Hot hatchbacks have always been a very special segment in the automotive world. You can really date it all back to the original Mark 1 GTI Golf from Volkswagen. Nothing more then what you need, nothing less. Now fast forward a couple of decades and now we have a market full of other options. With the GTI still being around, there is the Honda Civic Si to still deal with. Those two are what we can call ‘Hot-Hatchbacks”. The whole point of theses things are that yes they are small but they we’re really smart about packaging the car. Make it the smallest they could on the outside but increase the space on the inside, a very tall order. Hyundai has taken that order and they think they have delivered with the Hyundai Veloster.
The Hyundai Veloster is by far the best looking hatchback that is selling, that smooth hood, those very racing precise lines that follow on the sides, and the way the car body looks like its being pushed by air. It looks like its moving at all times. We thought the flared wheel arches would be a little out of style for a car like this but you know what, we actually like it. The Hyundai Veloster also has this grille that we also have on the Genesis Coupe, gives it a more aggressive appearance, way better than the old Hyundai Grille, that economy car plastic just ruined it.
The Veloster is what they call a half coupe, half sedan. Basically on the right side you have two-doors like on a sedan but when you swing over to the left side you have one door. The idea is funky, I get it but maybe a little not practical since if you have two passengers who are going to sit in the rear, one has to move over the middle which has the drive shaft hump. But the styling is mad and we love it.
To ease the outraged fans of hatch-hatchbacks Hyundai has made a Turbo model with 201 HP but this time we only have the 138 HP 1.6 L V4 engine which I have to say isn’t bad. Some of the problems of small engines are the power only comes at the top of the rev band which means you have to be revving that thing to the max to get anywhere. With the Veloster its a different story. Torque at the bottom end isn’t Audi R8 territory, but it will get off the line pretty quickly. The torque will be at its peak at the top and the engine note is very nice to hear.
The optional leather package was added to this vehicle so the interior quality will be higher than some of the other models. But if you do buck over and get this package, the seats are very comfortable. The soft touch materials are finally soft and nice to touch on the dashboard. Everything around the steering column is nicely placed but I can’t get over the fact of the plastic painted to look like aluminum. I know this is an economy built car but I don’t want it to shout about that. But materials overall are getting much better!
With these types of car we have one fault which outweighs all the rest. Front Wheel Drive. If you are a gear head, you hate the fact of front wheel drive cars, we want hairy chested Rear Wheel Drive and when the going gets tough, All Wheel Drive. But weirdly, the Veloster actually has one of the most live steering wheels around, it is an electric set up so you don’t get the vibration feedback from the road surface but it feels tight and the throws are very evenly weighted. The Veloster gives you the confidence of let’s go a little faster next time which feels great.
Sport suspensions are great for tracks but when you go on a road, you want to walk home. If you have ever driven an AMG Merc, you know what I’m on about. The good news is that Hyundai has not put sporty suspension in the Veloster. Now this is where you expect the bad news is it cannot take corners because it might roll over. Actually, since the curb weight is modest compared to the competition and the engine sits reasonably low, through the corners there was no roll. It cornered as flat as a Nissan 370Z which costs at least $13k more than this car. I’m very impressed that you can push this car until the wheels scream for help but you are still in the perfect line. Even if you lift off the gas, you will actually adjust your line, the car will pivot around and make that corner every time.
Overall the Hyundai Veloster does a lot of things right. But you always get that feeling that Hyundai didn’t use the book to make this car. They gave it a soul and one great looking design. The car looks fantastic. It rides very well, the materials inside are getting better than before, and most importantly, its fun driving this thing. A Golf GTI would be faster and yes for only a few more grand you can get a Scion FR-S or if you want to stay in house with Hyundai, the Genesis Coupe 2.0T is also in price range. But if the style wins you over, that’s that.