Doors open to new ideas
Posted on: 9th Aug 2012
If you think of Hyundai as a budget brand, then you won't be expecting it to have much of a heritage in smart sports coupes. You'd be wrong actually.
The Korean company first entered the affordable end of this segment way back in 1996 with a Hyundai Coupe model so appealing that it even out-sold rival Italian competitors in their home market. Its modern day successor is the model we're looking at here, launched early in 2012 in the UK with normally aspirated power before the turbo version I’m reviewing here followed a few months later.
But whatever engine you choose under the bonnet, it's a car with a USP rather easy to spot. The so-called '2+1' bodystyle, aiming to offer the looks of a racy coupe with the practicality of a family hatchback.
Meeting this rather challenging design brief meant doing things with doors. So you've a single long one on the driver's side but a pair of shorter openings opposite, with a few deft styling tweaks to disguise the fact.
Racy looks are one thing. Racy roadway performance is another. If you want it in a Veloster, you'll need the 186PS turbocharged version. With this variant, you can cut the 0-60mph time down to 8.4s and enjoy a lot more pulling power - 270Nm of torque rather than the 167Nm offered by the normally aspirated 1.6-litre model.
With the turbo variant, Hyundai's engineers have also addressed everything about the standard version of this car that would leave enthusiasts somewhat lukewarm. So a sports exhaust deals with the thin, reedy engine note. Front and rear suspension teaks allow greater dynamic composure. And wider gear ratios mean less use is needed of the rather notchy six-speed manual gearbox.
Typical buyers of this car are people more likely to find tyre-smoking tiresome and therefore people for whom less will probably be more when it comes to this Hyundai.
They'll like the well-judged ride. They'll appreciate the excellent refinement. And they may even want to specify the dual-clutch automatic transmission (the Korean maker's first ever) with its steering wheel-mounted paddles, a set-up that promises really effortless ownership.
Design and Build
This, we're told, is 'the next evolution of Hyundai's design language'. They call it 'Fluidic Sculpture' and if this really is the way it's going, then future models really are going to look dramatic.
Everywhere on this Veloster, you'll find signs of styling flourish - a grille here, a slash there, with lines, curves, cutaways and slopes busily converging into a surprisingly cohesive end result. From every angle this car seems different:
While there are countless design cues that may remind you of other cars, the Veloster somehow still emerges with its own very distinct look and feel, with a top glasshouse section that Hyundai claims is inspired by a motorcyclist's crash helmet.
From the rear, twin central exhausts, reflectors set into the wheelarches, rear combination lights curved to follow the bodywork and cutaways in the tailgate offer further distinctive touches. The Turbo model is recognised by a larger spoiler, LED accents on the tail lamps, a unique set of bumpers and, moving further around, things like inbuilt foglights, a bolder grille and larger 18-inch alloy wheels.
Ultimately though, it is of course the doors that define this design. We're talking pure sports coupe here on the driver's side. As, at first glance, you might think is also the case when you walk around to the opposite flank of the car. But a closer look reveals this '2+1' design's cleverness.
On this side, rather than one long driver's door, you've two shorter ones separated by a central pillar, with the handle for the rear opening artfully disguised in the window frame.
Market and Model
Once you've properly specified your Veloster turbo, then you'll probably looking at around £25,000 depending on the spec combination you choose. With this in mind, it'll help that this car is very well equipped.
Expect to find smart alloy wheels, front fog lamps, LED daytime running lights, auto headlamps, reverse parking sensors, a 7-inch TFT colour touchscreen that can play games from consoles and films from smartphones, a Bluetooth system with voice recognition, a decent quality USB and MP3-compatible stereo with wheel-mounted controls and an aux-in point and climate control.
Top models also get larger alloys, black leather trim with heated front seats, cruise control, keyless entry and a large panoramic glass sunroof that looks good but will rob taller drivers of a bit of headroom.
There aren't too many options available, but you might well be tempted by the Media Pack, which includes satellite navigation, a reversing camera and a stereo that includes eight speakers, an amp and a sub woofer.
Cost of Ownership
The Veloster's excellent value for money is compounded by some very respectable cost of ownership figures, day to day running costs kept pretty well in check, with the manual model returning a combined fuel economy figure of 35-40mpg and a CO2 return of just over 150g/km. A gearshift change indicator on the dash should help owners get somewhere near these kinds of figures on an ordinary day-to-day basis. But none of these can get close to the aftersales care on offer from Hyundai. The brand's 'Five Year Triple Care' scheme means you'll get an unlimited mileage warranty, five years of roadside assistance and an annual health check for your car from your dealer.
Some cars offer a very straightforward customer proposition. The Veloster isn't one of them. You'll see it being compared to sports coupes like the Volkswagen Scirocco or the Peugeot RCZ but in reality it's nothing like them.
What it does offer is a car for the person who maybe has a young family but isn't ready for the vanilla image of a five-door family hatch just yet.
The price is right, it's got a great safety record, it's absolutely packed with standard equipment and it looks anything but run of the mill thanks to the '1+2' door system, something that might seem strange at first but in practice works really well.
Enthusiasts might not be quite so keen but even they should find the Turbo version of this model a fun steer. Choose it and you'll be rewarded by a genuinely interesting machine with a lot more substance than its extrovert styling might suggest. A genuinely interesting Korean car then. Expect plenty more where this came from.