A suburban mom spends a week with the love of 20-somethings (and no, I don’t mean Emma Watson).
I’m sure that people who saw this cute little car scooting around town this week, the one with the matte blue finish, dual exhaust pipes and a penchant for easily zipping away from an intersection, got the wrong idea. They might have thought the Hyundai Veloster was filled with teens (it was), the music was loud (it was) and that the car was an inexpensive Asian import (right again).
But what they didn’t get is that the Hyundai Veloster is an expertly engineered machine designed to delight its drivers, whether they are carpooling their kids to school (like I was) or just having a little bit of fun on the drive from work to the gym (I’ll let ambiguity stand here).
This cutie caught my eye, so I had to find out more
I’d seen this car around and was curious about a Hyundai that is distinct from its siblings: While it carries some of the earmark design DNA—from a distance you can see the resemblance between the Veloster and the Elantra, Accent and Tucson— the Veloster has clearly spent time building muscle and brawn; it has an engine designed for performance driving and a suspension that can handle it.
It’s these details that sets it apart from the family, and that inspired a fan club that is in love with this little car (it even has its own fan page on Facebook). I wondered why, and had to find out.
Who this car is for
- Drivers who love to drive
- Drivers who love to drive a stick shift
- Buyers who want sport-tuned, performance features but don’t need extras, such as navigation, heated seats or phone integration
- Drivers who occasionally carry back seat passengers
- Drivers who appreciate flexible cargo space
- Those who appreciate a distinct look, both in shape and paint
- Buyers who want a good value (about $24,000 for the model we drove)
- Drivers who want to be a part of the Veloster ‘club’
Yes, it’s perfect for a young driver. But I liked it, too. A lot.
On first glance, I think of this as the perfect car for a teen or 20-something, one who really loves the experience of driving, of being close to the road, who doesn’t have to think much about back seat passengers, driving friends, siblings or clients around. And, it is. While the back seat was surprisingly roomy and comfortable, it’s likely to be the least-used part of the car.
The ideal parent-transition car?
It’s also great for a young parent who can’t quite wrap his or her mind around trading in a super cool coupe for a family car. The Veloster’s three doors make it easy to get a car seat into the back without having to wrench the front seat forward and struggle into the back to install it. And when kids are bigger, they can easily get in and out of the back seat on their own.
A finely edited hatchback: Just what you need, not what you don’t
The Veloster is clearly a car designed by drivers for drivers: its designers thought deeply about what makes a drive experience great and focused on those elements: a stick shift, sport-tuned suspension, a 4-cylinder turbo, performance-quality sport seats, run flat tires, premium brakes, premium sound and SiriusXM radio.
What it does not come with are some standards: No navigation system, no sun roof, and in what I think is a miss, no Apple iPhone integration. I spent the week using my phone “off-system,” not integrated into the Veloster’s infotainment system (though was able to route the sound through the Bluetooth for Google Maps turn by turn directions).
Driver focused, yes, but roomy enough for four
The Veloster’s designers also put some thought into utility. The back seat was roomy enough for four of us to drive about 3 hours to and from Brooklyn comfortably. The sloped roof leaves back seat passengers with a little less head room, so it’s not idea for people who are 5’10” or taller, and also, the hatchback design has back seat passengers sitting under glass etched with louvered lines (probably why there’s no sunroof). Personally, I liked this feature, but others were critical; I can see that it might make climate control a challenge in a hot climate.
One ‘driver feature’ that passengers may not love, though is the sport suspension and run flat tires. I’m a HUGE fan of run flats. But these were very tough, and with a very responsive suspension, we could feel literally every lump, bump and pothole on the road. But then again, if you can feel the pea, you know you’re a princess, right?
One of the best utility features in the Veloster was the deep cargo well. The space behind the back seats is fairly deep; you could easily line up four suitcases and add a few other things, such as tote bags or gym bags. A weekend excursion in this little car is not a stretch.
The other best feature: Stick shift is standard!
In an era when so many manufacturers are abandoning manual transmissions —customers prefer automatic, many fuel efficient cars demand an automatic, new autonomous technologies require automatic—drivers who love to drive a manual transmission are left without a lot of options. Not here. All Veloster models are available in stick, and the Rally edition we drove is only available in stick (though automatic is available on the base model and the top of the line Turbo. I liked that the manual shifter has a ring that you have to pull up with two fingers in order to shift into reverse (keeps you from making a tragic mistake!), that the gear patterns are clearly labeled, and that there is a shift indicator on the dashboard. This is great for heavy traffic driving since it can help prevent you from shifting into the wrong gear when slowing dow or speeding up.
And then, there was turbo. Yes, turbo! Turbo has been a buzzword lately. It seems like every car from compact value to over the top luxury has turbo. And for good reason, as we learned here. But in the Veloster, turbo is a natural: it adds that extra amount of zip that makes the car responsive and fun to drive.
Icing on the cake: Matte paint
Probably the most frequent comment I got on the Veloster Rally Edition that I test drove was the color. The Matte Blue paint looks and feels like a fine velvet. It is soft to the touch and makes you want to reach out and stroke it; everyone wants to touch this car! Honestly, this bright shade of blue isn’t my favorite color and Matte Blue is the only color the Veloster Rally Edition comes in (sadly for me).
One caveat is that it can only be washed by hand – automatic car washes will ruin the finish. For those of us who bristle at the thought (hehe) of the water and energy waste and wash our cars ourselves, no issue. For the rest of you (you know who you are) this paint finish might be a consideration.
But, still, I loved the matte paint; it is distinct, elegant and proclaims a discerning buyer. I’d recommend to Hyundai they consider matte paint offerings in sapphire blue, ruby red, mink brown or an Hermès orange that insinuates leather handbags with a rich, velvety hand-rubbed finish. After all, both have a deliberate, thoughtful design and much more in common than you might think.
What We Loved:
- Small, agile and quick, with comfortable, flexible space
- Manual transmission
- Leather seats
- Matte paint
- Oversized cargo well
- Fold down rear seats
- The price! $24,775 for the model we drove; all features on this model are standard
- Super fun to drive
- Nice fuel efficiency: we averaged 25MPG; EPA estimates are 25 city/33 highway
What You Need To Know:
- Seating for four but more comfortable for two or three
- Three doors (one on the driver’s side, two on the passenger side)
- No navigation available on Rally edition
- No sunroof available on Rally edition
- No heated seats available
- Smart key/keyfob not available (has an actual key)
- Uses regular fuel
- 5 year/60,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty
- 10 year/100,000 miles powertrain warranty
- 5 year/unlimited miles 24 hour roadside assistance
The Hyundai Veloster Rally Edition was provided by Hyundai for this test drive; all opinions expressed here are my own.