It’s important to keep an open mind when test driving and evaluating cars I don’t have much interest in, so that’s what I tried to do while driving the 2017 Hyundai Veloster.
This particular body style debuted in 2012 and I remember being taken aback by the design. It was out there. It’s still pretty out there, but it has held its own over the last five years. There are some quirks that take getting used to, not the least of which his the split in the rear view mirror that separates the clear glass on the hatch window and the vertical glass beneath the third stop lamp.
Another quirk, but a good one, is that unless the two-door is parked next to a four-dor, it’s difficult to tell whether the car is a four-door because of how cleverly Hyundai designers concealed the rear door handles above the high belt line. For those of use who prefer the look of a two-door, but need a four-door, that’s a pretty neat design cue.
In a real sense, design is either this car’s weak point or its selling point, depending on the eye of the beholder. It looks like nothing else and it has eye-catching features such as center exhaust tips, a broad stance, and a LED lined headlamps.
Hyundai brought a Veloster to the annual Motor Press Guild’s Track Days event, but sadly this car was limited to street drives, so I can’t say what it did on the track. But here’s what I can tell you.
The interior is pretty good for a car with an $18k base price. Hyundai designers used bits of body-color accents inside, and I think that always works. What doesn’t work is the interior front door handles. They look good and they’re reachable with the door open fully, but they make accessing the switches for the windows, mirrors and locks more difficult than it should be. The design staff got a bit too clever on that one.
In terms of ergonomics, it’s easy to find a good driving position, and all controls are well placed. The seats could use a bit more thigh support for taller drivers. Hyundai could make extendable thigh support bolsters and option.
Hyundai nailed the six-speed manual gearbox, though. The shifter notches through precise gates, and yet it’s buttery smooth. Nice work, there. It was interesting that even with the traction control off, the car still dials back power on aggressive upshifts. It feels like car wants to go hard, but engineers won’t let it. The car will not chirp the tires into second gear. I tried. Several times.
The funny thing is the car Hyundai should have brought would have been infinitely more interesting and relevant to the Track Days journalists. Hyundai’s Veloster Turbo R-Spec adds a twin-scroll turbocharger, which creates 201 horsepower compared with the base model’s 132.
The turbo car comes with a slightly higher axle ratio, 4.26:1 compared with the base model’s 4.47:1. The turbo also has a lower redline at 6,000, compared with the base model’s 6,300, but it’s still a little 1.6 doing the digging. The car is a little heavier, by about 100 pounds, but it still tips the scales under 3,000 pounds.
The Turbo R-Spec, which is pictured above because Hyundai has no front-end photos of the base Veloster on its media site — what? — comes with red seats and accent stripes along the splitter and rocker panels. The package only adds $3,500 to the base price, bringing the total to $21,600, so the car makes a pretty good argument for itself in terms of value. Now, is there a way to turn up the boost?
The car has been used on the rally cross circuit, European series and the United States Touring Car Challenge, but I have my doubts as to whether this car will attract enough aftermarket support to make it a common car used for racing with NASA.
If you look at it with an open mind, the car makes a pretty convincing case for itself, and maybe we will see more of them at the track once prices on used models decrease, which is sure to happen if and when Hyundai introduces a new one. If I were giving stock advice on a car you can drive every day and use at the track, I wouldn’t give this car a “buy” rating, but rather a “watch.”
|Engine:||GDI 1.6-liter DOHC Inline Four|
|Horsepower:||132 @ 6,300 rpm|
|Torque:||120 @ 4,850 rpm|
|Front suspension:||Independent McPherson strut|
|Rear suspension:||Torsion axle with coil springs|
|Rear axle ratio:||4.47:1 limited slip|
|Curb Weight:||2,679 to 2,778 lbs.|