Hyundai adds a new car to their lineup that is great fun to drive while attracting a younger buyer into their family of reliable and well built vehicles. The new Veloster is a sporty, cutting edge sport coupe that opens new doors in the Hyundai line-up, quite literally. This is because the Veloster offers up three doors for access into the passenger compartment.
This idea isn’t new; the Saturn coupe had a rear hinged third door behind the driver that allowed access to the rear seat. Hyundai designers took a little different tact by putting the third door on the curb side for safety and giving if hinges in the front so it opens in the traditional manner.
I would call this an access door because if you are anywhere north of 6’ it is difficult to enter and exit the passenger compartment. However, the target buyers for the Veloster are early twenty-somethings and they seem to have no problem folding themselves into tight accommodations. I will leave it to them and stay in the front. After all that is the fun end of this car.
Looking at the numbers you may think this is nothing but a uniquely designed economy car. In some ways you are right. The Veloster equipped with a five-speed manual transmission gets 40 miles per gallon of gasoline. This is a target Hyundai has established for their cars and many of them hit the objective. According to Hyundai, the Veloster equipped with the manual transmission will account for 30 percent of sales. The other 70 percent will be of a new six-speed automatic that is more manual than automatic. Relatively new to the car market is a mechanical design call Dual Clutch which is basically a electronically controlled manual transmission that shifts for itself as quickly as any traditional automatic and offers steering wheel mounted paddle shifters that bring manual shifting to the driver’s fingertips.
During my drive, the Veloster proved it can handle the steep hills of San Francisco with little trepidation. Although, the hills I was negotiating were in and around Portland, Oregon. Leaving the DCS in auto-mode the car acted as any automatic would, shifting smoothly as needed. Place it in manual mode and it held in place on startups on steep hills and was quick to move through the gears.
I experienced the Veloster on many of the twisting country roads east of Portland and can report that this car is a fun little coupe. I quickly forgot about the frugal 138 horsepower four-cylinder engine sitting under the hood. With manual mode shifting the Veloster and I were scooting around tight curves and darting in and out of the river canyons like a sports car. Now this is from a vehicle that is one of Hyundai’s 40 MPG team. Yep, you read that right, 40 miles out of a gallon of gasoline. Hyundai is serious about being a company of 40 mpg vehicles.
Aimed at the sportier minded driver, the suspension leans toward the stiff side rather than ride comfort. However, not too stiff to be an uncomfortable vehicle. The rear independent suspension features a torsion bar incased in a V-beam axle with coil springs. This configuration accounts for the excellent handling characteristics the Veloster exhibits.
Exterior styling is unique and sure to attract those buyers who want something a little different and quirky. And boy that is what you get with Veloster. It has been sometime since I have driven a vehicle that has gotten this much attention from passers-by. I think that I increased the Chiropractor work load substantially. I saw more twisted necks followed by thumbs-up salutes during my drive. And at every bridge toll, the attendants kept me waiting as they asked more questions about this Hyundai. I am sure a few drivers in the line behind the Veloster became a bit frustrated at the delay.
The sharp character lines and abrupt curves of the front end design give the Veloster an aggressive look. The grille and front light treatment complete with LED lights add to the “in your face” appearance. This isn’t an offending appearance however, but one of fun and lightness.
The rear end design presents its own uniqueness. The rear spoiler splits the rear window glass, which from the driver’s seat I found distracting. I was continually looking for a straight view to the vehicles behind me. However, from the exterior view this created an attractive appearance.
Knowing buyers in this category thrive on personalizing their ride to their own likes. While there are a short list of options and packages Hyundai has offered a selection of body graphics that buyers can have their dealer install to give their Veloster that individual touch.
Many other option selections allow more personalization. Alloy wheels can be ordered with color coordinated painted inserts that highlight the body color. Plus, there are a number of quite noticeable body treatments that get everyone’s attention. Take 26.5 Yellow paint for example. This is a unique yellow that if ordered will assure you will not go unnoticed anywhere you go. In fact, I think it glows at night with its own eternal luminescence.
The interior is well designed and assembled. The plastic bits fit with precision and while I think they are just a bit hard to the touch they do not detract from the angular design of other interior components. The interior design is one of sharp angles and tight curves just as the exterior. Also like the exterior the combination works well here. The beefy steering wheel rim feels good in your hands, especially when leather wrapped. The paddle shifters are precise. However I did perceive a slight delay in the shifting of gears when pushing the car hard through the switchbacks and tight turns.
I do not believe the Veloster is going to fit into the wants for mainstream of car buyers, but then that is not the direction Hyundai wants this car to follow. Hyundai wants those buyers who walk a little off the center. Though it will mainly consist of younger folks there are an awful lot of more mature folks I know who would certainly look toward owning cars such as the Veloster. I think these folks are going to surprise the Hyundai group.