Test Driven: 2012 Hyundai Veloster (8.5/10)

Hyundai Veloster

In the world of small, economical cars it is hard to find something that is remarkable. Most cars offer basically the same package as all of their competitors, making any differentiating factors superficial at best. Hyundai has changed this game with the Veloster dramatically.  Everything from its design, to its features, to the driving experience, the Veloster has charged into the market with a new and unique package, and it is selling like hotcakes.   

Beginning with the design, the Veloster lets you know right away that it is not boring like many of its competitors. Its most obvious, and unique, trait is that it is a three-door hatchback. That is right, one door on the driver’s side and two doors on the passenger’s side. Many people may find this odd, but there is a method to this madness. Hyundai wanted to style the Veloster like a coupe but also wanted it to be fully useable for four people (unlike most two doors in this segment that require rear passengers to pull the front seats forward and climb over them). With the Veloster, rear passengers simply enter through back passenger door and slide with ease into the rear seats. I am 5’11” and in practice the door was a tad small, making ingress and egress not entirely smooth, but it was certainly far easier than climbing over the front seats. Head room in the back seems a bit low until you are settled in your seat, above which Hyundai has contoured the ceiling to be a bit higher. While riding in back I was perfectly comfortable, with plenty of legroom and space, even with the 6 foot plus salesman driving in a comfortable position. I found this especially impressive given the Veloster’s small size. The packaging design of this car is nothing short of pure genius. The rest of the car is equally clever as well with decent trunk space while the rear seats are up, and an enormous amount of room with them folded flat. As a practical hatchback the Veloster is among the best I’ve ever seen.

All of this is wrapped in sporty, attractive styling with a shape that will turn heads. The Veloster is far from the norm in its appearance, making it a breath of fresh air in a world where most cars all look the same. Hyundai also has loaded up the Veloster with all sorts of cool features that really set it apart from most economy cars. The loaded model I drove had a full navigation/entertainment interface with voice command, connectivity for every gadget, and some nice leather and cloth trim all around. The interior is very well designed with an interesting and sophisticated look all around. There was also a nice, albeit kind of small, sunroof that would surely prove handy on warmer days. As an overall package the Veloster is very attractive in all regards.

While driving normally, the Veloster offers a silky smooth ride. I deliberately hit a few potholes and received nothing more than a slight thud from the car; the ride quality is truly excellent. The seats are also quite comfortable and supportive. Its 138hp, 1.6L four cylinder made it peppy at low speeds, but anyone wanting a kick in the butt at full throttle will need to wait for the Veloster Turbo. With that said though, there was plenty of power to merge easily and cruise on the highway, so I wouldn’t call it underpowered for what it is. It is also capable of nearly 40mpg on the highway and near 30 in the city, so it will be very easy on your wallet from week to week. The Veloster drives very tightly, and is easy to just toss around town. The steering is also electric, which makes for a very easy driving experience.

This brings me to my real question about the Veloster going into my drive: “Is it a fun to drive in the same way that the original Honda CRX was?” Is it a fun corner carver that also retains a practical and economical nature? Driving dynamics are the name of the game here, and I am pleased to report that the Veloster delivers. It is very well set through hard corners despite its great ride quality. There is not a lot of roll on turn in, giving it a nice, sharp feel and allowing the car to react to steering inputs instantaneously. Steering is quick and responsive, but because it is electric, there is no road feel reaching your fingertips. This lack of steering feel is my only tangible complaint with the Veloster. It is very precise though, and the car feels like a go-kart through the twisty bits. The engine is also quite responsive to inputs despite its lack of power, adding to the fun factor. It isn’t the pure driver’s car the CRX was, but it shares much of the same spirit, and is probably as close as anything to the CRX in modern times.

Now, I had requested to drive one with a clutch pedal, but all they had in stock were models with the dual clutch transmission. In hindsight I am glad I drove a DCT model because Hyundai have really nailed this transmission. Everything about the way it worked was butter smooth, from the way it matched revs to the way it got moving from a stop. It was not jerky at all in its action, but it also didn’t have the removed, spongy feeling of an automatic gearbox. There were paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, and when used the shifts were lightning quick, in fact I kept it in manual mode for most of the drive. This transmission was so good that I can honestly say that I recommend it over the manual for all but those most adamant about having three pedals. The Veloster’s DCT offers all the response and control of a stick shift with the ease of an automatic when you want it.

So, as a driver’s car, the Veloster may be as close as we can get today to  the original Honda CRX, offering a practical package that is also a lot of fun to drive. Mix this great driving experience with the features, style, and versatility of the Veloster, throwing in Hyundai’s incredible warranty as well, and it becomes clear why these cars are selling so fast. I can wholeheartedly recommend the Veloster to everyone from an old lady who just needs a practical errand runner to a die hard driving enthusiast looking for a fun daily driver. Those of you who really need more power should wait for the Veloster Turbo, which will compete head to head with the GTI. However for most people, even many enthusiasts, the standard Veloster is right on the money. It is an incredible package and a great value for money. If you are looking for a car in this range you cannot go wrong with the Veloster, and it is even something you can get excited about.

WoM Score: Hyundai Veloster

Primary Function: Practicality: 2
Secondary Functions: Performance(1), MPG(2): 1.5
Visual Appeal: 2
Build Quality: 1
Value for Money: 2

Final Score: 8.5/10

-Nick Walker

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