First Drive

2012 Hyundai Veloster

Sporty new subcompact aims to connect with younger buyers

2012 Hyundai Veloster
AT A GLANCE
PRICE
$18,999 base. $23,900 as tested.
FUEL CONSUMPTION
NR Canada (L/100 km): 7.0 city. 5.0 highway. 6.0 combined.
POWERTRAIN
1.6-litre DOHC four-cylinder with direct injection, 138-hp, 123 lb-ft of torque; six-speed dual-clut
Pros & CONS
  • sharp looking little urban car
  • lots of connectivity and technology
  • better fuel mileage than a hybrid without the comp
  • sharp looking little urban car
  • lots of connectivity and technology
  • better fuel mileage than a hybrid without the comp

VANCOUVER, BC

– Hyundai has taken a sharp turn in the road. Instead of aiming for a broad-based market with the 2012 Veloster it has set its sights on a very narrow target. The funky little three-door Veloster has been developed to appeal to the Gen Y set – the "digital natives" between the ages of 12 and 29 who don’t care about performance, or even cars for that matter.

Hyundai executives stressed during the unveiling here that the Veloster (pronounced Vel–OS–ter) is not a performance car. They say research shows Gen Y buyers are not interested in performance. They want expressiveness, the ability to customize, the latest technology, connectivity, safety, reliability and efficiency.

While the majority of those in that age set don’t yet drive or buy cars, the goal is to capture the attention of enough who do to lure them into the Hyundai family. It knows that with one of the highest owner loyalty rates in the industry, it can keep them once they’ve bought their first.

Accordingly the Veloster offers a host of technology, connectivity and infotainment features not expected at this end of the market, at this price.

The base model of the highly-styled little urban runabout, priced at $18,999, comes with a 7-inch multimedia LCD touch screen, back-up camera, six-speaker audio system with a wide variety of inputs and Gracenote technology, wireless connectivity with voice-recognition, alloy wheels, air conditioning, proximity key with push-button start, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, power heated mirrors, tilt & telescope steering wheel and heated seats. Whew!

And all that is wrapped in the latest iteration of Hyundai’s fluidic sculpture styling theme. From the LED secondary front lights to the dual, center-mounted exhaust the Veloster is a study in details. Every time you look at it you find more little touches where the designers have made an effort to toss out the flat and square style book.

You’ll find a large single door on the driver’s side, like a coupe, that opens wide for easy ingress and egress. On the passenger side there are two doors, like a sedan, and the rear door is front-hinged and normal in size, not one of those litle rear-hinged psuedo-doors like the Saturn SC or Mazda RX-8.

Once again access is relatively straightforward, but watch your head on that low, sloping roofline. The large rear hatch opens to unveil a flat-bottomed cargo area that can be augmented by folding one or both rear seat backs.

INTERIOR

The interior is just as modern and stylish as the exterior. As befits its purpose , the Veloster is crammed with detail and technology.

The instrument panel consists of a pair of hooded analog gauges in front of the driver and a stylish center console shaped like a motorcycle fuel tank and dominated by the large and legible LCD screen at the top and the start/stop button at the bottom.

You can customize the start-up image and sound and there are a number of other personalization features. A 196-watt, four-channel, six speaker audio system with Gracenote voice recognition is standard as are USB, aux and iPod inputs, and a pair of 12-volt outlets.

The front buckets are deep, well bolstered and proved comfy for several hours at a sitting. If equipped with a sunroof, a tall front passenger might find headroom a bit tight. The driver won’t have the same problem since that seat is height adjustable. Other little details include pads where your knees touch the center console, inside door pulls that work for short or long arms and numerous places for "stuff" throughout the interior.

Visibility is good in most directions. Style and a spoiler mounted on the glass rear hatch haves led to some sacrifice in how much you can see out back. But the standard rear-vew camera offsets that when reversing in tight quarters. I also noticed some slight distortion in one of the four cars I drove during the introduction.

If the above-listed standard equipment list and base price don’t satisfy your needs or leave a few dollars left in the monthly payment account you might consider the The package which, for $3,500 brings larger (18-in) alloy wheels with removable colour insert, a panoramic sunroof, navigation system, leatherette upholstery with cloth inserts, alloy pedals, a 115-volt outlet and a 456-watt, eight speaker Dimension audio system with external amp and subwoofer.

MECHANICALS

The Veloster, which shares its core architecture with the 2012 Accent and Ki’s soon-to-be released new Rio, is equipped with all the company’s most recent drivetrain developments.

The engine is a new 1.6-litre aluminum four-cylinder with 16-valves, twin cams, continously-variable valve timing and direct injection. It produces 138 hp and 123 lb-ft of torque which is sufficient to push the light (1,260 kg) car around with some verve. Quiet, smooth and emitting a pleasant exhaust note, it’s an especially frugal engine.

That, combined with a choice of six-speed transmissions, results in impressive fuel economy. You can choose between a manual or a newly developed dual clutch automatic that is so efficient it gets a lower consumption rating than the manual.

There is a disc brake within each alloy wheel and the steering assist is done electrically rather than all those wasteful hoses, belts and pumps.

SAFETY FEATURES

Forty-two percent of the body is made from high tensile steel and 23 percent from ultra high-tensile steel, both from the company’s own steel mill. The asymmetrical door arrangement means two distinct roof cross-members for added rigidity.

The Veloster also comes with a full slate of active and passive safety features. Its four-wheel disc brakes include ABS and active brake assist and electronic stability control, electronic traction control and six airbags are all standard.

BEHIND THE WHEEL

Despite all the talk about potential customers having no interest in performance, the Veloster needn’t hang its head when accelerating, passing, climbing hills or tackling turns.

The engine is a bit soft off idle like most small displacement units that have to rev to produce torque. Thankfully the car’s low weight minimizes this weakness.

The dual-shaft automatic, with one for even number gears, and another for odd numbers, performs almost exactly like a conventional automatic with seamless shifts and very little of the annoying rubber-banding or jerkiness of some competitive units. You can leave the console-mounted lever in drive or choose gears for yourself with paddles mounted on the steering heel.

The suspension is comprised of MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam in back. Handling is biased toward understeer but there is a pleasant compromise between ride and handling allowing the little car to feel much larger on the rough stuff. The low-profile 18-inch tires on the test vehicle displayed some crispness on sharp surface changes but generally the ride was comfortable.

It was also noticeably quieter than the competition in terms of both road and wind noise, benefiting from lots of attention to insulation and aerodynamics

CONCLUSION

The Veloster is yet another new car from South Korea that is bound to create waves. As Hyundai moves inexorably up the global sales ladder (currently in fifth) it is creating a very large and satisfied customer base. It sees the Veloster as attracting new and young buyers to the fold. I see the funky little three-door appealing to a whole raft of consumers of all ages.

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