The 2012 Hyundai Veloster is indeed unlike any Hyundai before. Not only does it look way sportier than anything else from the Korean brand to this point, this sub-compact, front-wheel drive sport-coupe comes with something unique to its type…a third door. Yes, we know it’s been done before. Remember the Saturn Coupe, and the current Mini Clubman, among others. They all include a rear hinged access door.
But, surprise, the Veloster’s rear door is not a short panel but a full-size, front swinging door, opened by a nicely hidden handle mounted high in the C-pillar. The advantages for rear access are obvious. But the uniqueness doesn’t end there, apart from the familiar hexagon Hyundai grille not much about this hot little hatch says “I’m from Korea!”
Yeah, we also know, Hyundai’s have gotten a lot more stylish over the last couple of years, but nothing close to the Veloster’s sporty approach; with a helmet visor-like wraparound windshield and side glass. Scooped out body lines are everywhere, including in the rear hatch, where everything seems to point to the center, dual exhaust tips. 17-inch wheels are standard, but our car’s Tech package features 18’s with body colored inserts, and a glass panoramic roof is optional.
But, it doesn’t take too much time behind the wheel to realize that there’s a lot more show than go to the Veloster. The direct-injection 1.6-liter I4 engine comes from the Hyundai Accent and puts out the same, modest 138-horsepower and 123 pound feet of torque.
However, our 6-speed manual equipped test car does have great Government Fuel Economy Ratings of 28-City and 40-Highway. We averaged only 32.3 miles-per-gallon of Regular in mixed driving, but that’s probably because we had the throttle mashed all the way down all the time. A 6-speed EcoShift Dual Clutch automatic transmission is available, but that doesn’t quite qualify for the 40 MPG club.
Ride quality is very good - not too harsh, not too soft; but when you start pushing, things fall apart pretty quickly. As we found out at our test track where the MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension from the Hyundai Elantra, became quickly overwhelmed. Under steer is quite pronounced, but the car actually stays fairly flat; the 18-inch wheels with sticky tires help. The electrically assisted steering is quick, but devoid of all feel making for some interesting moments through the slalom.
Even more underwhelmed were we, when it came to acceleration runs. Launches to 60 took 8.6-seconds, while the ¼ mile passed in 16.8-seconds at 83 miles-per-hour. While that’s really not too bad for a 1.6-liter, the Veloster’s looks promise so much more. Braking performance from the 4-wheel ABS equipped discs with Brake Assist was very good - 122 feet from 60 with a fairly solid pedal.
There is one other area where the Veloster really delivers, the interior. We love the motorcycle inspired design - big, podded gauges, the center stack is shaped to resemble a sport bike fuel tank, while the center console mirrors the bike’s seat, and the climate vents mirror exhaust tips. It’s a very cool look, from the loop door handles to the center mounted start button. All controls are stylish, intuitive, and work well. Steering wheel controls and Bluetooth are standard.
Seats are firm, and covered with funky looking cloth. Access to the rear seat through that single rear side door is tight, and there’s a serious lack of head room once you’re in there. Still, it’s better than a Euro-style 2+2. Seat backs fold to expand the useful 15.5 cubic-feet of trunk space to a big 34.7.
The Veloster is also the first car to bring Hyundai’s new Blue Link telematics to market. It’s an Onstar like system with various services available. Our car’s upgraded 450-watt Dimension Premium Audio system cranked out some serious vibration with a subwoofer in the trunk. The Tech package adds a Navigation system with back-up camera and backup warning sensors, push button start, and a 115-volt household outlet in the center console.
And, here’s another high point - low pricing. The Veloster begins at just $18,060 with the aftermarket already gearing up with Scion-style add-ons. Without a doubt, the 2012 Hyundai Veloster is striking and different, even if its current performance high point is fuel economy. But, for an affordable, head turning little runabout, it works. And, this is just the first act. A Veloster Turbo is due next summer. So, soon this little coupe will go as fast as it looks.
Engine: 1.6-liter I4 engine
Torque: 123 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 8.6-seconds
1/4 mile: 16.8-seconds at 83 mph
EPA: 28 mpg city/ 40 mpg highway