Every time I get into a Veloster, I'm amazed by the value. I realize the car has faults, a rather unrefined powertrain chief among them, but good golly, you get into the thing and immediately take in the snazzy cabin, illuminated from all sides by a big, two-section moonroof; a big, double-paned hatch window; and a big, broad windshield. You shift into reverse and a rearview camera image pops up onto the screen and you think, how much does this car cost, anyway? So you fish the Monroney window sticker out of the glove box and see it's only $22,550 and it has this wonderful greenhouse, a rearview camera, a superb navigation system, an automatic transmission, and a climate control system with controls that are not only attractively displayed but also 100 percent intuitive to use. And if you're like me, and you just spent eleven days in our Four Seasons Mini Cooper Countryman, which costs about $35K, you think, jeez, Mini could learn a LOT from Hyundai about secondary control interfaces. A lot.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
I love the Hyundai Veloster. This quirky little car is the most interesting vehicle ever to come from a Korean automaker. It's not perfect, but I can't think of another car I'd rather drive in this price range.
The styling of the Veloster is pretty interesting. I wonder if the three-door arrangement will put buyers off. I don't mind having an asymmetrical number of doors, but I do wish Hyundai had put the extra door on the driver's side and let the passenger side only have one door. Maybe it's just me, but I frequently put items behind the driver's seat and having the extra door on my side of the car would be more logical. Everything inside the Veloster is well thought out and the controls are incredibly intuitive, which is what I've come to expect from Hyundai. The central touch-screen display works very well, even if it sometimes takes too long to boot up.
The Veloster would be even more fun to drive if it had a better suspension. Our tester's 18-inch wheels crashed over pavement imperfections -- which in a Hyundai product is every bit as predictable as the logical infotainment system. The Koreans still haven't figured out how to do a sporty ride with proper damping, so their sporty cars are overly harsh. I've driven a Veloster on a track and the chassis does reasonably well there, but it needs a bit more refinement for daily driving. Aside from the impact harshness, it's reasonably fun to drive.
I was surprised Hyundai did a better job than Ford at bringing a dual-clutch transmission to the masses in an affordable car. Ford's DSG has not fared well with Fiesta and Focus owners because shifts are sluggish at times and it can be difficult to drive the cars smoothly. Hyundai's DSG isn't as good as Volkswagen's (which is the best among non-luxury brands), but it feels very similar to a traditional automatic most of the time. I'll take my Veloster with a six-speed manual, though.
Most critics think the Veloster needs more power -- although I disagree -- and Hyundai has answered that criticism by announcing a 201-hp turbo version. The extra 63 hp will certainly help the Veloster hustle away from lights or down an on ramp, and it will back up the distinctive looks with a more spirited driving experience. But I'm afraid adding more power to this car will only exacerbate the flawed suspension tuning. We'll have to wait until we drive one to see.
The Veloster is good looking, has a great interior for its price, and offers a pretty good DSG transmission. Even with the rough suspension, I can't think of a more entertaining small car for this sort of money.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
If all of those marketing experts are right and there really is an entire generation that would rather flick ticked-off birds at complacent swine on their iPhone than drive, Hyundai may have built the perfect car for them with the Veloster. This offbeat compact delivers superb smart-phone integration, look-at-me styling, wallet-friendly fuel economy, and a value-positioned price tag. The Veloster is well built and drives nicely, but for the discerning driver, it's a bit of a letdown in that it's not as athletic as you expect it to be. As good as the technology and value are, the Veloster is also marked by mediocre chassis tuning, a reluctant engine, and the unconfident transmission.
I've been in an automatic-transmission Veloster before, but this time around I held onto the keys for five days as I schlepped back and forth between my house, our Ann Arbor office, and Detroit's Cobo Hall during the week of the Detroit auto show. The more time I spent behind the wheel the more I resented the automatic. Shifts are so sluggish that Hyundai's first foray into dual-clutch transmission technology actually feels like a step backwards. Applying full throttle from about 45 mph -- like when merging onto a highway -- the engine performs a laughably slow rev-match to get into second gear. In fact, I can't think of another car where I've ever considered the paddle shifters so important. Telling the gearbox when to shift allows you to get a jumpstart on the downshift so that the car is ready to go when you are. Unfortunately, that's not a very good solution for the motoring masses. If you can hardly interest the kids in driving, how are they going to figure out what to do with the paddles behind the steering wheel?
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
There's something appealing about a $20,000 car with character, which is something the Hyundai Veloster has in spades. It doesn't look like any other car on the road, and yet it also doesn't scream "look at me" in the manner of rather dorky (or charming, depending on your point of view) cars like the Nissan Cube. You get quite a lot of modern conveniences for your money with the Veloster, with Bluetooth, a touchscreen, and satellite radio. Still, the powertrain is something of a letdown. The Veloster's looks promise something that it doesn't yet deliver in terms of sportiness. I look forward to driving the turbo model sometime in the near future.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
Sure, the Veloster's powertrain and ultimate purpose may leave a few of us puzzled, but it helps to compare the Veloster to the rash of other near-sporty sport coupes on the market. The Honda CR-Z is interesting for its hybrid powertrain, but it's less powerful than the Veloster, only slightly more fuel efficient (according to the EPA), and costs $2200 more. The funky Scion tC may offer a similar mixture of character, content, and seating capacity -- along with 30 extra hp - but it runs buyers an extra $1000 and doesn't fare quite as well as the Hyundai at the pump. The Veloster might not win over those of us looking for a small sports car (although the upcoming turbocharged version might), but its practicality, personality, and pricing should make it at least somewhat endearing to young buyers. I know I'd consider one over an Elantra or a comparable B-segment hatchback.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor