Blustery autumn day, Franschhoek and Dutoitskloof passes, and the spunky new Veloster: I’d call that a pleasing combination. Up to now, as befits the senior partner, Hyundai has played fairly conservative and tended to leave the more adventurous, edgy stuff to its stablemate Kia. The Veloster breaks the mould with a healthy injection of pizzazz.
Aimed squarely at a younger target market, the Veloster boasts the kind of technology, looks and performance that could not only appeal to a younger outlook, but could impact quite badly on a midlife crisis, too. Hyundai has had sporty cars before – the Tiburon, for one – but the Veloster is less about being sporty than about being different. A “2+1 door”… weird, but it works.
Although the car has been out for a while now, Hyundai held off on bringing it in until South Africans could be assured of getting the 1,6-litre direct-injected four-cylinder petrol engine. That’s all about paving the way for the turbo model later this year…
The 1,6 can be mated to either a 6-speed manual or an EcoShift dual-clutch transmission, the company’s first such design. Whether there were any misgivings about the ‘box before the test drive, they surely must have evaporated en route. The shift is as smooth as a torque converter automatic’s, while providing swift and snappy downshifts on the kick-down. Developed in-house, this dual dry clutch transmission is similar in layout to those used by other manufacturers, with one shaft engaging ratios 1, 3 and 5 and the other engaging 2, 4 and 6.
Hyundai claims an improvement of 5 to 6 per cent in fuel efficiency and 3 to 7 per cent quicker acceleration. On the evidence of several overtaking manoeuvres, the combination of EcoShift and the 1,6’s 103 kW and 167 N.m provide ample thrust when it’s needed. The ride is firm, but not harsh, and the Hyundai sat nice and ‑ at through the switchbacks.
If I had to admit to a quibble about the Veloster, it is that its interior lacks the polish of some of its (admittedly more expensive) competitors. Even the wacky third door has a logic about it – and by the way, it opens into rear seat accommodation that is surprisingly commodious. For the record, that rear door opening always faces the sidewalk; South African Velosters get it on the left and those destined for left-hand drive markets get it on the right. Besides being odd, it’s also a safety feature. (The integral transverse bracing beams are oriented around the car according to whether it is rhd or lhd.)
The Veloster’s racy, low-slung lines belie its roominess – the boot measures 440 dm3. A centrally mounted LCD screen displays infotainment and car systems information. Besides covering radio, CD and MP3, connectivity options include AUX, USB, iPod and Bluetooth, with satellite controls on the steering wheel.
In common with cars in its class, the Veloster features a full suite of driver aids, including advanced stability control and ABS with EBD. There are a total of 6 airbags.
Engine: Inline 4, direct injection, 1,6-litre
Output: 103 kW at 6 300 r/min; 167 N.m at 4 850 r/min
CO2 emissions: 142 g/km
Transmission: 6-speed, manual or auto dual-clutch
Suspension: Front: MacPherson struts; Rear: Coupled torsion beam axle
Brakes: Disc (front 280 mm ventilated)
Tyres: 215/40 R18
Fuel tank: 50 litres
Price: (manual) R259 900; (auto) R276 900