Four months ago we at "Drive...He Said" first sampled the all new for 2012 Veloster, Hyundai's sporty 2+2 compact coupe. With the traction control defeat switch staring straight at us on the lower right side of the driver's center stack we felt tempted by Hyundai engineers to liven things up. Warm temps (in the 80s F) and warmed up performance all-season tires, defeating the traction control translated into one very entertaining episode of drifting.
Fast forward to the winter of 2011-2012. We get our Sapphire Blue with white swoosh stripe 2012 Veloster for a fairly cold week. We knew off the bat that the Kumho Solus tires would never get warmed up enough for our earlier antics. And with a modest 138 hp coming on at high enough revs, we didn't expect to take on muscle cars or true sports cars whether on freeways or at traffic lights.
Which doesn't mean that Hyundai has missed the boat with the Veloster. Hyundai is averring that youthful edginess doesn't have to exclude practicality. Much of Veloster's hardware is donated by the Hyundai Accent, along with some refinement. Comparatively super-short final gearing prods the 1.6 liter direct injection 4-banger to jump above 3500 rpm, where more of the 128 lb-ft of engine twist has its offices. As in other applications, the Hyundai Gamma engine sounds more raucous Alpha than need be.
Acceleration times, from 0-60 mph, take a casual 9.0 seconds. The pure overdrive upper gears demand plenty of downshifts to 4th or even 3rd during freeway overtaking. Shift action is on the positive side without some of the slop found in corporate cousin, Elantra. Clutch pedal engagement is nearly feather light.
Veloster's steering wheel, with dorsal finger indents, is actually more than the Elantra sedan's mere visual pleaser. Power boost, for an electric set-up, comes on evenly. For a front-heavy front-driver, you can actually feel what the low profile 215/ 40 series M+S rated Kumho Solus gumballs are doing. The torsion beam semi-independent rear suspension smacks of penny pinching. Yet body roll is hardly obtrusive, brake drive minimal, and understeer is a gentler nudge to be judicious.
On uneven pavement higher spring rates and less compliant bushings can produce modest bump steer. Occasional jolts from freeway expansion gaps were sensed through the chassis. Standard 17"-inch wheels with taller tire sidewalls might improve ride compliance. But then you couldn't get the Panoramic Sunroof.
Brakes, discs at all 4 corners, have good initial cold bite, but are not that linear in pedal feel. In our cold weather we never got the four wheel disc system with ABS hot enough to detect fade.
Veloster makes its mark with a highly emotional design. From high curving front fenders and deep front fascia to steeply swept back headlights, there is the silhouette of some pricier Asian sports coupes e.g. Nissan's Z-car . Flying-buttress rear C pillars and the spoiler, splitting the hatch backlight, form an exaggerated rump. It comes at the cost of rendering rear visibility to pillbox bunker levels. The view out the windshield is a consolation thanks to a taller driving position than in many sports coupes. Those multi-spoke 18" wheels? One word: STUNNING.
Given the segment Veloster's interior is has upscale aspirations. The huge standard 7" "infotainment" and settings display, the soft touch dash pad, with its woven texture, the well bolstered - if narrow - front seats and the leatherette trim, which mimicked animal hides, are a cut above the competition. Switchgear and dials appear elegant and are intuitive to use. Veloster also gets its own signature elements such as the "purse handle" style door pulls and center console "hand rails."
However, a sticky recessed glove box release button could have used some WD-40. And then our I-Pod Nano, featuring the latest firmware, was detected and read, but stubbornly refused to play. The "Dimension" premium sound was underwhelming given the touted 560 watts. At least a Couple Hundred Watts must have leaked out the low insulation cabin that allowed so much wind and tire noise to creep in.
For our money, Hyundai has always been synonymous with value. For $17, 300 the base 2012 Veloster 6-speed manual offers as standard features tilt and telescoping steering wheel, I-Pod connectivity, and a Hard Drive Music Box. Then Hyundai tosses in all the "Blue" features: there is Bluetooth connectivity with streaming audio and smart phone audible texting available and Blue Link, an satellite based driver assistance service similar to On-Star, is included for a 90 day trial. For gamers there is a Blue Max app, where you score points for hyper-miling.
With all that downshifting, the 2012 Hyundai Veloster returned 28 mpg in mixed suburban/urban driving. Storage space is abound and the deep cargo area under the hatch is expanded by a 60/40 rear seat split. An extra $2000, in the name of the Style Package, brings to the game a panoramic sunroof, the 18" alloys shod with W speed rated all-season tires and subwoofer-ed stereo upgrade, plus some cosmetics.
Try and content Veloster's nearest competitor, the Scion TC , to the same level and you will need to pony up at least another $3000. The 180 hp Scion TC gives Veloster fits is in the power department, ride compliance and in superior rear headroom and legroom. Long-lost twin, the $2000 dearer Honda CR-Z, boasts gas-electric hybrid propulsion, but is handicapped with seats for only two occupants.
Making the 2012 Hyundai Veloster unique among peers is that Third Door, at the rear right side. The sloping roof absolutely slices rear headroom. Greater care is needed stepping over the tall rocker panel into the compact rear quarters. A couple of backseat guests won't need to make the usual contortions necessitated by two-door coupes.
And for the Urban Millennials intent on transporting Fido to the doggy park or making the laundry and left-overs run to the P's in the suburbs, or carpooling to the local gathering spot, that might be Veloster's clincher.