You can count me among those who were initially disappointed when the Veloster debuted in 2011.
I liked the car well enough. The problem is; I really wanted to love it.
But you know what they say about high expectations: they?re the surest route to disappointment.
The Veloster?s radical styling gave many people the impression it was going to be a sporty little number, but Hyundai Canada spokesman Patrick Danielson insists the car was never intended to be a hot hatch.
Instead, it?s is a compact car that straddles the line between coupe and hatch, while offering dynamic styling and plenty of technology in a budget segment.
In an effort to quiet complaints about the Veloster?s less-than-sparkling performance, Hyundai quickly released a turbo version the following year. But, aside from the added power, it?s really no sportier than the original, naturally aspirated model.
I recently had a chance to revisit this quirky little car, and I?m glad I did. This time, I had no lofty expectations and, as a result, the Veloster managed to worm its way into my affections just by being so darned easy to get along with.
As luck would have it, I picked the car up just before embarking on a week-long work trip; one that required casual and business clothes, workout gear, and various and sundry camera and computer equipment.
Hurriedly tossing assorted suitcases and garment bags into the rear hatch, it barely registered that the squat little rump harboured 439 litres of storage capacity, as it swallowed them all with room for a bit more.
The cabin is geared for convenience, offering up a lot more than you?d expect from a car whose base price starts at $19,699. This includes a 7-inch graphic touch-screen, satellite radio, Bluetooth, rearview camera, heated front seats, heated side mirrors, fog lights and proximity entry with push-button start.
My tester, with a six-speed manual transmission and Tech package, was priced at $23,199. For that, I got Navigation, an 8-speaker sound system with subwoofer, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 18-inch alloy wheels with body-coloured spoke inserts, cloth and simulated leather bolster seats, and glossy black interior accents.
Although the interior isn?t what you?d call luxurious, it?s refreshingly designed and perfectly compliments the funky exterior.
The playful environment, coupled with all the technology, should make the Veloster particularly attractive to younger buyers.
Which makes it all the more surprising that most of the interest expressed during my week-long test came from older folks ? such as the 60-something parking valet who just couldn?t get over the car?s third door, or the nice old fellow next to me at the gas pumps who thought it was ?neat?.
There?s plenty of room up front, but rear passengers will find the seating a bit cramped and their headroom shaved by that saucy, raked roofline. Fold the back seats down, though, and there?s a flat cargo space that?s readily accessed by the wide hatch.
Although I?d driven the dual-clutch transmission (DCT) in previous tests and pronounced it rather underwhelming, this car?s six-speed manual, while not the most engaging I?ve experienced, does make it a lot more interesting to drive.
Enthusiasts might find the clutch take-up a bit vague, and the shifter rather nebulous and floppy, but it?s a great gearbox for the novice driver ? the lack of notchiness in the shift gates makes it very forgiving.
Powering the Veloster is the same 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine as the Accent. It produces 138 hp and 123 lb.-ft. of torque ? paltry numbers, indeed, if this was a high-performing hot hatch, but perfectly adequate for a daily runabout.
The lack of any sort of exhaust rumble is another reminder of the Veloster?s humble intentions.
The architecture is based on the Elantra?s underpinnings, but the smaller Veloster?s square stance gives it a confidence-inspiring composure.
It?s fairly satisfying to flick around the off-ramps without worrying about rocketing into big-ticket territory. As the saying goes, it?s more fun to drive a slow car fast than it is to drive a fast car slow.
Steering is quick and accurate and nicely weighted, although there?s not a lot of sports-car-like feedback. Brake feel from the vented front and solid rear discs is excellent.
Over a 400-km drive that encompassed a lot of country roads and long highway stretches, the only major criticism I had was rearward visibility through the hatch, but not so much that lane-changes required a deep breath and leap of faith.
It?s a comfortable environment over the long haul ? nicely insulated from outside noise intrusion, while the cabin itself is fairly squeak and rattle-free.
Equipped with this drivetrain, the Veloster?s official fuel ratings are 7.5 L/100 km city and 5.3 hwy. I achieved a respectable 8.0 combined average.
A week with this interesting little car gave me another chance to appreciate it for what it is, instead of dismissing it for what it isn?t.
The vehicle tested by freelance writer Lesley Wimbush was provided by the manufacturer. Email: [email protected]