The Hyundai Veloster wins on practicality, price and standard kit but lacks the dynamic talent and appeal that a coupé should have.

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The past few years have seen a growing fashion for manufacturers to blur established class distinctions with cleverly repackaged cars, but most are comparatively conservative next to the assuredly left field Hyundai Veloster.

An asymmetrically doored model would have been a measure of the brand’s burgeoning confidence in any segment, but the fact that this one-plus-two-door car has emerged as a halo-wearing three-door coupé signals just how far the Korean firm has come in the UK since the scrappage scheme sent its i10 city car into the stratosphere.

It's pleasing to see manufacturers being a little bolder, but I'm not entirely convinced by the one-plus-two door arrangement

Hyundai claims the Veloster’s single nearside rear door means it straddles two segments and offers hatchback-like practicality in the sharp-suited body of a coupé. In truth, it’s an unorthodox broadside at conventional two-door rivals from Volkswagen, Vauxhall and Renault.

The quirky Veloster will need to earn its buyers from established competition in a market it has not contested since the Hyundai Coupé disappeared from this country three years ago. One thing that’s certainly in its favour is its price, with most versions costing less than £20,000.

There are now two engine options for prospective Veloster buyers: Hyundai's naturally aspirated 1.6-litre GDI engine and turbocharged version of the same. The latter offers 184bhp and 195lb ft, up from the standard car's 138bhp and 123lb ft. The Turbo has a 0-62mph time of 8.4sec, against the naturally aspirated manual model’s 9.7sec.

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The Turbo also gets a larger-diameter exhaust for a 'more robust' sound, along with new front and rear bumpers, a new rear spoiler and grille, new 18-inch alloy wheels with chrome inserts, projection headlights with LED daytime running lights and unique LED tail-lights.

Both the Turbo and the naturally aspirated Veloster are offered with a six-speed manual gearbox, but buyers can also get the standard Veloster with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

So is the Veloster merely a curiousity, or is it a viable choice for those looking for a coupé that's rewarding to drive? Let's find out.


Hyundai Veloster headlight

Look at the Veloster and it’s tempting to conclude that at some point during the design stage Hyundai decided the best way to conceal the rear door was to make the styling around it as ornate as possible.

The manufacturer has described the hectic collection of lines, curves, cutaways and slopes as an evolution of its ‘fluidic sculpture’ design language, but the result is busy enough to warrant reassessment from two dozen angles.

The Turbo packs a 184bhp version of Hyundai's 1.6-litre engine

Amid the clutter, the small second door on the passenger’s side is visible enough, even if the Veloster’s designers have gone for the flush effect by concealing the handle in the window frame.

Hyundai has also avoided the Mini Clubman’s well known faux pas by adapting its asymmetric configuration for both left and right-hand drive markets.

Beneath its overwrought appearance, the new model is resolutely orthodox. A generous 2650mm wheelbase means four seats are not difficult to package (Hyundai has opted to split the rear bench with a plastic storage compartment), and the 320-litre boot is one of the biggest in its class.

The all-aluminium naturally aspirated motor drives the front wheels through either a six-speed manual or dual-clutch automatic gearbox, while the suspension is based on the tried and tested combination of MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam axle at the back.

A turbocharged version of the Veloster is also offered for those who want a little more verve from their Hyundai. That model features 18-inch wheels, more equipment and a body kit.

Hyundai claims excellent torsional and flexural rigidity from the Veloster’s steel bodyshell, and insists that a multi-faceted approach to counteracting noise and vibrations – including thicker damping materials and a three-layer sound pad in the dashboard bulkhead – has augmented the coupé’s rolling refinement.


Hyundai Veloster dashboard

Predictably, the most notable facet of the Veloster’s interior is the way its rear is accessed. While it may form a conspicuous part of the car’s unusual profile, the single rear side door turns out to be as tight as a loft hatch when it comes to the business of actually climbing through it.

The Hyundai's heavily tapered tail also means the door is bizarrely shaped. A fourth passenger will require protracted stooping and crouching. It’s worth noting that while the extra door is likely to frustrate adults, it might offer a worthy solution for parents juggling the logistical obligations of young children with a continued hankering for coupés.

The Veloster's interior won't leave you wanting, especially when it comes to kit

Taller occupants might find their heads nestled in unsettling proximity to the radically slanted rear screen, but otherwise the Veloster feels quite roomy for a compact coupé. The cabin is comfortable and good looking, too, especially up front.

Shipshape interior design has become a trait of Hyundai’s recent product line-up, and the Veloster continues in that vein. Particularly well chosen trim materials and a mildly funky sense of layout mean that everything is presented with an attractive, modernistic neatness that belies the model’s affordability.

The effect is topped off by a seven-inch multimedia touchscreen. The unit is flanked by an indulgent amount of standard kit, including rear parking sensors, steering wheel-mounted controls, climate control and Bluetooth.


Hyundai Veloster front quarter

If you’re expecting something overtly sporty from the Hyundai Veloster then the thin, reedy voice of the 1.6-litre engine on ignition is likely to prove disappointing. With its soft patter at idle and whirring, hollow buzz at low revs, the engine has an economy vibe about it that threatens to undermine any sense of obliging progress before you’ve even got going.

Fortunately, as the 138bhp four-pot finds more revs, so it locates a more mature, harder-edged voice. It also finds a welcome turn of speed. With 62mph only attainable in 9.7sec at best, the Veloster is not quick, and if you go for the dual-clutch automatic gearbox then the 0-62mph time is an even more lethargic 10.3sec. However, the tug associated with the very end of the throttle’s travel is sufficient to make it feel appreciably less than turgid.

The Veloster is quite happy to amble along but isn't so happy when pushed hard

The petrol engine’s plight is certainly aided by a creditable kerb weight. The car tipped our scales at 1235kg, some 90kg less than the equivalent Volkswagen Scirocco, and this relative lack of mass doesn’t unduly handicap the modest 123lb ft of torque delivered at 4850rpm.

Consequently, when not attempting to equal the Veloster’s official sprint time, it feels appropriately spry, in turn making changes on the unremarkable six-speed manual gearbox a choice rather than a continual necessity around town. A tall final ratio means 30mph is unrealistic in sixth, but gains in fuel consumption and refinement are made on the motorway, where the car feels at home. Both the standard car and Sport edition can be specced with the dual-clutch gearbox, which is servicable at best.

The Hyundai Veloster Turbo, which comes with a six-speed manual gearbox, predictably provides a welcome boost in performance. Its 8.4 second 0-62mph time isn't exceptional but it allows the Turbo to feel brisk enough.

Its flat torque curve (the 195lb ft maximum is available between 1500 and 4500rpm) means maintaining quick progress is far easier than in the standard Veloster. However, coarseness in the higher echelons discourages really spirited driving, so it's best to rely on the turbocharged lower rev thrust.


Hyundai Veloster front quarter

Without challenging the class leaders in the comfort stakes, the Hyundai Veloster rides in a crisp, respectable style. There’s a firm edge to the body control, which occasionally makes it seem busy over particularly coarse ground, but by and large the car adapts to British roads with little real fuss. Its basic compliancy, together with breezy steering, light pedals and perky engine, make the Hyundai a straightforward and undemanding prospect at regular speeds.

Issues only arise when you attempt to apply a coupé-like sense of energetic progress to proceedings. Hyundai has seen to it that the insubstantial steering acquires some weight at speed, but it has failed to find any real feedback through the first few degrees of input on the slow, elastic rack.

Hyundai has made a commendable effort with the Veloster but there are are a few issues

The paucity of initial feel is exacerbated by the Veloster’s lack of bite on turn-in, which is allied to a tendency to fritter away traction like a diesel locomotive on icy rails. The net result is a frustrating shortage of confidence in the car’s capacity to accommodate the enthusiastic driver.

That’s unfortunate, because there are indications that Hyundai has made some effort to embellish the model’s responses. An unexpectedly reactive rear end has been engineered into the Veloster, making it possible to adjust the wayward nose’s line through judicious throttle modulation. However, the outcome can be precarious under heavy braking from high speeds, where the car displays a worrying propensity for waywardness.

The significance of the Veloster’s shortcomings depend almost entirely on what you expect a coupé (or even a pseudo-coupé) to deliver on the handling front. Aside from the duff steering, most of the car’s issues are only noticeable under duress and would be unlikely to trouble buyers aspiring to nothing more challenging than the daily commute. However, to excel in this class means delivering a healthy dose of driver reward, and the Veloster falls short of that benchmark.

Noticeable (and welcome) improvments to the handling abilities of the Veloster have been implemented with the Turbo model. Its steering is free from the inconsistencies of the base 1.6, and retuned suspension is vastly better. Not only does the Veloster Turbo feel more keyed-in to the road thanks to firmer dampers, but it also maintains a more settled ride.


Hyundai Veloster

Economy, as usual, is a key component of Hyundai’s game plan. The Veloster range may lack a diesel engine, but in the budget end of the segment where it is targeted, parsimony trumps pace on most customers’ buying criteria.

The model will be offered in the manufacturer’s fuel-saving Blue Drive trim, which utilises automatic stop-start, low-resistance tyres and an alternator management system to extract 47.9mpg. Even in its base-spec form we managed 41.9mpg on our touring run, which places the car on a level pegging with most of its rivals.

A standard five-year warranty should help you avoid any unexpected bills

While Hyundai expects the Veloster’s novel composition to attract new buyers to the brand, many more will be drawn to the showroom by the car’s predictably keen pricing.

At £18,005 for the base model, it’s substantially cheaper than the similarly equipped Vauxhall Astra GTC and VW Scirocco and is arguably the pick of the range over the £20,505 Sport model, which gains more kit but no additional poke.

Fleet buyers will doubtless see the appeal of the 137g/km Blue Drive edition, but the Veloster’s Vauxhall and VW rivals both boast frugal diesel engines in their respective line-ups that significantly better the Hyundai’s figures in return for higher list prices. The Turbo SE model carries a £1500 premium over the non-turbocharged Sport and fuel economy suffers, too, but it looks like good value compared to the naturally-aspirated Veloster. Moreover, a basic turbocharged car, without the SE specification will later be offered by Hyundai.

Of course, this increased asking price places the Veloster Turbo against the more powerful versions of the Vauxhall Astra GTC and VW Scirocco, which will provide strong competition. The Veloster Turbo fares well in terms of efficiency, delivering fuel consumption and CO2 figures of 40.9mpg and 157g/km respectively.


3.5 star Hyundai Veloster

Hyundai deserves credit for seeing its asymmetric gamble through to production.

The Veloster will not appeal to everyone, nor is it especially effective, but the unconventional format might just prove distinctive enough to appeal to buyers weary of the stock options and of course those after a budget coupé.

It might not be the most exciting option but it's good value for money and will prove easy to live with

Hyundai might have found itself garnering more customers if the car beyond the offbeat packaging was equally as striking, but the Veloster can’t quite fuse its disparate notions of faddish style and enhanced function into a sufficiently alluring whole.

Nevertheless, the Veloster is buoyed by commendable build quality, decent comfort, generous standard kit, respectable economy and sterling value.

That makes it a credible ambassador for Hyundai's established strengths, but probably not the sales firebrand a genuine coupé might have been.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Hyundai Veloster 2012-2014 First drives