Hyundai Veloster 1.6 GDi review
by David Finlay (3 April 2012)
The Veloster is not quite a direct replacement for the Hyundai Coupé, which left the UK market a few years ago after a very long run, but it does fill the same niche in the Korean company's model range.
There are, however, some very significant differences, most obviously in terms of styling. It was just about possible, if you didn't look too closely, to relate the Coupé to a Ferrari of one sort or another, but that's not going to happen with the Veloster. It looks nothing like anything else on the road, and it's possible that Hyundai may be playing a dangerous game here.
That's because the Veloster's stated rivals include the Vauxhall Astra GTC and Volkswagen Scirocco, each of which is at the same time both more conventional-looking and more obviously attractive. Whether potential buyers of either will be tempted by the curious appearance of the Veloster seems doubtful.
One feature of the Veloster that is absent from the GTC and Scirocco (and indeed the Renault Megane Coupé, which might also be considered one of Hyundai's targets) is its single rear door, which a company spokesman told me was "for practicality". "If it's for practicality, why not have two rear doors?" I asked. He said he didn't know, and I have to admire the honesty.
Still, the "1+2 door" arrangement does make it easier to get into the back of the Veloster, where there is a surprising amount of room as long as you're not particulary tall - headroom in there is very limited, though it's fine in the front, which most definitely was not the case with the old Coupé.
And unlike MINI, which also provides three passenger doors in its Clubman estate, Hyundai repositions the door according to whether the car is being sold in right- or left-hand drive markets. UK Velosters therefore have the third door on the correct (left) side, whereas UK Clubmans don't. For shame, MINI. For shame.
Other aspects of the design are, to put it charitably, eccentric. The sill which you have to lift things over to put them in the luggage compartment is ludicrously high, and rear three-quarter visibility is absolutely awful. The view straight back is better than it might have been, though. The Veloster has a split rear window, and other cars that have this usually have a divider which blocks the view and two glass areas which are each too small to have their own wiper.
In the Veloster, the divider is much higher, and the lower window does have a wiper. It's still not as good as a one-piece window, but it's the best split-window compromise I've seen.
All Velosters use the same 138bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine (with either six-speed manual or six-speed DCT twin-clutch semi-automatic transmission), so they're reasonably but not excitingly quick in a straight line. It would be a waste of a Veloster to drive it exclusively in straight lines, though, because that would be to miss out on the very best part of the car.
I drove this entry-level Veloster along some deserted and very entertaining back roads east of Edinburgh (Hyundai's choice of location, not mine), and it was more fun than I can possibly tell you. They key to this is the fact that the soft but well-damped suspension provides quite a lot of body roll at the rear, which within safe limits gives you an element of back-end steering.
The car therefore enters a corner very willingly without a great deal of steering effort, and is quickly able to accept all the power the engine can provide for the exit. It's not an especially scientific set-up, but it's enormously effective, and having initially been slightly put off by the looks and the slightly low-rent interior I had become a big fan within five miles of setting off.
In terms of equipment, Velosters are either Sport or not Sport. This one, being not Sport, ran on 17" wheels with 215/45 tyres and had front and rear foglights, all-round electric windows, automatic headlights, Bluetooth connectivity, climate control air-conditioning and black cloth upholstery. In Sport models, the upholstery is leather, the front seats are heated, there's a panoramic sunroof, you get cruise control, and the car sits on 18" wheels with 215/40 tyres, all for an extra £2500.
Satellite navigation, a rear-view camera and an eight-speaker audio system are all available as options, but only on the Sport. The more basic trim level is, however, the only one to include the Blue Drive, which has slightly better fuel economy and CO2 emissions and costs £15 a year less to tax, which is fine except that it costs £350 more than the car tested here.