By on September 29, 2011

Recently a video surfaced from the Frankfurt Auto Show, depicting Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn puzzling over the remarkable quality of Hyundai’s latest Golf competitor, the European-market i30. But if Herr Professor Dr. Winterkorn seemed perturbed, and he certainly did, it wasn’t simply because of one car, even one aimed at the heart of his empire. The i30 is simply the latest in a string of strong Hyundai products that are rapidly erasing memories of the brand’s budget-basement roots. In an industry that likes to compare itself to the fashion business, Hyundai is hot. So much so, in fact, that TTAC readers are likely beginning to tire of hearing about it.

And when brands are hot, especially on the strength of their mass-market offerings, the next logical step is to build a halo car that reflects the values that made them so popular. But Hyundai’s unconventional positioning, selling everything from a $15,000 Accent to a $60,000 Equus, and its mandate to reflect “Different Thinking” mean a traditional halo car is out of the question. Enter the Veloster. Or, as Hyundai calls it, the “reverse halo car.”

Before we get into the car itself, let’s quickly deal with Hyundai’s confounding concept of the “reverse halo.” When asked by Wards Auto if he would consider building a GT-R or Corvette fighter, Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik said

I’m not saying we’d never do one, but it wouldn’t be a priority of mine. You define your brand as much by what you choose not to do as what you do. We’ve got a laser-like focus on leading the industry in fuel efficiency.

Would it be cool and fun to have a halo performance car? Yeah. But it would be expensive, and what would it really do for us?

So, to truly reflect its brand values, a Hyundai halo car would have to be efficient. To properly accent (so to speak) Hyundai’s marketing tagline, it would have to be “different” (an affordable halo car?). And to show off Hyundai’s technological prowess (to say nothing of giving Herr Winterkorn’s ulcer an honest workout), it would have to have a direct-injected engine and an available dual-clutch transmission, the euro-tech confections that VW insists Americans don’t care about. The result: an Accent-based, 40 MPG, hatchback-coupe with three forward-hinged doors that’s nothing like anything else on the market. And whatever else might be said about the Veloster, its entire concept as a halo that shines from the bottom of the model range upwards represents a bold step by the upstart Korean company (if one borrowed from the Kia Soul).

And like every good halo, the Veloster is unabashedly extroverted in its exterior styling. It’s got the motorcycle-helmet proportions of its Scion tC competitor, but brings a more compact bulldog stance and the visual dynamism of Hyundai’s “fluidic sculpture” design language to the party. Pure coupe from the driver side, the third door gives the passenger side its own unique look, while the rear offers the most striking vista of them all with its chrome center exhaust, rounded glass hatch and Ferrari-font “Veloster” badge. Love or hate the looks, it’s tough to deny that it is simultaneously recognizable as a Hundai and yet far more expressive than any other Hyundai on the market. Reverse halo mission accomplished.

Slide into the driver’s seat, and Herr Winterkorn will be reaching for the Tums again. For all the praise its products do receive, Hyundai still doesn’t get enough credit for putting out some of the most solidly-assembled interiors at the lower price points, and the Veloster carries that banner with pride. The interior’s isn’t mind-blowingly glamorous, although it is a step up from the Accent design-wise, but from the dash assembly to the knobs, everything is built with reassuring solidity and quality materials. Almost every affordable car’s interior has at least a handful of elements that betray the inevitable cost-cutting, but in the Veloster I could literally only find two points of criticism. The silver plastic door pulls were supposedly inspired by a sport bike frame, but their lack of structural integrity clearly wasn’t. Also, the door latch handles felt cheap compared to the rest of the interior. For a car that starts just over $17,000, that’s quite the achievement… and one Herr Winterkorn’s latest round of similarly-pried products don’t come close to reaching.

The centerpiece of the Veloster’s cockpit is the standard seven-inch touchscreen which can plugged into an iPod or xBox and used as a movie or video game display, or play host to the optional navigation system. But none of these reasons explain why it’s standard in Hyundai’s “reverse halo” car. Just as the Veloster is the first Hyundai to offer a dual-clutch transmission, it’s also the first model to offer the brand’s full suite of OnStar-alike telematics services. Hyundai expended the breath of many PR people in hopes of generating some enthusiasm for the three packages of services, but they seem like they will appeal far more to older buyers, who prefer the link to a “real person” rather than wrangling with a device, than to the average Veloster buyer. And none of them elevate the genre beyond the services already offered by OnStar. Furthermore, some of the Veloster’s other tech toys, like the Gracenote voice-activated mp3 management system didn’t work easily or intuitively enough to get excited about (although the optional Dimension audio system sounded great).

But who cares about tech toys? After all, we’re talking about a sporty coupe that has 138 HP to move between 2,600 and 2,800 lbs (depending on trim and transmission) of car… the real question is “how does it drive?” And the truth is that it’s nowhere near as exciting as the spec sheet might have you believe. To begin with, the engine doesn’t feel as powerful as you’d expect, thanks to the core brand value of “fuel economy leadership.” The engine feels remote, short on torque, overly throttle-mapped and generally lacks the directness that make even an underpowered car fun to drive. And that’s the weird thing: especially with the manual transmission, there’s certainly enough power to not only stick with traffic but even have some fun on a back road… the engine simply has no personality, no desire to push. It hints at  a promising growl when you open it up through the low midrange, but the enthusiasm dies in an uninspiring thrash. But hey, nobody said 40 MPG on the highway would come free.

Speaking of fuel economy, the magical 40 MPG highway rating is only available on the manual transmission version, as the extra weight of the dual-clutch box drags the rating down to 38 MPG. Which is strange, considering the DCT seems programmed to match the engine’s tuned-for-economy flavor, and from a performance perspective, it’s a poor match for the low-torque (123 ft-lbs) engine. Meanwhile, anyone choosing the manual will likely find themselves wringing out the little mill, wrecking fuel economy in the process. Still, the manual is the clear choice for a car like this, both keeping the weight to a minimum and allowing better use of the engine’s power. Which is a pity, as this car is supposed to highlight Hyundai’s use of the latest transmission technology. And the DCT works extremely well, shifting smartly but smoothly… but again, it’s best when, like Hyundai, you value fuel economy over performance.

Out on the road, the Veloster’s chassis surprises not with its sporty response, but with its refinement.  You might expect a car like this to be a blast on the twisty bits and a bear on commuter roads, but the opposite proves to be the case. Freeway cruising is far more refined and relaxed than you’d expect from a stubby B-segment coupe, as the Veloster maintains composure and comfort even across crumbling sections of Oregon highway. But when you leave the freeways and begin pushing through the tight roads that wind up the sides of the Columbia Gorge, you soon realize that the Veloster’s suspension was tuned more for ride than handling. The electric steering offers more feel than other electro-racks, but the feedback is still painfully subtle. And there’s enough vagueness and lean just off-center to make you feel like you’re piloting a larger, heavier car than you actually are. Like the engine, the chassis is hardly inept… it just lacks the directness and playful spirit that defines every fun small car ever made. And the brakes are cut from the same cloth: they work just fine, but the small pedal ha a distinctly squidgy feeling that doesn’t inspire confidence in enthusiastic driving.

An uphill stretch of road punctuated with sharp hairpins brings out the worst in the Veloster as a dynamic proposition. Lacking confidence in the brakes, you slow prematurely and then wait endlessly for the engine to develop the torque to pull you out of the corner. And in the midst of those slow, tight corners, the body roll is most pronounced and the steering is at its least tactile. It’s never a mess dynamically, but there’s no doubt that Hyundai’s chassis engineers left some jinba ittai on the table. After winding back down the hill, the road follows a river valley, flattening into rolling undulations and opening up for some faster (but still blind) corners. Here the Veloster makes the strongest case for itself as a driver’s car. Keep the engine on the boil and you can build up the pace, as the front-end bites better when loaded-up in fast corners. At this faster pace, the Veloster gels into coherent whole, flowing from corner to corner in a far more satisfying fashion. But you still can’t shake the feeling that, for such a small car, it sure doesn’t feel as lively or intuitively chuckable as you’d hope.

And here’s where Hyundai’s fresh-faced, up-and-comer status shows: anyone who has been in this industry long enough will tell you that tuning a car to the perfect balance of ride and handling takes decades of experience and institutional memory. Hyundai clearly doesn’t have that, and as a result it played it safe with the US-market Veloster , tuning it a bit too far to the side of ride comfort. And based on reviews from Old Blighty, the opposite took place in the UK-market Veloster, which appears to have been tuned too far towards the enthusiast side of the spectrum, resulting in a crashy ride. The compromise made here was probably the right one given the death of the enthusiast market in the US, but it also proves why Hyundai probably isn’t ready to go chasing the GT-Rs and Corvettes of the world.

But then, that’s why Hyundai didn’t set out to make the Veloster a true enthusiast coupe, and why Hyundai Motor America executives only roll their eyes if you ask about the 200 HP Veloster Turbo that is apparently already approved for Europe. Instead, Hyundai built a funky, distinctive and surprisingly practical little car that reflects the values it champions in this market. It may not be a born-again CRX, but it’s less gimmicky and far more refined and practical than you might expect. And, with fully-loaded examples offering navigation, a nearly all-glass roof, back-up camera, dual-clutch transmission and a grip of other goodies for just over $23,000 (base models start at about $18,000), it offers a a European-style premium subcompact flavor for relatively little money. No wonder Herr Winterkorn is worried about these guys.

Disclosure: Hyundai held the launch of the Veloster in my hometown of Portland, OR. In order to play up the “Gen Y” marketing angle, they provided three nights of free concerts and tickets to a football game at my alma mater (the University of Oregon) in addition to the usual lodging, food and drink. In other words, instead of feeling like I was tagging along on a wealthy grandparent’s vacation, as is the case on most press previews I attend, this junket felt like it was tailored specifically to me… which is a strangely flattering, if somewhat troubling feeling. Make of that what you will.

 

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112 Comments on “Review: 2012 Hyundai Veloster...”


  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    It sounds as if, other than the mileage, the Juke does this sort of thing better.

    And yes, I understand the “being marketed to” thing. It’s because we, as a generation, are just ever so slightly starting to be worth something.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    I’m digging mine. Most European car I’ve ever owned.

  • avatar
    VA Terrapin

    Underpowered, twist beam rear suspension. This looks like the modern day Honda del Sol, Saturn SC Coupe and Toyota Paseo; less sporty than it looks.

    I haven’t driven the Veloster, so of course I could be wrong, but my guess is that the Juke is more fun to drive than this.

    • 0 avatar
      Beerboy12

      I saw a Veloster at the Grand Rapids Auto show. Nice car but the doors were, light, felt a bit thin. Took a close look at a Juke on the showroom floor and that is one well nailed together car. I happened to have owned a Renault Clio III that the juke is based on and I can attest to the solid body construction and to the resulting good handling.

    • 0 avatar
      B-Rad

      I’ve driven the Juke, and it surprised me how much fun it was. I only drove it about five miles but it really impressed me, to the point where I want to drive one again. If I ever buy one, though, it will be because I am super rich and I don’t need to buy a practical car.

      What Ed said about the throttle in the Veloster bing overmapped rang true for the Juke too…in Eco Mode. In Eco Mode that thing was no fun. Put it into Sport Mode and it’s entirely different.

      Right after driving the Juke, I drove a 370Z. Obviously, I enjoyed that more, but the Juke still manages to stick in my mind.

    • 0 avatar

      I just had an Accent SE for a week, and from Ed’s review the Veloster drives very similarly. If so, the JUKE is FAR more fun. Hyundai is 80, even 85% of the way there, but the remaining 15% is critical for a fun car.

  • avatar
    Twitter: phauser

    So other than the gadgets, how is the accent not the better car?

    • 0 avatar
      tjh8402

      +1 I second this question. MK seemed quite enamored with the Accent when he drove it. I find it interesting that the same engine he said “liked to rev and sounded good while doing so” is here characterized as having “no personality, no desire to push. It hints at a promising growl when you open it up through the low midrange, but the enthusiasm dies in an uninspiring thrash.”

      Similarly, when MK was discussing the Accent’s ride, handling, and chassis, he said “So here’s the part where I tell you that the car functions well, but isn’t any fun to drive. Except it actually is…The electric motor-assisted steering does feel artificial, even a bit gummy on center, but does have a satisfying firmness and loads up progressively when turned. Understeer and body lean are minimal, and the chassis remains composed and thoroughly predictable up to the limits of the front tires. The suspension is tuned much better than that in the Elantra (whose ride continually irritated me). Thanks to firmer damping, body motions are better controlled over uneven road surfaces. ”

      Is this just different reviewer’s personal preferences? Were MK’s comments relative to the other subcompacts in the Accent’s class whereas Ed had higher expectations of the Veloster? Is this just the affect of the Veloster’s extra few hundred pounds of weight? Based on the two reviews, it sounds like if you don’t need all the gadgetry and styling, as an enthusiast, you’re better off with a loaded Accent. There’s definitely something to be said for 40 mpg, but $23k puts an enthusiast right in the midst of a Focus, V-6 Mustang, GTI, Mazda 3, or even Civic Si sandwich.

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        I should add that other reviews are mixed so far. C/D and Jalopnik had similar reactions to Ed, but IL was more enthusiastic.

      • 0 avatar
        dwford

        The Accent 6 speed is more interesting to drive. Maybe its the lighter weight, less sound deadening so you can actually hear the motor, and the smaller tires. The Accent just feels more tossable and alive. I think Hyundai overdid the refinement in the Veloster a bit. Perhaps a bit more exhaust note would help. That said, the Accent SE tops out around $18k, about where the Veloster begins, but you can’t get a roof, navi, push button start, etc., etc.,

    • 0 avatar
      Strippo

      So other than the gadgets, how is the accent not the better car?

      I was trying to buy an Accent, or at least test drive one. An Accent with a stick was nowhere to be found. The Accent is likely the better car, but the Veloster is probably the better commuter if the price of entry isn’t an issue. And I needed something to do 400 miles per week. Your mpw may vary.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll be driving the Veloster on the 7th, and should have an Accent SE review next week, perhaps Monday.

      Interesting that dwford reports that the Accent is more fun to drive. It is a car I’d personally consider owning, but ideally I’d like to see a few tweaks. My expectations are higher for the Veloster, as it should be more focused on providing an engaging driving experience. The Accent has a broader mission. And it’s cheaper.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    OK so Ed, have you driven the new Focus and if you have which one would you rather have in day to day life?

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      Being based on the Accent, I would see this as more of a Fiesta competitor. The interior certainly reminds me of the Fiesta and Focus thought, and I think either is a more natural competitor than the Juke.

      From the sounds of Ed’s review, I’ll bet the Fords have a better ride / handling compromise.

    • 0 avatar

      Focus all the way. Fiesta is more of a toss-up–I went and drove one again a few days ago to refresh my memory. The Accent (and likely the Veloster) feel like Hondas used to, while the Fords feel German. Personal taste, but unless the lighter, less substantial “Honda feel” pays agility dividends I find myself preferrig for the more solid feel of the Fords.

  • avatar
    Kevin Jaeger

    Thanks for the excellent review. I really wanted to like this car, but it sounds like it may not be quite there yet. That’s exactly the experience I had with the Genesis Coupe as well – a very hopeful trip to the dealer but the test drive was a bit of a letdown.

    But you really have to be impressed with the strides Hyundai has made.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I saw a really good TV commercial Hyundai made that emphasizes what a great US employer they are. I can’t find it on the net yet to link to, but it will be interesting to see if it generates any press.

  • avatar
    dwford

    We got our first Veloster last Friday, and it was sold by noon Saturday. Nice car and loaded with features, but not much of a driver’s car. The engine just lays there like a dead fish, regardless of gear or throttle. If you take it for what it is – “sporty” not “sports” – and go for mileage, you have a good looking, comfortable car.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    How about TTAC does a comparative test between the Juke and the Velostar? They are similar enough for a direct comparison. My money would be on the Juke, as much as I admire Hyundai’s rapid improvements in their products, The Juke is really starting to grow on me. I have seen both in the flesh and the Juke is streets ahead in terms of solid body construction and although the Juke’s looks seem mad, the more you look at it the more sense it makes.

    • 0 avatar

      Though they’re different in a lot of ways, the major difference between the Juke and the Veloster is the drivetrain. Nissan’s 1.6T is a delight. Can’t say I’ve driven Hyundai’s 1.6T, and HMA seems to find interest in a Veloster Turbo tiresome, sooo… these are fated to be two different cars.

      MPG makes the Veloster the pragmatic buy, but a manual (FWD) Juke is better to drive. I don’t think the Juke has a huge utility advantage (beyond the fourth door), and I do believe the Veloster looks better. But the more I try to compare these two cars, the more I jut want to drive a Veloster turbo. Then we might have a real comparison. I guess I’ll see what I can do…

      • 0 avatar
        Marko

        Odd how a CUV is “better to drive” than the Veloster…

      • 0 avatar
        dwford

        Funny how a 180hp turbo motor will make things more interesting…

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        It makes some sense that the Juke would be more fun to drive: both cars are based off economy platforms, Hyundai does not have a good handle on ride/handling yet and the Juke really isn’t very tall for a crossover; it’s more of a Versa with big wheels.

        I like the Juke, and I wish the Cube would get that drivetrain and suspension.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        As long as we are talking small turbos here…everything I read has the Sonic even more fun than these cars.
        And the Sonic has a hill-stop standard trans which young drivers will love.

        And the Sonic is much cheeper!!!

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        And the Sonic has a hill-stop standard trans which young drivers will love.

        If that’s the same manual that the Aveo came with, it will put them off manual transmissions for ever because the shift action is horrible. I liked the Aveo (more or less) and I like manuals, but the Aveo is one car that was better with the automatic.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I really like the Juke too, interesting look and all.

      Quick question. Would this thing be considered a 4-door hatchback? Wouldn’t that confuse people?

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Am I the only one who thinks that “movie or video game display” on a car’s dash is a really, really bad idea?

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “movie or video game display” on a car’s dash is a really, really bad idea?

      In some Mercedes they use the same prism technology as glassesless 3D, but they modify it so the driver sees the nav screen while the passenger sees the movie.

      Other, simpler systems, don’t allow the system to be used while the car is moving.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    So, as not much of a sports car, how does it compare to the scion TC, Kia koup, and focus? All can be had for similar money and you may trade some fuel economy for power.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    The Accent makes more sense by any measure. Especially if you plan on using the back seat to transport people

  • avatar
    meefer

    So it’s basically going to be the same story as almost everything else in the segment, marketed as a youthmobile but bought by the Geritol set. I hope this SkyActiv business works wonders for Mazda.

  • avatar

    The JUKE IS UGLY.

    I had a Veloster this past week and I made a video (part 1) of the technology.

    It Think BLUE LINK is absolutely interesting. You can use it to spy on your wife and it can send you text messages about it’s location. If your kids speed in it, it can notify you it has surpassed illegal speeds. If it gets stolen, they can shut down the engine remotely.

    But the cost of BLUE LINK IS RIDICULOUS. Basic is $79/m, more features is $179/m and all features is $279 a month. I doubt any “Hyundai” buyer has that kind of cash.

    THE ENGINE IS MUCH TOO SLOW and they need to put in a TURBO.

    The Steering needs to re-center itself better and offers NO ROAD FEEL AT ALL.

    The backseat I can’t sit straight up in.

    The Steering Column doesn’t telescope enough.

    What’s funny is I actually liked the car despite the shortcomings. I AM A SUCKER for TECHNOLOGY packages.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    My eyes hurt. That styling makes an Aztek look sedate and sensible. Cars don’t really have bumpers anymore, but in the rear, the styling feature that used to be the bumper has expanded to about two thirds of the rear height. That’s just wrong. And if I want a vehicle with one door on the left and two doors on the right I’ll get a ’70 Suburban.

    • 0 avatar

      I disagree. I usually hate cars like this, but, this one caught my attention.

    • 0 avatar
      evan

      I totally agree – this is a new form of ugly.

      The ridiculous bumper caps look cheap and absolutely huge, and oh, look at that fake rear diffuser lip! In fact the whole thing screams ‘fake’. I cannot stand the new design fad of scooping out around the turn lights and the over emphasis of minor (usually fake) vents, etc. All of is this is to distract from bad proportions, the lack of interest in the body form, and to convince meek know-nothings that they are driving a ‘tough’ car or turck.

      Dressing up a grocery-getter to look like a Death Race 2000 entry is a new specialty for upstarts, and I can’t believe they actually sell this stuff after its been laughed at for so long.

  • avatar
    Signal11

    It’s funny that you chose to use the phrase 人馬一体, considering that historically, mounted archery is one of the few aspects of warfare where a Korean might legitimately be able to claim historical superiority to the Japanese.

    Also, I’ve never been able to pin down why I thought the Scion looked sporty in a sort of bulbous way until you pointed out the motorcycle helmet cue.

  • avatar
    blau

    I’m totally enamored of the looks and packaging. I’d definitely consider trading my Mini for one. But from reading the review, I strongly suspect that a test drive will change my mind.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    Of course it’s boring to drive. Hyundai’s been gunning for Toyota for years now.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      The only difference is that Toyota was building cars for 40 years before they started thinking that people may care what their car looks like and what the interior feels like. Which was more or less the only thing VW could compete with them on. Hyundai is really gunning for glory this time. VW must be shivering in fear now :)

  • avatar
    James2

    “It may not be a born-again CRX”

    Funny, in the second-to-last picture I was thinking CRX. Too bad the front end is so fugly. Its grin is worse than the Mazda 3′s. Pity about the lack of fun.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    As a Hyundai/Kia fanboy, it’s hard for me to get excited about this car. Maybe it’s the hideous color of the example in the photos.

    I’m holding out for the 2012 Rio 4-door.

  • avatar
    Signal11

    Got the right proportions to look cute in rally trim.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Ed: Did you get the chance to drive the auto and use the paddle shifters? If implemented properly, they can sometimes compensate for an overly conservative shift program.

    It seems like the Turbo model with the UK suspension settings just might be what Mini-leaners are looking for.

    Personally, I love the looks of this little beast, but I fear that the seating position may be too low for my aching back to tolerate — how was the legroom?

  • avatar
    dwight

    Just as I thought from Hyundai, all flash no substance. The review is perfect. The best part is this statement “anyone who has been in this industry long enough will tell you that tuning a car to the perfect balance of ride and handling takes decades of experience and institutional memory. Hyundai clearly doesn’t have that…” Essentially why I’ll continue to purchase from my local Honda store. They deliver the goods.

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      Essentially why I’ll continue to purchase from my local Honda store. They deliver the goods.

      In 1989, maybe. I have fond memories of a Civic Si I bought new that year.

      In 2011 however, Honda’s “substance” advantage over Hyundai is down to minor ride-and-handling advantages and (of course) manual gearbox action. In virtually every other area – power, fuel economy, auto transmissions, braking, interior materials – the Civic is the one lacking substance. I would not trade my ’11 Elantra for a Honda unless you paid me.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      “Essentially why I’ll continue to purchase from my local Honda store. They deliver the goods.”

      What goods? A great-handling little car, or a 10/100 warranty?

      You’ll note that Hyundai isn’t trying to create a CRX (which you can’t buy from Honda these days) – their target is a bit softer.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Interesting considering the reviews on the Euro Civic have actually been WORSE than that for the Veloster when it comes to ride/handling.

      And Hyundai is geared to the typical daily driver; Kia is geared more to those wanting a bit more fun driving. (Is the Sonata SE a better driver than the Accord? No. Is the Optima SX? Yes.)

  • avatar
    JMII

    I begged my mother to wait for this car to hit the showrooms as it was the logical replacement for her Saturn Coupe (yeah the one with 1/2 side door too) but she went for the larger Sonata.

    What the Veloster needs (and badly!) is the turbo. I love the looks of this car, the packaging, the price and all the ideas behind launching it… Hyundai is really doing a great job, however the engine choice was a major miss. I assume the turbo is coming, after all they are pushing this as rally car, that means comparisons to the WRX, Evo and even the Mini. Clearly its not in the same league as those cars. Why not offer the Euro spec as a “sport” model? That would quickly crush all the Scion TC comparisons.

    Anyway it still appears grabbing a used Volvo C30 was right move for me. The more hot hatches the better… bring ‘em on!

  • avatar
    redav

    I know I’m not the only one who finds Hyundai’s ‘fluidic sculpture’ design style to be ugly.

    Also, I’m praying for the day that everyone wakes up and realizes that touch screens are like automatic seat belts–a mistake that needs to be purged from the annals of history.

  • avatar

    I applaud you, reviewer, for not calling it “aggressive”.

  • avatar
    don1967

    As a Hyundai fanboy whose most cherished automotive memories date back to an old-school Civic Si, the Veloster just doesn’t do it for me. At least not without a tweaked suspension and a 1.6T.

    That said, one cannot doubt Hyundai’s “reverse halo” marketing strategy. With today’s youth being more interested in iPhones and saving the planet than in 0-60 times or lateral g’s, why would any rational manufacturer go through the expense of building a better Corvette? Building Corvettes is pandering to the media rather than the consumer, and the last time I checked the maker of the Corvette wasn’t exactly prospering from this strategy.

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      Strawman. Nobody was asking for a better Corvette. Or even a worse but cheaper Corvette.

      It’s not unreasonable to have expected something better than a dolled up turd slow Accent.

      Nissan gets it with the Juke. Kia gets it with the Forte and Sportage. The Veloster would fit right in at Scion.

      • 0 avatar
        don1967

        Strawman. Nobody was asking for a better Corvette.

        Maybe not in the Land of Oz. But here on earth, the mainstream automotive press has been babbling incessantly about Hyundai’s lack of a “halo” car. That can mean Corvette, CRX, Miata, or whatever the icon-du-jour happens to be.

        My point is that they went in the opposite direction, building a “reverse halo” – a turd as you say – that will still sell despite being a turd because it gives people what they want instead of what they are supposed to want. It is a deliberate middle finger to the aforementioned auto press snobs, as well as the wizards who follow them.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    I think the reverse-halo strategy would’ve worked a lot better if they’d built something that would allow the old CRXes to be put out to pasture, but they didn’t.

    This thing should’ve been the “all fun no numbers” car that we didn’t think would ever go away and now wish would come back. The CRX, Miata, MR2, and GTI weren’t exactly slow sellers.

    Fortunately, it’s not through gross failure to contain weight or a spectacularly ill-considered overall design that this thing isn’t fun to drive. They could have one that drives right – different springs, different shocks, different bars, much different bushings, and especially manual steering – without a major redesign.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    I may be the only one that doesn’t see a Turbo as being the solution to this car’s problems as discussed in this review. Bumping up the hp to 180 won’t help the steering and suspension, nor will it make the engine more rev happy or sporty sounding. Not to mention it will push the price much closer to some far more engaging machinery, including Hyundai’s own right wheel drive 210 hp Genesis coupe (which I left off my earlier list), and at the expense of it’s one main dynamic selling point, which is it’s fuel economy. It seems that unless they address the fun to drive issues (and is it really that hard to get a 2600 lb car to feel sporty without killing comfort?), this car will be not much else besides a fashion statement for those that have to have the newest, flashiest gadgets and accessories (otherwise it sounds like get the Accent). Count me among the disappointed. I had high hopes for this car; I knew it wouldn’t be a CRX reborn (still too big and heavy), but at least an homage to an Integra, RSX, Prelude, and Civic Si would have been nice.

  • avatar
    kol

    I’m not surprised by this. For all the hype surrounding Hyundai, I still find most of their cars lacking. Okay, the Sonata is awesome. But I’m not sure why I’d buy an Elantra vs. a Cruze or Focus, and I’m not sure why I’d buy an Accent vs. a Fiesta or Fit.

    I knew this car wasn’t going to be fun to drive as soon as I drove the Accent. Same engine. And it’s a terrible engine. There’s been a lot of talk recently about how small cars are no longer harsh buzz-bombs, but apparently Hyundai didn’t get the memo. It’s a thrashy, unwilling motor that’s almost as bad as Toyota’s small car mills.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      What is the working definition of a small car? Anything compact or smaller? Or anything smaller than a compact?

      I will agree that the 2011 Accent (haven’t gotten into the 2012 – not sure if they’ve hit dealers), while I had fun driving it as a rental, is very disagreeable if you’re trying to merge onto the freeway. I knew that it was gutless, relatively speaking, and got closely acquainted with every tick of the tachometer just to get up to speed. That thing was harsh.

      My car is a compact, classified mid-size based on exterior measurements by EPA, and has a 2 liter engine and that thing sounds pretty nice, and is pretty willing to do what I need without carping. I don’t mind 2500 RPM in top gear at 75mph. It has more than enough grunt to get me where I want to do without fearing for my life. I’ve never owned a V8, so I have nothing to compare it to in that regard, and quite frankly don’t think I’m missing anything.

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    I think a halo car would be better known for its performance than as a rolling boudoir. When I read the 138 HP number my first thought was that the 20 year old SE-R in my father’s garage has (slightly) more power. That, the original Civic Si and – dare I say it – the WRX in late 2001 were much better reverse halo cars than this. In fact I’d say the Sonata Turbo is closer to the mark.

    • 0 avatar
      chaparral

      And yet the Miata is the perfect halo car for Mazda!

      The only little cars that emphasize fun anymore are the Mazda2 and MINI. Both of them sell well and reflect well on their brands.

  • avatar
    boxelder

    Love the picture timeline! “And this is the Veloster while it’s spinning on dirt.” “This, too, is the Veloster spinning on dirt.” “And again, yes, the Veloster spinning on dirt.” Then an obligatory interior shot. Followed by three more “spinning on dirts”. Further down in the photo roundup gallery: “Wait a tick, there appears to be a mannequin and a real, live woman in my trunk… WTF?” Brilliant!

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    How can anyone fall for Hyundai not indulging in halo cars of the entirely conventional sense when they have the Equus in the line up? Their current models run from $15K to $65K. Considering they got their start in our market by advertising a new econobox for the price of a used one, and that their midsize car is in the first generation when it is being considered on merits other than price, the Equus is as much a halo car as the first Viper was. Hell, the Genesis sedan is a halo car. Doubt it? Just look at the sales volume.

    • 0 avatar
      chaparral

      Don’t those cars try to distance themselves from being Hyundais? I don’t see big Melted Honda Logos on them.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Haloes don’t have to be exclusive, they just have to define the attributes of the brand.

      Generally, this means they’re the best car the brand makes, turned up to 11, but there are exceptions. The Toyota Prius is one, this would be another, though I think this might not really be as credible an “Everyman’s Halo” as the Prius is.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      The halo effect can work both ways. The “top-of-the-line” example is one way, but the reversed, “welcome to the brand, if you like this product, you’ll love the others” also works. Just ask Apple, and it has also worked for Toyota over the years. Buy the entry-level product, and we’ll see you again when it’s time to upgrade to a higher model!

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        A good example of this contrast is BMW vs Mercedes. I have no research or stats to back this up, just a gut feeling. Consider that both automakers provide a “path of lifetime ownership” for their buyers, C to E to S class for the Benzes, and 3 to 5 to 7 for the Bimmers. The difference is, I’d guess your typical C class buyer is buying the car because of its connection to the S class and the hope of eventually making it to that car. With the BMW, the 3 series sells itself, and that buyer then stays with BMW through the 5 and 7 because those cars continue to provide the essential BMW ultimate driving experience while offering a more mature product. When one considers the “definitive BMW”, I’d argue that a 3 series is the car that comes to mind, whereas the “definitive Mercedes’ is without a doubt, the S class. For the record, I’d say this characterizes BMW of the 90′s more than today, as the modern 5 and 7 in particular have moved far from their Ultimate Driving Machine roots, and the 3 may soon be as well.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      CJ – +1

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      How can anyone fall for Hyundai not indulging in halo cars of the entirely conventional sense when they have the Equus in the line up?

      The Equus is indeed a halo car in the conventional sedan sense, where conformity is mandatory. But in the sport/youth market, you earn your halo by defying authority… in this case ignoring the call to build another CRX/Miata/etc.

  • avatar
    missinginvlissingen

    Test drove one yesterday, with the MT. Strongly considering this to replace my ’92 Civic hatch.

    I’m stuck on the poor visibility caused by those sloped C-pillars. Is this just the price of sporty styling? Does everyone rely on mirrors instead of a quick head-turn to change lanes now?

    I’m undaunted by the Veloster’s weak/characterless engine. 138hp for 2600 pounds seems fine when I’m used to 102hp and 2200. I want something practical with a touch of fun, and the Veloster seems like more fun than a Fit or Accent. I’m also put off by the Fit’s engine drone at highway speeds and its 33 mpg highway rating.

    I’ll drive an Accent when my dealer gets a manual in stock, but if it weren’t for the lousy rear visibility in the Veloster, I’d order one. Should I just get over it? I notice a lot of newer cars have nasty blind spots back there.

  • avatar
    ringomon

    In the “what model is that car in the distance?” driving game I’m going to be deliberating between this and the CRZ when I see that lumpy 80′s futuristic hatchback profile on the horizon.

    Unless of course this actually sells in numbers and I get used to seeing them on the roads. I’ve seen maybe two CRZs on the road ( And I used to live pretty close to Honda’s NA headquarters). The fact that the CRZ has not been mentioned yet in the review or comments (as of writing this comment at least) speaks to how much of an impression Honda made with that one. It would seem to me they are pretty comparable in the ‘not-as-sporty as they could be due to MPG’ sense.

    • 0 avatar
      ivyinvestor

      I also enjoyed the review.

      I drive a CR-Z EX 6-spd which, because Honda is not selling many, my dealer was kind enough to sell me for less than the price of the standard model.

      It is by no means a CRX – and I really don’t think Honda was trying for that with the addition of various safety features and a large battery pack bumping up the weight to 2650lbs. If they did: they failed.

      The car is, however, fun to drive in “Sport” mode, quite comfortable over long distances, relatively grippy in the twisties, a two seater, and a true fuel sipper up to 60mph.

      My daily commute is 112 miles, and as such, I’ve already logged 8.4k miles. I find it to be a solid, comfortable cruiser with plenty of reserves for passing and fun low end torque. It’s also *much* quieter than, for example, our TSX (although given Honda’s propensity toward noisy cabins, that’s a relative comparison, only). There’s a good tech complement, although I’d have liked audio bluetooth (and a moonroof). My (hand-calculated and cross checked) efficiency is pegged at 47.8mpg, with greater than 50.4mpg for that last 7 of 8 tanks. And that is with consistent cruising from Boston to NH and back: 59mph-61mph. (And I know that real world performance for others will be dissimilar to mine: for my needs, repeatable high efficiency, better than average comfort, and some fun were necessities for a lengthy commute.)

      A lot of folks haven’t driven the CR-Z because they “know” it’s not a CRX. I understand that. It seems as if this Hyundai might have targeted my ride had it been a better seller. Instead it will probably compete against the Focus, which I didn’t like.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Nice review Ed – you should do more of them.

    This is an impressive little car and I think it will sell well for them. The sensible economical reverse halo concept is very much in tune with the times.

    I had a chance to look at one but not drive it and I was impressed by the quality of the materials and fit and finish. One thing that did not impress me, however, was the poor outward visibility which could be a problem in urban commuting.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    “Reverse-halo” is in fitting with the marketing times, but that front bumper is anything but timeless. I love the proportions and general lines of the new Hyundais, but all these creases and crinkles are going to make these cars age prematurely.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I agree with you on this. Other people have said it before, but the lines on the Kias are much cleaner and more pleasing to my eye. To some this may be boring, but boring is a relative term if ever there was one.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Agreed. I’m always impressed by the Forte Koup when I see one, and the Optima and Sportage are, if a little overwrought, striking and still clean.

        Hyundai’s stuff look a little tortured and fussy; I don’t think it’ll age well.

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        It’s no secret that I have the Forte sedan, black, and love it. I like that I don’t see them everywhere on the road.

        Since I like to geek out once in awhile, I found that the power to weight ratio is pretty much the best of any car I have owned I4 or V6. I know this isn’t the only metric by which to measure a car’s merits, but it’s amusing either way. :)

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      As a Hyundai fanboy I agree that the current design will not age well. Its only purpose is to pull market share away from Toyonda in 2011, so that the upsell in 2017 will be all the easier.

      It’s an evil plan for sure, but you’ve got to admire it.

  • avatar
    Elusivellama

    So it reads like Hyundai has no plans to release the Veloster Turbo in North America? Maybe that’s for the best since the majority of the North American public can’t tell a steering wheel from a wheel of fortune.

    Just wait for Mazda to redesign the Mazda 3 (and 2) in Kodo design language, with the full range of SkyActiv improvements. New chassis, engines, transmissions and styling plus Mazda’s commitment to providing ‘Zoom Zoom’… sounds like all win to me.

  • avatar
    JJ

    I think the 3 door thing is ultimately a bit too gimmicky. Having the one door there will ultimately only annoyingly remind you of the lack of door on the other side. Plus I think they may have chosen the wrong side for it. It’s placed ok for passengers to be able to step out of the car on the pavement side of the road which is nice, but if you’d like to quickly put your jacket or some other stuff in the backseat you’d have to walk all the way to the other side of the car.

    As the rear door looks kind of good it would be a nicer car with one more door but I guess that would negate some of the hype and attention of this reverse-halo car.

    I’m all for weird gimmicks like this but there has to be at least some substance to it to really work and I don’t see that in this case.

    • 0 avatar
      Strippo

      I agree. One more door would mean a smaller driver’s side door. I knew the long-ish door would annoy me and indeed it does.

    • 0 avatar
      Signal11

      That side door’s on the correct side for it’s city dwelling target market. When I park on narrow, busy streets, I don’t screw around on the driver’s side to get stuff out of the car. It’s such a habit, I find myself doing it even when there are no cars coming. On one street I often park on, there’s no parallel parking on my side of the street and still do this. It’s been my observation that this is true of a lot of city dwellers.

  • avatar
    rp2s

    I purchased my Veloster on 9/17. Got the Style package, with 6spd manual. Very pleased with the car overall. I don’t drag race from light to light (that would be a losing proposition), but it’s still a very fun car to drive, and it handles the curves with confidence, all while delivering exceptional fuel economy, I believe the Veloster is based on the new Elantra chassis, with some mods to the rear suspension. I paid 20,4k, and I got exactly what I wanted, a good looking, comfortable economy car with a lot of tech features inside, plus the glass moonroof.

  • avatar
    tuckerdawg

    This review describes a driving experience that is very similar to my elantra 06′. Its not bad but it just doesn’t inspire anything either. I think my next car will be a mazda 3, manual and maybe at that time the active sky technology will be here as well.

  • avatar
    svan

    This is a good car for normal people, and it will probably sell well. Driving enthusiasts will be bummed out.

    I just had a kid, so I’m forced to dispose of my 2dr MK4 GTI and find something else. She insists on nothing but a hatch, which is fine by me. The veloster qualifies.

    Many things about this car totally work. The styling? Sharp. It looks busier in photos. In person, you want to go rawr and claw at it. Same effect (on me) as a Genesis coupe. I don’t care if it will age well. Few things do. It looks great now.

    The 2+1 door thing also totally works. The back seat is big enough for most creatures, and the ocean of glass makes it habitable. At brisk city speeds only a few puffs of air come in.

    The handling is enjoyable around town and on a straight highway. You can chuck it into a corner, and it won’t roll like a pig. Bumps, railroad tracks – all fine. The clutch feel is fine, the manual shifter is fine, the automatic dual-clutch is even fine.

    But man, that engine lets the whole package down. I am in favour of 40mpg practical cars, but past 4500 RPM you’re afraid that you’re going to break it. Low-end grunt is satisfying.

    A note about interior styling. This is perhaps my GTI roots, or the fact that I work in the technology industry and I know what glitzy computers look and feel like in eight years. Ford’s touch screen is already lame and frustrating to use. All of this Jetsons technology and space ship styling is really, really not to my taste (ditto on Ford).

    I find myself going back to Kia and VW today.


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