It’s the automotive equivalent of a new smart phone — clever, creative, tech savvy and aimed at the the under-30 crowd
By Tara Weingarten
THE BIG PICTURE
The problem with the Hyundai Veloster is that it flies in the face of conventional wisdom. You can’t really have it all, says the sober voice. You can’t have a super-stylish, gizmo-loaded, sporty-feeling ride that also gets 40 mpg on the highway.
Apparently, Hyundai never got that memo. That’s the only explanation for the Hyundai Veloster’s generous array of features in a sub-compact that starts at $18,060 and tops out at $23,310. I’m jealous of the 20- and 30-somethings Hyundai is targeting for this car, since there were significantly fewer choices when I was in this demographic.
As if this generation doesn’t feel entitled enough. Now comes the Hyundai Veloster. It says, “sure, you can have clever, edgy design, paddle shifters on the steering wheel, six airbags, and 40 mpg on the highway. Why not? Oh, You want to hook up your X-Box? Fine, go right ahead. What’s that? You want to connect your camcorder to the Veloster’s 7” screen and watch a movie you just made with your friends? Yeah, sure, fine. Boy, you just want it all, huh?”
You know, there’s going to be no living with these Hyundai Veloster drivers. Thanks, Hyundai.
IT’S NICE OUTSIDE
Hyundai Veloster has its sights on Honda’s CR-Z, the VW Beetle, the Mini Clubman and the Scion tC. It wants to conquer their customers. On looks alone, it shoots between the headlamps and nails it.
With three doors – yes, three – it has the sporty look of a coupe when viewed from the driver’s side, and is a practical sedan from the passenger’s side. Check out the hidden rear door – look closely or you’ll miss it. Hyundai’s designers did such a great job hiding the door handle and matching the door’s seams with the rest of the vehicle so that it’s nearly undetectable.
In keeping with the march-to-a-different-beat theme, the Hyundai Veloster’s color names are inspired by extreme athletics. That’s not silver you see, it’s Ironman Silver. Not gray but Triathalon Gray.
It’s the kind of car that comes from a brand that is working harder than the others to shed its once-stodgy image. The president of Hyundai’s American division says the Hyundai Veloster is “filled with rebelliousness.” To him, I say, I can see James Dean kicking the tires.
AN INSIDE JOB
The Hyundai Veloster’s scrappy styling isn’t just on the outside. Inside, Hyundai’s designers channeled the rebelliousness of motorcycle style. It’s angular, interesting, youthful. And it looks more expensive than it is.
There are two flavors of sound systems: a 196-watt version with six speakers, or a 450-watt unit with eight speakers and a sub-woofer. A BlueLink package (which requires an annual subscription cost of $79 to $279 depending on the features) offers things like Pandora, Gracenote and a variety of telematics, including GPS-based roadside assistance and Automatic Crash Notification, in the event of an accident.
Because the younger you are, the more you’re social, it’s important to let your friends know how to find you. The BL (BlueLink) Essential package has location sharing so your friends can track you car; it has voice text messaging, so you’ll never miss a text while driving; and it can track your vehicle should it ever get stolen.
There’s an optional 115-volt outlet, which allows you to hook up your X-Box and connect your camcorder to the 7” navigation screen. Inside the Hyundai Veloster, it’s all about video game connectivity. Why should driving be the main event?
Two 12V outlets come standard, as do cruise control, Bluetooth with voice recognition, and steering wheel-mounted audio controls.
The backseat has a sloping roof line to keep the sport-coupe look alive. I sat in the backseat and had no problem with headroom. But I’m 5’3”. Taller passengers might find it less accommodating. Also, the Hyundai Veloster seats four, not five, so it’s somewhat limited.
The trunk is ample, large enough to haul your guitars and art projects, or take trips to the garden center or flea market. There’s no spare tire, just a “flat in a can” — kind of temporary fix.
HOW DOES IT DRIVE?
Well that depends. It handles great. Stays tight in corners, the steering feels spot on — direct and connected for a sporty driving feel. All good. But then, there’s that little issue of acceleration. If everyone and everything has an Achilles Heel, for the Hyundai Veloster, it’s speed. The specs say the Veloster goes from 0-60 in 9.8 seconds. By any measure, that’s slow.
And during my test drive, the Veloster’s lack of torque, or low-end power, was palpable. If you’re not a speed demon, you won’t care. It’s just that the Veloster LOOKS so sporty, it’s a bit of a disconnect. Sort of like if George Clooney was a bad kisser.
On a long stretch of highway, my driving partner and I encountered serious headwinds. This little Hyundai Veloster just couldn’t muster the power to fight that mighty gale. Though we passed a signpost stating 65 mph limit, we couldn’t top 60 mph. We were passed by a FedEx truck, an 18-wheeler, and everybody’s grandpa.
There’s excellent visibility out the rear and side windows. To me, that’s a huge safety factor, being able to see all around the outside of the car. And it rides on 17” wheels (or optional 18”s.) These are good size tires for spirited driving.
Six airbags protect the cabin. And the stability and traction controls help you get out of a skid or slide, should you find yourself in one. The Hill Start Assist make sure you don’t roll back when you’re at a stop on a hill. Works like a charm.
The car looks so cool, your friends will want YOU to drive. Just make sure they pop for gas once in a while.
Scrappy, clever styling
40 mpg hwy manual transmission (38 mpg hwy automatic)