Hyundai Veloster Review (first drive)

$14,430 $17,160 Dealer
  • Fuel Economy
    6.4L
  • Engine Power
    103kW
  • CO2 Emissions
    151g
  • ANCAP Rating
    N/A

The Koreans want to capture the youth market with the Veloster, will it work?

The soon-to-be-launched Hyundai Veloster has created a great deal of enthusiasm for car lovers in Australia, so it was with even greater enthusiasm that CarAdvice jumped behind the wheel of a Korean-spec Veloster to see what all the fuss was about.

Hyundai brought us to Namyang in Korea, the main (but one of many) research & development centre for Hyundai Motors. Here we got to test drive a BlueOn i10 based electric car, a Genesis V8 sedan, an i45 hybrid and two different Velosters.

The new Hyundai Veloster is expected to launch in Australia late this year and based on what we know so far, it will be offered with only one engine variant (1.6-litre petrol) mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT).

During our test at Namyang, Hyundai provided a Veloster DCT and a Veloster automatic (six-speed). Although the automatic is currently offered in Korea, it’s not on the cards for Australia with the DCT and manual seen as the preferred options.

From the outside the Veloster is a hell of a looker. Similar in concept to the Mini Cooper Clubman, the sporty Veloster has three doors, two on the passenger side and one bigger coupe-like door on the driver’s side.

Unlike the Clubman though, which has a reverse-opening suicide door on the right hand side of the car (as it was originally designed for left-hand drive markets only) the engineers at Hyundai have designed the Veloster in such a way that the door sides will switch depending on the market. This way the side in which the rear door opens will always be on the kerb side (in Australia, that would mean two doors on the left and the bigger driver’s door on the right). Also the third door is a conventional door and not a suicide door like the Clubman.

The Hyundai Veloster is very much portraying a sporty and aggressive look, so much so that it even has plastic inserts that can be mistaken for air vents. The top of the range Veloster makes use of black contrasting colours for its front grille and rear diffuser. The rear lights are also very unique as they continue their shape into the tailgate but the actual lights themselves differ from the base model to the top spec. Daytime running lights are built into the curvy front headlights and further accentuate Hyundai’s new fluid-sculpture design language. Well proportioned wheel arches also help bolster the Veloster’s overall profile.

Looking side-on to the driver’s side, the Veloster looks like a sporty coupe. Nonetheless, from the other side it looks like a hatchback. Perhaps that’s the point, it can act as both. But is it a case of best of both worlds or is it just a gimmick?

If you happen to want a sporty coupe, but can’t compromise on rear seat accessibility, the Veloster makes perfect sense. On one side it’s a coupe, on the other it’s a hatchback. So you can indeed easily get friends in the back when the time comes, without having to fold down the front seats.

The bright green coloured Veloster pictured here was the test car Hyundai showed us prior to letting CarAdvice behind the wheel of the two other Velosters around Namyang’s test track, where cameras are absolutely not allowed.

The inside the Hyundai Veloster is a pleasant evolution of the Korean company’s current innovative interior designs. With bucket-like side-bolstering seats and an upright driving position, the front seats are a nice place to be. There is sufficient headroom with or without a sunroof if the seat is down far enough. The steering wheel is meaty and feels nice to hold.

As for the rear, well, it’s hard to say. It certainly won’t be the most comfortable place to sit if you’re taller than 165cm. Headroom is lacking, thanks in part to the sloping silhouette roofline, but even legroom is limited if front passengers are tall. The issue with headroom seems to be where the glass section of the tailgate and the roof fabric meet, further limiting headroom.

Our Korean-spec demonstration car had a satellite navigation system built in, including parking sensors and a reversing camera, but Australia will more than likely miss out on at least the sat-nav system in the short term.

However, we wont miss out on native iPod/iPhone connectivity, Bluetooth telephone and audio streaming plus USB support. On the base models the roof is made from a combination of a rear-glass section of the tailgate and a metal roof, however if you go for a sunroof-equipped Veloster, the entire roof becomes a nice dark tinted glass. The dash and door surrounds are made from hard plastics but don’t look or feel cheap. There is good use of textured plastics inside that help bring a more pleasant cabin ambience.

Although one of KIA’s main differentiators from sister company Hyundai has been its focus on the more youthful segments, the Veloster is definitely a model aimed squarely at youngsters. KIA has previously told CarAdvice that there are currently no plans to make a Veloster equivalent.

The Hyundai Veloster measures 4220mm long and 1790mm wide. The sporty Hyundai is also pretty lean, weighing in at just 1172kg for the manual and 1205kg for the DCT (kerb weight - American specifications).

Under the bonnet sits a 1.6-litre Gamma engine designed and developed completely in-house by the Koreans. Hyundai also designs both the DCT and manual transmissions. The four-cylinder engine has an estimated power output of 103kW and 167Nm of torque. Not all that much on paper, but given its weight, it’s by no means slow.

For our first road test we drove the Veloster automatic down a straight high-speed test track. It felt agile but not all that powerful, the six-speed automatic (which we won’t be getting in Aus at launch) is smooth and refined but feels like it can use a little more power.

The DCT on the other hand, despite being linked to the exact same engine, feels more aggressive and quicker in acceleration. Whether or not it actually is quicker than the standard automatic remains unconfirmed, as there are currently no 0-100km/h figures. The DCT behaves rather well, showing little to no jerkiness and brisk and instantaneous gear-changes.

Around the second part of the test track, a ride and handling course full of long and short corners plus tight apexes and sudden bumps before turns, the Veloster performed well. As far as handling goes, it turned in with ease but the traction control seemed a little too trigger-happy when we wanted to accelerate out of corners at speed, limiting engine power rather frequently. Ride is smooth and easy on the back, yet the suspension setup allowed the Veloster to sit flat around corners with little sign of body roll.

The DCT variant allows for easier control of gears through paddles mounted on the steering wheel (left is down, right is up). This meant the Veloster DCT can be kept in the right gear for as long as required.

It’s fair to point out that all cars tested were Korean or American spec and not tuned for Australian roads or taste. Even the DCT calibration was not yet complete. Despite being designed for the domestic and North American market (hence why it has an actual name and not one starting with “i”), the Veloster’s overall handling characteristics were much better than anticipated.

For its target audience the vehicle’s overall exterior and interior design, ride and handling dynamics plus power output and transmission are sure to please. As for a price, nothing is confirmed for Australia yet so best we don’t make guestimations.

Australian-delivered Velosters get a full compliment of safety features including a new vehicle stability management system and six airbags. The Korean company expects a five-star safety rating when it’s put to the test in the near future.

Like all passenger Hyundai vehicles on sale today, the Veloster is expected to come with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and 15,000km service intervals.

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