Published on Saturday 8 March 2014 10:36
Ten Second Review
Doors. Cars tend to have two or four in order for passengers to exit and egress the vehicle. The Hyundai Veloster coupe has three. It may have been beaten to that particular punch by the MINI Clubman, but it's still an intriguing and talented addition to what had seemed a moribund market sector.
Hyundai has established a reputation for its affordable coupes. No, they were never that great to drive, but they looked distinctive, were cheap to buy and offered a degree of sass without incurring big bills. It's a formula that served it well even when the small coupe market all but dried up. Where we were once overrun with Pumas, Tigras and MX3s, car manufacturers all but quite building these cars in the mid Noughties and only recently have cars like the Scirocco, the Peugeot RCZ, the Mini Coupe and the Honda CR-Z signalled a revival.
Hyundai is looking to re-establish itself in the market with a rather unusual vehicle. The Veloster features a sharply-tailored profile with two doors on one side and one on the other. Unlike the MINI Clubman, Hyundai has made the effort of ensuring that the rear passenger door is on the pavement side. Does it have the clout to carve a niche for itself?
The Veloster isn't exactly overburdened with brake horsepower, the 1.6-litre normally aspirated direct injection engine managing 138bhp. While this keeps costs manageable, it also means that the car's performance can best be described as modest. Rumours persist that a turbocharged model with around 200bhp is on the cards but in the meantime we get 138bhp. Evidence of the investment Hyundai has made in this car come with its choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or a trick dual clutch sequential box.
The Veloster's been a long time coming. The car was first seen at the 2007 Frankfurt Show and each year we have seemed to get a car that edged a little closer to production reality. Journalists were invited to drive pre-production cars which offered a glimpse of what the finished styling would be like, if not the chassis dynamics. Let's just say that we'd be very surprised if the production models that make landfall in the UK are on the pace of the Scirocco or the Megane coupe in terms of chassis ability. Still, safe but unspectacular handling never hurt the old Hyundai Coupe's prospects, did it?
Design and Build
The Veloster is undoubtedly an intriguing piece of design. The shape itself is neat and tidy with elements that give you a repeating sense of deja vu as you walk around the car. From some angles you'll see Citroen C4 Coupe, from others Honda CR-Z while some of the surfacing is very Scirocco. The doors are a neat touch and a big investment for Hyundai to convert for right-hand drive markets.
Headroom is a little pinched in the front for taller drivers and decidedly mean in the rear. The back door opens in a conventional fashion, rather than the 'suicide door' arrangement preferred by Mazda when they needed to package a short door in their RX-8. The interior is boldly styled with a nice mix between the minimalist and the feature-rich. The show cars featured a beautiful honeycomb finish for the dash roll top although it's not certain whether this will make production. Fingers crossed. Some of the materials used betray the Veloster's keen pricing but you can't expect Prada at Primark prices.
Market and Model
Hyundai has split the Veloster range into two models, entry level and Sport. The latter version gets 18" alloy wheels with colour inserts, black leather upholstery with heated front seats, a panoramic sunroof with tilt and slide function, cruise control, keyless entry with engine start/stop button and sporty alloy pedals. Standard features on the entry level car comprise 17" alloy wheels, a 7" Touch screen media centre (with capability of playing games through consoles and films from smart phones), Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition, climate control air conditioning, reversing sensors, front and rear fog lights and striking LED daytime running lights. The Veloster also features a stereo RDS Radio/CD Player with MP3/WMA compatibility and an iPod connection, with the ability to control all functions on the leather steering wheel for added convenience. Prices start at £17,995 with a Blue Drive low emissions version of the entry-level car also available with low rolling resistance tyres and Stop/Start.
The DCT twin clutch gearbox tacks around £1,300 to the price although some will feel it's worthwhile if much of their driving is in city traffic. Hyundai also offers a media pack for the Sport model. This features touch screen satellite navigation with rear view parking camera, Parking Guidance System and 7 speakers including amplifier and subwoofer. The Sport can also be specified with a red leather interior but then prices really do start creeping up into the realms of some very serious rivals.
Cost of Ownership
The Veloster fares reasonably well on emissions, the entry-level car recording 148g/km and the BlueDrive a mere 137g/km. The DCT twin clutch transmission shaves a little off the manual car's figure, bringing it down to 145g/km. A combined fuel economy figure of 47.9mpg for the manual car is a decent return and insurance groupings are very sensibly pitched at group 16E right across the board. By contrast, an entry-level Peugeot RCZ is Group 28 which could well make the Veloster an attractive proposition for younger buyers looking for their first new coupe.
Depreciation is a tough one to get a handle on. Initial estimates look promising although such is the fickle finger of fashion that some coupes which initially saw strong demand - think Chrysler Crossfire as an example - then went on to suffer fairly unspectacular residuals.
Hyundai's Veloster has endured a long and drawn out gestation and is being launched into a market where the rules change very quickly. Its big USP, namely its 2+1 doors, may not be enough to overcome the fact that a number of very talented rivals offer technically more interesting vehicles. The option of a twin-clutch transmission also marks the Veloster out as something rather special and there's a semi-exotic feel to the intimate, deeply reclined cabin.
Had this car been launched three years ago, I reckon it would have done very well. Coming to market as late as it has, the styling looks smart but not jaw-droppingly avant-garde. Perhaps Hyundai has tried to be a little too ambitious with the Veloster and has paid the price in enduring a protracted development period during which key rivals have made hay. There's a lot of potential in this car, but I think we may have to wait a little while longer to see it adequately fulfilled.