The Hyundai Veloster turns conventional car design on its head. It’s a two-door coupe from one side and a four-door hatch from the other. The South Korean company says this is part of its “new thinking” philosophy, and for a starting price of just $23,990 it also happens to redefine value for money.
Let’s justify that statement for a minute. For under $25K you get a brand new modern-styled sports hatch with 18-inch alloy wheels, a 7-inch LCD touch screen that can play a heap of different media (including DivX movies), stream Bluetooth audio from your iPhone/iPod, take USB input and broadcast all that through a high-end audio system powered by an amplifier and subwoofer.
You also get a five-star safety rating thanks to six-airbags and all the active safety features Hyundai has on offer. Let’s not forget the gorgeous daytime running lights, tyre pressure monitor system, automatic headlights, cruise control and a high-resolution rear view camera (through the LCD screen) with reversing sensors and more. Can you think of another car that offers all that for the same coin?
It’s important to address the elephant in the room because a two+one door coupe/hatch is not a completely unique idea. There is another vehicle on the market that originally created this niche: the Mini Cooper Clubman. Unfortunately for Mini fans in Australia, the Clubman has its two passenger side doors on the wrong side for our right-hand-drive market (which makes getting in and out of the back seats a relatively risky task when parked on the road), whilst the Veloster offers the dual passenger doors on the kerb side.
The Hyundai Veloster is a unique approach for the South Korean automaker given it can now target a set of buyers that are likely to be new to the brand. Its unique shape is certain to turn heads wherever it goes and given the high level of standard kit across the range, particularly the 18-inch alloy wheels and daytime running lamps, even the base model looks the business.
To launch the Veloster, Hyundai brought us to the Gold Coast where we embarked on a drive program through twisty mountainous roads heading to Terranora and Kingscliffe. The idea was simple: test drive Hyundai’s only legitimate sporty car (for now) on genuinely challenging roads.
Hyundai avoids calling Veloster a sports car, preferring to label it a sporty coupe or smart hatch. It’s a good approach because the naturally aspirated 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which powers all current variants, is not exactly what you’d call powerful. It’s capable of 103kW of power and 166Nm of torque, which is more than adequate to move its roughly 1200kg kerb weight about with relative ease but it’s by no means a formula for a hot hatch.
Not to worry though, because a Veloster hot hatch is coming. The Hyundai Veloster Turbo is expected in Australia before year’s end and that promises an entirely different driving experience. One that will catapult Hyundai Australia in to completely unchartered territory. But for now we can concentrate on the naturally aspirated variants.
The problem with new so-called sports cars is that they are generally far too expensive for their young enthusiastic audience. Take the Honda CR-Z, for example, for a starting price of $34,990 it’s expensive for the potential audience that it so desperately craves. This is why you’re unlikely to see an under-30 behind the wheel. Meanwhile, the Veloster’s starting price completely alters the game. It’s by no means slower than a CR-Z (in fact, it feels noticeably faster) and finally offers a genuinely fun car with sporty credentials at a price that its target audience can justify.
Hyundai Australian expects to sell around 200 Velosters per month, but it’s likely to be able to double that if stock wasn’t limited. It comes in two variants, Veloster and Veloster +, each offered with either a six-sped manual or Hyundai’s first dual-clutch six-speed automatic transmission (DCT), which attracts a very reasonable $2000 price premium.
The $4000 price difference between the Veloster and Veloster + gets you projector beam headlamps, push button start with proximity smart key, heated mirrors, a large panoramic glass sunroof, leather seats, powered driver seat and an advanced instrument display cluster. You also get colour-coded inserts for the 18-inch alloy wheels (something Kia Koup buyers would be used to), electric folding mirrors and climate control. Not bad for the money but it does add some interesting side effects.
Behind the wheel the Veloster’s cabin can feel a tad cramped if you like open spaces. The outward-pointing interior door handles can be intrusive while the space between the driver and passenger can become tight if you happen to frequent at KFC.
You’re also unlikely to enjoy your time in the driver’s seat if you measure north of 185cm (which is very reasonable, given the average Australian is 10cm shorter than that). As for the two rear seats, although very much usable for short drives (unlike those in the CR-Z), they provide inconsistent headroom thanks to the shape of the roof. On the plus side the interior is nicely done, with glossy textured plastics on the dash and soft-touch material on the doors.
The base model’s lack of panoramic sunroof is helpful as it provides much better headspace but you cant fault the glass roof for a better overall ambiance.
On the road the 1.6-litre engine is smooth and refined whilst the throttle response is easily the best in any Hyundai we’ve driven to date. Coupled to a six-speed manual transmission the Veloster is simple to drive and operate around town. Although most buyers are likely to go for the automatic, the manual gearbox would make a great candidate if you enjoy being in total control.
The party piece of the Veloster is the six-speed DCT. Unlike other widely used dual-clutch systems, the Veloster’s DCT doesn’t struggle to provide a smooth ride in traffic. There is also limited lag as you get up and go from the lights and we experienced no noticeable delay when shifting between drive and reverse. Best of all it offers the same 6.4L/100km fuel economy figure as the manual. If you can afford it, it’s worth ticking the box.
Hyundai says Australian bound Velosters are based on the European variants but offer modified front and rear spring rates and a 100% bespoke damper tune for our market. When we drove the Veloster in South Korea last year we felt its suspension lacking in refinement so we’re happy to report those issues are largely resolved.
Around the twisty stuff the Veloster behaves very much like a sporty hatch. It craves more power (which is why we think the Veloster turbo will be an absolute blast) but still makes for a rather enjoyable drive. Steering response is very accurate with little play but it can feel a little light at times, almost as if you’re playing a video game and someone has turned off the vibration. The ride is firm but not unbearable, it’s also surprisingly compliant over rough surfaces.
Overall we found Hyundai’s Veloster a surprisingly good package, given the price. The extensive list of standard features puts some European luxury cars to shame, but as good as the additional kit in the Veloster+ is, the base model with DCT ($25,990) is the one we’d recommend.
There’s a reason Hyundai is the fastest growing car company in the world, it’s giving the market what it wants at a very reasonable price. We simply cannot wait for the Veloster turbo. Click on the gallery tab for more pictures.