What It Is: A highly stylized, sporty three-door coupe, the 2012 Hyundai Veloster is meant to woo young professionals and students alike.
What We Like: The bold, aggressive styling won't leave you without an opinion, which is a good thing for Hyundai. Lots of features that often are seen on pricier cars, a sporty premium feeling interior, and great fuel economy.
What We Dislike: While competitive in its segment, true enthusiasts may want a little more kick under the hood. Average base stereo and sound quality.
Snap Judgment: The Veloster may be the most styled Hyundai ever, and with an attractive modern interior and excellent fuel economy, you'd be hard pressed to find better at this price point.
Exciting sporty Korean coupes are about as common as hot, balmy days in the Pacific Northwest, or cars with three passenger doors. But for a couple days at the tail of summer, I was the beneficiary of all three.
Hyundai is synonymous with good, attractive cars. The formula has propelled it to become the fifth largest automaker globally, which is all well and good, but missing from the range was a type-A personality car. A car that wasn't neutral. A car that wasn't just attractive and pleasant, but would make you do a double take. A car that would create division, and not apologize after. That car, is this car.
The 2012 Hyundai Veloster is meant to trend younger, but we think the Veloster could end up attracting a much wider audience, as the popular Ford Fiesta does. The Veloster can count the Scion tC and Honda CR-Z as competitors, and may even woo budget-minded Mini Cooper and Volkswagen Beetle owners less concerned with brand heritage.
2012 Hyundai Velosters with a traditional manual transmission start at $17,300, and dual-clutch models begin at $18,550. Two packages are available. A $2000 Style Package upgrades the standard 17-inch alloy wheels to 18-inches, adds a better sound system, chrome to the grille and wraps the steering wheel and shifter in leather, leatherette bolster seats and door inserts among other things.
The Tech Package costs an additional $2000 on top of the Style Package. It includes painted inserts on the 18-inch alloy wheels, backup warning sensors, navigation with a rearview camera, automatic headlights and push-button start. Three service-tiered Blue Link Telematics packages are available for subscription, providing everything from roadside assistance to Pandora-radio and hands-free voice features.
On first glance the Veloster is fit, aggressive, and a bit cheeky. It commands your attention, draws the eyes in as you scan the body and follow the lines. The styling takes cues from the popular and much-missed Honda CRX, with some accents from the modern and much more expensive Nissan 370Z. On the driver's side, the body is decidedly a sports coupe, but the two doors on the passenger side don't seem crowded or out of place. The recessed third-door handle is barely noticeable, hidden into the Veloster's rear pillar.
A centered twin-pipe exhaust and the panorama glass roof on the rear give the appearance of a sports car. Hyundai's signature hexagonal grille in front, and some of the new "fluidic sculpture" design elements we've seen on newer Hyundai's are present, but the Veloster almost seems to be a generation ahead in its outward aesthetic. It'd be nice to think the many looks we got on the road had something to do with us, but people took the liberty to do a walk around when we were parked, so the Veloster may have played a role. The car does turn heads. What they're thinking, I can't tell you.
The first model we drove had the Style Package, and the leatherette and leather accents, along with an attractive dash and instrument panel, gave the car a fresh, modern feel. The seats, with the mix of smooth leatherette and woven fabric were smart and comfortable, while still decidedly sporty. The Veloster has ample space, and an unexpectedly roomy cabin, especially in front. Although there is sufficient rear seat legroom, the low headroom means taller passengers may want to avoid the backseat. Cargo room is adequate, and with the rear seats folded it was more than ample. On the downside, rearward visibility is poor, and it has nothing to do with a smoky haze we found ourselves in at times -- word was forest fires were raging somewhere nearby -- but rather is a casualty of the attractive exterior styling.
Audio and air controls are logical and accessible. The shifter is comfortably at hand, offering smooth, short and effortless shifts. Some may desire a more pronounced shift feel with the manual transmission. Interior materials were a mix of sleek, polished and hard, with soft and cushy materials mixed in. The cabin overall had a sporty, premium feel more often associated with pricier cars.
The 2012 Hyundai Veloster features a 1.6-liter, 138-hp engine, which it shares with the recently introduced Hyundai Accent. In the Veloster, it's available with a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, a kind of transmission more commonly associated with higher priced vehicles. At just over 2500 pounds, the sporty coupe is extremely light, which helps this small front-wheel drive car get the most out its little engine.
We drove both the six-speed manual and six-speed dual clutch models from Portland, Oregon, north-east along the Historic Columbia River Highway, up along the Columbia Gorge and over The Bridge of Gods into Washington State. The route gave us some good preliminary indications of what the Hyundai Veloster is all about.
Snaking up narrow roads in Northern Oregon's Historic Columbia River Highway, we found the dual clutch gearbox very smooth, with almost imperceptible shifts. The six-speed manual was sporty, though we really had to go heavy on the accelerator to get a response and an extra boost of power. Even though it's not fast, the Veloster is still fun to drive. Twisting through mountainous passes, we blew by ebbing creeks and more green than in the Federal Reserve...although these days even Arizona's drivers could make the same claim.
The Veloster took corners confidently and the engine had a light, pleasant hum when accelerated. We did detect a low whine in dual clutch models at highway speeds, and there was noticeable road noise, especially on the region's coarse roads, although it diminished when we found ourselves on smoother surfaces. The brakes were sharp and responsive, and with a mix of aggressive city and highway driving, we still averaged a stellar 36 mpg. Barreling down Interstate 5 the following day, the Veloster blocked out wind noise, but sound emanating from the road was still present in the cabin. On the highway the Veloster drives much like an economy car, but on more varied drives the Veloster was up for the challenge, delivering a sporty feel as it engaged with the road.
The 2012 Hyundai Veloster impressed us with its commanding looks and sporty interior. Driving was fun, though in truth the aggressive styling promises more than the economy car engine can deliver. But shoppers in this segment should give the Veloster a look. If you're looking to pony up about 20k, there aren't many options that would give you more than this sporty three-door.
We're anxious to get behind the wheel on our local roads where we can really gauge road noise, tinker around with the stereo a little more, and see what kind of mileage we average in our Southern California commute. We're also curious to see if the car will turn as many heads around car-conscious Los Angeles, a true test for the highly styled Veloster.
- 1.6-liter 4-cylinder, six-speed manual transmission
EPA estimated fuel economy: 28 mpg city/40 mpg highway/32 mpg combined
1.6-liter 4-cylinder, six-speed dual clutch transmission
EPA estimated fuel economy: 29 mpg city/38 mpg highway/32 mpg combined