Funnily enough – considering we have the new Hyundai Veloster in for review – the Hyundai that really gave the first indication that Hyundai could be anything more than a cheap way to get on four new wheels was the Hyundai coupe, a coupe from Korea that looked good and went well enough for its target market; perhaps the first properly appealing Hyundai.
So can Hyundai take our perceptions of the brand on from being a maker of quality mainstream family cars and build a coupe with real appeal and real performance? It’s a big ask to make a coupe stand out, but Hyundai’s previous success with a coupe gives us hope that the new Veloster Coupe can pull off yet another winner for Hyundai.
Hyundai Veloster – inside and out
If a coupe is going to work, it has to start off by being stylish. And if it can be stylish and stand out from the crowd, so much the better. So, in our eyes, the Hyundai Veloster is off to a flying start. Its looks may be a bit Marmite, but the general consensus is that they work. Yes, the two doors of a normal coupe have been supplemented by an extra door for rear seat access on the passenger side, which we had down as just a style statement.
That view was reinforced when we tried to squeeze a full size adult in the back through the extra door (actually, a slightly bigger than full size adult). Not only was it a sight to behold as he tried to get in, he needed at least another six inches of headroom to sit upright.
But we quickly changed our minds on a school run when little ‘uns managed to scramble in through the little side door with ease and plonk themselves in place in quick sticks. So points to Hyundai for catering for what is probably their key market for the Veloster – mums who want a bit of style when running the kids around town - and quashing our cynicism about their styling flight of fancy in one fell swoop.
The rest of the Hyundai Veloster adds up too, with an aggressive nose, sloping coupe roof with a big panoramic glass sunroof, nicely rounded rump and a decent set of appealing alloys with body-colour highlights.
The interior is Hyundai good to – which means decent quality materials that look better than they are and a slightly funky cabin architecture – with a nice big colour touchscreen (thanks to the £1100 Media Pack) and plenty of toys from Heated Seats to Cruise and Climate by way of auto lights and wipers and decent connectivity. So, good looking, inside and out, and a bit quirky in the process. A good start.
Hyundai Veloster – Performance on the road
A coupe’s styling may drag the punters in to the showroom, but for many it’s how it performs that matters. Unfortunately, the Hyundai Veloster just doesn’t go well enough, or at least not well enough unless you wring it quite hard.
Poodling around in the Veloster is a frustrating experience as the lack of torque – just 123lb/ft – means it feels almost asthmatic if you plant your foot without giving serious consideration to picking a gear at least one lower than you’d expect.
That may well be a problem for the busy mum zapping around town in her new Veloster Coupe, although it can be solved – to a degree – by keeping the revs high and the choice of gears low. Do that and the Veloster will buzz a bit, although a 0-62mph of 9.7 seconds isn’t going to frighten the horses.
But once you get the Veloster on the move it does acquit itself quite well. The steering is better than alright – if not exactly great – and the chassis can certainly handle the (limited) power the Veloster throws at it.
The ride is firm but compliant enough and Hyundai has done a decent job of making the Veloster easy to live with on our rotten roads. Handling is on the safe side and the Veloster does have predictable FWD understeer although, and we may just have imagined it, the throttle does seem to tighten the line if you push on instead of lifting off when the Veloster wants to go straight on in a bend.
What it feels like is that Hyundai hasn’t been brave enough with either the power on offer or the setup, defaulting instead to a safe Veloster that won’t get anyone in to real trouble. And maybe they’re right? Maybe Hyundai’s target market for the Veloster – our imaginary busy mum with two small kids – doesn’t want a rorty, lively coupe but instead wants a good looking coupe that feels safe and unthreatening?
Hyundai Veloster – Verdict
We wanted to like the Veloster, and in many ways we do. It takes Hyundai in to a new sector and – if we go by the massive improvements they’ve made in recent years with their more traditional cars – if the Veloster is the starting point for future Hyundai Coupes then we could be in for some future treats.
Hyundai has been brave with the styling – and it’s a brave style we think works convincingly, including the trick extra door – we just wish they’d been braver with the Veloster’s setup and power delivery.
But a stylish and appealing coupe – at a decent price point (£20,500) – even with uninspiring handling and a paucity of easily accessible power is still a better than half decent start for a coupe for the modern Hyundai range.
It may be that Hyundai has got its entry-level Veloster just right for its target market, and the Veloster Turbo will turn out to be the lively and appealing car we hoped the entry-level Veloster would be.
Maybe Hyundai would have been better sticking the 1.6 CRDI lump in the Veloster, which would have made it feel livelier around town and more economical to boot? Did we just say that? A torquey diesel might be better than a free-revving petrol in a sporty coupe.
Has Hell just frozen over?
Hyundai Veloster Sport 1.6 GDi Specs
- Engine: 1591cc, 138bhp
- Performance: 0-62mph 9.7 seconds / Top Speed 125mph
- Economy: 43.5mpg - Official / 35.6mpg - Test
- Emissions: 148g/km
- Price: £20,500 / Price as tested £22,045
- Test car supplied by Hyundai UK