The Hyundai Veloster is unique. It’s an adventurous and daring design, an interesting combination of hatchback with smart packaging, sport coupe with appealing quirks, and activity vehicle. If you want different, the Veloster is for you. Many vehicles have tried like this to be a combination of things, but we can’t think of any that have succeeded like the Veloster.
However, if it’s a jack of three trades, it’s master of none, and sometimes even feels like a coupe that makes no compromises, good mostly for young singles or couples. It’s definitely not a four-person commuter. It has one door on the driver’s side and a short rear door on the passenger side. Call it a three-door coupe or a four-door (not five-door) hatchback.
The standard engine is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder making 138 horsepower, with either a 6-speed manual transmission or a dual-clutch automatic, both good. Being based on the subcompact Accent, it gets a penny-pinching 27/35 miles per gallon City/Highway rating from the EPA. If you want more torque, and you might, there is Veloster twin-scroll Turbo that makes 201 hp and 195 pound-feet of torque, with a 6-speed manual or paddle-shifting automatic, which can handle the torque better than the twin-clutch. It can spurt to 60 mph in about seven seconds, with better brakes and grippier tires, and gets about three mpg less.
There’s also the Veloster Turbo R-Spec model with a firmer suspension, tighter electric power steering, B&M sport shifter and sporty interior trim. Meanwhile some things are stripped, such as the pushbutton starter, electroluminescent gauges, mirror turn signals, and leather heated seats.
New for 2016 are the standard 17-inch and optional 18-inch alloy wheels, black seats with yellow inserts, and a seven-inch touch screen with navigation, HD Radio, Apple Siri, SiriusXM Travel Link, and the latest Blue Link telematics.
In government NHTSA crash testing, the Veloster gets five stars overall with four stars in frontal impact and rollover. The IIHS rates it Marginal in the small frontal overlap test (telephone pole), Acceptable in side impact, and the top Good rating all other categories.
The 2016 Hyundai Veloster 3-door coupe with 6-speed manual retails for $18,000, and with the twin clutch automatic it’s $19,100.
Veloster Turbo with manual retails for $22,600; Veloster Turbo with paddle-shifting automatic lists for $23,800. Options on the Turbo include leather, 18-inch wheels, rearview camera and huge panoramic sunroof. (All prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
We wouldn’t call the Hyundai Veloster beautiful, despite its curvaceous roofline, just distinctive, with proportions unlike anything else on the road. There’s not a lot of trim tarting it up; instead, it stands out with the use of LED headlamps and taillamps, a big black grille, and side skirts.
Inside, the Veloster tosses some conventions aside, although it doesn’t set trends like the sheetmetal does. Not unless you count the motorcycle-inspired bits, for example a center console that’s intended to look like a bike saddle, and air vents suggesting tailpipes. There’s a good number of nooks, bins and cubbies. On the Turbo, there’s a giant start button.
For a compact car it’s spacious in front, but in the rear it’s only playful, not exactly practical. The small door makes climbing in and out a challenge for adults. It works better with the rear seat dropped for a road trip for two, or for carrying gear for a weekend.
As the engine comes from the humble Accent, some dynamic parts come from the unexciting Elantra, but thanks to good engineering the Veloster doesn’t seem to suffer. Both transmissions are good, and the base engine, if shy on torque, is quite happy to rev. Meanwhile the Turbo’s 195 foot-pounds of torque are available at low revs.
The cornering is fairly flat and mostly crisp, although on patchy pavement it can get unsettled. The Turbo gets stronger brakes and tires with more grip, for more aggressive dynamics. However, the steering offers weighting and feedback that’s less precise than we would have liked. The R-Spec adds a stiffer suspension and B&M sport shifter. The ride is less comfortable than the turbo, without offering much better performance.
If you like the quirky looks (we do), and can live with the single small rear door (we can), the Hyundai Veloster has a lot going for it. Decent power and cornering, good transmissions. It turns heads, is fun to drive, and gets great fuel mileage.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.