No, the Hyundai Veloster at the 2011 Detroit auto show is not the second coming of the Saturn SC. Think of it more as a svelte Mini Cooper Clubman, and the intent of the all-new 2012 Veloster becomes clearer. It uses Hyundai's Fluidic Sculpture design language that we've seen in the new Sonata sedan and is further inspired by runners and sport bikes, with its determined stance that makes it look like it's ready to pounce. The best execution yet of Hyundai's trademark trapezoidal grille helps bestow attitude to the sporty Hyundai. We especially like the black inner grille and optional chrome surround, complemented by hood scoops and LED lighting within the bulging, wraparound headlamps. The headlights extend back over the front wheel arches and flow gracefully into a swooping character line that ends where the C-pillar meets the roof panel. On the passenger side, this character line hides the handle for the coupe's third door.
Third door? Aren't coupes supposed to have only two doors, and hatchbacks three or five? And yet the Veloster has four. Yep, four. Almost unnoticeable on the passenger side, except for the cut line, is a rear door. Unlike past pseudo-coupes with rear-hinged extra doors, the Veloster has a conventionally opening door back there, so it can be opened independently of the front door. Even with the third door, the Veloster still looks like a fastback. In fact, its long hood and sloping hatchback almost make us think of a Jaguar XKE sitting back on its haunches ready to speed off.
The Veloster is no E-type, even though, like the Jag, it has centered exhaust tips. They're chrome and attached to a new engine and transmission developed in-house by Hyundai. Combining the efficiencies of a direct-injection four-cylinder and dual continuously variable valve timing (D-CVVT), the new 1.6-liter Gamma yields an impressive hybrid-like estimated 40 mpg and a ULEV (ultra-low-emissions vehicle) rating for the Veloster. At first glance, the Gamma's estimated 138 hp at 6300 rpm and maximum torque of 123 lb-ft at 4850 rpm might not seem that impressive, but then again the Veloster is a bantamweight 2584 lb.
The new six-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT), also developed in-house, ought to make the most of the Gamma's modest output, also. A six-speed manual also will be available, but Velosters equipped with the DCT get an Active Eco mode that modifies engine and transmission controls for a seven percent increase in estimated fuel economy. Active Eco, working in tandem with Eco Coach, is controlled by the standard seven-inch touch-screen display on the center stack. Eco Coach rates the driver's fuel efficiency and provides an Eco Score for the driver through the Hyundai owner site, www.myhyundai.com.