Hyundai finally ditches the dull label with their new Veloster hatch. The Wheel Deal tells you if it’s any good of not
What is it?
A Korean car that isn’t boring, that’s what. Built to inject a little spunk into the Hyundai range, the funky new Veloster is here to tempt young up-and-coming buyers away from the Volkswagen Scirocco, Audi A1 and Citroën DS3. The Seoul-based firm refers to it as a coupé but in reality the Veloster is nothing more than a low-slung hatchback with an unusual 2+1 door configuration (two on the left and one on the right hand side).
Powered by a normally aspirated 1.6 GDI engine fitted with direct injection (a turbocharged version will be introduced towards the end of 2013), you can currently pick between two model derivatives: a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic. No matter which Veloster ultimately strikes your fancy, you will be pleased to hear that both versions come packed with all sorts of goodies as standard. Yep, the only thing you have to specify when buying one of these puppies is the colour of the paint.
How does it look?
Call me crazy but I think the Veloster is one fine looking machine. Pretty much a Korean interpretation of the classic Honda CRX shape, its standout design features include a deeply raked roofline, narrow glasshouse and, like I alluded to before, that extra door doing duty on the left hand side. Complemented by the now-familiar Hyundai trapezoidal front grille, other neat touches include a centre-exiting exhaust plus a pair of beefy rear wheel arches. Riding atop handsome 18-inch alloy wheels shod with low-profile 215/40 rubber, the Veloster is a bold, if not quirky, alternative to its slightly more jelly-mold German rivals. Though the interior is generic Hyundai (read lacking of any soft-touch surfaces), it is screwed together well and surprisingly ergonomic as far as switchgear and seating is concerned.
What is it like to drive?
Not bad at all. I know that a 1.6 GDI engine doesn’t sound like much but with a bit of coaxing, it actually whips the 1236kg Veloster along at a fairly useful lick. Endowed with an enthusiast engine note, there’s not a lot of torque on tap so you really have to visit the upper echelons of the rev range if you want to make swift progress – especially up here at our oxygen-sapping altitudes.
Of the two transmission options available, the six-speed manual gets my vote thanks to its nicely stacked ratios and slick shift action. Seriously, it goes about its cog-swapping ways in an almost Japanese manner. Impressive. The dual-clutch unit, on the other hand, felt disappointedly lethargic and seemed to do a whole lot of hunting when left to its own devices. It also diluted the overall driving experience. Avoid.
Handling wise the Veloster delivers a fairly decent performance. And the first thing you’ll notice is that Hyundai has finally managed to engineer a half decent electric power steering system; one that combines a pleasing amount of both weight and feel. Fling it on down the road unexplored and you immediately get a good sense of how those two front wheels are engaging with the black stuff. Good job, guys.
Endowed with a pleasantly stiff chassis, you’ll also soon discover that the Veloster feels eager and changes direction with an enthusiasm that’s long been lacking from local Korean metal. In fact the only chink in this car’s dynamic armour seems to be its suspension system (McPherson struts up front and a fairly basic V-torsion beam setup at the rear). Though it handles everyday driving scenarios admirably, as soon as you turn up the wick, roll up your sleeves and get stuck in, it suddenly starts to feel very flustered very quickly. Especially when rolling across rougher sections of tarmac or hitting a bump mid-corner.
Yeah, you just get a sense that the current spring/shock pairing is more at home cruising down the highway than assaulting some challenging back road. Hopefully Hyundai will revisit this when they release their sportier turbocharged model later this year. I really think that with a little more suspension development the Veloster, as it stands, could be turned into a surprisingly sharp driving tool.
Any special features?
Lots. Hyundai has always been big on value and the Veloster is consequently crammed with kit. Leather seats; a multi-function steering wheel; automatic climate control; Bluetooth connectivity; a rear-view camera and full USB/iPod connectivity being just some of the headlining features that come as standard fare. Realising that this car will no doubt appeal to younger buyers, the development team also spliced in a punchy sound system equipped with an external amplifier and a subwoofer mounted neatly in the 440-litre boot.
Controlling it is a 7-inch LED touchscreen that, amongst other things, also lets you customize your climate control settings and access the contacts on your Bluetooth-enabled phone. Safety wise you can expect no less than six airbags and some of the best Euro NCAP safety scores in its class – 96-percent in the Adult Occupant test category and 89-percent in the Child Occupant category.
Should you buy one?
Yes. With its quirky good looks and generous level of standard equipment, the new Hyundai Veloster definitely warrants a test drive if you’re shopping around for a trendy two-door hatchback. Stacked up against its German and French rivals it’s probably not the best to drive but it is, from an aesthetic point of view, the most interesting. It also offers complete peace-of-mind motoring thanks to Hyundai’s excellent five-year/150 000km warranty and five-year/90 000km service plan. Get one. In Sunflower Yellow.
The Facts: Hyundai Veloster
Engine: 1591cc four-cylinder petrol
Power: 103kW at 6300rpm
Torque: 167Nm at 4850rpm
0-100km/h: 9.7-seconds (claimed)
Top Speed: 201km/h (claimed)
Fuel Consumption: 8.4l/100km
Price: R259 900 (Manual) or R276 900 (Auto)
Fresh and interesting design
High value proposition
Perky 1.6 GDI engine
Extensive use of hard interior plastics
Ride and handling go to pot on the limit
Turbo model only arrives later in 2013