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Hyundai dares to be different as it introduces the new 2012 Veloster compact hatchback, which features a cutting-edge design with a single, long door on the driver's side and two shorter doors on the passenger side, creating a unique coupe/sedan/hatchback body style, all wrapped in swoopy sheet metal guaranteed to make it stand out from the crowd.The Bad
The Veloster's performance doesn't match the promise of its sporty exterior design, as its slow-paced acceleration leaves many drivers wanting more, and owners report numerous build quality problems for the first-year Veloster.
The CarGurus View
In many ways, the new Veloster has a Jekyll-and-Hyde dual personality. If you're looking for a car with an exterior design that's guaranteed to turn heads, along with good fuel economy numbers and a standard features list that includes a wide range of high-tech goodies, the Veloster will capably fit the bill. But if you seek a sporty roadster with quick acceleration and peppy performance, you'll more than likely be disappointed. This is not the car for you if you're seeking a hip, fun-to-drive you can toss around tight curves, but it might fit the bill if you want a hip yet somewhat sedate performer with an intriguing design and a well-equipped cabin, all at an affordable price.
At a Glance
Hyundai continues to shake up the automotive marketplace by thinking outside the box, as its new 2012 Veloster compact hatchback demonstrates. Borrowing elements from the Hyundai Accent, the Elantra and the discontinued Tiburon, which it essentially replaces in the automaker's lineup, the Veloster definitely makes heads turn, thanks to its eye-catching exterior design. Referred to as a 3-door coupe by the automaker, the Veloster features an asymmetrical door design, with a long, couple-like door on the driver's side and two shorter yet full-size sedan-like doors on the passenger side. Both doors on the passenger side are front-hinged, so the rear door opens without having to open the front door first, adding to its practicality. In addition, reviewers have noted the thoughtfulness of this design, since rear-seat passengers can climb out on the curb side of the vehicle, rather than exiting into traffic on the driver's side.
Hyundai says it drew inspiration for the Veloster's exterior styling from high-performance sport motorcycles, and its exaggerated wheel arches and sleek, hunkered-down look certainly give that impression. But the Veloster also displays its own distinctive design elements, including its aggressive, wide-mouthed front end, black intake grille, wraparound headlights, tapering roofline and gently sloped rear end, which neatly ties up all the swoops and lines. The look doesn't appeal to everyone, but it doesn't have to, since it's designed to stand out from the crowd, giving young buyers an exciting transportation option. Hyundai doesn't skimp on the standard features either, since heated side mirrors, a rear spoiler, LED accents around the headlights and 17-inch alloy wheels are all part of the basic package. In addition, buyers can choose from such unique exterior colors as Vitamin C (orange), Electrolyte Green, 26.2 Yellow and Boston Red.
The fun continues inside, thanks to a well-equipped cabin that includes a standard 7-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth, Pandora capability, Gracenote voice recognition and Hyundai's Blue Link telematics system with voice text messaging, emergency services and turn-by-turn navigation, among other features. In addition, owners can use the touchscreen to manage the 6-speaker, 196-watt audio system, which also comes standard.
The Veloster stumbles, however, when it comes to performance. The new 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine powering the Veloster provides good fuel economy numbers of up to 37 mpg and moves the vehicle along at an acceptable pace around town, but the powerplant doesn't deliver the aggressive driving experience promised by the Veloster's exterior design. As a result, the Veloster performs more like an economy car than a hot hatch. In fact, some reviewers recommend the Hyundai Accent over the Veloster, noting it delivers better overall performance than its more stylish stablemate.
The Veloster's faces off against a strong list of competitors, including the Ford Fiesta, the Honda Fit, the MINI Cooper, the Volkswagen Golf and the Dodge Dart. Most offer better performance than the Veloster, and some, like the Fiesta and the Dart, offer slightly better fuel economy. But the Veloster's fuel economy numbers beat most of its competitors, and its standard features list and exterior design will appeal to prospective buyers seeking something a little different.
Upon its debut, the Veloster proved popular and unique enough to garner a number of awards. It was named the 2012 Car of the Year by Autobytel and the one of the 10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000 by Kelley Blue Book. At the International Car of the Year awards, the Veloster was tapped as the International Sporty Coupe of the Year. It was also named the Best Economy Car by Bloomberg, the Best Car Under $20,000 by Winning Road Magazine and the Urban Car of the Year by Decisive Magazine, among other awards.
In terms of horsepower, the Veloster matches up fairly well against the competition. Its new Gamma 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine delivers 138 hp and 123 lb-ft of torque, which compares to 121 hp for the MINI Cooper, 120 hp for the Fiesta and 117 hp for the Fit. However, reviewers say the Veloster doesn't feel as quick, nor is it as fun to drive, as any of those vehicles. That also applies to the MAZDA3, which offers 148 hp and more spirited performance.
Testers say the Veloster's weight contributes in some part to its sluggishness, as does its weak torque number, but it also might simply be a matter of expectations exceeding reality, since the Veloster looks like a speedster but doesn't perform like one. Independent testing puts its 0-60 time somewhere around an unimpressive 8.5 seconds. A turbocharged engine, expected to be offered for the 2013 model year, should help improve the Veloster's performance.
On the plus side, fuel economy numbers for the Veloster check in at 27 mpg city/37 highway with a 6-speed manual transmission, which comes standard, and 27/35 with a new, optional 6-speed EcoShift DCT dual-clutch automatic transmission. Some testers recommend the manual shifter, which provides smooth operation and enables drivers to get the most performance from the engine. When equipped with the automatic transmission, the Veloster also comes with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and a Hillstart Assist Control feature, which minimizes rollback when starting on a slope.
The Veloster's new Gamma engine includes Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI), a first for a powerplant of this size, Hyundai notes. The engine also includes Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing (D-CVVT), which helps optimize efficiency. It comes with a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, which might come in handy, since owners have noted a number of build quality problems with the Veloster, including engine problems.
Ride & Handling
Like the engine, the Veloster's chassis and suspension don't quite meet expectations. Again, for most daily driving, the Veloster performs adequately, with minimal body roll and competent steering and braking, and typical drivers will have few complaints. But try to toss the Veloster around tight curves or motor through twisty roads, and it never rises to the challenge. Testers say the ride feels firm, and some report a bit of harshness over rough road surfaces, while others say the steering system doesn't provide adequate feedback for performance-level driving.
The Veloster rides on a McPherson strut front suspension with coil springs, gas shock absorbers and a 24mm front stabilizer bar. The rear gets a torsion-beam configuration with monotube shock absorbers and a 23mm stabilizer bar. The sport-tuned electric power steering system offers good balance and decent accuracy, although some testers find its self-centering ability lacking. On the plus side, road and engine noise are kept to a minimum inside the cabin. Owners can replace the standard 17-inch alloy wheels with a variety of optional 17- and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Cabin & Comfort
While the Veloster lags behind some competitors in performance and handling, it redeems itself with its interior design and standard features list. With its attractive design and nicely textured plastics, the Veloster's interior feels like it belongs in a much more expensive vehicle. The design in many ways mimics the exterior, with angular door handles and good-looking swoops, dips and lines. Taller passengers will find plenty of legroom and headroom in the comfortable, well-bolstered front seats, which generally provide good visibility out the front, although rear visibility is limited by thick C pillars. The rear seats are too cramped for adults over longer distances, but they'll be relatively comfortable for quick trips around town.
The Veloster's list of standard interior features meets or beats just about anything in its class, and even matches the lists for much more expensive vehicles. Front and center between two air-conditioning ducts and poised above an array of knobs and controls, the 7-inch touchscreen anchors the dash, putting a wide ranges of features, information and entertainment options at the driver's fingertips. The touchscreen integrates Pandora with an onscreen icon, as well as Gracenote voice-recognition for managing music. It also incorporates Hyundai's proprietary Blue Link infotainment system, which offers voice text messaging, web searching, turn-by-turn navigation and vehicle diagnostics, as well as various safety-oriented features like emergency assistance, roadside services, remote door unlock and automatic crash notification.
Two audio systems also integrate with the 7-inch touchscreen. A 6-speaker, 196-watt system with a CD/MP3 player and iPod and auxiliary input jacks comes standard, while an optional 8-speaker, 450-watt system adds SatelliteXM radio and a variety of XM services, including NavWeather and a sports ticker.
Hyundai offers the Veloster in two trims, differentiated only by the manual or DCT automatic transmission. Both come standard with premium cloth upholstery, a 6-way manually adjustable driver's seat and a 60/40-split rear seatback. With the rear seats up, the Veloster offers 15.5 cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk. That expands to 34.7 cubic feet with the rear seatback folded down. Air conditioning, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel with cruise and audio controls, remote keyless entry, a trip computer and power windows and door locks are among the other standard features. Options include a navigation system with a rear-view camera, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, upgraded seats with leatherette bolsters and a panoramic sunroof.
The 2012 Veloster has not yet been safety-tested. However, it comes equipped with a wide range of safety features, including 6 airbags, a Vehicle Stability Management system with electronic stability control and traction control, and antilock brakes with brake assist. In addition, to prevent roll-back on hills, the automaker adds Hillstart Assist Control with the optional DCT automatic transmission.
What Owners Think
The 2012 Hyundai Veloster gets very mixed reviews from owners. For many, the Veloster meets their expectations, delivering good fuel economy, a stylish exterior design, adequate performance and a comfortable cabin. These owners say the car handles and performs well, although a few say the engine doesn't reach peak performance until it's had a chance to warm up. They like the smooth operation of the Veloster's transmissions, particularly the optional DCT transmission, and they say the car accelerates well when driven properly. They also like the car's exterior design, with some calling it a work of art. In addition, many comment on the car's strong list of standard features and its good overall value.
However, a great number of owners have reported numerous build-quality problems with the vehicle. In fact, many owners say they liked the Veloster until it started breaking down on them. Owners have reported problems with the Veloster's transmissions, brakes, engine, power mirrors, doors, rear bumper, navigation system and radio, among other components. In addition, these owners say the car feels underpowered, and they're not happy with its handling. In short, for these owners, the Veloster's cons heavily outweigh its pros, and many warn that prospective buyers should beware before signing on the dotted line.
Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in California.
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Looking for a Used Veloster in your area?
CarGurus has 1,969 nationwide Veloster listings starting at $3,800.
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