2012 Hyundai Veloster Hatchback - FROM $17,300
With plenty of features, laudable fuel economy and sharp looks, the 2012 Hyundai Veloster is a top pick for a fun-to-drive hatchback.
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Hyundai Veloster is an all-new model.
An old adage says, "Fortune favors the bold." We wouldn't be too surprised if we saw that quote hanging above the designers who developed the 2012 Hyundai Veloster. The new Veloster is a brave interpretation of the modern hatchback, with sleek lines, aggressive details and an asymmetrical three-door layout. Yes, there are three real doors here, not two doors and a hatch or rear-hinged mini door. Hyundai achieved this by using a longer coupe-like door on the driver side and two smaller sedan-like doors on the passenger side. The idea here is that you get sporty coupe styling without sacrificing convenience.
Built on a heavily revised Elantra platform, the front-wheel-drive Veloster is powered by a new 1.6-liter direct-injected inline-4 good for 138 horsepower. Buyers have the choice of a six-speed manual transmission or a new six-speed automated dual-clutch transmission with shift paddles. That's decent power for a little car, but with an emphasis on fuel economy (you're looking at a 32 mpg combined estimate here), don't be surprised if this hatchback's acceleration doesn't quite live up to what the exterior styling promises. For those with a penchant for livelier performance, a 208-hp turbocharged four-cylinder Veloster is expected next year.
As hatchbacks go, the 2012 Veloster delivers a decent amount of driving entertainment on twisting roads. The ride is mercifully compliant and the interior provides a fair amount of comfort. There's also a surprising number of standard features that are either options on other cars in this class or not available at all. A 7-inch touchscreen on the dash, a wide array of advanced BlueLink telematics and built-in Pandora Internet radio connectivity are just a few examples.
As the hip newcomer to the hatchback segment, the 2012 Hyundai Veloster presents some nice advantages. Compared to Honda's hybrid CR-Z, the Veloster is considerably more practical and gets nearly as good fuel economy. It's also more stylish than the Scion tC or more traditional hatchbacks like the Mazda 3. For a more premium experience, the Mini Cooper or Volkswagen Beetle are both better choices, but the Veloster counters with more standard features while coming in at a much lower price.
It can be said that you can't get ahead without sticking your neck out. With its 2012 Veloster, Hyundai has proved that.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Hyundai Veloster is a four-passenger, three-door hatchback that is offered in one very well-appointed trim level. Standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, LED accent lights, heated sideview mirrors, a rear spoiler, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, full power accessories, a cargo cover, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat, split-folding rear seats, Bluetooth and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and USB/iPod connectivity.
Also standard is a 7-inch touchscreen that comes with Pandora (via your iPhone) connectivity, two fuel economy coaching games and photo/video playback capability. Hyundai's BlueLink telematics system is also included.
Options are split into two packages. The Style package adds 18-inch wheels, a chrome grille surround with black highlights, foglights, a panoramic sunroof, a premium eight-speaker sound system, leatherette upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The Tech package can be added to the Style package and gets you automatic headlights, rear parking sensors, a navigation system, a rearview camera, keyless ignition/entry and a 115-volt outlet in the center armrest bin. Hyundai also offers optional side graphic stickers.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Hyundai Veloster is powered by a 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine that produces 138 hp and 123 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and an automated dual-clutch manual transmission (DCT) is available as an option. The DCT also includes steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles.
In Edmunds testing of a DCT-equipped model, the Veloster required 10.2 seconds to accelerate from a standstill to 60 mph. That's pretty slow by economy car standards, let alone for a sporty hatchback. Estimated EPA fuel economy is 28 mpg city/40 mpg highway and 32 mpg in combined driving for the manual transmission; with the DCT, it is rated at 29/38/32 mpg. Both sets of numbers are impressive, though in extensive Edmunds testing we've found the Veloster struggles to meet its highway estimate in the real world.
Standard safety features on the 2012 Hyundai Veloster include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Hyundai's BlueLink (which is similar to GM's OnStar service) also provides SOS assistance and crash notification.
In Edmunds brake testing, the Veloster came to a stop from 60 mph in a class-average 121 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
Clearly, the most prominent feature of the 2012 Hyundai Veloster is its three-door layout. The larger, coupe-like driver door permits easy ingress and egress and the two smaller passenger-side doors provide added convenience for loading people or parcels. The front seats offer plenty of lateral support to hold you in while cornering, and ample cushioning for long-distance comfort. The overall interior design exudes a youthful and modern look without being kitschy or gimmicky. There is an abundance of hard plastic, but it's well-textured for a more favorable appearance.
In back, the Veloster isn't as roomy as other traditional hatchbacks, as the rear seat cushions are mounted quite low and headroom is limited by the sloping rear roof line. The glass hatch will also have those passengers' heads exposed to the sun, but at least there is ample legroom. These seats fold down to provide greater cargo capacity, but it may not be all that necessary, as the deep 15.5-cubic-foot trunk should suffice for most hauls. The rear hatch glass and roof edge, however, do obscure and distort the view rearward.
The Veloster is notable for its standard electronics and entertainment features. Hyundai's new BlueLink telematics system comes with the typical safety features, plus outbound text messaging and turn-by-turn navigation. Other extras include location sharing (via Facebook), a geo-fence system that alerts you when the car travels outside of a defined area (for keeping tabs on younger drivers) and valet alert functions. It's an impressive collection of features, though, like OnStar, it's fee-based. And in our initial tests, the voice recognition system had a difficult time interpreting many of our commands.
The 2012 Hyundai Veloster's extroverted styling overstates things a little; this is still an economically minded hatchback. That said, the Veloster delivers a surprising amount of fun behind the wheel. The small four-cylinder engine won't blow you away in terms of acceleration, but the handling is both balanced and predictable. Most buyers will probably be OK with the Veloster's firm ride quality, but one should be aware that bumps and ruts in the road can generate unexpectedly harsh impacts.
In everyday driving, the cabin is fairly quiet in terms of wind and engine noise, but road noise is noticeable. The DCT transmission is also praiseworthy, with quick, smooth shifts in automatic or manual modes and responsive shift paddles. In nearly every way, the Veloster delivers a great deal more than its modest price suggests.