The 2019 Hyundai Veloster is no sporty-hatch carbon copy. Unlike any compact car on the road, the asymmetrical Veloster boasts two doors on the passenger side, but only the front door on the driver’s side.
Introduced as a 2012 model, the Veloster skipped the 2018 model year. The returned version is nearly identical in form, but slightly bigger. The 2.0-liter base engine is more powerful this time around, gaining 15 horsepower. LED headlights and taillights have been added. Hyundai also has launched a new Veloster N edition, with higher power and a manual gearbox.
In addition to the new N model, Velosters come in five trim levels: 2.0 (base model), 2.0 Premium, turbocharged R-Spec, Turbo, and Turbo Ultimate.
Hyundai has largely carried over the Veloster’s two standard powertrains, but added power to one of them. The base 2.0-liter 4-cylinder is now rated at 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque, versus 132 hp and 120 pound-feet in the 2017 model.
The 1.6-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine is a total carryover, again issuing 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. Those figures match every other Hyundai vehicle that offers the turbo-4 engine.
Both engines mate with a standard 6-speed manual gearbox. A 6-speed automatic transmission is optional for the base engine, but the turbo-4 is offered with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Drive modes toggle between Normal, to Sport, and Smart on automatic-transmission versions, but only Normal and Sport on manual-shift models. These modes alter steering heft, throttle progression, and shift timing.
In the new Veloster N, the 2.0-liter turbo-4 develops 275 horsepower and 260 pound-feet, paired only with a 6-speed manual transmission. An electronically-controlled suspension is installed, with multiple track-tuned driving modes.
Neither of the two rating agencies has crash-tested the current Veloster yet. Every 2019 Veloster gets forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, plus active lane control.
Upper models are equipped with blind-spot monitors, but the base model relies on blind-spot mirrors. Adaptive cruise control and pedestrian detection are in the Ultimate Turbo.
Prices do not include $920 destination charge.
2.0 Base ($18,500 with manual, $19,500 with 6-speed automatic) includes the 2.0-liter engine, cruise control, Bluetooth, 7.0-inch touchscreen display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, capability, 17-inch alloy wheels, and automatic emergency braking.
2.0 Premium ($22,750) comes with a 6-speed automatic transmission, 18-inch wheels, blind-spot monitors, keyless ignition, wireless smartphone charging, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, Infinity 8-speaker audio, a sunroof, heated front seats, paddle shifters, and cloth/synthetic leather upholstery.
Turbo R-Spec manual ($22,900) holds the 1.6-liter turbo-4 and 6-speed manual gearbox. Standard are Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer tires on 18-inch wheels, LED headlights and taillights, sport-tuned suspension/steering and exhaust, and alloy pedals.
Turbo DCT ($25,400) gets the 1.6-liter turbo and dual-clutch transmission, as well as heated front seats, sunroof, blind-spot monitors, leather/cloth upholstery, and automatic climate control.
Turbo Ultimate ($26,650 with manual, $28,150 with dual-clutch) includes the 1.6-liter turbo, leather upholstery, black roof, navigation, wireless smartphone charging, a head-up display, and pedestrian detection for its automatic emergency braking.
Turbo N 2.0 manual ($26,900) upgrades to a 275-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder, with 6-speed manual shift. Standard features include 18-inch wheels, cloth sport seats with blue stitching, sport instrument cluster, and electronic suspension. A $2,100 Performance Package adds a limited-slip differential and 19-inch Pirelli tires.
Defiantly offbeat in its original form, the reworked Veloster has been expertly refined, for a more cohesive appearance. Yet its unique shape and configuration remain, topped by a sporty roofline.
Designers have done a good job blending the prominent grille, deep front fascia, and slimmed-down headlights to correlate with the other Hyundai models. Windshield pillars were pushed rearward, stretching out the hood. Wheel arches boast flagrant flares.
A new diffuser flanks the center-positioned exhaust pipes: one for standard models, but twin pipes for the Veloster Turbo. A contrasting roof is available for the Turbo. The new Veloster N earns some distinct styling touches including specific front/rear fascias and side air dams.
Inspired by the recently-launched Kona crossover, the Veloster’s cabin is highlighted by a big touchscreen above the center stack. Piano black trim and hard plastic elements, while abundant, are neatly executed.
Though seemingly clever, the audacious door configuration doesn’t add much utility. Interior space has barely changed, but quality of materials reaches well past the prior Veloster.
Front seats have better padding now, with much thicker upper-back bolstering. Base models get cloth seats, but some Turbos feature a grippy cloth/leather combination.
Two medium-size adults fit in back, at least for occasional jaunts. All told, reaching the Veloster’s back seat isn’t much easier than entering a similar-size two-door hatchback or coupe. Once there, a 6-foot passenger can expect to slouch a bit, splaying knees outward to fit.
Although the cabin remains rather narrow, headroom in sunroof-equipped models is just sufficient enough to keep tall occupants’ heads from touching the roof. Power seats are no longer offered.
Climate and audio controls are logically arranged. Working with a well-executed infotainment system, either a 7.0- or 8.0-inch touchscreen sits above the attractive center stack.
Cargo space totals 19.9 cubic feet behind the rear seat. Liftover is high, but the hatch release is cleverly mounted in the rear wiper’s housing.
A stiffened body structure has improved Veloster handling capabilities. A new multi-link suspension helps make it more predicable. Quick steering isn’t quite as precise as some drivers might desire, but it’s generally fine, apart from exhibiting some on-center wander.
Ride quality is on the firm side, short on compliance. Mid-corner bumps and pavement flaws no longer upset the Veloster’s equilibrium. Even Turbo models, if wearing all-season tires, ride softly enough to ensure adequate comfort. Still, some skittering is likely when traversing swift, tight corners.
The base engine has not yet been test-driven, but the 201-horsepower Turbo promises a sizable helping of joy. Energetic and responsive, the turbo-4s feel strong and quick, helped by vehicle weight of less than 3,000 pounds. In manual-gearbox Turbos, the shift level yields a satisfying snick as it moves between ratios. Hyundai’s dual-clutch transmission shifts cleanly at mid-range speeds, but can become touchy at urban speeds.
Turbos get amplified, synthetic engine sounds pumped into the cabin, but this feature can be toned down or shut off. Otherwise, thicker door panels and more sound deadening help keep unwanted noise under control.
Ready to invite comparison with Honda’s striking Civic Type R, the new 275-horsepower Veloster N boasts a firmer suspension, limited-slip front differential, and special steering tuning.
Fuel economy is reasonably good. With manual shift, base-engine versions are EPA-rated at 25/33 mpg City/Highway, or 28 mpg Combined. The 6-speed automatic raises the estimate to 27/34/30 mpg. The manual-shift Veloster Turbo is EPA-rated at 26/33 mpg City/Highway, or 29 mpg Combined, and 28/34/30 mpg with the dual-clutch transmission.
Not only is the 2019 Hyundai Veloster better looking, it’s a lot more refined for a higher-quality feel. Handling has improved, but the door configuration seems like more of a gimmick than a practical necessity. More than before, the sporty Veloster is a compelling rival to various performance-ready models from Honda and Volkswagen.
Driving impressions by Martin Padgett, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.