Car reviews - Hyundai - Veloster - coupe range
Five-door hatch convenience on one side, two-door coupe style on the other slick-shifting dual-clutch auto ride/handling outstanding value standard equipment
Room for improvement
Tight rear headroom, limited rear vision, space-saver spare, engine lacks torque, questionable fuel consumption
13 Feb 2012
HYUNDAI has confirmed its next-generation Genesis rear-drive coupe will finally be built in right-hand drive guise for countries including Australia, but in the meantime the cheeky new two-plus-one-door Veloster coupe will carry the candle as the Korean giant’s sportiest model.
The long wait gives Australian fans of affordable rear-drive coupes reason to feel short-changed, but those looking for an even more accessible – but equally stylish and accomplished - front-drive coupe should look no further than the Veloster.
Okay, so the two kerb-side doors live up to their promise of offering the convenience of a hatchback, but the rear door opening is tiny and once you’ve inevitably bumped your head on the way into one of the two low-set rear buckets, the high waistline won’t please claustrophobics and anyone over 175cm tall will be cramped.
Headroom up front isn’t generous either, particularly in the top-shelf Veloster + variant with its massive standard glass sunroof.
Yes, there’s plenty of rear legroom and the rear window wears a heat-reducing black decal, but that probably won’t be much comfort when your head is hunched down under the glare of the rear of the rear glass on a hot day.
That said, the twin rear seats are likely to see only occasional use by style-conscious Veloster buyers, who might also be prepared to sacrifice a larger boot aperture, full-size spare and unimpeded rear vision in their pursuit of style.
Especially because the Veloster drives better than any Hyundai shopper may expect.
We’re not sure how extensive Hyundai’s chassis localisation program for the Veloster was (the Korean brand says such programs span about two weeks and 2000km), but the result is a “100 per cent unique” tune for the Sachs monotube dampers and similarly bespoke spring rates that are 13 and 14 per cent firmer than the already-taut European set-up.
Despite the standard fitment of 18-inch wheels with low-profile 215/40 rubber and undeniably firm suspension that minimises bodyroll to refreshingly low levels, ride quality is good.
In fact, we found ourselves searching out broken bitumen on the ex-Gold Coast launch loop in an unsuccessful attempt to unsettle the little Veloster, which does transmit some vibes through the wheel and pedals, and pitches over big bumps on the short wheelbase it shares with the Accent but never felt out of shape.
The locally fettled electric steering is a revelation too. Unlike some Hyundais, it is well weighted, precise, communicative and completely free of torque steer, rack rattle and kickback, except at the extreme limit of adhesion on corrugated bends.
We had so much fun on the all-too-brief launch drive that we wished we had more power to feed through either the slick-shifting six-speed manual or well-sorted dual-clutch auto.
The latter shifts smoothly and quickly both up and down the six-speed gearbox via the tactile steering wheel paddles, and is so adept in stop-start city traffic that it’s hard to believe this is Hyundai’s first effort at a transmission type made famous by VW.
Hyundai may well have the answer for driving enthusiasts in the upcoming Velsoter Turbo, but the fact is the direct-injection petrol four’s 166Nm torque peak makes the standard model feel underpowered at anything less than 3000rpm.
Indeed, the smooth naturally aspirated Veloster does its best work between 4000 and 6000rpm, before petering out close to its near-7000rpm redline. Combined with a big (circa-1000rpm) gap between second and third gears, the Veloster can require plenty of paddle-work to keep on the boil on some twisty roads.
And given that 100km/h equates to 2500rpm in sixth and 3000rpm in fifth, at least one downshift is required for safe overtaking at highway speeds.
Also, the best fuel consumption average we achieved with either transmission was 9.0L/100km, which is hardly laudable for a small car and much more than the combined (standard unleaded) average of 6.4L/100km claimed by Hyundai.
Of course, prospective buyers are likely to be less concerned with such matters than they are with aesthetics and value for money, and the Velsoter delivers on both counts.
Even the base variant looks upmarket inside, matching its considerable road presence with generous alloy-look highlights on the V-shaped centre stack, doors and floating door and console grab handles, plus a neatly-textured sticky (but hard) to touch dash surface and a tacho and 240km/h speedo recessed deeply within motorcycle exhaust-style binnacles.
Behind the leather-clad three-spoke rake/reach-adjustable steering wheel, the deep and well bolstered driver’s seat features manual height and power lumbar adjustments, while there are twin cup-holders both front and rear, large door pockets with bottle holders in all three doors, a large but unlockable glovebox and two front power outlets.
In line with its target market, the seven-inch colour touch-screen and eight-speaker sound system offers all the cable and Bluetooth connectivity young buyers will expect, in addition to an unexpected level of standard kit at this price, including a full trip computer, rear-view camera, rear parking sensors, auto headlights and cruise control – as well as top-notch safety features like six airbags, stability/traction control and tyre pressure monitoring.
The Veloster + impresses even more for less than $28,000, but we could live without its standard leather trim, sunroof, keyless entry and starting, projector headlights, colour-coded wheel spokes, LED daytime running lamps and side repeater lamps, heated wing mirrors, climate-control air-conditioning, power driver’s seat slide (but not recline) and classier blue-backlit instruments.
Yes, the Veloster is as fun to look at as it is to drive, and offers outstanding value for money, even if it doesn’t come with the European badges and vault-like door thud of the two most accomplished light hatches currently available.
The most directly comparable top-spec petrol Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo might cost a respective $3000 and $5000 less, but compare their standard features and it’s easy to see why the Veloster has been a smash hit in the US.
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