May 22, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Thursday, 05 April 2012 15:01
Veloster … How do you pronounce it? Vel-AH-ster, as in “velocity” and “roadster.” But what is it? The Veloster is the newest model from the Hyundai idea factory, and it may be the most cleverly designed car we’ve seen since Dodge and Plymouth began turning out minivans in the early 1980s.
The Veloster is a small, sporty, economical, inexpensive, well-equipped hatchback that can reach 40 mpg on the highway when equipped with a six-speed stick shift. (Our white test car had the optional six-speed EcoShift dual-clutch automatic transmission with paddle shifters; it was rated at 38 highway mpg. It worked well except for a tendency to respond in leisurely fashion to kick-down mode.) The Veloster’s base price is $17,300; our option-laden test car had a sticker price of $22,550.
What sets the Veloster apart from just about all cars, with the exception of the Nissan Cube, is that it’s asymmetrical. The driver’s door is longer than the front passenger door, and the right rear window is longer than the one on the left. This design provides two major benefits. First, the long driver’s door eases ingress and egress, while the rear door on the right side is big enough to allow two small- to medium-sized people to climb in without much difficulty. Tall passengers won’t be comfortable in back because of the low roofline.
Perhaps more importantly, the design improves the driver’s sight lines dramatically. We’ve driven $50,000 cars whose designers apparently didn’t care whether the driver could see around the B-pillar. (True, this defect is a great selling point for electronic blind-spot warning systems.) Hyundai solved that problem simply by declining to install a left rear door and lengthening the driver’s door. The longer right rear side window likewise improved visibility, this time to the right quarter.
Asymmetrical cars aren’t for everyone. They bring to mind the old Johnny Cash song “One Piece at a Time,” about the autoworker who sneaked Cadillac parts out of the factory over a period of years and eventually bolted them together into a hideously misshapen car. And the Veloster’s styling did get wildly diverse reactions from people who saw it in the parking lot in Waterbury or Shelton.
The Veloster, whose underpinnings are loosely based on the popular and well-regarded Elantra, is powered by a 138-horsepower inline four. (A 208-horsepower turbocharged version is coming.) Car-shoppers interested in the Veloster should test-drive it with the standard 17-inch wheels or the optional 18-inch wheels which our test car sported. We found the ride harsh on some roads, more so when the low-profile tires were cold.
Safety and reliability data are unavailable on this new model.
With its daring styling and crisp handling, the Veloster appeals to a young demographic. It’s loaded with electronic gadgetry: satellite radio, Blue Link telematics system, seven-inch multimedia touch screen, iPod jack and hands-free phone system are all standard. But even old-timers can appreciate the car’s overall good qualities and intriguing, even inspired, design.
Engine: 1.6-liter inline Four, 138 horsepower, 123 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed dual clutch with paddle shifters
Weight: 2,584 lb.
Suspension: Four-wheel independent, MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
Wheels: 18-inch alloy with painted inserts
Tires: P215/40VR18 85 all-season
Seating capacity: 4
Luggage capacity: 15.5 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons
Fuel economy: 29 mpg city, 38 mpg highway
Fuel type: Regular
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