When Hyundai debuted the Veloster at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show, there were more than a few journos on the show floor that were scratching their heads a bit. I have to admit that I was among them. While the little runner was certainly cool looking to my eyes, the third door was a little gimmicky and the back seat it allowed access to offered headroom for a 10 year old and not much more. With only 138 ponies under the hood, the Veloster wasn’t even remotely about performance either.
To be fair, auto manufacturers were locked in a battle to outdo each other in the fuel economy wars at the time. Hyundai promised to be the first manufacturer to offer a full line of 30 mpg plus machines, while the high mileage variants from their competitors required consumers to spend extra money up front. The Veloster was positioned as a fun and funky car for around town, not a performance car. Then, at Chicago, they confused the message by showing off the purpose built racer that Rhys Millen would campaign in the US Rallycross series.
Is the 2012 Hyundai Veloster a single person’s lifestyle statement or is it worthy of being called a sports car? As confusing as that might seem, a resounding yes is the answer to both views.
Under the hood lies a deceptively powerful package. The 1,591cc four cylinder twin cam makes use of continuously variable cam timing and direct gas injection to look after the breathing duties. With both the block and cylinder head made of aluminum, the little mill generates 138 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 123 lb-ft of torque at 4,850 rpm. By today’s standards, that may not seem like massive numbers, but Hyundai has done their homework. Our tester was fitted with the optional 6 speed dual clutch transmission. The final drive ratio is a super low 4.8 to 1, a number similar to what many drag racers use to ensure a quick launch off the line.
For such a small car, the Veloster weighs in at a surprisingly portly 1,276 kg (2,807 lbs) which might bring one to believe that performance would be lacklustre. One would be wrong, my own predictions included. The Veloster is an absolute hoot to drive around town, launching away from lights with authority but none of the attention attracting noise that comes with many more powerful coupes. Handling is crisp and neutral. The sporty suspension settings might be a tad harsh for some, but are fitting for the fun nature of the car.
Out and about, our bright blue tester, with cool, colour matched wheel inserts, garnered more attention from other drivers than any press car we’ve driven in the past year. People just love to look at the Veloster, often expressing surprise when they walk around the passenger side and discover the third door.
On the inside, occupants are treated to a cockpit that feels surprisingly roomy. The cloth and leatherette trimmed seats are supportive enough for a lapping day, but comfortable enough for a road trip. Better pack light for that road trip though, as cargo space is not the Veloster’s strong suit. A trip to the rink for one of my boy’s hockey games meant folding down both rear seats and his hockey stick joined us in the front. Still, with the seats down, there should be enough room for a young single or couple to carry enough gear to go camping for a weekend. That third door? It actually is quite functional, aiding access for the occasional rear seat passenger, but being really handy for putting stuff in the cargo area when the seats are down.
While those young driver’s are en route to the local provincial park, they will likely want to make use of their iPad and the like, and even the base Veloster features a 7″ touch screen to manage the audio system and connectable devices. Bluetooth connectivity is standard at all levels, something more manufacturers should be doing. Upgrading to the Tech Package adds in Navigation, 2 additional speakers (bringing the count to 8), a sub woofer and external amplifier, upgraded interior finishes and a rear view camera. Outside, the previously mentioned 18″ colour match wheels are part of the group, along with fog lights, automatic lights, heated mirrors and a massive sunroof.
The base Veloster, fitted with a 6-speed manual transmission, begins at a reasonable $18,999. Our tester was outfitted with the Tech Package, retailing for $23,899. Given the level of content, this makes the Veloster an unequaled value in the small hatch market. The novelty and function of the third door is an added bonus.
The key element to the 2012 Hyundai Veloster is fun factor. Fun to drive doesn’t always mean outright performance, it is the combination of speed, vehicle dynamics and style that often makes a car a winner. The Veloster offers up a fun driving experience along with a more than reasonable price, which is why Hyundai can’t build them fast enough to meet demand.
For those who want a touch more speed, hang tight, the Veloster Turbo isn’t too far off!