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2012 Hyundai Veloster
Tiburon's replacement aims at affordability and good looks
By Malcolm Gunn
There's something rather odd going on at Hyundai these days. It's name is Veloster and it has three different sized passenger doors.
Yes, the 2012 Veloster is an oddity.
The lack of portal symmetry certainly sets it apart from virtually anything else on the road, which is exactly what Hyundai's designers have been striving for lately. When you consider how dramatically different the latest Sonata and Elantra sedans appear from their respective mainstream peers, it was almost a forgone conclusion that shredding the styling envelope would continue.
The Veloster, available late this summer, is the slow-to-arrive replacement for the Tiburon sport coupe that was phased out following the 2008 model year. Hyundai always planned to replace its entry-level "shark" (that's what Tiburon means in Spanish), but it first focused on launching the upstart Genesis coupe that runs in the same rear-wheel-drive class as the Ford Mustang, Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger, but without the V8 option, of course.
By comparison, the front-wheel-drive Veloster plays in a different sandbox where affordability and fuel economy are as important as eye-catching styling. In all three areas, the Veloster could become a serious category crusher.
The car's full-length sloping fastback roofline and glass-windowed rear hatch help anchor an overall design that features a rounded nose and arched fenders. In addition, the headlights and taillamps are perched above the fenders.
But the key design element is the well-camouflaged full-sized front-hinged rear door. It differs from other rear-hinged openings (such as those found on the Mazda RX-8 or the retired Saturn coupe) in that it can be accessed from the outside or inside and doesn't require the front passenger door to be unlatched first.
Hyundai claims that a "high-performance sport bike" was the inspiration for the Veloster's looks, including the motorcycle-style tailpipes, but honestly, the connection really isn't all that obvious.
The interior provides seating for four passengers and has easy-to-read gauges and control-panel knobs for the driver. The general shape of the dashboard does look kind of busy, but it should appeal to a gadget-hungry younger audience that has grown up playing video games.
The Veloster's 138-horsepower 1.6-litre engine has the same output as the previous Elantra's 1.8-litre engine, however numerous technological improvements have enabled many automakers, including Hyundai, to reduce engine displacement to improve fuel economy without losing any power.
A six-speed manual transmission comes as standard equipment. Optional is a six-speed manual/automatic transmission with an automated clutch (called the DCT). Hyundai claims that it helps the Veloster earn an estimated 5.0 l/100 km highway rating, but the automaker won't speculate on the city number just yet. A best guess would put it at 7.5 l/100 km. The DCT includes Hillstart Assist Control that helps prevent the Veloster from rolling backward when stopped on an incline. Specifying the DCT also gets you a selectable Active Eco mode that adjusts the computer-regulated engine and transmission controls to maximize fuel economy.
Keeping the Veloster within the anticipated low-$20,000 starting price range involves pruning the base equipment, although air conditioning, remote keyless entry, and a 17.5-centimetre multi-function touch-screen display will likely be included, along with power-operated windows, door locks and outside mirrors. Optional is an upgraded interior, push-button start, up-level 450-watt sound package, navigation system, panoramic sunroof and 18-inch alloy wheels (17-inch alloys are standard).
The Veloster will likely become another game-changing model for Hyundai. The company and its Kia subsidiary are busy introducing niche products and groundbreaking designs at a dizzying pace. In that context, as unusual as it is, there's nothing odd about the Veloster at all.
What you should know: 2012 Hyundai Veloster
Type: Three-door, front-wheel-drive hatchback-coupe
Engine (hp): 1.6-litre DOHC I4 (138)
Transmissions: Six-speed manual; six-speed manual with automatic clutch
Market position: Considered a more direct replacement for the Tiburon than the Genesis Coupe was. Smaller than the Genesis and still sporty - certainly when compared with the Accent - with efficient four-cylinder power.
Points: Eye-catching design is a Hyundai trait; Rear third door aids entry and exit, but adding fourth door might have been even better; Imagine what a turbo option would do for Veloster's performance; Hyundai's challenge to GM's OnStar a bold move; Exceptional warranty; Fun and affordability can go hand in hand and Veloster is the proof.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
L/100 km (city/hwy): 7.5/5.0 (est. DCT )
Base price (incl. destination): $18,999
Updated Aug. 25, 2011: Canadian pricing for the Veloster starts at $18,999 with a 6-speed manual transmission. Standard equipment includes heated seats, Bluetooth, telescopic steering wheel, fog lights, LED position lights, centre-mounted dual chrome exhaust outlets and a sophisticated trip computer. A 6-speed EcoShift Dual Clutch Transmission can be added for $1,400. A single, optional $3,500 Tech Package is available, upgrading the Veloster with 18-inch alloy wheels, panoramic sunroof, satellite navigation, premium 450-watt Dimension audio system with subwoofer, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, upgraded seat covers and armrest, high-gloss black interior accents, alloy pedals and automatic light control. (Bill Roebuck)
Honda Civic coupe
Base price: $20,300 (est.)
New ninth-generation 2012 models appear similar to 2011 versions.
Kia Forte Koup
Base price: $20,450
More formal than its Hyundai counterpart. Two strong I4 engine choices.
Base price: $22,350
Roomy hatch comes with a powerful I4 engine plus plenty of standard gear.
Malcolm Gunn is an automotive writer based in Moncton, NB, and a regular contributor to CarTest!
Posted May 25, 2011. © CarTest.ca TM