The cars we loved.
Hyundai’s new Veloster is no Tiburon, but it fills in a void left by the dearly missed sports coupe. In Korea Hyundai markets the Veloster under its Premium Youth Lab brand like Toyota with Sion. Unlike Toyota, Hyundai only has one vehicle aimed at the younger demographic in America (if you don’t count the low cost Accent), and they still sell it under the Hyundai brand.
That’s not a bad thing because Hyundai quality has made significant gains in recent years. Its designs have been consistently good, if not derivative and have shaken up the luxury and mid-sized segments. Now it’s time for the compact sport coupe market. The Veloster is a departure from the status quo of coupe design. As a tough segment due to the ever changing tastes of its finicky target market, making the next big thing has been the goal of makers of sporty low cost coupes for as long as anyone can remember. Hyundai may have succeeded with the front wheel drive Veloster.
The Veloster stands out for some of the same reasons the Saturn Ion coupe did years ago, it has an odd three door setup. From the driver side the Veloster appears like a standard coupe, but on the passenger side there are two doors for a almost sedan like profile. The sloping rear tapers to a high back that’s neither station wagon nor proper fastback. It’s potentially polarizing from a aesthetics point of view, but promises increased versatility and visibility thanks to the CRX-like lower rear window. Unlike the Ion, the Veloster’s tricks are not limited to the number of doors.
For the trendy teen that has more enthusiasm for driving than money, the Veloster promises 40 mpg from its direct injected 1.6 litre four cylinder engine. With 138 hp, the Veloster is not likely to win too many drag races at the stoplight. Published reports put the 0 to 60 time in the 8.7 to 8.9 second range. That’s within range of other trendy coupes like Honda’s CR-Z. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard, but most cars are likely to be equipped with Hyundai’s first dual-clutch (6-speed) transmission. Auto/manual transmission comes with race car like paddle shifters. Other features like gas-charged hydraulic shocks and motor driven power steering promise sharp reflexes especially when matched to optional 18’ wheels. More substantial performance might be around the corner in the form of a turbocharging down the road.
Even without a powerful turbocharged engine, the Veloster has made a good impression with the automotive press. Motor Trend was particularly pleased with both transmission options and the car’s overall handling. USA Today called it oddball and playful. Hyundai seems to have a minor hit on its hands as the Veloster seems to be the coupe of the moment, for now at least.
The Veloster might be as fun to drive as it is to ride in. The interior rides the wave of robot inspired chrome and plastic seen in cars like the Focus. There is a considerable number of on-board amusements in what amounts to one of the larger interiors in its class. A 7 inch touch screen serves as a hub for a navigation system, satellite radio and control center display. Useful ports to connect devices like an iPod, iPhone or even Xbox. When the screen is not being used to amuse, it can inform with Hyundai’s information link system called Blue Link. It displays car data like mpg, average speed and messages from an emergency assistance system.
Any car designed to appeal to the Radiohead crowd enviably will appeal to some of those who like Rush too. Honda’s Element became an icon for the elderly when it was intended to appeal to their grandchildren. The Veloster has what it takes to stand out in the market place and is likely to have a cross generational appeal. With a starting price around $17,000, there likely will be plenty of them on the road. It’s not a look for everyone, but it shores up the bottom end of Hyundai’s line nicely and only heightens anticipation of what a new Tiburon might be like.