A publicity campaign on Facebook was carried out in conjunction with the Singapore launch of the Veloster, where the “H” badges were concealed and passers-by asked to guess the car’s make. Many were impressed with the vehicle, but almost no one got the right answer. While this reveals certain preconceptions among the general public, it also bears testimony to how far Hyundai has come since its Scoupe days.
In 2011, the Veloster was recognised by the Chicago Athenaeum with a Good Design Award, and it is apparent why. The overall silhouette is decisive, with a pronounced, sloping profile. From the front and rear, it looks broad and sits squat.
A hexagonal grille with foglights pushed to the extreme corners of the front bumper emphasise its width, while the elongated headlamps delineated by a string of curved daytime running lights come across as “eagle eyes”. This angry bird also has “talons” for tail-lamps.
At the rear, the generously sized bumper incorporates a black diffuser panel with centrally positioned twin-exhaust outlets. A set of 18-inch alloy wheels, coloured to match the paintwork (Sunflower Orange, in this case), completes the Veloster’s vivacious appearance. It even looks great from above, thanks to a panoramic sunroof and fixed glass panels that cover practically the whole roof.
But it is the vehicle’s asymmetrical architecture that truly elevates the Veloster above the coupe crowd. While not the first of its kind (the original Suzuki Wagon R has an equally eccentric three-door configuration), it looks fabulous in my opinion, although not everyone will take to the quirky touches. There is one door on the right side for the driver and two on the left, but at first glance, the cleverly concealed handle on the rear passenger door may fool people into thinking there is only one entryway there.
Upon closer observation, you will also notice that the B-pillar on the driver’s side has been moved further back to accommodate a longer door panel and suitably larger side glass. The rear window on the right is consequently smaller than the pane on the left.
For coupe lovers reluctant to make the switch from two-door fun to four-door functionality, there is hope yet with the novel Veloster. In all honesty, however, the novelty in question looks better than it actually works. The V-shaped opening of that “extra” door is rather restrictive and tapers “fast” from top to bottom, so getting a child seat through or simply getting in and out of the cabin may require some dexterity. My biggest challenge was getting my toddler into her baby chair on the back seat without bumping her head on the sloping roofline.
If you are ferrying two adults in the rear, one will have to slide across the seat to make room for the other. Nevertheless, the car’s two+one door layout provides easier access compared to an ordinary two-door.
The Veloster interior conveys a classy feel in sync with the exterior. Hyundai’s basic build quality is closing in on that of continental makes, despite the presence of just a little too much plastic for my liking. The dashboard, with its “Transformers Autobot” centre console and glossy black trimming, is said to have been inspired by a motorbike. This machine’s sporty character shines through like the “skylight” overhead.
There are storage points aplenty, the most useful of which are the cavernous cubbyhole below the engine start/stop button and the deep compartment between the front seat-backs. Legroom is decent, but in return for that striking roof contour on the outside, rear headroom is limited on the inside.
Another compromise, this one in exchange for that stunning posterior, is the curvature of the tailgate glass, which causes a distorted reflection in the rear view mirror, making cars and objects appear warped and slightly fuzzy. While this does not impede visibility, it may trigger adverse reactions in drivers prone to motion sickness.
When it comes to the drive proper, the Veloster also has two personalities. The 1.6-litre GDI (gasoline direct injection) engine accelerates confidently and smoothly on gentle throttle input, but outright pulling power languishes somewhat during hard acceleration. This is accompanied by an exhaust note that makes the sprint attempt feel even more of an effort than it already is.
But deviate from a straight line of travel, and you will soon discover the Veloster’s stronger other side – it is much quicker around corners than it is on the straights, and it is totally unfettered by serpentine bends.
This is where the Veloster in its element, and committed drivers can expect the same level of engagement from the vehicle. The suspension is firm without being too hard and has just the right amount of damping. The electric steering feels a little over-assisted when turning, but this hardly diminishes driving satisfaction.
Surprising and satisfying – that’s how I would sum up the Veloster. Granted, its unusual design entails some trade-offs in ergonomics, but these are minor considering the brilliant mix of coupe chic and hatchback practicality. It’s the best of both worlds, indeed, from this handsome Korean double agent.
This story was first published in the June 2012 issue of Torque.
2012 Hyundai Veloster 1.6 (A)
ENGINE 1591cc, 16-valves, inline-4
MAX POWER 140bhp at 6300rpm
MAX TORQUE 167Nm at 4850rpm
GEARBOX 6-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100KM/H 10.3 seconds
TOP SPEED 200km/h
CONSUMPTION 16.1km/L (combined)