In what has to be one of the most remarkable turnarounds in automotive history, Hyundai has virtually reinvented itself. Back in 1985, Hyundai’s first car in the U.S., the Excel, attracted a lot of attention with its sub-$5000 base price and handsome Italian styling. Buyers responded enthusiastically, buying nearly 170,000 copies of the car in its first year on the market. Unfortunately, the one aspect of its name the Hyundai Excel lived up to was its ability to excel at being unreliable.
Perseverance is key to achieving success, and persevere Hyundai has. Over time, the company mastered reliability and quality, while still managing to keep its cars affordable. From its newly realized position of strength, Hyundai is now going out on a limb, and taking a few chances. And so, we arrive at Hyundai’s new Veloster.
Without question, the single most intriguing aspect of the Hyundai Veloster is its styling. The car simply looks like nothing else out there — and in a good way. Those exaggerated wheel arches, the body-colored door handles and rear-view mirrors, the way the roof looks like a motorcycle helmet, the hunkered down profile; the Veloster is, quite literally, an attractive car. People stop, stare and openly ask questions about it.
The motorcycle theme is carried over to the interior of the car too. The center stack is shaped to look like the gas tank on a sport bike, with the start/stop button at the bottom set up to resemble the gas cap. The grab handles on the doors mimic the skeletal structure of a sport bike’s frame and, if you look carefully at the way the dash flows, you’ll see the surrounds for the door handles mimic handle bar grips.
The seven-inch monitor in the center stack hosts Pandora Internet radio, and Gracenote is there to help manage your music collection. The monitor will also display the output of a video game console — which can be powered by the 115-volt power outlet in the Veloster. Additionally, Bluetooth is standard equipment and includes voice recognition technology. Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system is also standard equipment, providing text messaging, turn-by-turn navigation, and point of interest searches, all by voice.
Its Geo Fence feature enables the owner to establish boundaries within which the car can travel. If the Veloster is taken outside of the boundary area, the owner of the Hyundai gets a text message. Blue Link will also help recover the vehicle if it is ever stolen. And yes, if you lock yourself out, Blue Link can help you get back in.
The Veloster’s name is a combination of the words “Velocity” and “Roadster”. Frankly though, the car is neither a roadster, nor is its capability for velocity exceptional. Still, the 2012 Hyundai Veloster is an absolutely wonderful car around town. It’s smooth, easy to drive, steers and stops well, and its tidy size makes it easy to park.
The Veloster’s 1.6-liter direct injected engine is a paragon of efficiency over performance. The engine produces 138 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 123 ft-lbs of torque at 4,850 rpm. Transmission choices include a dual-clutch six-speed transmission, or a traditional six-speed manual. The engine winds freely, though with only 123 ft-lbs of torque on tap, you do have to be deft with the co-ordination of the gas pedal and clutch pedal to set the car into motion with the shift-it-yourself transmission. It can be done smoothly, but you have to manage your torque carefully.
The Hyundai’s electric power steering is responsive, but like so many electric systems, the tactile response is a bit muted. Still, if you pay attention, it keeps you informed. Body roll is discernable in corners, though minimal.
With Veloster, Hyundai is once again demonstrating it is possible to deliver style on a budget. With its combination of good looks, a strong feature set, and a comfortable and ergonomically correct interior, the Veloster, in many ways, sets new standards in its price class. And, it’s the 2012 Urban Car of The Year.
2012 Hyundai Veloster pricing starts at $17,300.