Remember those fun-to-drive and relatively affordable little sports cars? We had a lot back in my day. They ranged from very small roadsters – such as the MG Midget – to funky little hatchback coupes – like the Nissan Pulsar NX. In the 1970s and early 1980s, it seemed that everyone had one, varying in seriousness and performance.
The good news is that they still exist. At least one does – the Hyundai Veloster.
Hyundai invited me and a bunch of other regional journalists to Detroit to check out the new 2019 Veloster. Let’s see how this second-generation coupe turned out.
First off, Hyundai believed that they have a proper "reverse halo" on their hands despite the sales trend away from cars. Let alone, the number of sporty entrants that have diminished over the past few years. Sports Compact heroes for enthusiasts are becoming a dying breed.
Hyundai stuck with the Veloster. The first one broke many rules – the two-door side profile on the passenger side, especially one hinged at the B-pillar, and the design that may seem unattractive to many eyes. The Veloster became a success, especially after they dropped a turbocharged version for those looking for a value-driven alternative to the likes of the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST.
The good news is that Hyundai kept the hatchback with three side doors. The shape has been sharpened with a faster back towards the rear, along with a flushed set of taillights. The rear fenders have been beefed up for a more muscular stance. The most dramatic change is up front, integrating Hyundai's new "cascade grille" with slimmer headlamps and standard LED bulbs. In all, it is a much more masculine design catering to the enthusiast away from other hot hatches and sports compacts.
With five trim levels – two with the 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine and three with the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine – Hyundai created five distinct interior motifs for each of those model choices. My tester was the Turbo Ultimate, the top of the line. Its light-colored leather interior is of high style but offered support and comfort at the same time. The front seats induce enthusiastic driving, with its bolstered cushion and seatback. Rear seat room could be fine for some adults. The right mix of people inside will enable the right comfort, space, and third door access.
The Veloster’s instrument panel is ergonomically right for the driver. The driver-oriented cockpit gives the driver access to all key functions on the steering wheel and on both sides along the beltline. The center stack offers great access to the climate and audio controls, crowned by an 8-inch tablet-like touchscreen. Infinity provided eight speakers throughout the cabin emitting clean sound – subwoofer included.
Between the single rear door and the large hatchback is 19.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row of seats. To say the Veloster is practical is an understatement. It is indeed the most useful coupe in the marketplace.
This tester had the 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. With 201 horsepower on tap, we found it had great power to pull 2,987 pounds worth of compact coupe. The equation of relative light weight, 201 horsepower, and a responsive 7-speed dual clutch transmission offer a sum of a fun to drive machine worth taking on longer drives – as well as the roads in and around Southern Michigan. In our loop, we observed an average of around 35.1 MPG. You can also add efficient to the Veloster's equation.
Our tester offers a set of drive modes. I switched between Normal and Sport, which offered two different driving experiences. In Normal, rough Michigan roads are made softer with exact shifts from the DCT, along with superb handling, superb brakes, and really solid steering.
Switch to Sport and you get the proper experience one should expect from a Veloster Turbo. The ride is firm but compliant enough for some give. The suspension is more compact, yet it defies its size by great shocks managing bigger bumps. The steering is heavier, which is perfect for greater control. In fact, I would prefer to drive a Veloster Turbo in Sport all day – but, you’d expect me to say that.
Back to the brakes, what I like about them is the great response from the pedal. There is no delay – a more assured and direct feel. I experienced great stops in normal and panic situation.
If all of this good feedback is enough, you will find one more but of good news – its price. The Veloster 2.0 model starts at $18,500 – a bargain if compared to other compact cars. The Veloster Turbo Ultimate tester came with a sticker price of $29,160.
Having never driven the first-generation Veloster, I came into this new one with a fresh set of eyes. I have driven other Hyundais with the same 1.6-liter turbocharged engine and DCT transmission. The conclusion I would make from this perspective is the combination of the four-door hatchback coupe, the turbocharged driveline, an accommodating and driver-focused cabin.
The solution to this equation is simple: the 2019 Hyundai Veloster is one of the best overall values you may want to consider. A sporty car for under $30,000 that handles the mean streets of Detroit – and your neck of the woods? Sign us up!
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle, travel, and all other logistics were provided by Hyundai Motor America
All photos by Randy Stern