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2019 Hyundai Veloster Test Drive Review
Consider Hyundai and its growth in popularity over the last decade. The brand built its relevance with practical, sensible vehicles, like the Sonata, and SUVs like the Santa Fe and Tucson. But “fortune favors the bold,” or so the saying goes. There is something to be said for taking an unlikely risk.
In the 2011 model year, Hyundai released the Veloster, going in a completely different direction than the rest of its typically safe product lineup. Hyundai already had a hatchback, the Accent (and later the Elantra GT). But the Veloster was something completely different. It featured a unique hatchback-meets-coupe shape and an even more unique 3-door layout. The result was a sporty daily driver that’s both fun and functional, and it has been completely redesigned for the 2019 model year.
Look and Feel
The defining characteristic of the new Veloster is its shape. It’s technically a hatchback, but the roof tapers like that of a coupe. You could call it a coupe with the trunk chopped off or an athletically styled hot hatch. Either way, the Veloster’s profile and look clearly indicate that it’s more than just the average hatchback.
As unique as its styling is, some design elements are a little more conventional than those featured on the first-generation Veloster. The head- and taillights are certainly menacing, but smaller and less dramatic.
The interior of the previous Veloster matched the exterior styling in terms of flair. It was neat to look at but lacked functionality. The dash layout of the new model is far easier to use and still has a sense of flair with accent lines in the steering wheel, dash, and seats.
Trims for the Veloster are 2.0, 2.0 Premium, Turbo R-Spec, Turbo, and Turbo Ultimate. The base 2.0 trim comes quite well equipped, with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, heated power-folding side mirrors, a rear spoiler, and lower rear diffuser.
Inside, the 2.0 trim comes with a manual-adjustable driver's seat, 60/40 split-fold rear seat, Bluetooth connectivity, dual USB ports, reversing camera, and 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A center console between the rear seats, with dual cupholders and cargo tray, is also standard. There is no middle seat in the second row, capping seating capacity at four people.
The 2.0 Premium adds 18-inch alloy wheels and a wide sunroof, while the cabin is upgraded with leather seat inserts (not complete leather seating, but partial bolster panels). Other features that the 2.0 Premium adds include heated front seats, an upgraded color trip computer in the instrument panel, automatic temperature control, a wireless charging pad (for compatible devices), voice recognition, push-button start, an Infinity sound system, and a larger 8-inch touchscreen system.
The R-Spec that I drove actually takes a step back in terms of some content; it's designed to be a more affordable way to get the turbocharged engine. So, it removes the automatic temperature control, wireless charging, and leather seat inserts. But it compensates by adding unique R-Spec seats, alloy racing pedals, a B&M Racing sport shifter, and Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer performance tires.
With the Turbo trim, you’re mostly gaining back content from the 2.0 Premium. But you also receive turn signals integrated into the side mirrors, an upgraded perforated-leather-wrapped steering wheel, and power lumbar support for the driver’s seat.
The Turbo Ultimate is the range-topping trim. It boasts features such as rain-sensing wipers, a 2-tone black roof, full-leather seating, navigation, HD Radio, and a head-up display. The Turbo Ultimate also has adaptive cruise control, but only if you opt for the automatic dual-clutch transmission (DCT) rather than the manual transmission.
The 2019 Veloster's standard engine is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that's naturally aspirated—that means no turbos and no superchargers. This base engine makes 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque.
The next two engines are turbocharged, which means they can have similar displacement to the naturally aspirated unit while making more power. The engine found in the Turbo R-Spec, Turbo, and Turbo Ultimate is a 1.6-liter turbocharged inline four putting out 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque.
Even more powerful is the Veloster N, a new addition for this generation of the Veloster. The N stands for Namyang, the location of Hyundai’s Research & Development headquarters, as well as Nurburgring—the harrowing 12.9-mile race track in Germany. Just like M with BMW or AMG with Mercedes-Benz, N will signify the hottest performance versions of Hyundai cars going forward. Hyundai will also offer N upgrade parts for Hyundai owners and even hands-on driving experiences.
As for the Veloster, the N variant features a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making at least 250 hp—you can opt for a version making an impressive 275 hp. Regardless of horsepower, the N's engine will make 260 lb-ft of torque. The Veloster N also features unique aerodynamic bodywork, a stiffer suspension, and features like launch control.
All models of the Veloster send power to the front wheels. A 6-speed manual transmission comes standard on the 2.0, R-Spec, and Turbo Ultimate. A 6-speed automatic is optional on the 2.0 and standard on the 2.0 Premium (there's no 6-speed manual offered on the 2.0 Premium).
An upgraded 7-speed DCT) comes with the Veloster Turbo (again, no manual option) and is optional equipment on the Turbo Ultimate.
As fun as Veloster N will likely be when it goes on sale this fall, this R-Spec test vehicle was utterly engaging, and a whole lot of fun. The shifts from the manual gearbox felt short and direct, and the steering was incredibly refined. The turn-in of the steering was instantaneous, and there was a “dialed-in” feeling that you could even compare with a BMW M car.
All trims of the Veloster feature a drive-mode selector, but based on trim and equipment, it does different things. There are Normal, Sport, and Smart modes, but trims with the manual transmission do away with Smart mode, leaving the drive-mode selector as a simple Sport button.
The drive modes change the steering feel and throttle response and adjust the shift mapping in automatic models for more spirited driving. Additionally, all three versions of the Turbo have a unique sport-tuned steering setup for even more driving engagement.
In Sport mode, our R-Spec tester felt more aggressive, but even in Normal mode, it strikes a great blend of speed and comfort and is ideally suited for carving up back roads. Once out on the highway, the R-Spec isn’t harsh, but it isn’t necessarily smooth, either. Once you get above 75 mph, the performance-minded tires develop a bit of vibration, but they're smooth at all other speeds.
And then there is the Active Engine Sound, which comes standard on all versions of the Veloster Turbo. Features like this are becoming common in many performance cars these days. It uses the stereo to “enhance” the engine’s sound, and can be adjusted for more or less of that “enhancement.” This will seem gimmicky to the driving purist, but there are plenty of enthusiasts who might enjoy the novelty of the system. It also isn’t as bad as the one in some BMW models, which sounds like an 8-bit video-game soundtrack. More importantly, driving the R-Spec has been so rewarding and so engaging, I barely noticed the fake engine noise.
The Veloster 2.0 with the 7-speed automatic returns 27 mpg city, 34 highway, 30 combined. With the manual transmission, this engine returns 25 mpg city, 33 highway, 28 combined (making it the least efficient configuration).
With the 7-speed DCT, fuel economy for the Veloster Turbo is 28 mpg city, 34 highway, 30 combined, and the manual drops mileage just 1 or 2 miles per gallon from that in all three phases. In my week of mixed driving, I found combined fuel economy of 30.2 mpg.
Form and Function
The Veloster’s unique sloped hatchback design gives way to a hatch area with about 20 cubic feet of cargo space—44 with the rear seats folded. That’s less than the Volkswagen Golf, but close to the Mazda3 and Ford Focus hatchbacks. Of course, if cargo space is more of a priority, Hyundai also offers the Elantra GT, which has four doors, seating for five, and 55 cubic feet of total cargo space (24.9 with the rear seats up).
But what separates the Veloster from those other hatchbacks is its unique, 3-door layout. It looks like a coupe from the driver’s side, but the passenger side features two doors—a front and a rear. When you think about the Veloster as an enhanced coupe, this design has some real benefits.
Think about coupes and 2-door hatchbacks. If you are sitting in the rear seat of a coupe and need to get out, you have to flip one of the front seats forward and climb through that small space. Some coupes have a function that quickly slides the seat forward, but it’s not always guaranteed.
On the other hand, the 3-door layout of the Veloster allows rear-seat passengers to exit quickly. On top of that, the third door faces the curb, meaning passengers exit more safely than if they were climbing out of the driver’s side of a coupe on a busy street.
Unfortunately, that rear seat space is incredibly tight. You could slide the seat forward for a bit more legroom, but you’d still have the problem of the sloping roofline. I had to lower my head a lot to get in and out, and once in the car, I was still hunched over. On top of that, the rear door is small enough that just getting your legs out of the car is quite a process. In all, the Veloster improves on the basic logistics issues of a coupe but is far from a conventional hatchback like the Golf.
The standard touchscreen in the base 2.0 Veloster is a 7-inch color version. Hyundai’s infotainment setup is very easy to use, primarily because it features a Home button on the screen and actual buttons for the vehicle’s main features like the stereo and phone. This system also comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
As mentioned above, the 2.0 Premium and Turbo Ultimate trims receive Qi wireless charging for compatible devices. Interestingly, all trims but the base 2.0 get the larger touchscreen, but on the other hand, Hyundai was selective with which trims get the wireless charging setup.
The range-topping Turbo Ultimate gets a helpful head-up display, which presents crucial information to the driver. It would have been nice to see this offered as an optional package on lesser trims, but as the Veloster is still a compact car, it makes sense that it would only be offered on the range-topping trim.
Standard safety features include a full array of front- and side-impact airbags, a reversing camera, and a tire-pressure monitoring system. Hyundai recognizes that the Veloster’s shape creates some blind spots, so it provides a clever driver’s-side blind-spot mirror as standard equipment.
Impressively, the Veloster also comes standard with helpful driver-assistance features, such as forward-collision avoidance, lane-keeping assist, and driver-attention warning. The 2.0 Premium, Turbo, and Turbo Ultimate replace the driver's-side blind-spot mirror with a blind-spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert. The range-topping Turbo Ultimate features an upgraded forward-collision avoidance system with pedestrian detection.
The 2019 Hyundai Veloster starts at $18,500 for the base 2.0 trim with the manual transmission. The 2.0 Premium starts at $22,750. From there, the Turbo R-Spec starts at $22,900, making it the most affordable way to get the turbocharged engine. Our R-Spec test vehicle came with no additional options or packages, resulting in a sticker price of $23,785 after the $885 destination charge.
Meanwhile, the Turbo trim starts at $25,400, and the Turbo Ultimate starts at $26,650. The Veloster N hasn't been released yet, nor have its pricing and fuel-economy numbers.
Sporty daily drivers are all about striking that balance between the desire for a performance car and the need for versatility and usability. While there are other hatchbacks that deliver more cargo space, few others deliver more drivability. The Hyundai Veloster truly strikes that ideal blend of practicality and performance.
From open-wheel racecars to specialty off-road vehicles, George Kennedy has driven it all. A career automotive journalist, George has been a contributor, editor, and/or producer at some of the most respected publications and outlets, including Consumer Reports, the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Autoblog.com, Hemmings Classic Wheels, BoldRide.com, the Providence Journal, and WheelsTV.
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Hyundai Veloster Questions
Does Veloster N Base Have The Pop Exhaust Sound?
I test drove a Veloster N with the performance package. Enjoyed it, but don't think I have to have the higher performance specs. However, I really like the pop and crackle from the exhaust. I know ...
Bach Up Camera
I purchased the 2019 Veloster turbo ultimate. The back up camera screen gives good feedback, but there is no sound or noise warning as I get close to an object. Does this car have a noise system th...
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