Driver’s Seat: The 2012 Hyundai Veloster — fun and weird

The 2012 Hyundai Veloster offers a lot of fun in a small package. A very small package, if you happen to be in the back seat.
The 2012 Hyundai Veloster offers a lot of fun in a small package. A very small package, if you happen to be in the back seat.
Posted: May 24, 2012

2012 Hyundai Veloster:Fun and weird. But mostly weird.

Price: $21,300 as tested (including $2,000 each for style and tech packages).

Conventional wisdom:Everyone seems to agree it’s as cute as a bug. A weird bug, though.

Marketer’s pitch: “Like nothing else.”

Reality: It certainly is like nothing else.

Let’s have fun! Nothing screams “Cute Martian!” more than a Veloster in what Hyundai christens “electrolyte green.”

On the road: The Veloster with manual gearbox certainly made for fun times on country roads. It’s not quite as all-out a rollicking good time as a Mini Cooper, but its 138 horsepower and 123 foot-pounds of torque create plenty of Velosterity. And odds are it holds up a lot better than the German-British amalgam it aims to outdo.

And, like the Mini, shifting through the six gears is super comfortable. “Clutch leg” was not a problem.

Feeding time: A bonus over the Mini is the Veloster takes regular unleaded, not premium. And it measured about 32 m.p.g. in a mix of highway and city driving, which was comparable.

Weirdness throughout: One would expect the unusual design to carry into the interior, and it does. The lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat called the silver-and-black dash “the Batman dashboard.” It’s just a more pronounced take on what I call “the Hyundai swoop.”

Friends and stuff: When you’re toting around Sturgis Kids 1.0 through 4.0, a Veloster isn’t going to cut it. But now that three of them are off in college, space is not nearly so dear.

Still, the backseat most closely recalls an old Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. Never did a vehicle seem more clearly designed for headless occupants. Six-foot-tall Sturgis Kid 1.0’s boyfriend looked rather twisted during a ride to 30th Street Station.

So anyone using this to ever haul people may lose a friend or two.

Cargo space: Surprisingly, the storage behind those miniature seats isn’t too bad. A week’s worth of college-kid paraphernalia for two slipped right in.

A nice large cellphone and junk bin up front actually errs on the side of being too big. Unless you have it filled up, your key fob and/or cellphone spend the whole trip sliding side to side, front to back.

Comfy up front: The seats do measure up to the car’s sporty-fun aspirations.

In and out: A third door on the passenger side makes getting in and out of there within the realm of possibility. Of course, it always seems like the slowest person sits by the door, trapping an impatient Sturgis Kid for a couple extra seconds.

Fresh air:Though air-conditioning is a requirement these days, drivers still want a fresh-air backup system. Only three of the Veloster’s windows open, in matching the three-door configuration. Odd, but not a deal breaker.

Out of tune: The stereo system is worth mentioning, but not on a positive note.

Adjusting the sound quality is tough. Press the info/setup button, then press the setup touchscreen button, then press sound, then press bass-treble-mid button, then use the touchscreen sliders to adjust. That’s five menu levels just to adjust the tone of the stereo.

And this was part of the $2,000 style package, which also provides 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, sunroof, leatherette seats, and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Perhaps the basic stereo is simpler.

Tech package: This other $2,000 package offers backup warning sensors and a camera, navigation system, automatic headlights, and keyless start.

Where it’s built: Ulsan, South Korea.

How it’s built: The Veloster is new, so no reliability ratings are out yet. But Hyundai’s overall Consumer Reports scorecard generally falls just above average, so the Veloster is probably not a bad bet.

In the end:The Veloster comes with an unusual design, and I’ve met a lot of people who say they like it. I have to say the looks never overwhelmed me, and I found the quirks off-putting. But it does offer fun for a bargain starting price of $17,300.

Contact Scott Sturgis at 215-854-2558 or ssturgis@phillynews.com.

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