2012 Hyundai Veloster
– Head-turning exterior
– Cabin features and tech
– Ride and handling
– Too weird for many
– Too slow for most
– Too much cabin hard-plastics
Hyundai has gone from being the brand-that-copies-everyone-else to the brand-that-everyone-else-copies. Such has been the design transformation of the fast-growing Korean carmaker’s cars. Yet, Hyundai feels compelled to push the limits of originality even further. So they’ve dropped a nuke right in the heart of the affordable segment with what they call the Veloster.
The Veloster is a compact hatchback, short in length but surprisingly wide and low, giving it a sporting profile, aided by details such as that funky snout and the two-piece rear tailgate glass that extends to the panoramic glass roof. However, its real claim to fame is its doors. For whatever reason, it has one long door on the driver’s side and two proper-opening doors on the passenger side.
Inside, the interior continues the exterior’s cacophonic design, and we liked it, with its protruding gauges, central touchscreen with a starter button below, and free-standing door handles. While most of the cabin is hard-plastic, there is a surprisingly-generous amount of padded trim on the front doors and centre-console, while rear passengers get only padded armrests. Everything is tightly screwed together, with no big Chevrolet-style panel gaps ruining the flow. But the way the free-standing plastic door handles are designed, they creak everytime you pull or lean on them.
Cabin space up front is great, if a little tight near the knees. The leatherette-upholstered front seats are well-bolstered, as if ready for track action. The rear offers decent legroom too, but there isn’t enough headroom for tall people, with their heads right under the glass, and access to the back is hampered by the small rear-door opening. Boot space is okay for a car this size, with a cargo net and folding rear seats, but the high sill reduces practicality a bit. There’s no shortage of cup-holders inside the cabin though. In fact, the rear cup-holders take up the middle passenger’s space in the back.
For the price, the amount of gadgetry is great. Aside from the basic power functions, smart keyless entry and start, halogen headlights with LED dressing, front and side airbags, working Bluetooth phone, cruise control, a decent CD/MP3 stereo AUX/USB ports, power driver’s seat and a good single-zone auto a/c, there’s a straightforward touchscreen computer that incorporates stereo settings, trip computer and even a game that lets you beat your own high-score by driving as economically as possible!
And that game pretty much sums up what you can expect from the engine. Powered by a 1.6-litre 4-cylinder, good for 128 hp at 6300 rpm and 157 Nm of torque at 4850 rpm, it is expected to move 1256 kilos with the help of a 6-speed automatic. So our as-tested 0-100 kph time of 11 seconds was totally expected during our August run. The engine is capable of big economy numbers, but we found ourselves revving it hard most of the time in search of power, resulting in the unremarkable 11.6 litres/100 km consumption figure. Play that efficiency video-game and you’ll likely do a lot better.
The front-wheel-drive Veloster is boring in a straight line, with an uninspiring engine note and an automatic that likes to sit in the higher gears, but in the corners, it becomes rather interesting. While the mildly-weighted steering offers little feedback, it is sharp enough to direct the agile chassis in the corners. The 215/40 tyres on the colour-coded 18-inch alloys offer decent grip, but only up to a point, as it is easy to reach the linearly-understeering limit. Body roll is fairly minimal and the brakes are fairly adequate. Even with the torsion-bar rear suspension, this car could’ve passed for a junior hot hatch if it weren’t for the lack of power and a useless “manual” mode that still shifts gears by itself.
The not-so-little hatchback is a comfortable daily-driver though, with a slightly-firm but largely-smooth ride, moderate wind noise that only creeps in at 120 kph, and an easy-to-park size aided by parking sensors and even a rear camera.
The Veloster is obviously designed to be controversial, and so it’s never going to appeal to everyone. While it is easy to mistake it for a sports car, it seems Hyundai had other ideas in mind, pitching it as more of a hybrid-alternative. Push it, and it’s fun to an extent, but it prefers you to take it easy and save the planet.
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