent feature of the Veloster is its three-door layout. The larger, coupe-like driver door allows easy ingress and egress and the two smaller passenger-side doors provide added convenience for loading people or packages. The front seats offer plenty of lateral support to hold you in while cornering and ample cushioning for long-distance comfort.
The overall interior design exudes a youthful and modern look without being gimmicky. There is an abundance of hard plastic, but it is well-textured for a more favorable appearance.
In the back, the Veloster may not feel as roomy as other traditional hatchbacks, as headroom is limited by the sloping rear roof-line.
The glass hatch will also have rear passengers' heads exposed to the sun, but at least the Veloster offers ample legroom. The rear seats fold down to provide greater cargo capacity, but it may not be all that necessary, as the deep 15.5-cubic-foot trunk should suffice for most hauls.
As with most hatchbacks, the rear hatch glass and roof edge do obscure and distort the rear view.
FUN TO DRIVE
The Veloster's extroverted styling overstates things a little, but this is still an economically minded hatchback. That said, the Veloster delivers a surprising amount of fun behind the wheel.
The small four-cylinder engine won't blow you away in terms of acceleration, but the handling is both balanced and predictable. Bumps and ruts in the road are shrugged off with ease despite the suspension's sportier tuning.
In everyday driving, the cabin is very quiet in terms of wind and engine noise. In fact, it is quieter than its top segment competitors, ranking best-in-class when it comes to limiting wind and road noise.
The DCT transmission is also praiseworthy, with quick, smooth shifts in automatic or manual modes and responsive shift paddles. In nearly every way, the Veloster delivers a great deal more than its modest price suggests.