Value for money, in a wider pragmatic sense, is seldom applied to sports cars by the people who are considering them. They’re not usually good value for money. Often featuring two doors, cramped cabins, limited usability and likely poor residual values, they’re a selfish choice that’s led by the heart over the head.
I can’t imagine a punter having much success after walking their family of five into a Mazda dealer, and pointing to the roadster in the corner.
People often use a colloquial derivative of value for money to define a sports car’s price. Bang for your buck comes to mind. Alternatively, narrowing down the focus to its core competitor set, comparing apples with apples, can also assist in making the value equation more logical.
Let’s take both of those logical approaches when considering if the 2020 Hundai Veloster represents value for money. On top of that, we will nitpick the economics of ownership and understand real-world costs as per our findings.
Our long-termer is the Turbo Premium variant finished in Thunder Bolt (yellow) with an optional phantom black roof. The roof adds $1000 to the tally, resulting in $42,990 before on-roads.
For that price, it’s solidly equipped. Regarding safety systems, Hyundai’s Smart Sense package is standard and keeps things in check. You’ll find blind-spot monitoring, camera- plus radar-based AEB, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise and rear cross-traffic alert.
On the trinkets front, there’s plenty to keep you busy. I do love a decent sound system in a car, and the Veloster delivers on that front with an eight-speaker Infinity stereo with dedicated amplifier. The leather front seats are both heated and ventilated. Even the steering wheel is heated, reflecting an ultimate first-world convenience.
It’s more often than not that you find advanced safety systems absent, which is borderline understandable given their application. A quick peer over Toyota’s shoulder reveals that the 86 is devoid of such technologies, as well as AEB and adaptive cruise, for that matter.
Given the Veloster straddles the hatchback realm to some degree, its comprehensive safety package is a lovely little sweetener when looking at what your money gets you outside of just something that looks and feels cool to drive.
If you plot three competitors on a scale from mild to wild, I’d say the Veloster lives toward mild. Further up the scale, comfortably in the middle, is the aforementioned Toyota 86 GTS auto at $38,940 before on-roads. Then at maximum wild is the MX-5 GT Roadster auto from $45,820 before on-roads.
After careful scrutiny, I’d say the Veloster is the best equipped of the three in terms of things that matter for a daily driver that doubles as a fun weekender. I understand it’s front-wheel drive, which will be a bugbear to some, but that doesn't mean it has no merit.
It represents a sports car you’d have a chance of actually owning, instead of something that’ll command an instant ‘no’ from the other person affected by the decision. Because of this, I believe it redeems itself. If you really do care, and have a choice of either owning a fun, front-drive sports car or no sports car, the choice is obvious.
The Toyota is the worst-equipped, with that fact resulting in an almost-tie between the Mazda and the Hyundai. Both have heaps of active safety, leather trim, great audio systems, good infotainment packages, and so forth.
The Mazda is also a convertible, but it’s nearly four-grand more once you subtract the black roof from the Veloster.
Then there’s the elephant in the room. Usability. The MX-5 lacks space. The cabin is cramped, and the boot near non-existent. It also only has two seats compared to four in both the 86 and the Veloster.
The MX-5 can be seen as a different proposition, but it is something you can likely access financially if you’re shopping for a Veloster. I also believe it’s a competitor that many will cross-shop during their research phase to see whether they can live with it or not.
The Hyundai’s 303L boot, extendable to 1081L, is so intergalactically far beyond the other two.
When pragmatism comes in, often aligned to the school of thought that is value for money, the Veloster over delivers when compared to the others. So, it gets a gold star, first place – just by an inch – in regard to equipment and usability
Powertrain-wise, the Hyundai has them both gazumped. The turbo versus naturally aspirated debate is an important one to have with regard to sports cars. But, as a fun daily driver that’ll spend a heap of time on roads with rules, including that of B-roads, torque delivery and in-gear pull are equally as important.
Sure, the automatic 86's power is only 3kW less compared to the Veloster Turbo, barely perceptible by the seat of the pants, but the torque figures reveal far more of the story. The Toyota makes 205Nm from about 6400rpm. The MX-5 sits the lowest on this podium, with 135kW and 205Nm from a comparatively low 4000rpm.
All 265Nm that the mighty Korean puts out from the flywheel is available from a much lower 1500rpm. It’s this ballsy, strong-natured feeling that can make zipping around town fun in the Veloster. It doesn’t need to be wrung of every last newton-metre, it’s there on tap all day, every day.
Adding to its turbocharged sprightliness is a dual-clutch auto. Both the Mazda and the Toyota feature traditional torque converters, which do, ever so slightly, middle-man the relationship the driver has with the output shaft. It introduces numbness, the indirectness. The Hyundai's dual-clutch auto gives a very direct, positive feeling that’s more in line with a sports car's vibe.
Over test, the Veloster has returned 8.0 litres per 100km to date. On previous tests, an MX-5 auto has returned 7.2L/100km, and an 86 auto 10.0L/100km.
The price of petrol is far from static at the time of writing, but at somewhere between a best of $1.00 and worst around $1.50 per litre, using those figures, the MX-5 will cost you around $120–$180 less in fuel over 15,000km of travel compared to the Veloster.
The Toyota will cost $300–$450 over the same period more than the Veloster, and $420–$630 more than the MX-5.
In terms of maintenance, the first three services for the Veloster are $299, whereas the Mazda costs $326 for years one and three, with year two setting you back $370.
Some of the fuel-saving costs that the Mazda built up dwindle a little, but overall it’s the cheapest car to fill up and maintain.
Capping things off is the third door. To some, it's a ‘Quasimodo-ism’ that makes the Veloster a little odd and ugly. To others, whom I’d side with, it creates an interesting talking point that has the potential to offer a little extra convenience with its charm.
Since we’re firmly grounded in the vanity capital of the car world, which is sports cars, I feel like the design side of things is worth a mention. The subjectivity of the topic means you’ll always default to your own opinion. But that doesn’t mean we can’t all be friends, discuss the nature of the Hyundai’s design principles, and maybe change a few opinions along the way, does it?
I feel like asymmetry either rocks your world or causes severe panic. It’s disorder, irregular, and against our very innate human programming. We’re wired to gravitate to symmetry, even as far as in our partner’s appearance.
The inner rebel in me finds a sort of peace in things that are unbalanced. I know nothing is perfect, therefore it must be possible to still achieve a sense of conformity in light of this. Looking deeper into the subject, when negative space comes to life, sometimes assists with dealing with lopsided things.
Either way, principles and philosophies aside, the Veloster’s against-the-grain notion settles well with me. Its attempt at different is not without tangible merit, bringing some convenience in the form of that third door. Added helpfulness does something to tip the scale of love/hate in the right direction.
The Veloster may be a touch more expensive to run than the MX-5, but it offers more space and size for your money. Compared to the 86, it is far better equipped, with critical safety gear that’ll come in handy during the daily grind or when judgment may lapse.
Despite packing a little more poke than the enemy pair, the Veloster is still front-wheel drive, which may put purists off. Don’t get it twisted, however, its front-wheel-drive layout does not detract from the ability to have good, clean and legal fun with the Korean.
Value for money is there compared to its peers, no doubt.