Hyundai’s 3-door turbocharged phenom
Throughout the automotive industry’s history, the creative minds of car manufacturers have brainstormed for exterior designs that are daringly different and would make their products stand out on the road.
In 2012, Hyundai Motor Company launched a quirky, cool phenomenon: the Veloster (combining the words “velocity” and “roadster”), a front-wheel-drive compact coupe-like hatchback to replace the Tiburon, its sporty offering in 2002-2010.
What makes the Veloster looking different is its unusual three-door configuration with one long, coupe-like door on the driver’s side and two doors on the passenger side that allow rear seat passengers to get in and out easily.
The three-door design is cleverly integrated into the car’s sleek styling, so if you view only the driver’s side of the Veloster, you would think it’s a coupe.
And unless you look closely at the passenger’s side and spot the rear door handle, you would be none the wiser.
This concept has been tried before by General Motors in Saturn, now defunct, and by Mazda in the phased-out RX8, but they did not have a proper, full-sized rear door like the Veloster.
The Veloster is built on the same platform as the Hyundai Accent subcompact and shares its basic 1.6-liter GDI (gasoline direct injection) 4-cylinder naturally aspirated engine with the Kia Rio. (Hyundai owns 33.88 percent of Kia in Korea.)
The twin-scroll turbocharged Veloster variant of 2012 is Hyundai’s first compact with a turbo engine.
In 2015 at the Chicago Auto Show, Hyundai revealed the midlife facelifted Veloster in time for the 2016 model year.
At the Manila International Auto Show in April 2016, Hyundai Asia Resources Inc. (HARI), the importer/distributor of Hyundai vehicles in the Philippines, introduced the 2016 turbocharged Veloster to the local market.
The facelift left 99 percent of the exterior details of the 2014 model untouched except for a bigger, more aggressive front grille rimmed with chrome, new projector-type LED headlamps, LED side repeaters, new fog lamps, rear spoiler with LED high-mount stop lamp, LED taillights, and new design 18-inch alloy wheels.
Inside is a revised center stack, 7-inch LCD infotainment and connectivity touchscreen, new cluster of Rheostat-type dual cylinder gauges, a reworked tilt and telescopic steering wheel with audio, hands-free Bluetooth, cruise controls and paddle shifters, newly designed, supportive leather seats with orange-accented seatbelts, and bolsters that match the Vitamin C exterior.
The biggest upgrade is the replacement of the 6-speed automatic transmission with the 7-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT) that debuted in the Hyundai i30 turbo in 2014.
Being based on the Accent, Hyundai’s subcompact, the Veloster is considered an economy hatchback in other markets, priced lower than the MINI Cooper S or the Volkswagen Golf GTI.
But over here, its P1.558 million price tag prices it above the Honda Civic RS Turbo (P1.398 million) and the Mazda3 SkyActiv (P1.208 million for the 2.0-liter hatchback, P978,000 for the 1.5-liter hatchback), with which it has been unfavorably compared, performance-wise.
The 1.6-liter T-GDI (turbocharged gasoline direct injection) DOHC engine delivers 201 HP and 275 Newton-meters max torque, making the 2016 Veloster fairly fun to drive on twisting roads as long as you don’t drive so fast that the tires start to lose their grip.
The torque is wide and the car lives up to the promise of its twin centered tailpipes.
It accelerates from zero to 100 kph in 6.9 seconds. Stopping power is guaranteed by 300 mm ventilated disc brakes in front, 262 mm solid discs at the rear.
Still, it could be quicker, and despite the 6750 rpm redline, the Veloster runs out of steam past 5500 rpm.
The dual clutch transmission upgrade does not make it quicker than the Golf GTI, although this may be an unfair apples-and-oranges comparison since the Golf GTI has a bigger displacement 2.0 liter engine.
When you start pushing the Veloster harder on winding roads, you will notice that it is not as sharp or refined as the Civic RS or Mazda3 SkyActiv although at a relaxed pace, it is reasonably capable around turns.
Over-all, cornering performance is poised and confident with understeer that is typical of front-wheel-drive cars.
Handling is predominantly safe and predictable, not overly engaging, since the Veloster is based on the Accent, an economy car.
Motor-driven power steering is light and helps improve fuel economy, but it is not so communicative.
The suspension (MacPherson strut in front, coupled torsion beam rear axle) provides a suitably comfortable ride that is occasionally rough and stiff over ruts and bumps.
The Veloster is supposed to replace the Tiburon, which was a sports car, although the Veloster does not have the handling and driving dynamics of the Miata MX-5, Toyota 86, or Subaru BRZ.
On the other hand, the Veloster is more practical than the MX-5, 86 or BRZ as it has a third door and a rear seat that split/folds 60:40 to increase luggage space from 15.5 to 34.7 cubic feet—almost as spacious as conventionally shaped hatchbacks.
The Veloster is marketed as a 4-seater, but the sharply sloping roofline cuts into the rear seat headroom, requiring passengers getting in through the third door to duck and crouch once inside.
In fact, the back seat is suitable only for short adults and children.
The Veloster’s coupe-style shape limits rearward visibility, but this is resolved by the back warning camera and rear bumper sensors.
Another advantage of the Veloster is that it is designed to burn regular unleaded gas, unlike the MINI Cooper S which requires premium unleaded.
Hyundai claims 6.4 liters/100 km average mileage for the Veloster.
And in terms of value for money, the Veloster offers plenty due to the generous amount of standard features such as fully automatic climate control, electric folding side mirrors with repeater, panoramic sunroof, a premium 8-speaker, 450-watt audio system, blue backlit supervision cluster instrumentation, smart proximity entry system, and illuminated push start/stop button.
Safety equipment is plentiful, too, with six airbags, an electronic stability program, ABS with EBD, hill start assist, trip computer, rear camera, inside handle override (driver side), burglar alarm and engine immobilizer.
Summing up, the 2016 Hyundai Veloster T-GDI somewhat lives up to its sporty exterior styling with its fun-to-drive performance, but does not quite match the impressive handling and driving dynamics of hot compact cars that cost less locally.
It compensates by offering plenty of standard features and a unique three-door design that brings a smile to your face.
Rather than categorizing it as a cross between a hot hatch and a sports coupe, the Veloster could be described as a hatch with sporty ambitions and phenomenal exterior styling.