Hyundai Veloster 2012 Road Test

Hyundai's image has changed dramatically over the past few years. While it's still known for value, people are starting to realise that the Korean firm can also make a decent car. The days of the Sonata and Matrix are thankfully long gone and both the design and the quality of Hyundai's latest models are mightily impressive.

But one thing it hasn't had for a while is a 'sports' car, not since the Coupe disappeared in 2009. That's where the Veloster comes in. The distinctively styled coupe adds a bit of 'joie de vivre' to the Hyundai range and with a huge advertising campaign supporting its launch in the UK, it's unlikely you'll miss it.

The styling really stands out - it seems that the designers at Hyundai have been given free reign to design a coupe that's genuinely different. At the front it has a similar look to the new i40 and forthcoming i30 including a signature LED strip on the headlights. But while it looks good at the front, we're not so convinced by the back.

There's a lot going on and it doesn't seem to all work together. While the overall shape is neat, the rear light clusters don't seem to quite suit the car and the sharp lines are ruined by the clumsy-looking boot handle incorporating the Hyundai badge. That said, the centrally placed squared-off exhaust is a nice sporty feature. The Veloster is certainly a colour sensitive design and looks best in strong colours like red. One thing is certain though - there's nothing else on the road like it.

What's really unusual about the Veloster is the three-door design. The driver's side has one standard door, but on the passenger side there's a front and a back door. It may seem like a gimmick but it does actually work. It means that the Veloster still looks like a coupe, especially as the rear door has been designed with a 'hidden' door handle. And it makes getting in the back so much easier, especially as the door opens wide. And unlike the MINI Clubman it's on the correct side for us in the UK.

There's a surprising amount of space in the back too. The Veloster may not look that big but it's roomy inside and even six-footers will find decent leg room in the rear. Head room isn't so good due to the low roof and the fact the tailgate glass starts so far forward, so weirdly you sit under the rear windscreen. There's a large boot though and despite a high load lip, it will carry plenty of shopping and even the odd suitcase or two. For a coupe that's only four metres long, the Veloster has a surprising amount of space inside.

Hyundai Veloster (6)

Interior quality is impressive as is the design. It looks smart and is well laid out with everything easy to use. The seven-inch touchscreen system that controls the stereo (and sat nav if you opt for it) comes as standard as does Bluetooth, an iPod input and climate control.

The only slight let down is the indicator and wiper column stalks which are a bit dated compared to the rest of the interior. Some of the plastics, such as round the handbrake, could be better too. On the plus side, the driving position is spot on with a low placed seat and plenty of adjustment in the steering, while the seats themselves give plenty of side support.

Driving the Veloster is an easy and pleasant experience. The ride is fairly firm which fits with the notion that this is a sportier Hyundai. It's a touch bouncy on bumpy roads but is forgiving enough on rough surfaces while the steering is nicely weighted too. Out on the road the Hyundai corners very tidily and fills you with plenty of confidence on more demanding routes.

As is often the case with modern cars, the steering could do wth a little more natural feel, but it's still very responsive and has a suitably sports feel to it. The Veloster is easily the best handling car Hyundai has made to date. Refinement is another big strength with little in the way of unwanted noise, helped by a triple layer sound pad behind the dashboard. The door handles have even been designed to minimise wind noise.

There's just one engine in the line-up and it's a 1.6-litre GDi which, despite the name, is actually a petrol (a bit confusing, we know). It's a lightweight all-aluminium engine that develops a healthy 140PS despite the absence of any turbochargers. It's a real revelation in the Veloster and has plenty of get up and go about it despite only a modest 167Nm of torque.

It's at its best when you work it a bit harder, but there's still plenty of eagerness at low revs and round town it's nippy away from a standstill. It's helped by an excellent six-speed manual gearbox with a delightfully positive shift, while at motorway speeds it's quiet enough to make long journeys fairly relaxed affairs. It's also efficient for its size with a claimed average of 43.5mpg although emissions of 148g/km are a touch high.

There is a Blue Drive version which comes with Intelligent Stop & Go (ISG), low rolling-resistance tyres and an alternator management system. This helps improve economy to 47.9mpg and cuts emissions to 137g/km - one tax band lower. Along with the manual gearbox a new dual clutch automatic complete with steering wheel mounted paddle shifts is available. Called DCT it is Hyundai's first ever twin clutch gearbox and costs an extra £1250.

With prices starting at a smidge under £18,000 the Veloster isn't especially cheap on paper, but it comes very well equipped as standard and even the optional extras are sensibly priced. Plus like all Hyundai models, it comes with a five-year warranty as standard. This includes a five-year warranty with no mileage limit, five years roadside assistance and five years of vehicle health checks – free of charge.

When you compare the Veloster to the likes of the Vauxhall Astra GTC or the Renault Megane Coupe, the Hyundai stacks up very favourably. It looks and feels like much more of a coupe than either the Astra or the Megane and is on par with both for quality and refinement. The only thing it lacks is a diesel engine, but that's likely to be introduced sooner rather than later.

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