Hyundai's Veloster certainly has the attitude to stand out on the road, but Shane O'Donoghue is left wishing for a more powerful engine to match the sporty interior.
Road Test: Veloster is something entirely new
Car designers are making the life of the motoring writer tough. Once upon a time it was understood that a four-door car was a saloon or a sedan, a five-door model was a hatchback with four doors and a coupé had two doors and a swoopy rear end. Symmetry was the norm and nobody seemed to have a problem with that.
Then Mini released its unusual Clubman model with the bizarre, asymmetric rear doors (and split back door for boot access), Mercedes-Benz unveiled its CLS "coupé" with four doors and now Hyundai is getting in on the act with the Veloster, which the South Korean company is referring to as a coupé. So here's a car that's designed to replace the firm's successful, if unadventurously named, Coupé around the world, yet it boasts an extra door on the passenger side to make getting in and out of the back seats easier. Perhaps more surprisingly, there's a lot of room in those rear seats. This car really does throw the coupé convention on its head.
Saying that, the Hyundai Veloster hits one of the basic coupé requirements dead on with its design. Nothing else on this planet looks like it. The bold front end we'll see on other new Hyundais soon - including the i30 about to be unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show - but, in the Veloster, it leads to a body that's full of interesting details and flourishes. Check out the upsweep of the side glass, the deep scallops in the body sides and the exaggerated wheelarches. And they're just for starters.
That's not to mention the rear end. Where most coupés feature sharply raked rear windows, the Veloster's glass is integrated into the roof and then punctuated with a spoiler and shallow, almost vertical window. Admittedly, this affects rear visibility, but who cares when it looks this good. The rear lights are accentuated by more deep sculpting, while the number plate sits above centrally mounted exhaust pipes, concept car-like. All this may not be conventionally pretty, but it is undeniably stunning. Body-coloured inserts in the alloy wheels set it off nicely. They shouldn't work, but they just do.
What the pictures may not depict is how large this car feels on the road. It's very wide and quite long so it's not at home on small back roads. But, obviously, this is to the benefit of interior space. As mentioned above, there's a surprising amount of room in the rear - both for heads and legs. Think of it as a particularly sporty looking five-door hatchback with one of its doors welded shut ...
While some coupé buyers will only be concerned with how their car looks, there are, we hope, as many people interested in how it drives. There are positives and negatives to be found in the Veloster, the latter mainly to do with the car's damping and body control when driven fast. The rear end, in particular, struggles to cope with a series of big bumps and ends up bouncing about uncomfortably. For now, we'll give it the benefit of the doubt, as there's still time for Hyundai to change the final specification before it goes on sale, as we tested a pre-production version.
What's clear is that the Veloster is keen to change direction quickly and yet it's relatively comfortable over a long distance. The suspension absorbs modest bumps well and stays flat while cornering. On top of that, the steering is pleasantly direct - even if the steering wheel itself is a little on the large side. Good sports seats and a well-specified interior help with comfort, too.
Prices and specifications have not yet been released for the Middle East, but it's expected that Hyundai will keep the cost down so it undercuts the likes of the Volkswagen Scirocco and Mini Coupé. Despite that, it's probable that the Veloster will be well equipped. We'd hope for electric windows, alloys of a decent size, Bluetooth, air conditioning and cruise control.
Along with loads of toys, we hope that a more powerful engine is offered in time. The naturally aspirated 1.6L unit we tested was pretty gutless, in truth. A figure of 137hp is not going to excite a keen driver and to access it requires revving of the engine in what feels like a mechanically unsympathetic manner. Thankfully, the manual gearbox is snappy enough - though again the gear knob itself is oversized.
However, the preference for automatic gear changing in this part of the world is likely to mean Hyundai focuses on its new dual-clutch transmission. Paddles will allow the driver to change gear for themselves, if they feel the need. While not quite as smooth as a traditional automatic gearbox, the upside is better economy. Along with that we're told that a turbocharged version of the 1.6L engine is in development, which should give the Veloster the performance to match its looks. Something along the lines of 200hp should be sufficient, please Hyundai.
If the suspension issues can be sorted then the Veloster could be a real contender. It's as distinctive as the equally new Mini Coupé, with the added benefit of rear seats, while being fresher than VW's excellent Scirocco. We realise, of course, that the Veloster's styling will be enough to snare buyers and, in that case, job done. It makes the lives of those of us who have to write about it easier, too.
Base price n/a
Engine 1.6L four-cylinder
Gearbox Six-speed manual
Power 137hp @ 6,300rpm
Torque 167Nm @ 4,850rpm
Fuel economy, combined 6.2L/100km