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By Roy Nakano
The last time we ascribed that adjective to a Hyundai, it was to the manic performing Track Edition of the Genesis Coupe. This time, it’s the manically styled and oddly attractive 2012 Hyundai Veloster—a car that’s a two-door coupe on one side, a four-door coupe on the other, and gets 38 miles per gallon with its dual-clutch automatic and paddle shifters. Yeah, it’s just another manic Hyundai.
If you haven’t noticed, Hyundai has been on a role for a while now. First, it was the Genesis sedan, which (along with the luxury encore Equus) did for Hyundai what Lexus did for Toyota. Then it was the stylish new 35-mpg Sonata, followed by the even more stylish 40 mpg Elantra. Both cars sent its competition scrambling and contributed greatly to Hyundai’s status as the most fuel efficient car company. With such consistent winners, Hyundai can afford to take a few more risks. Enter the riskiest Hyundai of them all: The new Veloster.
The Veloster is so off the beaten path, we can’t really think of any direct competitors to it. While there are a few cars with half-doors in the rear (the MINI Cooper Clubman and Mazda RX-8 come to mind), the Veloster has a full door in the rear—but only on the passenger side of the car. From the driver’s side, the car looks like a two-door coupe. Half doors, in our opinion, are half-arse. For ingress and egress, there’s no substitute for a real door that can open on its own without the need for the front door to be open. So the Veloster is an answer to the question that no one thought of before.
While it may be relatively easy to get in and out of the Veloster, staying in the back seat without touching the rear window is a bit tricky. For styling and visibility reasons, that back window is huge—extending over the heads of the rear passengers. We admit, it looks smart. It could, however, get a bit hot back there under the California sun—even with the shade bars painted on the glass. Such is the price of having a little Italian flair in the car (the rear window treatment is not unlike that of some beautiful Italian jobs from the 1960s).
Volkswagen aficionados say the Veloster—particularly when viewed from the two-door driver’s side—is a rip off of the new Scirroco. VW fans mean that as a compliment, by the way. It’s all water under the bridge. Most Americans will never know, since the Scirroco will never make it to these shores. The folks at VW say the Scirroco overlaps too much with its own GTI (another car that draws comparison to the Veloster).
The comparison to those hot German hatchbacks doesn’t extend to the Veloster’s driving characteristics, unfortunately. While the Veloster manages to stay flat around corners, one does not get a good feel of the road when doing so. We’ve noticed this with a few other Hyundais with sporty pretensions (the turbocharged Sonata 2.0T comes to mind). Hopefully, the numb steering feel is something the company can take care of in a future tweak.
Another tweak worth considering is the ride. Those stylish 18-inch wheels with the ultra-low profile tires look sharp on the Veloster, and no doubt contribute to the car’s grip in dry weather. However, the ride suffers considerably. Trying to get both a sporty driving experience and a comfortable ride may be a tall order, but the Veloster has neither. It may take more than a tweak for Hyundai to address this area in the Veloster.
In the acceleration department, the Veloster is missing in action. Such is the price of offering a low cost sporty hatchback with fantastic gas mileage. The good news is that Hyundai has already announced a turbocharged version of the Veloster, and Hyundai makes a good one that’s both strong on power and frugal with fuel. While they’re at it, we hope the company can put a little more sport in its Ecoshift DCT dual-clutch automatic transmission. While the paddle shifters are nifty for some manual control going through the gears, the response time is among the slowest for a dual-clutch automatic. We do miss the rapid-fire gear changes of the German dual-clutchers.
What the Veloster lacks it sport, it makes up in economy. This normally aspired Veloster excels in the fuel economy department: A highway EPA rating of 38 miles per gallon with the automatic, and a whopping 40 with the manual. That’s business as usual for Hyundai, but extraordinary by any other measure. Did we mention that Hyundai has the best corporate average fuel economy of any major car manufacturer in America?
We saved the best for last: Fit and finish. In the Veloster, it exceeds expectations for this class of car. There’s plenty of soft touch finishes inside, but even the hard plastics look good in the Veloster. It’s a testament to Hyundai—and it’s not the first time we’ve been amazed with the recent offerings from this company. Hyundai has raised the bar in the interior department once again.
When all is said and done, we think the Veloster offers a lot of car for the money. Great style, great utility, excellent fit and finish, fantastic fuel economy—and if it’s like other recent Hyundais, terrific reliability. And all at a great price. For many, that will be plenty reason to shop the Veloster. A certain segment of the population demands that a car with wild and crazy looks come with wild and crazy performance. That segment will have to look else. Or they can do what we’ll be doing—holding out for the turbocharged version Veloster. Hyundai tells us is coming sooner rather than later.
For more information on Hyundai products, go to www.hyundaiusa.com
Name of vehicle:
2012 Hyundai Veloster Ecoshift DCT
$17,300 (base, with manual transmission)
$18,550 (Ecoshift DCT)
$22,550 (as tested, with Style and Tech packages, which includes panoramic sunroof, Dimention Premium Audio with eight speakers, external amplifier and subwoofer, leather-wrapped steering wheel, alloy pedals, 18-inch alloy wheels, backup warning sensors, navigation system with rearview camera, proximity key entry with electronic push button start)
EPA fuel economy rating:
28 mpg city / 40 mpg highway (manual)
29 mpg city / 38 mpg (automatic)
Engine size and type:
1.6 liter GDI 16-valve DOHC four-in-line
138 at 6300 rpm
123 pound-feet at 4850 rpm
6-speed dual-clutch automatic with sequential manual mode and paddle shifters
Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering
Suspension (front and rear):
Front suspension: Independent MacPherson strut with stabilizer bar
Rear suspension: Torsion beam with stabilizer bar
Wheels and tires:
18-inch alloy wheels with P215/40R18 tires
Length: 166.1 inches
Width: 70.5 inches
Height: 55.1 inches
Curb weight: 2584 pounds
EPA WIRE—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that Hyundai will lower their fuel economy (MPG) estimates for the majority of their model year 2012 and 2013 vehicle models as the result of an EPA investigation of test data. Cars currently on dealer lots will be re-labeled by the auto company with new window stickers reflecting the corrected mileage estimates. The mileage on the Hyundai Veloster will be reduced from 40 to 37 mpg highway and 29 (auto)/28 (manual) to 28/27 mpg city. If you have any questions for EPA about your vehicle and this announcement, you can email your questions to email@example.com.