What started off as a love-hate relationship, has turned into near perfect love.
I was handed the keys to the new Hyundai Veloster 1.6 Turbo, and when I say keys, I really mean a little box with a proximity sensor, on a Monday. First thing I did was walk around to the rear of the car. Without doubt the Veloster has the most attractive rear end currently on the market. The twin centre pipes draw your eyes straight to them, the perfect touch to the kammback design. They glare right back at anyone driving behind you, as if to challenge.
It’s a bold design choice; one of many, I soon discovered. There is nothing subtle about the lines on the Veloster at all. This car is here to make a statement. A powerful statement indeed.
Before I get into the driving experience it is necessary to take a little bit of time to explain why this is an interesting car mechanically-wise. Starting with her heart, the 1.6 litre engine with integrated twin-scroll turbo charger. This engine pretty much comes from Hyundai’s World Rally Championship i20 car. That alone should be enough to make you want to give it a test drive. The exhaust manifold and turbo housing have been cast as a single piece design, making it more efficient. This engine blends together performance and economy, not an easy tight-rope to walk. In fact the whole engine cost Hyundai 56 months of development time and around US$65 Million. A massive investment, showing that they’re serious about a creating a product that works.
In the beginning of this article, I mentioned that this started off as a love-hate relationship, and while we’re on the mechanics of the car, I will mention its suspension. The biggest weakness in my mind is the rear torsion beam suspension. The Veloster is forced to have a torsion beam due to the chassis shape. This little “hate” of mine decreased to more of a mild dislike on the second day of driving, and by the third, I’d forgotten about it. There were far more things to smile about.
Climbing into the Veloster, I was pleasantly surprised how customizable it is for the driver. The steering column is adjustable, the seats can be electronically positioned to the perfect height and distance from the pedals. Before I had even moved the car from the parking, I had her fitting my body like a glove, a stylish body glove.
Looking around, the view is somewhat limited if you look over your shoulder, this is compensated for with large mirrors and a rear mounted camera. Looking up, sky. The sunroof, and glass roof near the rear provides a beautifully lit interior. The whole feeling was one of freedom while sitting still.
Pulling away into traffic, the Veloster felt tame. Actually uninspiring. The car felt like any other hatchback. In traffic, she is an easy car to drive. Seemingly able to pull off in any gear, silent and comfortable.
On the first day, the rain was pouring down. I decided to keep the traction control on and see how she enjoyed the wet roads. There was a single moment of uneven wet road in a corner where the traction control did take charge. So you can be confident that it’s there, covering you just in case something goes wrong.
The second day, was beautiful; the first day of Spring in Cape Town. This allowed me to actually drive the Veloster. This is where the feeling of love started to envelope me. The gearbox on the manual I was driving is short, sharp and responsive. The twin-scroll turbo is exceptionally smooth. Turbo lag was pretty much not existent. The 265 Nm of torque would just glide the Veloster to speed. The 150kW produced never comes as a slap in the face. Straight line acceleration is a giggle, and I do mean a giggle, in every gear. At one point I was harassed on the road by a tailgater. I was in 6th gear. Applying just a little pressure to the accelerator pedal I couldn’t contain my laughter as he shrunk in the review mirror.
Now no review would be worth while if the car wasn’t thoroughly tested. So I had to put the Veloster through its paces. Hill climbs, sharp corners, acceleration tests, traction control off… every kilometre I drove inspired more confidence in the vehicle. I will confess that this kind of driving did not do well for the claimed 7.3 litres per 100km. I was averaging around 11 litres per 100km.
After a while I felt bad for the environment and decided to try drive the car economically. This involved both long distance highway driving, and town diving. The Veloster comes with a fun little game, on its on board 7” info system. Basically, drive efficiently with in ten minute time segments, and you end up getting a high score. To offset my aggressive driving I decided to try beat the previous high score that was on display when the car was delivered to me. It took me a while but I’m glad to say I now have the new best score of 37 899. The previous was 35 thousand something. On average, I would be getting about 19 000. And yes, I do know these scores mean nothing unless you actually drive a Hyundai with one of these systems, but I am proud none-the-less.
Talking about the technology side of the car, I did have an issue with the USB port not reading my memory stick. A quick Google search informed me to format the USB memory stick to FAT32, and then the problem was solved.
I also took the liberty of testing the rear seat with two people. One tall, the other not so tall. With the sun roof open wind proved no issue for either passenger. The tall passenger did have his head sitting in the raised section where the glass section goes, but I fear it may have been because of his hat.
So to sum up the Veloster. With an almost unbelievable tight turning circle, and three options for steering (Normal, Comfort and Sport) the vehicle is a beautiful town car. On the counter balance to that, the car is “fat” (to the level that it was a challenge putting her into my garage) and with so much easy power on tap, you’ll not want to be in town.
The Veloster is a “look at me” car. Thankfully, she can back up her looks with performance on all sides of the curve. To be honest, the Veloster is now a serious consideration to replace the next car I buy.