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2012 Hyundai Veloster: Autodom's daring future?

Posted by Gerry Miles  March 30, 2012 06:43 PM

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(Front: Gerry Miles for The Boston Globe; Interior: Hyundai). Click photo for larger version.

I get the Veloster, I think. Or maybe I’ve spent too much time reading the Steve Jobs biography and Apple thinking has convinced me that great design takes great risks. The Hyundai Veloster’s polarizing design is certainly risky, but it’s also daring.

The Veloster is designed with an angle – purposely – to get drivers thinking about what fun they could have driving a Hyundai. How many times have you looked at a car recently that seemed really high-end only to be surprised that it’s a Sonata or Elantra?

To use some spring training lingo, consider the new Veloster as the set-up man for the upcoming closer–the Veloster Turbo. This car is the appetizing first serving of what promises to be a dramatic future.

That curiosity will encourage many to give the Veloster a look-see. From the side, you can glimpse a homage to the long departed Tiburon two-door sports coupe that never quite caught on. From the front, my white Veloster resembled a storm trooper’s helmet from “Star Wars.” The backside shows a strong similarity to the Honda CR-Z hatchback.
Under the Veloster’s hood sits a 1.6-liter, 138 horsepower, 4-cylinder engine mated to a standard six-speed manual gear mixer or an optional ($1,250) automatic dual-clutch setup.

This new gasoline direct injection (GDI) motor boasts some important features such as dual, continuously variable valve timing, electronic throttle control, a roller timing chain, and variable induction. While the motor meets its mission of providing nearly 40 mpgs on the highway and in the 30s combined, it may disappoint those who believe the styling promises more zip than an economical, entry-level coupe.

The Veloster does, however, provide a smooth quick, and enjoyable interaction for those willing to stir the gears, work the pedals, and have an interactive motoring experience. The shifts are smooth, the clutch is just right (not too firm, nor race-car hard) and the result is an uplifting interaction that rewards the senses. Held at speed, with rising revs, Veloster remains composed without complaining that it’s being made to hurry.

The car sits upon a McPherson strut front suspension with a front stabilizer bar while the back is held up by a torsion beam, rear stabilizer and monotube shocks. Its surprising curb weight of 2,584 pounds is less than the Scion tC (3,060 lbs), Clubman (2,712) and CR-Z (2,637) and the Elantra (2,661 lbs), upon which it is based and gives it a more substantial feeling than one expects from a compact.

The Veloster is at its best when properly revved and pushed through corners where it carved the turns along New Hampshire’s seacoast and some other favorite roads with aplomb. Electronic power steering is predictably light in slow city traffic and becomes more direct and linear at highway speed but without the need to wrestle with the wheel as with other cars that are overcompensated to impose a ‘road car’ feel. For a front-driver with a sporty design and demeanor, the car is happily lacking any hints of torque steer.

Hyundai-Veloster-Inside.JPG

Click photo for larger version.

The shapes and angularity of the exterior styling underscore that there’s something different inside this car’s cockpit. A V-shaped center stack houses the main controls, chiefly a large 7-inch touchpad while other key controls are well marked with large, easily read buttons. Sitting in the tall, bucket seats one can see other “v” and vector-shaped stylings that are featured on the two-tone wraparound dash. Blacked out A-pillars are meant to provide a view of the road like that from inside a motorcycle helmet. Air vents meant to resemble motorcycle tailpipes and metallic door grab handles are functional and fun, further selling the reverse-halo quotient.

Seeking to have an aspirational car at a low price point, Hyundai hopes a car with the Veloster’s styling and offerings (it has a push-button start/stop) will bring younger buyers into the showroom who will stay with the brand as they grow into its ever-expanding model line.

Beyond fun, there’s functionality inside the Veloster, provided by the third door. Once you locate the smartly hidden handle, there’s reasonable space for gym bags and groceries in the back. The seats also fold down to augment cargo room, such as it is. A warning is hereby issued for those above 5-foot-7 attempting to enter the back and sit upright. It can be done, but with difficulty. The downward swoop of the rear line over the third door scrubs headroom and will produce a limbo-like maneuver to slide in.

Still, the Veloster does just what Hyundai set out to do: it muddles the competition picture with an offering that provides economy at the pump while giving drivers a lot of fun. Now all you boy racers have to do is wait for a turbo-charged 201-hp motor that arrives in 2013.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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