Rarely does the topic of giving come to the forefront of our minds. We are takers, not just as a society but as individual human beings. To a large extent, this is forgivable. We do, after all, require certain elements in order to survive. Around the Christmas season, however, giving becomes a more frequently discussed subject. This holiday season, there’s a new giver in town, and the generosity emanating from this soulless giver is tangible yet strangely lacking in physicality.
These are the sorts of subjects not normally present in a review of the 2012 Hyundai Veloster, or any other car for that matter. The Veloster’s generous ways made me thankful throughout its late night photography session, a session which took place outside an absolutely empty shopping mall, only hours after it was jam packed with holiday shoppers. But taking from the Veloster was a lot like receiving gifts from a secret Santa: there was no signature, no communication. Just a giver and a taker.
Though this sounds like the 2012 Veloster leaves a hollow experience in its wake, there’s no denying the impact it’s had in Hyundai showrooms, and if anything is being left in the Veloster’s wake, it’s Honda’s CR-Z, perhaps even Scion’s tC.
GoodCarBadCar’s full review of the tech package-equipped, DCT-fitted 2012 Hyundai Veloster can be read after the jump. For the full Christmas Eve effect, the Veloster was photographed only at night. Outside a barren mall, beside an empty school, beside the airport runway, on traffic-less roads, in freezing conditions. When Hyundai Canada’s silver Veloster visited GoodCarBadCar, it wasn’t yet Christmas, but gloves were worn, winter coats were on, and toques were pulled down over ears. Some of the resulting images can be viewed (and enlarged with a click) in this post, but scroll down and you’ll also find a complete Gallery of GoodCarBadcar photography.
Enter the Veloster without removing the proximity key from your jacket pocket, depress the circular start button directly in front of the shifter, and, if the stereo and HVAC systems are off, you’ll hear the whisper of a smooth 1.6L four-cylinder. This direct-injection 138-horsepower four is a bit buzzy at first, but a few minutes of warmth puts the buzzing to rest. Anybody other than Speed Kills proponents will say the Veloster is surprisingly sleepy from rest. It’s not that the engine is unwilling to rev – things move along quite nicely above 4000 rpm – and it’s not that the engine isn’t utterly smooth when revving. Moreover, those who are surprised at the Veloster’s lack of gumption are surprised because of its design, not the spec sheet. Each of this loaded Veloster’s horses must carry 20.4 pounds.
In a basic Hyundai Accent sedan, each of the 1.6L’s horses is tasked with toting around only 17.4 pounds. Is the Veloster quick? Not at all. Hyundai never said it was. Besides, there’s a turbocharged Veloster coming next year. The Veloster merges onto a highway without difficulty and feels significantly more responsive in fourth gear at 80 km/h than it does in first at 5 km/h. In exchange for failing to provide you with Accent-like accelerative pace, the heavier Veloster gives 38 miles per gallon on the highway and 29 mpg in the city, according to the EPA. The highway figure improves by two mpg if you opt for the manual transmission, but doing so will drop the city rating down to 28 mpg. Canadian readers will note that this works out to an average of 7.4 L/100 km.
The manual transmission wasn’t something GoodCarBadCar sampled. Fortunately, the automatic is technologically interesting. Dual-clutch gearboxes like the one in the 2012 Veloster are increasingly common. The Veloster’s is clearly less aggressive than the dual-clutch transmission in say, the Ferrari 458 Italia, but as a $1400 (CDN) option, it’s only $200 more than the conventional 6-speed automatic in the Accent. The slippery shift from first to second was consistently frustrating until I took control with the flappy paddles. Once on the move the DCT was effective, particularly pleasant when downshifting, and never harsh in the least. If you like to row your own, stick with the manual. For those who require automatic transmissions, this DCT will add to the experience. Just don’t assume it will give or lend extra pace.
A blessed absence of body roll does not automatically make a vehicle a good-handling vehicle. Nor does it automatically make a vehicle fun to drive. It simply means corners can be taken aggressively in seats with softer bolstering.
You won’t be left wanting for increased bolstering in the Veloster’s front seats, however. And not to confuse the matter, but the Veloster really does know how to make use of a contractor’s level when cornering. That puts an end to the positives, as it is during this process of driving the Veloster hard through the twisties that all interaction ceases. The steering wheel’s vast dead spot on the straight-ahead, its strange desire to avoid self-centering, the sticky sensation one only finds in a Hyundai steering rack, and the Veloster’s inability to transfer messages from the wheels to the helm leave the driver with little confidence. The stiff chassis leads one to believe the entry speed is safe, but the wheel angle is unknown and probably in need of correction. What kind of correction? The steering isn’t talking, so who knows?
This is the Veloster’s one key fault, one of its only faults, in fact. The problem isn’t misspelled telegrams coming back through the rack, it’s that the lines of communication are broken. Here the Veloster is one of us, a taker; not a giver. You will give effort and intelligence. In return, the Veloster fails by offering no real-time reconnaissance.
Every passenger I had in the Veloster was impressed by the overall feeling of space. Because Hyundai placed an emphasis on cabin comfort over cargo capacity, every one of the four inhabitants can get comfortable, that is if the rear seat passengers aren’t long above the hips. Headroom is at a premium; even for some front seat riders in this sunroof-equipped Veloster. The third door makes entry into the back easier, though not outright easy, and once situated there were no complaints.
Meanwhile, up front, the driver and passenger are treated to an array of features rarely seen at this price point. Bluetooth, heated seats, air conditioning, proximity key, backup camera, cruise, steering wheel controls, and a seven-inch touch screen are all standard on the basic Veloster. Upping the ante with the $3500 (CDN) tech package brings about a panoramic sunroof, leather wrapped wheel and shifter, partially leathered seats, bigger alloys, a thumping eight speaker stereo, and navigation. You can play Hyundai’s BlueMax efficiency game through the touch screen.
Out back there’s access to 15.5 cubic feet of load lugging capacity, shaped squarely with a nice perch for photographers under the opened hatch. A quick fold of the rear seats prepares the Veloster for moving day. The liftgate is high but lightweight.
Polarizing designs aren’t always acquainted with success. A vehicle which splits opinion can, however, inspire as much love on one side as it does hatred on another. The Veloster will invariably be derided by some, but those who approve of the unique design could be more than just satisfied – they may be excited. Excited enough to buy one. The Hyundai Veloster doesn’t appear Plain Jane from any angle, but it’s blunt front is probably its least distinctive.
The Veloster looks like nothing else when viewed from the back, its glassy roof running away to meet the windshield. The scalloped doors nicely break up what would otherwise be slab sides. Looking at a Veloster from a back corner gives the Hyundai hatch an opportunity to shine. From there it looks more mature while still unique. Regardless of the angle, this Hyundai always has a sense of the exotic about it. That’s not to say onlookers would think it costs $200,000, but they surely won’t guess $20,000, either.
Inside, the Veloster features Hyundai’s small car design theme, doing so with more success than the Accent or the Elantra. Some cheap materials are used, but not in the places you most often touch. The steering wheel is of proper girth, the paddles don’t feel as though they’ll snap off, and buttons and switches and blinker stalks mostly feel like they were inherited from a more expensive vehicle.
Conventional thinking says the 2012 Hyundai Veloster is in prime position to take on the Honda CR-Z and Scion tC. That’s true. The CR-Z is more expensive and not much more efficient, the tC has been around a while and doesn’t bring a whole lot of excitement to the table. Comparing the Veloster to the Volkswagen GTI flatters Hyundai but ignores the fact that the Golf-based performance Volkswagen is a true performance machine. On pricing grounds, it’s also out of the Veloster’s league.
On content terms, the Veloster’s cousin from Kia, the 2012 Rio, is something of a threat with its upper trim levels. Obviously not intending to be half as sporty as the Veloster, the Rio tries to be handsome and succeeds. Excluding similarly sized, well-equipped subcompacts from the equation gives the Veloster a sort of cheap iPhone feel.
Imagine if Apple introduced a new iPhone but priced it below the vast majority of possible competitors. Sure, competitors may have a more powerful camera. Some may scroll more smoothly, offer a greater capacity for music storage, even compute more quickly. But if you could have all the iPhone offers for less than the price of a typical Android device, the stage would be set for (even greater) Apple domination.
The 2012 Hyundai Veloster is a flashy high-tech device. There are a couple things it doesn’t do quite as well as we’d like. Averaging just 25 miles per gallon (9.4 L/100km) wasn’t acceptable, for example, but that could relate to the engine’s youthful tightness, a fact which could’ve contributed to its slow-witted takeoff, as well. The steering is GM circa 1997, only twice as light, a not inconvenient trait to possess in parking lots, I suppose. If the third door is so great – and it is – why isn’t there a fourth?
The Veloster is fun in spite of a couple glaring faults. Fun because of features, fun because it looks like nothing else, fun because every street light in the neighbourhood lights up the interior through all that glass while the stereo rattles teeth. Fun and moderately practical and rather efficient and super stylish… while costing less? That’s not the Apple business model.
What the Veloster lacks in on-road dynamic character it makes up for with outrageous styling. For most car buyers, acquiring a Hyundai Veloster will require a measure of rational thinking, not just a burning desire for a characterful car. Within that frame of reference, Hyundai is prepared to give you yet another value-oriented small car with an excellent warranty and generally low interest rates. In exchange for approximately $20,000.
The fact that you must pay for a Veloster suggests it isn’t a gift, nor is it a gift giver. One can safely assume that Hyundai could charge hundreds more, at the very least, for the privilege of owning a Veloster. Thus, you’re receiving the gift of a built-in discount.
The Veloster’s lack of outright pace and its un-Lotus-like steering fall victim to an expectations game. Judge the value of the Veloster’s aggressive stance separate from its dynamic repertoire and the Veloster will, more likely than not, exceed expectations. Unlike the uncovered Christmas Veloster poetry below which will undoubtedly have Jim Reeves rolling over in his grave.
Hyundai Canada provided GoodCarBadCar with nine days in an Ironman Silver 2012 Veloster
Jolly old Saint Nicholas, lean your ear this way,
Feel free to tell some other souls, what I’m going to say;
Christmas Eve is coming soon; now, you dear old man,
Whisper which Hyundai I’ll get, please let it be fast.
When the clock is striking twelve, when I’m wrapping gifts,
In the driveway broad and black, with my car you’ll creep;
Take that old Corolla, please, crush it with your sleigh,
Leave a Hyundai parked right there, or a Porsche is fine.
Johnny wants a PS3, Susie needs Wii Fit,
Range Rover makes a nice Evoque, But I just want three doors,
Mommy says, “It is true, your brain is not so bright,”
But Santa Claus, you must agree, V’losters are alright.
That’s eight speakers, navi too, plus a backup cam,
A big sunroof, sharp design, leather and nice wheels,
The 1.6 won’t make beelines, not for you or me,
I won’t care how fast it is, there are three real doors!