2012 Hyundai Veloster

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Reviewed By: Sam Moses
© 2012 NewCarTestDrive.com


The Hyundai Veloster is an all new car, a unique three-door coupe, and out of the box it's a contender as a sporty economy car. Its new 1.6-liter engine is super smooth, makes 138 horsepower, and has all the right high-tech stuff, such as Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI), and Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing (D-CVVT). With the manual transmission, it gets 28 city/40 highway/32 combined miles per gallon, as much as the Honda CR-Z hybrid (31/37). In a hard couple hundred miles, including two-lanes, freeway and city, we averaged about 29 mpg, with both the manual and dual-clutch automated manual transmission.

Much of the Hyundai Veloster was designed and developed in the U.S., most notably the rear suspension that gives Veloster an excellent all-around ride and makes it totally obedient. There are other good things to make the driving enjoyable. Steering is solid, secure, and gives great feedback; cornering is stable, the 6-speed manual gearbox is sweet; and the brakes are just right for a sporty car.

There's an available new 6-speed paddle-shifting DCT, or Dual Clutch Transmission, but we liked the manual transmission more. The DCT shifts aren't as sharp as Volkswagen's similar DSG; the Veloster's DCT feels more like an automatic transmission than a clutchless manual, and the paddles are poor.

The Veloster's styling gets a lot of looks on the highway, although we think Hyundai stylists went overboard with the scallops. However the farther back you stand to view the silhouette, the better it looks. The nose looks low, and from a three-quarter rear view, it looks tough on its haunches.

As a three-door coupe, it totally pulls off the two-door roofline. The third door is on the passenger side, hinged at the front like a real door; it's not the first three-door, but other cars have been awkwardly hinged at the rear. It's easy to climb in and out of the back seat, although there's only 31.7 inches of legroom back there. Total interior volume is best in the sporty compact class, beating the Scion tC and blowing the Mini Cooper out of the water.

The upholstery that comes with the Style Package is terrific. Interior details include nice console support at the right thigh, good feel with the three-spoke leather steering wheel, pleasing uncluttered gauges, and digital information that's easily accessed. There's a blind spot at the C-pillar over the driver's shoulder, and the horizontal structural support in the fastback glass liftgate restricts visibility, although Prius is worse and Honda CR-Z worst.

Model Lineup

All Hyundai Velosters are three-door coupes, differing only by transmission and package. Veloster M/T ($17,300) uses a 6-speed manual gearbox. Veloster DCT ($18,550) uses the automated dual-clutch transmission.

Standard equipment includes air conditioning with cabin filter, 196-watt AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio system with iPod and USB jacks, Bluetooth, 7-inch touch screen, power everything, remote keyless entry, 60/40 rear seat, and 17-inch alloy wheels.

The Style package ($2000) includes 18-inch alloy wheels, chrome grille trim, foglights, panoramic sunroof, premium 8-speaker audio system, leatherette seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and alloy pedals. The Tech package ($2000) adds navigation with rearview camera, rear backup beepers, different 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlamps, push-button start, and 115V outlet.

Safety equipment on all models includes six airbags (frontal, front side impact, curtains), stability control with traction control, ABS, tire pressure monitor.

Model Lineup

Hyundai Veloster M/T ($17,300); Veloster DCT ($18,550); Veloster M/T Style ($19,300); Veloster M/T Tech ($21,300); Veloster DCT Style ($20,550); Veloster DCT Tech ($22,550)

Walk Around

A lot of people think the Veloster is cool looking, so who are we to disagree. Veloster gets looks on the highway, and that's what matters to many. But Veloster has lost the clean direction of the smaller Hyundai Accent.

We like saying veloster, by the way. It's not a real word but should have been. Hey bro, that wave was veloster.

Hyundai stylists went a bit far with the scallops. Veloster's muscular shape is marred by lumps and scoops, and its face leaves much to be desired. The scooped hood with pretend vents has the look of an Australian V8 Supercar, but then there are bulging headlights that look all too silvery, over another gratuitous scoop like a tear.

A chrome bar under a small black grille, with the Hyundai emblem, is unfortunately uninspiring. Veloster's mouth is as big as an Audi's, but it's filled in with body-colored plastic, shaped to resemble wings, but maybe looks more like Superman's shoulders while flying, with a chrome cape and silver H for a face.

The scoops keep coming, and begin to look like gouges. There are more on the mirrors, doorsills and liftgate. The farther back you stand, to view the silhouette, the better it looks. The nose looks low, and from a three-quarter rear view, it looks tough on its haunches.

As a three-door coupe, it totally pulls off the two-door roofline. Unlike others, with a third door hinged at the rear, this is a real door. Hyundai pioneers the obvious without compromising the ceiling.

On the passenger side of Veloster, the door is hidden save the seam. Rakish upsweep meets a racy roofline, invisible door handle in the window corner. Thankfully, beautifully, the window trim is black.

The single center exhaust is like Siamese twin trapezoids, outlined by chrome. It's boxed in by a big black fascia, that slims the bumper and looks good in pictures, but a bit less good on the street. The cool tailpipes get smothered by the volume of black plastic; but worse, the license plate sits like a big square hat on the pipes. In publicity photos, Hyundai Photoshops out the license plate, don't blame them.

The black fascia also creates pounce-like stance for Veloster, by turning the rear fenders into muscular legs. With its hunched back, Veloster looks almost frog-like. In a good way.

You can get Veloster with a variety of graphics. We saw a couple and they make us cringe.

Interior

Hyundai says the interior design was inspired by shapes on a sport bike. They say the A-pillars are like a helmet visor, the center stack resembles a fuel tank, the console mirrors a motorcycle seat, and air vents are inspired by tailpipes. We drove Velosters for a day, and can't say we noticed. Mostly we noticed overkill on the trapezoidal trim pieces.

We also noticed the terrific fit and materials of the Style Package seats, nice console support at the right thigh, good feel of the three-spoke leather steering wheel, pleasing uncluttered gauges, and digital information accessed easily. A 7-inch touch-screen is standard, with three interface layouts to choose from. Features include Bluetooth, Pandora internet radio via iPhone, and Gracenote music connectivity. A 196-watt six-speaker audio system is standard, while the 450-watt eight-speaker system comes with the Style package.

Rear visibility has a couple of problems. There's a big blind spot at the C-pillar over the driver's shoulder, comes with the roofline territory. And there's that structural support in the fastback glass liftgate, blocking rearview visibility, also comes with the territory. But the Prius is worse and the Honda CR-Z is worst.

As for the third door, others, for example the Mazda RX-8, have been hinged at the rear, so the front door must opened too. Main thing is that yoga isn't needed to climb in and out of the rear seat, where there's a paltry 31.7 inches of legroom, but after all it's a compact car. Total interior volume is best in the sport compact class, beating the Scion tC and blowing the Mini Cooper out of the water. It even beats the Mini Clubman, by 105.3 to 89.2 cubic feet.

Driving Impressions

The heart of the matter is the rear suspension, making Veloster totally obedient, and there are other good things to make the driving enjoyable. Steering is solid, secure, and gives great feedback. The new 1.6-liter direct-injection engine is super smooth, and the 6-speed gearbox is sweet. Brakes are just-right sensitive, for such a sporty car.

The unusual rear suspension, V-beam torsion axle with an integrated 23mm stabilizer bar, was designed and developed mostly by one Detroit-bred engineer in California over six months; hundreds of spring, shock and tire combinations were tried on the test track and highway, to get the ride and handling just right. It is.

We drove the Veloster hard through some of our favorite corners without a trace of understeer. It stays flat, and that's quite a compliment for a car like this. The cornering is as stable as the steering is solid. It's also very light, at 2583 pounds, and that helps a lot.

The new 1.6-liter engine makes 138 horsepower. The math yields a specific output of 86.3 horsepower per liter, tops in the field. Called the Gamma GDI, it's got all the right stuff, including Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI), and Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing (D-CVVT).

Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 28/40 mpg City/Highway, or 32 miles per gallon Combined. By comparison, the Honda CR-Z hybrid is rated at 31/37 mpg City/Highway. Those figures are for a Veloster with manual transmission; with the DCT, it drops a bit. In a hard couple hundred miles, including two-lanes, freeway and city, we averaged about 29 mpg, with both the 6-speed manual and DCT.

In these days of high expectations, Veloster is powerful enough. It loves to run between 3500 and 5500 rpm, where torque is best. Even holding it at 5000 rpm in second gear, it's nice and smooth, doesn't feel like it's screaming. Cruising at 70 mph is only 2700 rpm in sixth gear, you don't even know the engine is there.

The standard manual transmission is a beauty, except for the big shift knob. The throw is short and tight, and the clutch is a joy, so shifts are smooth and fun. Our feet didn't fit the pedals for heel-and-toe downshifting, but that's our feet and our technique; doesn't mean it can't be done.

We weren't crazy about the 6-speed DCT, or Dual Clutch Transmission. On the other hand, we are crazy about VW/Audi's DSG, or Direct Shift Gearbox. The Hyundai version uses a dry clutch, and there's an engineering debate about its merits. All we know is the Veloster's shifts aren't sharp, almost too smooth, stealing feeling from the car. It feels like an automatic, not a manual transmission with some invisible person making perfect shifts for you. Plus, the paddles feel cheap and aren't designed with care (however the shifting pattern is correct). Seeing as how the DCT costs another $2250, we'd stick with the sweet 6-speed manual.

As for any doubts about the all-new engine and transmission, Hyundai offers a 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty.

The Hyundai Veloster is an all-new car and an engineering gem. Its 1.6-liter engine is smooth, powerful and efficient; the ride and handling are spot-on, and the 6-speed gearbox is fun. Distinctive styling, terrific interior and 32 mpg at $17,300 bring it all together for these times.

Sam Moses filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report after his test drive of the Veloster in the Pacific Northwest.

78 Hyundai Veloster vehicles in stock at carmax.com

78 Hyundai Veloster vehicles in stock