Driving the Hyundai Veloster 2.0 Premium Is Better Than We Thought

A solid daily driver with just enough pep to make it fun.

Billy Rehbockwriter, photographer The Manufacturerphotographer

Last year, I had the opportunity to attend the launch of the second-generation, 2019 Hyundai Veloster, where I proceeded to rip around Austin, Texas, and its environs in the feature-rich Turbo and performance-bargain R-Spec trims. Then, during our 2019 All-Stars competition, I was able to get some quality seat time in the top-dog Veloster N around the Streets of Willow racetrack. I loved it, and so did the rest of the staff—so much so that we named it a 2019 All-Star.

After having all that fun with the hot, hotter, and hottest versions of Hyundai's quirky hatch, I was prepared to be underwhelmed by the 2019 Veloster 2.0 Premium. As one of the Veloster lineup's more pedestrian models, its performance cachet isn't close to that of its brethren with forced induction. This particular Veloster's base engine is a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter inline-four, which produces 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. And rather than employing Hyundai's impressive dual-clutch transmission (standard in the Turbo trim), the Veloster 2.0 Premium's base gearbox is a six-speed torque-converter auto.

But once I got underway, all my preconceived notions were quickly thrown out the Veloster's third-door window. Given that the car weighs so little, tipping the scale at just 2,855 pounds, it doesn't seem slow, despite its fairly low power and torque outputs. I found the Veloster's steering to be direct, if a bit light, and while gearchanges from the slushbox aren't exactly snap-to-it crisp, it steps down in good time and accurately picks gears when asked. The Veloster 2.0's engine can be a bit buzzy at times, but for a vehicle that rings up at just $23,760, overall refinement is about what you'd expect given its price point.

On windier roads, I pushed the compact hatch ever harder, using the paddle shifters to keep the tachometer needle in the powerband in order to best make use of what pep the little Hyundai has. I was pleasantly surprised with the Veloster's roadholding abilities, despite it being equipped with all-season tires. There are a couple of shortcomings, primarily its brakes, which aren't quite at the same level as the more dynamic members of the Veloster lineup. They're quick to fade and don't offer the stopping-power necessary for truly spirited driving.

So while the Veloster 2.0 Premium is a mixed bag from a performance perspective, all Velosters share the same funky packaging, namely its unique, three-door hatchback setup. To test the practicality of the configuration, I asked a couple of volunteers who weren't familiar with the car to find their way into the back seat. They struggled to locate the rear passenger-side door handle, which is obscured amid the frame's black plastic trim. But once seated, the back bench proved large enough to accommodate them in comfort. It was fun to point out to my passengers that the Veloster's interior design was different on both sides, to show them that the right and left sides of the car weren't symmetrical. Not having a fourth door also means the Veloster also benefits from having a coupe-style driver's door, with added length that makes ingress and egress super easy. This car is truly a unique proposition in terms of its packaging alone; it has the kind of #noboringcars appeal we're still fans of into its second generation.

The price to step up to the Veloster 2.0 Premium from the base Veloster 2.0 is $3,375. While that's a decent chunk of change, the Premium package offers some significant upgrades over the most basic version of the Veloster. Most additions at this level revolve around the interior amenities, although the attractive 18-inch wheels worn by our test car can only be had starting at this spec. On the tech front, Premium trim adds blind-spot collision warning with rear cross-traffic collision warning, a proximity key and pushbutton start, an 8.0-inch touch screen (over the standard 7.0-inch unit), an upgraded Infinity audio system, Hyundai's Blue Link system, wireless phone charging, and combination leather and cloth seats.

Although it does offer its share of goodies, it also bumps against the Veloster R-Spec, which is only $150 more, and offers most of the 2.0 Premium's equipment in addition to a slew of performance upgrades. But the R-Spec is clearly intended for an enthusiast buyer, while the Premium package is designed to appeal to a wider population looking for some fun in a slightly more laid-back commuter car.

All in all, we're betting buyers won't feel like they're settling for less in the Veloster 2.0 Premium. It's equipped well enough to exceed the demands of what most will need in their day to day and priced in such a way that buyers will feel as though they're getting a good deal. Plus, they'll be fighting the good fight against boring cars.

2019 Hyundai Veloster 2.0 Premium Specifications

ON SALE Now
PRICE $23,635/$23,760 (base/as-tested)
ENGINE 2.0L DOHC 16-valve I-4; 147 hp @ 6,200 rpm, 132 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD hatchback
EPA MILEAGE 27/34 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 166.9 x 70.9 x 55.1 in
WHEELBASE 104.3 in
WEIGHT 2,855 lb
0-60 MPH 8.6 sec
TOP SPEED 130 mph (est)
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