I’ve always been a big fan of small, sporty hatchbacks. As a matter of fact, as many of our readers might already know, my first car was an 88 Honda Civic hatch. My next car was an 88 Acura Integra Special. They were both great little cars and lots of fun to drive. In the past few months, we’ve driven a slew of new, small, sporty cars that look to reinvigorate the compact car in America including the Ford Fiesta, Mazda 2, Honda Civic Coupe, Kia Forte 5, Fiat 500, Scion tC, and Suzuki SX4. While I like all of these cars for their own reasons, I think that the Ford Fiesta is one of the best. When I first read about the Hyundai Veloster, I already knew that it’s toughest competition would be coming from Ford with the Fiesta. So let’s see how it stacks up.
One of the first questions the Hyundai representative asked me as we took our first walk-around was what I thought this car looked like or if it reminded me of anything. Honestly, the only thing that comes to mind nowadays is Hyundai. It looks like a Hyundai, and that’s no longer a bad thing. The front end shares it’s lines and design with the new Elantra, which is a great looking car for it’s class. It’s an aggressive and modern design that really fits this crazy little hatch.
Why do I say crazy? Well when most car companies show off a concept car with a radical design like having 3 doors – two on the passenger side and one on the driver side – you don’t really expect them to keep that design when bringing the car to the market. Well Hyundai has done just that. This is the first ever 3 door hatchback. Looking at it from the drivers side, it has a coupe like design and look. From the passenger side, it looks like a modern 4 door hatch. Around the back is a sleek hatchback with center exiting exhaust. Our test car was fitted with 18-inch alloy wheels that added to its sporty looks.
Inside the car is the most advanced, standard interior in the Veloster’s market. Our test car was equipped with leather seats, navigation, and Hyundai’s new blueLink. All but the leather seats come standard. The blueLink system was pretty cool and I had nowhere near enough time to play with it all. The system powers Hyundai’s voice response system, enhanced navigation services, and emergency assistance. It also has a music management system, iPod connectivity, Pandora radio, and games you can play with your fuel economy. Cool stuff for the iPad/iPod youth.
So it’s nice and sporty looking and it’s got a great interior with some cool technology, but does it live up to the sporty looks? The Veloster is powered by a lightweight, all-aluminum 1.6 liter GDi (gasoline direct injection) engine. It comes attached to either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. The automatic is a dual-clutch setup that puts paddle shifters on the steering wheel. We drove the manual transmission and for a car that can get 40 mpg, it was pretty good. I would have liked the clutch to be a little heavier and have sharper gear changes, but it was still pretty well sorted and wouldn’t wear you out driving in heavy traffic. I didn’t get a chance to drive an automatic, but I’ve heard that’s really the one to get. The dual-clutch shifts smoothly and you still get outstanding fuel economy. We’ll reserve judgment till we get to spend some time in one.
The power in from the 1.6 liter engine is only 138 horsepower, but the lightweight Veloster uses it well. The steering is sharp and predictable, so keeping this in a low gear with high revs through twisty roads is a lot of fun.
After leaving the car for the day, I was left thinking that the Ford Fiesta really has some steep competition. The Veloster we tested was top of the line and topped out just over $22k. When we reviewed the Fiesta, by far one of the most expensive and nicely equipped cars in it’s class, came in at just over $24k. The Veloster’s interior was just as nice, if not more so and it gets better gas mileage than the Fiesta topping 40 mpg in any trim. Hyundai also has one of the best warranties offered by any manufacturer and the cars really are being built well. This car is now one of my favorite compact cars on the market today. It does everything a hot-hatch is supposed to do, and does them all well. If you plan on test driving any of the other before mentioned cars, this is definitely worth a look.