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Hyundai Veloster review (2012 onwards)
What: Hyundai Veloster 1.6 DCT
Where: High Wycombe, UK
Date: January 2012
Price: From £17,995 (test 1.6 DCT: £19,245)
Key rivals: Volkswagen Scirocco, Vauxhall Astra GTC, Renault Mégane Coupé
Summary: Hyundai's new trendsetter will give the brand image a real lift. It makes a strong economic case too: it's just a pity the drive is more so-so.
Gallery: Hyundai Veloster
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We like: styling, interior, clever door, equipment, value, practicality
We don't like: weak engine, handling lacks depth of appeal, stiff ride
Meet Hyundai's four-door coupé. No, it's not a new take on the Mercedes CLS theme, but a practical hatchback coupé with three passenger doors: two on the passenger side, one on the driver's side ("one car with two sides", says Hyundai, if you're wondering why).
Note this location of the extra door: Hyundai's done the 'two plus one' door concept properly for right-hand drive markets. MINI didn't bother and forces those in the back of the Clubman to step out onto the road in Britain. Not ideal.
Few will notice this neat example of Hyundai's no-expense-spared engineering detail at first though, because the Veloster is such a striking car to look at. Short, stubby and with a bug-like back, it's a beefy little car with proper attitude. Far from forgettable, it's a real brand-builder for Hyundai.
It even comes in a striking range of vivid colours - yellow, orange, white and green - alongside more sober hues such as black and grey. That not enough? You can choose a red leather interior. Even that not enough? Hyundai dealers will sell some standout body graphic 'tattoos' too.
You can even get the centres of the optional 18-inch alloy wheels painted in body colour - yes, green stripes, if you so wish, within a huge alloy wheel. See what Hyundai's doing here? Creating a striking range-topper to give its entire brand a standout halo car. We like it.
Two trims are available, standard and Sport, with just a single 138hp 1.6-litre petrol engine coming with either manual or DCT dual-clutch transmissions (the latter is Hyundai's first). Prices start at under £18,000: the cheapest VW Scirocco is over £19,500. But is there more to the Veloster than just price, looks and a trick side door?
The 1.6-litre petrol engine has a racy on-paper spec. It is high-compression, direct-injection and produces its 138hp at a revvy 6,300rpm. Tellingly though, its meagre peak torque of 123lb ft doesn't arrive until 4,850rpm. You really do have to rev it, then.
Without the boost of a turbo, only keeping revs high will produce the sporty performance suggested by the looks. Even then, 138hp doesn't go as far as you'd think, with 0-60mph in the DCT manual taking over 10 seconds. Roll on the Veloster Turbo, due later this year.
At least revving it makes it sound a little more sporty: it's too whiny and weedy-sounding at lower revs, although it is also quiet with it (the engine is subdued on the motorway). The noise is more purposeful with harder use, even if it does also become loud raucous and gruff over 5,500rpm.
Working it like this is no hardship with the DCT model, though. Hyundai's first dual clutch transmission is a fine effort, with seamless shifting, intuitive changes up and down, plus fast-override steering wheel paddles as standard. Shame the paddles feel cheap and plasticky, but at least they're there.
Ride and handling
If the engine is a bit disappointing, the initial feel from behind the wheel makes up for it: at first, the Veloster feels much sportier than you'd expect. The steering is meaty at low speeds, the ride is firm and there's an impression of substance and solidity when you drive it that's at odds with the flyweight engine.
It doesn't quite follow through though. The weight of the steering disappears at speed, leaving it too light and ghostly at straight-ahead. Although it is grippy too, the Veloster's drive is safe and steady rather than sporty and sprightly.
It lacks the brilliant front end bite of the Vauxhall Astra GTC, the all-condition composure of the VW Scirocco and the surprisingly sporty delicacy of the Renault Mégane Coupé. The facade of sportiness is welcome but keen drivers will ultimately be left a bit cold.
The stiff ride may also be too much so for some: its purposefulness goes too far at times, particularly over potholes. There is too much tyre noise as well, particularly at higher speeds and over rough road surfaces.
The Veloster's cabin isn't quite as outlandish as its exterior, but that's not to say it's a disappointment. Hyundai has instead taken a more Germanic approach here, with deep integrity and a modern appearance. The Scirocco-style doorhandles and V-shaped centre console are smart but it's the feeling of substance that really impresses.
Build quality is great, the controls are clear and details such as the high-res central screen mean it is user-friendly too. Equipment levels are excellent as well (this is one of the car's key selling points): that touchscreen is standard, as are reversing sensors, climate control, even Bluetooth.
And the rear door? Well, not only is it on the correct side, it's also easy to step in and out of. It exposes a rear bench that's reasonably comfy and surprisingly spacious for two as well: the only flaw is restricted headroom. Adults will either crank their neck or sit with their head resting against the tailgate glass (the boot itself is an accommodating 440 litres).
The driver's seat is a bit high but this gives a good view forward, while visibility is better than you'd expect given the swooping lines. Side windows are large and the split-glass rear drops down deep, for easy reversing, although the central strut does block out distant traffic on the motorway.
Economy and safety
Direct fuel injection helps the engine return OK fuel economy of 43.5mpg. The DCT averages 44.1mpg but best of all is the Blue Drive variant. Courtesy of standard engine stop-start, this returns a decent 47.9mpg, plus sub-140g/km CO2 emissions.
Hyundai fits ESC and a brace of airbags to the Veloster but its biggest safety boost is the correct application of that rear side door. It deposits children onto the pavement rather than the road...
The MSN Cars verdict
The Hyundai Veloster looks superb, particularly in Hyundai's more vivid hues. It is affordable, well equipped, extremely well built and easy to drive. As a no-compromise style-setter, it's appeal is clear.
The execution can't match the styling, though. Those expecting something as well-rounded as a VW Scirocco or as fun as a Vauxhall Astra GTC will be disappointed. It's a coupé in looks rather than drive. But, when it looks this appealing, is that such a bad thing?
Gallery: Hyundai Veloster
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|Need to know|
|Engines, petrol||1.6 GDi|
|Torque, lb ft||123@4,850rpm|
|0-62 mph, secs||9.7-10.3|
|Top speed, mph||124-125|
|CO2, tax||137 (17%)-148 (19%)|
|Ratings||Hyundai Veloster 1.6 GDi DCT|
|Ride & handling||***|
|MSN Cars verdict||***|
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