Test Drive: Hyundai Veloster

Portland, Ore. ? ?And now for something completely different!?

Hyundai designers must have had that famous line from the British television comedy series, Monty Python?s Flying Circus in mind when they started work on their newest compact coupe, the Veloster, because it?s ?completely different.?

There are three-door and five-door hatchbacks, but the Hyundai Veloster is the first four-door hatch back I can recall.? Envision one door on the driver?s side of the car and two doors on the passenger side and of course the hatchback door.? ?It?s unusual, but it looks good and works great!

??? The second door on the passenger side is a conventional door, not one of the rear hinged variety like you?d find on a pickup or the old Saturn Ion.? ?The door functions on its own, without having to open the front door, plus the outside handle is hidden, integrated into the rear roof line so the ?coupe look? is not compromised.? Unless you look closely you might not even know it?s there.? Unlike most coupes, this one has easy access into the rear seat area because you don?t have to climb over the front seat and once you?re in the back seat it seems roomier than a regular coupe.

Hyundai is taking an interesting approach with this car, which they call a ?reverse halo? vehicle.? Normally a halo car is a top-of-the-line high performance model, for example, the Audi R8 or Chevrolet Corvette, but the Veloster is hoping to draw new shoppers with a uniquely styled, innovatively-equipped inexpensive coupe ? something the average consumer can afford.

??????????? Nearly two years ago, when the automotive market was in the middle of its dramatic drop, Hyundai planners boldly announced they would be adding seven new models within the next 24 months.? The Veloster is number six of the seven following the all-new Tucson, Sonata, Equus, Elantra and Accent.? Each of these new cars has shown a new level of design innovation and quality but the Veloster is taking things to an even higher level.

Other than that quirk of the doors, ?the Veloster styling is compelling with a sleek interpretation of the Hyundai family grille, brawny wheel arches and Hyundai?s new fluidic sculpture character lines.? The roof slopes gently to a bulbous rear end which gets a slimming optical treatment from a massive black glass hatch that covers most of the top connecting to the rear hatchback window.? The rear end treatment is finished off with a black lower fascia insert and a dual exhaust outlet placed in the center to add an exotic look.

??????????? The interior is as unique as the exterior, especially with the motorcycle (or perhaps inspired by the Alien computer models) center stack.? Available two-tone trim on the seats and door panels further illiterates that the Veloster is not an ordinary compact.? Rear visibility is limited with the wide C Pillar, but Hyundai designers compensated with an available rear view camera and warning sensors.

Behind the rear seat is a generous 15.5-cubic feet of cargo area and even more when the 60/40 split rear seat back is folded.

At 1.6-liters the all new Gamma four-cylinder engine is the smallest direct injection Hyundai engine.? With 138 horsepower and 123-lb.ft of torque, the engine moves the svelte 2,854-pound Veloster to 60 mph in an estimated 8.5 seconds.?? That?s not especially quick even for a reverse halo car, but when I asked Hyundai officials about a turbocharged version, the traditional ?no comment? response came with a smile, indicating one is more than likely on the way.

The front-wheel drive Veloster comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission, or Hyundai?s first double clutch automatic transmission (DCT) — a six-speed, as an option.? The initial appeal of the DCT is the smooth quick shifts with excellent control via the console-mounted shifter and the standard wheel-mounted paddle shifters.? The more practical advantage of the Hyundai-built DCT comes out in its name, EcoShift.? Combined with the direct injection engine, the pair gets an EPA fuel economy rating of 29 mpg city and 38 mpg highway.? The manual transmission is rated at 28/40 mpg.? Another feature of the EcoShift transmission is a Hillstart Assist Control to keep the vehicle from rolling back when starting on a hill.

McPherson struts in the front and a light-weight torsion beam in the rear give the Veloster a good road feel and keeps it flat in the corners.? The electric power steering is a little vague, but the tight 34.1-foot turning diameter gives it more low speed agility.? Four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock, brake assist and brake-force distribution produce excellent stopping power.? The car also has Vehicle Stability Management and standard stability control plus wide, low profile 17-inch tires.? It?s also offered with a pair of optional 18-inch alloy wheels with one set getting a very cool treatment of body-colored inserts in the spokes.

Veloster gets high marks for technology and connectivity with a standard seven-inch ?multifunction screen with features like Pandora internet radio, Bluetooth, multiple auxiliary input jacks and the Gracenote MediaVOCS? voice recognition enhancement, which makes it easier to select music by voice command. ?There?s even a 115-volt power out let that could be used to power a computer or video game.

Another helpful feature is Hyundai?s new Blue Link system which seamlessly connects a phone into the car?s system to deliver voice text messaging, web search downloads, turn-by-turn navigation, and monthly vehicle condition reporting. ?It also includes safety services: Automatic Crash Notification (ACN) and Assistance, SOS Emergency Assistance, and Enhanced Roadside Assistance.? The safety features do require a subscription after an initial introductory period.

Veloster is available in one very well-equipped model, which has a starting price of $18,060, including the destination charge.? The double-clutch automatic transmission version is $1,250 more.? The Style Package which adds panoramic sunroof, special seats, premium audio, etc. for $2,000, and the Technology Package of navigation, backup camera and sensors, wheels with body colored inserts and a few other neat features is another $2,000. ?Add a few other little accessories and the price tops out at $23,685 for an amazing car.

Like all Hyundai models, the Veloster includes a 5-year/60,000-mile fully transferable bumper-to-bumper warranty, Hyundai?s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and 5-years complimentary Roadside Assistance.

?By Bill Schaffer

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