The 2012 Hyundai Veloster was introduced at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show, offering the world the first good look at the hatchback that holds the shape of a 3-door but with an added “hidden” rear door on the passenger side offering easier loading for passengers into the back seat. Hatchbacks have been gaining momentum in the US market and this new Hyundai comes fitted with an aggressive exterior design to bolster the “sport” aspect while the fuel efficient 4-cylinder engine makes it the 4th Hyundai model to yield better than 40 miles per gallon. This 1.6L GDI (gasoline direct injection) engine packs 138 horsepower and 123lb-ft of torque which may seem a little short, but the lightweight construction of the Veloster (2,584 MT, 2,657 AT) allows this new hatch to make the most of that power. Also, the low curb weight helps the Veloster to hit fuel economy numbers of 28mpg around town, 40 on the highway and 32 combined with a manual transmission (dual clutch transmission models get 29 around town, 38 highway and 32 combined). These numbers make the Veloster one of the most fuel efficient cars in the class, beating out some hybrids at a fraction of the price.
However, when I took to the roads of Michigan in the 2012 Hyundai Veloster, the last thing on my mind was fuel economy. I am a big fan of high performance cars and while I understand that not every car needs to run the quarter mile in 11 seconds, I also don’t understand why low priced, fuel efficient models cannot be sporty at the same time. There are plenty of hot hatches that offer a sporty feel and an aggressive look but few companies have really offered an aggressive, sporty hatchback in base trim – until the Veloster.
My day began in a 2012 Hyundai Veloster with the new 6-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT) and I was excited to experience Hyundai’s first DCT, offering the ease of use of an automatic transmission with the quick, tight shifts that you would expect from a manual transmission. The first applications of the dual clutch design were on high performance models from the likes of Ferrari and much like the DCT in these high end models, the 2012 Veloster features steering wheel paddles shifters to allow the driver full control of the transmission. When you don’t want to control the shifts, you can leave the Veloster in the standard drive mode and the transmission will naturally shift in a manner to make for the best fuel economy for the given driving style but for those who want a more engaging driving experience, the paddle shifters allow you to keep both hands on the wheel while popping from gear to gear. Also, unlike some models that charge extra for paddle shift systems, this design is standard on 2012 Veloster models equipped with the DCT with a price beginning at just $18,550.
I started my drive of the 2012 Hyundai Veloster in the traffic of Detroit’s Woodward Avenue, letting the transmission do the work for me as I made my way along the first congestion portion of our trip. In traffic, the acceleration is smooth and the transmission shifts are hardly noticeable but when the need arose to put the hammer down and zip from lane to lane, the DCT swapped to the proper gear and the 1.6L GDI engine allowed the sporty hatch to quickly get up to cruising speeds.
After navigating through the Detroit traffic, we got onto some of the winding roads that lead us to the Clarkson area with a great chance to enjoy the handling capabilities of the 2012 Hyundai Veloster. Across most road surfaces, the Hyundai hatchback was smooth with very little road vibration echoed through the suspension and very little “road noise” making it into the interior. On these winding roads, I had a chance to put the hammer down a bit and the paddle shift system really performs beautifully. The paddles have a great feel to them and the response of the transmission is very quick; offering a very connected feel for the driver. Under acceleration the DCT shines with crisp, lightning quick shifts at the push of the paddle – allowing me to cut through some of the more curvaceous areas, using the transmission to control my speed as I would in a manual transmission. During this time the Veloster truly showed itself as a sporty hatchback that can get 38 miles per gallon more than it seemed like an economy car with a sporty look. The suspension under normal driving circumstances is smooth and very comfortable, but when you begin hitting the twisties harder, the Veloster responds well to even the sharpest turns.
Once we got to our destination, I moved from the 2012 Veloster with the DCT to a similar Veloster with a 6-speed manual transmission. While I really enjoyed the DCT and was impressed with it for both its smoothness and its ability to offer that “fun to drive” factor, I love banging through gears with a proper manual transmission and once again, the Veloster did not disappoint. The clutch is very user friendly and the tight transmission pattern allows for very easy shifting around town so for someone who is new to a manual transmission, the Veloster could be a good choice. However, once you get a good feel for the Hyundai 6-speed manual transmission, the Veloster makes for a fun drive around town. Under hard cornering, it was easy to more from gear to gear and when I shifted the Veloster hard, the 138 horsepower is enough to chirp the tires. The Veloster with the 6-speed manual transmission starts at $17,300 and the loaded up model with the technology package is just $21,300.
Finally, we hit the highway and let the new Veloster stretch its legs. The sporty hatch effortlessly climbed to our cruising speed 70mph but when we needed more speed, the Veloster would easily move around other cars without the need to shift. Also, we geared down and found that the Veloster would easily eclipse the 100mph mark so this new sporty model can help satisfy the need for speed.
While Hyundai doesn’t do many sport models, having now spent time in the 2012 Veloster and the 2011 Genesis Coupe, Hyundai is proving more and more that they do compact sport models very well. The new Veloster certainly looks the part of a hot hatch and although Hyundai points out that this new model is more economy than sport, it will get 40mpg while also offering some driving excitement.