The Hyundai Veloster is an all new car, a unique three-door coupe, and out of the box it's a contender as a sporty economy car. Its new 1.6-liter engine is super smooth, makes 138 horsepower, and has all the right high-tech stuff, such as Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI), and Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing (D-CVVT). With the manual transmission, it gets 28 city/40 highway/32 combined miles per gallon, as much as the Honda CR-Z hybrid (31/37). In a hard couple hundred miles, including two-lanes, freeway and city, we averaged about 29 mpg, with both the manual and dual-clutch automated manual transmission.
Much of the Hyundai Veloster was designed and developed in the U.S., most notably the rear suspension that gives Veloster an excellent all-around ride and makes it totally obedient. There are other good things to make the driving enjoyable. Steering is solid, secure, and gives great feedback; cornering is stable, the 6-speed manual gearbox is sweet; and the brakes are just right for a sporty car.
There's an available new 6-speed paddle-shifting DCT, or Dual Clutch Transmission, but we liked the manual transmission more. The DCT shifts aren't as sharp as Volkswagen's similar DSG; the Veloster's DCT feels more like an automatic transmission than a clutchless manual, and the paddles are poor.
The Veloster's styling gets a lot of looks on the highway, although we think Hyundai stylists went overboard with the scallops. However the farther back you stand to view the silhouette, the better it looks. The nose looks low, and from a three-quarter rear view, it looks tough on its haunches.
As a three-door coupe, it totally pulls off the two-door roofline. The third door is on the passenger side, hinged at the front like a real door; it's not the first three-door, but other cars have been awkwardly hinged at the rear. It's easy to climb in and out of the back seat, although there's only 31.7 inches of legroom back there. Total interior volume is best in the sporty compact class, beating the Scion tC and blowing the Mini Cooper out of the water.
The upholstery that comes with the Style Package is terrific. Interior details include nice console support at the right thigh, good feel with the three-spoke leather steering wheel, pleasing uncluttered gauges, and digital information that's easily accessed. There's a blind spot at the C-pillar over the driver's shoulder, and the horizontal structural support in the fastback glass liftgate restricts visibility, although Prius is worse and Honda CR-Z worst.
All Hyundai Velosters are three-door coupes, differing only by transmission and package. Veloster M/T ($17,300) uses a 6-speed manual gearbox. Veloster DCT ($18,550) uses the automated dual-clutch transmission.
Standard equipment includes air conditioning with cabin filter, 196-watt AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio system with iPod and USB jacks, Bluetooth, 7-inch touch screen, power everything, remote keyless entry, 60/40 rear seat, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The Style package ($2000) includes 18-inch alloy wheels, chrome grille trim, foglights, panoramic sunroof, premium 8-speaker audio system, leatherette seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and alloy pedals. The Tech package ($2000) adds navigation with rearview camera, rear backup beepers, different 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlamps, push-button start, and 115V outlet.
Safety equipment on all models includes six airbags (frontal, front side impact, curtains), stability control with traction control, ABS, tire pressure monitor.