2012 Hyundai Veloster
But for a number of reasons, we can't call the Veloster a favorite sporty car from a performance perspective. First off, Hyundai's electric power steering is better yet in the Veloster, but it still has a little too much artificial heft than we'd like, as well as odd, digital boost transitions at low speed; at high speed, the improvements are much appreciated, with a more secure, intuitive (although still somewhat muddled) feel. Turning diameter is better than any other small, sporty coupes, at 34.1 feet. 17-inch H-rated rubber is standard, while V-rated 18-inch performance tires are available—both on stylish alloys. Brake feel is excellent, though, with confident four-wheel discs, anti-lock and Brake Assist.
The other potential issue: The Veloster really needs a lashing to get moving quickly from a standing start—primarily because the engine sorely lacks low-rpm torque. And contributing to this lack of oomph off the line are relatively tall first and second gears with either transmission.
The engine—essentially the same unit under the hood of the 2012 Hyundai Accent—makes 138 hp and has dual continuously variable valve timing, for improved performance and fuel efficiency throughout the rev range. That said, it makes its peak torque of 123 pound-feet at 4,850 rpm, and the engine feels happiest way up in the 4,000-to-6,000-rpm range. It's surprisingly smooth and sounds good up there, and the feel of the car is totally different when you start to tap into the engine's full output. Keep the revs up and you can really catapult out of tight corners with confidence.
First with dual-clutch six-speed
The 2012 Veloster is the first vehicle anywhere in the world to get Hyundai's new EcoShift Dual Clutch automatic transmission—essentially two manual gearboxes, with shifts governed by separate clutches, solenoids, and sophisticated electronic controls. The new DCT pulls off shifts just as quick and responsively as the Ford unit in the Focus and Fiesta, only it's more composed at low speed. There's also an external damper for the clutch actuator, which further helps make the setup feel more refined. Hillstart Assist Control is also included, to keep the Veloster from rolling back before uphill starts. Manual Velosters have nice, progressive clutch takeup, though the shifter throws are still a little long and tight.
Although we really likes both gearboxes, you'll be working those revs with either to get the Veloster to respond quickly. The DCT doesn't seem to allow brake-torquing (we didn't get to really test those limits) so our best takeoff was using lots of clutch slip in a manual car and keeping the engine in that livelier zone. Even in first or second gear, goosing the gas from low revs results in almost nothing until you get past about the 2,700-rpm mark. It weighs a bit more than the Accent, and you feel the lack of torque more here.Hyundai started designing its vehicles for taller people a full vehicle cycle ago, it seems, and so, despite its sleek roofline, the Veloster's just fine for this 6'-6" editor. Seats are adjustable for height but not tilt, and with the lower cushion in the lowest position, we found a pretty good driving position and several inches of headroom above. It should be noted that the moonroof does swallow up an inch or two.
Roomy in front, more coupelike in back
As for the packaging—let's just say that, while that back door might be inviting, think of it mainly as auxiliary loading, and don't plan on trying to pack two adults (or even skinny teenagers) back there. It's better than the backseat in any 2+2, but I could barely wedge my legs in back with the front seat in an average-height position, and the headroom issue was insurmountable for pretty much anyone over 5'-9" or so, based on a number of people we saw climb in.
Yet from the front seats, the Veloster feels unexpectedly airy and spacious—thanks largely to the roof's tallest point, which is just at the top of a rather high windshield (and the car tapers back from there). In terms of EPA interior volume—which, in all fairness, we've not found to be a very good gauge of how roomy an interior actually feels or is—the Veloster is best in class. But in this case, the Veloster really does feel quite a bit roomier inside than the tC, and much more so than the CR-Z.
The cargo area requires a surprisingly high liftover, but it's deep and spacious, and the hatch glass doesn't become too much of a liability. Detach the cargo cover and flip the seatbacks down, and you have a pretty low, flat cargo area. It's not quite flat, though almost. Smaller storage spaces are provided throughout the interior. There's a large center-console compartment, split into two, and rather large door pockets that are separated by a divider.
All three of the Velosters we drove, over more than 200 miles in all, felt super-tight and rattle-free. There was surprisingly little road noise, although we did notice some wind noise around the top of the A-pillar as we pushed above the 80-mph mark.
Up to 40 mpg, and very affordable
Fuel economy is a very important purchase factor for younger shoppers; many simply won't consider a vehicle if its gas mileage ratings are below a particular threshold. For the 2012 Veloster, the EPA numbers ended up slightly higher with the manual gearbox, at 28/40, than with the DCT, at 29/38, though they both figure to a 32-mpg EPA Combined figure. We saw about 32 mpg overall in nearly 120 miles in a DCT car, then about 30 mpg in a manual car—in both cases including some very enthusiastic driving and steep hills.