What's hot: 'Smart as' three-door packaging, zesty turbo, nicely trimmed, good on-road comfort.
What's not: Front suspension a bit soft, indecisive twin-clutch automatic, needs a better 'burble'.
X-FACTOR: Its cheeky style and three-door-access makes it a little different, and a little easier to live with. And it's not bad on road.
Vehicle style: Three-door small coupe
Price Range (SR Turbo models): $29,990 - $36,490
Engine/trans: 150kW/265Nm 1.6 turbo petrol | 6spd manual, 7spd DCT auto
Fuel consumption listed l/100km: auto 7.1; man 6.9 | tested, on-road: auto 8.4; man 9.1
With Hyundai's oddity, the Veloster, you can “have your cake, and eat it too”.
For a start, there are those three doors. It looks like a two-door coupe, and it kind-of is if you approach from the driver's side.
Low and compact, there's a ferret-y charm and sporty eagerness to its lines.
Then, on the other side, there's that third door - the practical one. It integrates seamlessly into the Veloster's raked coupe profile behind the passenger's door - on the 'footpath side' - to let the kids or the pooch into the back.
That third door gives the Veloster the handy practicality of a conventional small hatchback. (And the boot space isn't half-bad either.)
But at the wheel, it doesn't feel like a conventional hatch. It feels lower and sportier and more 'hunkered down'.
So this is a smart car, with some smart out-of-the-box thinking by Hyundai.
But you knew all that; this updated model is just like the one that's been around - and selling better than Hyundai expected - for the past few years.
The new one though adds some extra appeal. For a start, some spunky new colours - we love the satin blue of the test car we drove - and a new 7-speed twin-clutch transmission (replacing the conventional auto in the former model).
And we still like it. We like the interior accommodation, the taut robust feel to the fit and finish, and, for the most part, we like the way it drives.
There are a couple of dynamic shortcomings in the handling and performance, but the Veloster sits in a nice middle-ground: it's not too firm, not too soft, and it looks a bit athletic, but it's no jock.
Veloster SR Turbo
- Premium four-speaker audio (with two tweeters, centre speaker, subwoofer and external amplifier)
- 7.0-inch LCD touchscreen with satellite navigation, CD player, MP3 functionality and three-years HERE MapCare
- AUX/USB audio input with digital iPod compatibility
- Bluetooth connectivity (hands-free phone and audio streaming)
- Rear-view camera (integrated into touchscreen) and rear parking assist
- Cruise control with steering wheel-mounted controls
- Steering wheel-mounted audio and phone controls
- Proximity Smart Key with push-button start
- Climate control air-con
- Electrically adjustable driver's seat base (slide and tilt)
- Luggage net
- LED rear combination lights
- Proximity Smart Key with pushbutton start
Veloster SR Turbo + (in addition to Veloster SR Turbo)
- Panoramic glass sunroof
- Ventilated, heated front seats
- Flex Steer
- Fold-down sunglasses compartment in roof-mounted console
Inside, things are dark, snug and well-appointed.
The surfaces fit together as they should; Hyundai builds a pretty good interior, and there is a solid well-built feel to things generally.
The swoopy busy lines of the dash and centre-stack don't appeal greatly to me, but Hyundai has a younger, funkier target market in mind.
It's the third door that gives the Veloster an extra half-star. It is brilliant in the way it integrates into the Veloster's profile, enables easy access to the back and really does provide a “best of both worlds” usefulness.
(Anyone who has strapped the kids into the back of a coupe while leaning in from the front will know precisely what I mean.)
The limit to that usefulness will, however, depend upon the ages of the kids.
It is tight in there under that raked roof - pre-adolescents will fit ok, but long-shanked 16 year-olds will be head-butting the roof-lining.
Vision out from the back isn't all that great, but passengers there get individual cup-holders and the split-fold seats come with a bit of shaping.
Front seats are comfy, well-shaped for sports driving, and look terrific with the contrasting monogrammed suede insets.
Things in the cabin are otherwise well-designed, smartly laid out, and with a reasonable quality feel to the surfaces and metal garnishes.
With black rooflining and black-on-black elsewhere, it has a cosy sportscar feel at the wheel.
The manual shift is solid to the touch but with a light throw and easily 'snicked' between the six cogs.
It doesn't 'centre' firmly enough in the gate however (between third and fourth) and you can inadvertently grab fifth from second if hard at work.
The twin-clutch auto comes with paddles at the wheel which fall nicely under the fingers, and the wheel is comfortable enough though a little on the large size - a smaller chunkier wheel would suit the 'sports coupe' persona a bit better.
The safety feature list is as you'd expect from an established market leader.
The Veloster comes with a 5-Star ANCAP rating and includes six airbags, hill-start assist (auto-equipped cars only), tyre pressure monitoring, LED daytime running lights, automatic dusk-sensing headlights, LED high mount stop lamp, and LED side repeater integrated into side mirrors, among a full suite of passive and dynamic safety features.
ON THE ROAD
- (SR models) turbocharged 1.6 litre producing 150kW @ 6000rpm, 265Nm 1750-4500rpm
- 6-spd manual, 7-spd twin clutch auto (auto adds $2500 premium)
- Revised springs and dampers, new rebound stops, and shortened anti-roll bar
- 18-inch alloy wheels (two tone multi-spoke) with 225/40R18 tyres
We put the Veloster SR Turbo to work on both road and track. With 150kW and 275Nm tucked into a small package, it has a handy turn of speed when asked.
But, while sporty, it's more at home on the road than the track and does not have the sublime handling poise of Toyota's 86 (or Subaru BRZ).
At legal speeds on the highway though, the Veloster hides its shortcomings in handling and performance pretty well.
Sure, a spirited run through a set of corners can be a bit of fun at the wheel - the 1.6 turbo SR is happy to stretch its lungs - but it can't be pushed too hard.
The turbo tapers off pretty quickly beyond 5500rpm (though it's redlined at 6250rpm) and you'll also find the limits to its cornering capabilities early.
The front end is relatively soft (for a sporting car), and its first inclination is to run wide. That softer more-compliant feel is to make the Veloster more liveable as a day-to-day driving proposition.
And it works as it should: it soaks up bumps and broken tarmac pretty well (especially for such a compact little package) and doesn't become tiring on a long drive.
On the track though, if you're dialing up some serious speed, that front-end won't tuck in with any great enthusiasm.
It has a tendency to understeer and can feel a bit unsettled if you try the 'quick dab' on the brakes to tighten things.
It's not bad, it is just not quite there (despite the chassis upgrades and Australian tuning of the springs and dampers).
The selectable 'Flex Steer' available on the Turbo+ models (with normal, comfort and sports settings) changes the feel at the wheel - it 'weights' it up marginally and sharpens the response - but is best left in normal mode for daily driving.
On track, with a lot of laps on a changing surface (there was a bit of drizzle about), we got a good look at the Veloster's capabilities.
The manual is the pick for the circuit, the ratios are well-spaced and you can get the best out of those 265Nm.
And certainly, if you have track days in mind, the seven-speed twin-clutch auto is a bit problematic. The gear shifts are a little slow (by modern DCT standards), and it can hang you out in the wrong gear.
Change downs, in particular, can be a bit of a tussle with the 'box'. If you're carrying a few revs - even if well shy of the 6250rpm redline - it won't change down without an accompanying firm dab on the brakes.
On more than one occasion, it refused the instruction from the paddle, and changed up, not down. But, to be fair, this was pushing things well outside of the comfort zone of the little Veloster.
On road, there are no such issues with the DCT and, though changes could be quicker, you'll appreciate the sporty feel of those paddles when shooting into a hole in the traffic.
Inside, when on road, the overall refinement is quite good.
There's a bit of road roar, but not intrusive, from the fattish rubber down below, but the suspension is really well configured for Australian roads.
We'd like a bit more burble from those twin pipes at the rear, but it's a nicely balanced little DOHC turbo up front.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
It sits in its own space in the car parc, the Veloster: sporty, but not quite sportscar, a personal coupe but with hatch practicality… yes, direct rivals are hard to pin-point.
We doubt that it's cross-shopped with the 86 or BRZ, and more likely compared to the Polo GTI and others of the compact hot-hatch brigade.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The simple fact of it is that Hyundai's Veloster is in a 'mid-zone' of its own making - a personal coupe that makes a virtue of practicality and comfort alongside its sporting design flair.
That's gotta work for some (and maybe why it's Australia's best-selling sports car).
It's helped that it looks neat, and that Hyundai has a growing reputation for building strong little cars that can put up with rigours of Australian roads and conditions.
It's not perfect, but the compromises are ones you won't mind. The Veloster is a smart little coupe that has a charm all of its own. And it will grow on you.
It has a lively engine in that Turbo SR model, offers a lot of features, and, better still, it won't break the bank.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- Veloster GDi - 6spd manual - $24,490
- Veloster GDi - 6spd DCT auto - $26,990
- Veloster+ GDi - 6spd manual - $29,490
- Veloster+ GDi - 6spd DCT auto - $31,990
- Veloster SR Turbo - 6spd manual - $29,990
- Veloster SR Turbo - 7spd DCT auto - $32,490
- Veloster SR Turbo+ - 6spd manual - $33,990
- Veloster SR Turbo+ - 7spd DCT auto - $36,490