Strengths and weaknesses:
- fuel economy
- grabby brakes
- light clutch
Veloster: not your typical Hyundai
"Vancouver, B.C. - Hyundai's recent history may be steeped in mass market appeal, but with its new 2012 Veloster, the automaker has proven without a doubt it knows how to present a less mainstream vehicle to a very specific audience."
To call the Veloster "niche" would be incorrect, even if Hyundai itself does just that. It's a four door hatchback that could, theoretically, appeal just as much to empty-nesters as it does to the hip, young and tech-savvy Generation-Y's it's being strongly marketed to.
It's comfortable. It's fuel-efficient. It's versatile. It's priced right. These are all things that appeal to people in all walks of life.
That said, the Veloster certainly isn't your typical Hyundai. Whereas all of the automaker's other vehicles sit in well-defined segments, it's difficult figuring out who the Veloster competes against. You can look at size, price, and bodystyles, but really, this sporty-looking ride is poised to take on just about any vehicle that appeals to a younger generation of buyers. Anything from a Scion tC, to a Kia Soul, to a Volvo C30 should beware.
These days, presentation is almost equally as important as actual functionality when it comes to the shiny new gadgets young people can't get enough of. Hyundai knows this, and has carried that philosophy over to the Veloster, designing a vehicle that stands out from the crowd by being attractive, and not just different for the sake of being different. It's truly a vehicle that looks ten times better in person than it does in pictures.
While the exterior design hampers head room, the Veloster is a lot more useable than it looks from the outside.
The rear hatch opens up to a decent-sized cargo area that can be increased to better-than-decent size by folding down the 60/40 split rear seats. The driver's seat can be manually adjusted six ways (front passenger four ways) and the steering wheel tilts and telescopes. There are also plenty of cubbies to store the cell phones and USB keys and iEverythings that many people can't leave home without these days.
Speaking of which, Hyundai has put a significant focus on technology in the Veloster, successfully keeping gadget lovers connected at all times. Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary drives, Gracenote voice recognition system, and a "Blue Max" economy-scoring game that encourages fuel-efficient driving are just a few of the neat features that are standard on all Velosters.
Hyundai says research shows Gen-Y's care a lot more about the things mentioned above - usability, technology, expressiveness - than they do about power. It seemed to take this to heart with the Veloster, as the vehicle leaves something to be desired when it comes to straight-line acceleration.
The Veloster uses the same 4-cylinder engine used in the new Accent subcompact, and while it certainly sips fuel, the vehicle needs a lot of encouragement to really get going. The Veloster comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission, while a 6-speed dual-clutch setup - the first dual-clutch in Hyundai's history - is available as an option.
The manual helps provide smooth shifts, with my only big complaint being the far-too-light clutch. While the DCT isn't as advanced as something like Mitsubishi's TC-SST, it does a decent job providing appropriate upshifts and downshifts depending on the situation. All DCT-equipped Velosters come standard with steering wheel paddle shifters, and I really like that when moved into "Sport" mode, the vehicle won't shift at all for you unless you redline, unlike a lot of other vehicle transmissions that are too intrusive.
Otherwise, the Veloster's performance is better than most of the competitors Hyundai is taking aim at. It feels confident taking twist and turns at high speeds, with little body roll and direct, responsive steering. Thankfully, there isn't a trade-off with comfort, as the vehicle glides over roads with very little noise creeping into the cabin.
For something that looks so effortlessly cool, it's clear Hyundai has put a lot of thought into the Veloster. It's a solid all-around vehicle, but just like the iPhone is constantly updated with a better version of itself, there's plenty of reason to be optimistic as the Veloster will only get better over time with things like new powertrains and additional option package.