2012 Hyundai Veloster: First Drive Page 3

September 18, 2011

Sticker price is of course the other all-important barrier. The Veloster starts at $18,060 with the six-speed manual, or $19,310 ($1,250 more) with the six-speed DCT gearbox—both including the $760 destination fee.

Again eyeing the Veloster's always-connected, no-compromises target buyer, there's really not a thing missing. A seven-inch touch-screen display is—gasp—standard, as are Pandora internet radio capability, Gracenote display technology (song, album, artist), RCA inputs for video-game console connectivity. A Bluetooth hands-free interface—rapidly becoming expected, even in this class—is standard, too, and voice-recognition controls apply to both Bluetooth and Gracenote media playback—via an attached iPod, for instance.

Also included is the Blue Link telematics platform. Much like GM's OnStar, BlueLink. BlueLink includes a suite of safety services like Automatic Crash Notification (ACN) and Assistance, SOS Emergency Assistance, and Enhanced Roadside Assistance; but at a higher subscription level it also includes turn-by-turn directions capability.

The Pandora streaming connectivity, while cool, doesn't quite allow all the control users might want. It displays song information for the stream you order up on your iPhone prior to acknowledging the accessory connection, and you can thumbs-up or thumbs-down songs as they play, or switch between your list of previously-listened-to stations; however, there's no way to create a new Pandora station once connected. For example, deciding you want to listen to an Arcade Fire station--if you haven't ever listened to one--instead of your Hold Steady station requires disconnecting Bluetooth, creating it on the iPhone screen, then reconnecting the hands-free mode.

The high-end audio system comes with integrated XM Data services, including XM NavWeather and XM Stock Ticker. And with the optional navigation system, the Veloster offers a rearview camera system and backup warning sensors.

Buying and ordering a Veloster is going to be very simple, with a limited number of builds. Just two option packages, Style and Tech, will be offered. With Style, you get larger 18-inch alloys, the panoramic sunroof, leatherette seats, leather trim, alloy pedals, an upgraded Dimension audio system, and fog lamps; and the Tech Package adds backup sensors, painted wheel inserts, a nav system, push-button start, and a 115-volt outlet. Oddly, an auto up/down driver's side window is only included if you order the whole Style package.

It's hard to funnel impressions down to a single verdict, but at first drive (and a first thorough look up close) the 2012 Veloster already feels way more adventurous than anything Toyota has produced in recent years (under the Toyota badge, for sure), but it lacks the edgy, direct feeling to steering and other inputs that characterized some of the best Hondas like the Civic Si of a decade or more ago.

Turbo soon in the mix?

With a little more power, firmer suspension tuning, and some steering improvements, this setup could be something even greater. Stay tuned though; that's already in the works, in the not-quite-yet-official 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo.

With the fresh design of the 2012 Veloster, Hyundai truly found a way to update an idea like the Celica, NX2000, or Prelude for the times—and we have a hunch it'll appeal to a lot more people.

Not just hipsters.

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