Hyundai Veloster

Debut: 2011
Maker: Hyundai
Predecessor: No

 Published on 22 Oct 2011 All rights reserved. 

Three years ago Volkswagen pioneered a crossover between hatchback and coupe – Scirocco. Its market success proves that plenty of motorists enjoy more aggressive styling than conventional hot hatches without losing much of the latter's practicality. We expect rivals will follow suit soon. What catches our surprise is that the first follower comes neither from Europe nor Japan but Korea. Hyundai Veloster is the fast-rising, fast-learning Asian car maker's take on VW Scirocco. No, it's not exactly a direct rival to the German car. It is actually simpler and a lot cheaper, targeting at younger and lower income audiences that until now can afford only Toyota's Scion tC or Honda CR-Z. Potentially it could attract more sales than Scirocco, which sold 45,000 units worldwide last year.

Despite of its lower market positioning, the Veloster is the same size as Volkswagen – once again proving the advantage of its lower production cost basis. At 4.2 meters long, 1.8 meters wide and 1.4 meters tall, it is almost exactly the same dimensions as Scirocco. However, its 2650 mm wheelbase – shared with Hyundai i30 and KIA Forte – is considerably longer than the VW's. This should guarantee a true 4-seater package.

Like Scirocco, exterior styling is the focus of its development. The Veloster looks very expressive, even to the extent of weird. To me, its bulldog fascia is still hard to swallow, but the heavily sculpted sheet metal, the glass hatch and centrally located exhaust pipes (within a pseudo-diffuser) are as eye-opening as concept cars. Most important, the relatively low greenhouse, slim windows and unusually large alloy wheels (18-inch) combined to deliver a built-to-performance image. You are not necessarily the fans of its exterior design, but you can't deny its visual impact and road presence.

Unfortunately, the mechanical package is hardly performance-oriented. On the contrary, it is chosen with cost and fuel economy concerns at top priority. Power does not come from Hyundai's 2-liter turbo engine, but the naturally aspirated 1.6 GDI Gamma engine that you can find under the bonnet of Hyundai Accent or KIA Rio – and those are B-segment bread-and-butter cars ! Its power rating of 140 hp doesn't look bad (actually very good for a 1.6), but its peak torque is only 123 lbft, and it arrives at a heady 4850 rpm. The household-grade motor also lacks the top-end willingness and throttle response that a hot hatch demands, let alone one dressed to be so aggressive. As a result, performance is disappointing. It takes 9 long seconds to go from zero to 60 mph. The engine is definitely the biggest weakness of the car.

The Veloster offers two transmissions. The standard 6-speed manual is pretty good, as we have mentioned in the KIA Rio report. Its gearshift is short and crisp. Clutch engagement is light and smooth. It is more enjoyable to use than the new 6-speed dual-clutch transmission offered at extra cost. The DCT is built by Hyundai group itself. It has proper specifications, such as dry clutches and paddle-shift, but its gearshift response is nowhere as quick as Volkswagen's DSG. You had better to see it as a replacement to conventional automatic rather than a fun-enhancing option.

The chassis is better. By employing high-strength steel for 65 percent of its monocoque structure, Hyundai achieves higher chassis rigidity than the VW Scirocco that it benchmarked. This also keeps the car at a relatively light 1185 kg. To keep cost low, all major mechanical components are shared with Elantra, including electrical power steering and suspensions consisting of MacPherson struts and semi-independent torsion beam. However, they get specific tuning to deliver sportier flavor. Hyundai has an R&D center at the home town of Opel, no wonder the Veloster's ride and handling feels like German cars. The ride is firm without crashy. Body control and balance are pretty good. Understeer comes progressively and predictably. On the downside, the steering has more weight than feel. The cheap 215/40VR18 Kumho tires offer limited grip but plenty of noise. Overall, the chassis dynamics is decent, but the fact that a cheaper Ford Fiesta can thrill its driver much more is something Hyundai should study.

One special feature we haven't mentioned yet is the Veloster's asymmetric door layout. On the driver's side, there is only one large door like conventional coupes. On the other side, there are front and rear doors like any 5-door hatchbacks, although the rear door is slightly smaller than usual. The single rear door has its handle hidden at the trailing edge of window (like various Alfa Romeo) in order to make itself less obvious to eyes, although I would still easily spot it. The asymmetric arrangement means the B-pillars on both sides locate at different positions. This should make right-hand-drive version more costly to build on the same production line. It might be a strange thing for a car with cost control so much in mind. However, Hyundai believes it is a strong selling point of the car (though I don't agree with), thus it keeps this feature intact from concept stage to production.

Anyway, the rear door gives much easier access to the rear seats. Due to the lack of rear door at the other side, Hyundai did not fit individual bucket seats at the back, but a bench seat with the center piece converted to cup holders. The rear floor is also made flat, so passenger can slip easily from the door side to the inner seat. The space at the back is remarkable for a coupe (assuming you define it as a coupe). People up to 5ft 10in will have no problem to travel all day. 6-footers will appreciate the generous legroom afforded by the long wheelbase, but their heads are likely to rub against the slopping roof liner. The boot holds a fair 320 liters. As in other hatchbacks, the 40/60-split rear seat may fold down to expand luggage bay.

Up front, the design of dashboard is quite striking, with plenty of bright decors and lacquer to lift the ambience, but all plastics are hard and cheap to touch. Contrasting to the latter is a classy 7-inch touch screen which is standard on all cars. As expected, the Korean car is very well equipped. Standard features include Bluetooth, USB, voice recognition and iPhone compatibility, such things that attract youth buyers. Rearward visibility is hampered by the blocky C-pillars, the shallow glass hatch and the rear spoiler. The optional panoramic glass roof is highly recommended in order to restore a light and airy ambience.

Despite of its good value for money, we cannot recommend the Veloster, not least because of its lack of power (which will be resolved once a 200hp 1.6 turbo joins the range next year), but its overall lack of dynamic sparkles. Its sportiness can only be found on its looks, which is deceiving. It is by no means a coupe. Not a hot hatch-plus either. It is only a weird hatchback lacking a rear door, proper rear seats and outward visibility. It doesn't take a Scirocco to beat it, but any bread-and-butter Ford Focus or Fiesta would be a better drive.
 Published on 29 Jun 2012 All rights reserved. 
Veloster Turbo

When the radically styled Veloster arrived the market last year, the most criticisms concerned its lack of power and performance. Propelled by a 140 hp 1.6 GDI engine, it took 9 long seconds to go from rest to 60 mph, which was even slower than some econo sedans. As promised by its maker, now the Veloster is supplemented with a Turbo model. It can be distinguished from the naturally aspirated car by an outrageous front grille as well as a twin-circular exhaust, among other cosmetic tweaks.

On paper, the turbo model easily fills the missing link. By adding a twin-scroll turbo together with a stainless steel exhaust manifold to the 1.6 GDI engine and tuning it to boost a maximum 1.2 bar, it gets 204 horsepower and 195 pound-foot of torque. That is remarkable for a motor so small. For comparison, Volkswagen Golf GTI needs 2 liters to deliver much the same output. Even the most efficient 1.6 turbo motors on Mini JCW and Citroen DS3 Racing are just a few hp more powerful. Strangely, Hyundai claims a conservative 0-60 mph time of 7.3 seconds and 133 mph top speed. That trails Golf GTI's 6.6 seconds and 149 mph by a long way...

However disappointing the performance figures are, they can't quite match the real-world driving experience. On the road, the 1.6T-GDI engine feels reluctant to rev. It responds slowly to throttle. Power builds up linearly at a relaxed rate despite the spec. said its peak torque is available from 1750-4500 rpm. It needs 2500 rpm to get the turbo working, yet for the best result you had better to keep it above 4000 rpm. At the top end it still feels 30 horsepower down on the claimed maximum output (note: this is not the first or second time we found Hyundai's figures doubtful). Apart from lacking punch, the engine produces an uninspiring exhaust note to ruin any excitement left.

The lackluster is partly due to a slow throttle response and unusually tall gearing. Both are deliberately chosen to make possible an EPA highway rating of 38 mpg. The 6th and even the 5th are optimized to lower engine rev on highway. This mean the other gears are widely spaced, especially the gap between 1st and 2nd, which hampers 0-60 mph sprint. You can choose between 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic (DCT is dropped as it cannot withstand the extra torque of turbo), though neither are great transmissions by industrial standards.

Changes to the chassis are rather limited. The suspensions are left untouched because the standard setting is deemed to be competent enough. The steering gets a slightly quicker ratio and relocated mounting points. The front brakes get slightly larger to cope with the extra weight of about 100 kg. That's all. We have little complaint about its handling. As long as you do not ask for GTI or Renaultsport level of driving thrills, the Veloster Turbo is satisfying. Compare with the lesser model its steering is a bit more accurate and its ride is slightly improved by the extra kerb weight. The only weak spot is the set of Kumho 215/40VR18 tires, whose mediocre grip limits handling prowess. It also generates a lot of road noise on coarse surfaces. We raised this question on the naturally aspirated model already. Why didn't Hyundai listen?

As a cheap warm hatch, the various problems of Veloster Turbo are bearable. However, if you expect 200-horsepower level of performance and handling, you will be greatly disappointed. Despite of its sporty looks and remarkable numbers, it is not a hot hatch by any means.

Length / width / height
Valve gears
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque

Suspension layout

Suspension features
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)

0-100 mph (sec)

Veloster 1.6GDI
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4220 / 1790 / 1400 mm
2650 mm
1591 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
140 hp
123 lbft
6-speed manual
6-speed twin-clutch (DCT)
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
1185 kg
125 mph (c)
6M: 9.1 (c) / 8.5* / 9.6**
DCT: 9.1*
6M: 25.8* / 28.4**
DCT: 26.9*
Veloster Turbo
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4250 / 1805 / 1400 mm
2650 mm
1591 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
204 hp / 185 hp (EU)
195 lbft
6-speed manual
6-speed automatic
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
1280 kg
139 mph (c)
6M: 7.3 (c) / 7.3* / 7.0***
6A: 6.8*
6M: 19.0* / 17.9***
6A: 20.4*

Performance tested by: *C&D, **Autocar, ***R&T

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    Copyright© 1997-2012 by Mark Wan @ AutoZine