Funny, it doesn’t seem that long ago when I started writing for The Garage, but longtime readers may recall a series I started known as ‘Forgotten Sporty Cars’. Odd thing is that was four years ago, and one of my featured cars was Hyundai’s first attempt at a sporty car, the long forgotten Scoupe. A modest but well-intentioned effort, the Scoupe was replaced by the far more credible Tiburon. With the Tiburon’s production ceasing in 2008, a gap was left in Hyundai’s otherwise aggressive product portfolio for an affordable, small sporty coupe. The gap was finally filled by the all-new Veloster.
Style-wise, the Veloster is speaking to a young audience, but not to the extent that a guy in his mid-40’s would look silly driving this car. The design is up to the minute without being faddish. I particularly admired the headlight design, sculpted hood scoops and our test car’s handsome and sporty 18″ alloys. Yes, color is a matter of personal choice, and our car’s Century White finish would rank last on my color choice, but it did nothing to take away from the Veloster’s good looks. The most interesting feature of the Veloster is that it is a three door hatchback. By that, I don’t mean it has two doors and a hatch, it really has three doors. The passenger side rear door can open on its own, a first in the car business. As a car journalist with a six year old son who samples a lot of coupes, this feature was a blessing. Not to mention the coolness factor that he had his own ‘secret door’.
The Veloster is an economy car, but the interior is built to a high standard and available with an astonishing amount of equipment. Even with my 6’1″ frame the Veloster offered plenty of room. The seats were comfortable and offered a decent amount on support. All controls were easy to read and use, and the infotainment was simple and intuitive. A pity the German luxury makers don’t spend some time seeing how easy it can be. For the Veloster’s swoopy styling, I was grateful our car was equipped with a rearview camera and parking sensors, a must-have given the obscured rear view. In sum, the Veloster’s interior is definitely contemporary and feature laden, is handsome in execution but felt a bit cold.
For 2012, the Veloster is available with one engine, a 1.6L four rated at 138hp. Transmission choices are either a six-speed manual, or a six-speed automated dual clutch tranny. Our test car was equipped with the latter, and I have to say it was pretty slick in operation, and I would argue it is far smoother in operation than the VW GTI’s. Most car writers start to get all whiny when talk comes to the Veloster’s engine. The good news for them is the Veloster Turbo is on its way. I, however, will not whine. On a gorgeous summer weekend, I whisked my wife and son to the lovely village of Katonah, New York. Carving up lush, curvy country roads from Connecticut to New York, the Veloster was a joy to drive. Steering felt sharp, and handling was comfortable, crisp, and not at all punishing. Even from the passenger seat, my wife commented the Veloster must be a fun drive.
For 2012, the Veloster is available in one single model, with optional packages. With the dual clutch automatic, our test car starts at $18,550USD. For that, standard equipment like paddles shifters, XM satellite radio and LED headlight accents as well as Blue Link (it’s Hyundai’s version of GM’s OnStar) is impressive. Our test car included the Style Package, which added 18″ wheels, a panoramic sunroof, 8 speaker premium audio, and alloy pedals, and the Tech Package, which includes back up warning sensors, navigation, rear view camera, proximity key and push button start. Our fully loaded Veloster rang in, as delivered, with an MSRP of $23,235. Not a bad price for a car with so many features and style.
Sure, the Veloster was built as an inexpensive, fuel efficient run about. But Hyundai did more than that. Sitting on the main street of upscale Katonah sipping a Stella Artois, our little Veloster looked perfectly at home as we watched the New York City dwellers hop the train back their urban jungle. Back at home, I was asked about the Veloster at the Whole Foods parking lot-lined with all the usual European and Japanese luxury brands. Yet the Veloster is what caught their eye. With the Veloster, Hyundai has built an excellent, affordable coupe, that, dare I say, carries the tradition of the Honda CR-X. As I said when I first started here at The Garage, it seemed like the affordable sporty car was forgotten. It’s back, and it’s the Hyundai Veloster.