What is it?
It’s a very early prototype of Hyundai’s asymmetric Veloster, a coupe which sports two doors on one side and a single one on the other. Hyundai thinks it could go on to become the equivalent of its VW Scirocco, or Mini. Some kind of halo model.
It’ll go on sale autumn 2011 but we’ve been allowed a development drive of this early prototype in the UK, specifically to assess which direction the ride and handling should take. Power comes from a 1.6-litre petrol motor.
What’s it like?
The phrase ‘early prototype’ means don’t ‘judge fit and finish’. So I won’t, but the promise is there, with an interesting yet functional cabin.
The driving position is tidy, too, though a spot more travel for the nicely-sized wheel wouldn’t go amiss. The pedals are well spaced and control weights are pleasingly positive.
Our test car’s engine idled quietly and spun freely. The six-speed manual gearshift is precise, with only a little notch when swapping between ratios.
From rest, the steering is well-weighted and linear. The low-speed ride, however, is on the harsh side. There are big vertical movements around town, with none of the suppleness we’ve come to expect in, say, Hyundai’s own i30.
It’s the same at higher speeds, too; failing ever to quite settle. That can make the Veloster feel dynamic and agile, but our experience with, say, the Scirocco, Ford Fiesta Zetec S or Citroen DS3, is that decent handling doesn’t have to come at the expense of a sophisticated ride.
Other cars, like the Mini Cooper, or Alfa Romeo’s Mito, do make the compromise, sacrificing comfort for a faux-agile feeling. With an ideal set-up the Veloster wouldn’t.
At the moment the Veloster does, at times, feel agile. It responds quickly to small steering inputs, with limited roll angle, but a quickish roll rate.
It’s also throttle-adjustable, much keener to turn if you’re off the gas, or trailing the brakes, than it is on the throttle where it tends to understeer. I’m talking well within the realms of grip, too – about its general demeanour, not its slidey behaviour.
Should I buy one?
It’s still too early to tell. There’s still a lot of work to do on the chassis, but the promise is there.
By my thinking, Hyundai ought to do everything it can to release the Veloster’s full driving potential.
There are a lot of competitive and desirable cars at this level, and if Hyundai can make its coupe one of the best cars around to drive, it’ll give itself a useful leg-up.
Hyundai Veloster 1.6
Price: £19,000 (est); Top speed: 120mph (est); 0-62mph 9.8sec (est); Economy: 50.4mpg (tbc); CO2: 132g/km (tbc); Kerb weight: 1295kg (tbc); Engine: 4 cyls, 1591cc, petrol; Power: 138bhp at 6300rpm; Torque: 123lb ft at 4850rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual.