---- — Driving a slick, raptor-like Hyundai Veloster last week, I was reminded again and again that the spunky little coupe is dramatic and refreshingly distinctive. My test model was particularly distinctive, painted a coppery orange that made the waves, tucks, creases, curves and swooping profile of Veloster’s body stand out all the more.
There was the Boston cop who stopped me after I turned onto Boylston from Ipswich Street, beneath the Green Monster of Fenway Park. He said I had disregarded the sign that prohibited a right on red. Of course, I couldn’t see the sign because a city utility truck was tucked close beside it. In any case, the officer seemed more interested in the Veloster than in my violation.
“Does this have three doors?” he asked me as he walked from one side to the other to appraise the vehicle.
“It does,” I answered. “It’s a pretty unique car.”
Then there was the guy hanging out the passenger window of a Ryder rental truck that drove beside me on Massachusetts Avenue in Boston. As we rolled between stop lights during an urban road crawl, he shouted down at me, “Hey, that’s an awesome looking car.”
“Thanks,” I popped back, happy for the compliment and unable to explain, in the traffic din, that it wasn’t really my car, that I was only driving the sprite Hyundai for the week, to evaluate it and tell my impressions to folks in the Merrimack Valley and Southern New Hampshire.
“Is it fast?” he shouted.
“Yeah. It’s quick,” I replied.
You can’t consider the Veloster fast the way an auto with a massive and muscular, pounding V8 is fast, or the way an expensive European sports car with a twitching six-cylinder engine is fast. But the Veloster I drove had a turbocharged four-cylinder that makes the car hop and scurry with gusto and entertaining elan.
The turbocharged engine is a new addition to the Veloster this year, arriving with the 2013 model as a more powerful alternative to the 138-horsepower, standard four-cylinder engine that came with Veloster when the car was introduced in September 2011 as a 2012 model. Using a sophisticated, twin-scroll turbocharger that promotes better fuel combustion and more effective waste-exhaust than a conventional turbocharger, the new engine produces 201 horsepower, about a 50 percent increase from the standard motor.
The starting list price for the 2013 Veloster Turbo is $22,725 for a model with a six-speed manual transmission. That’s $4,500 more than a standard Veloster with manual transmission, which starts at a list price of $18,225. A six-speed automatic transmission adds $1,250 to a base Veloster, and $1,000 to a Veloster Turbo.
The turbo model’s hop in price is no deterrent at Salem Ford Hyundai. David Silvia, Hyundai sales manager at the Salem, N.H., dealership, reports that the turbo model is seeing the most demand.
“I can’t keep the Veloster Turbo in stock,” he said.
Buyers are eager to take the turbo version both ways, with either manual or automatic transmission, he said. But with the non-turbo four-cylinder, the manual transmission sees greater demand, Silvia noted.
Those preferences speak very well of Veloster drivers. Clearly the turbo buyers just want to scoot around faster. The non-turbo buyers, by preferring the manual transmission, show that they’re interested in actively engaging with the car and enjoying the thrill of athletic vehicle control, which manual shifting allows much more readily than an automatic transmission. They want to drive with passion and gusto, rather than just use their Veloster as a personal ornament – though the dramatically sculpted and distinctively styled Veloster makes a very good personal ornament.
At Salem Ford Hyundai, Silvia sees most Velosters sell to younger drivers who aren’t yet hauling around children.
“They’re urban trendsetters, both males and females,” he said. “They’re career-oriented, in their mid to late 20s, up to their mid 30s. They’re not in a family-dependency stage yet.”
But youthfully spirited empty nesters make up a second strong contingent of Veloster fans, he noted. To illustrate, Silvia told of a recent buyer in his mid 40s who traded in a Ford Taurus sedan – a big, four-door car – for a Veloster right after his youngest child left home for college.
For him and similar Veloster buyers, the model’s appearance and sporty road manners are attractive attributes, but its fuel economy is also a big draw, Silvia said.
“They’re using it for a commuter car because of its great gas mileage,” he explained.
Models with a standard four-cylinder earn a government fuel-economy rating of 27 miles per gallon in city driving, and 37 mpg on the highway, when equipped with manual transmission. The automatic moves the ratings only slightly, to 28 mpg city, 37 mpg highway. The Veloster Turbo with a manual transmission rates 24/35 mpg, while the automatic transmission drops the rating to 24/31 mpg. In all cases those are good fuel-economy figures from a sport-oriented coupe.
Like any low and slinky coupe, the Veloster is largely a personal car. But its innovative third door – opening into the back seat from the right, passenger side – makes the model marvelously more useful than most four-seat runabouts that have only doors for front occupants. Veloster’s rear entryway is a real door, opening wide to invite easy loading of the back cabin. But the door is hidden, with its edges cleverly matched to the car’s fluid contours and its handle stuck high amid the side window trim, where you’d never think to look for a door handle.
Silvia said that the third door complements the generous passenger space Veloster provides for rear-seat riders.
“In a lot of test drives, I sit in the back,” he said. “I fit comfortably. I don’t feel squished.”
But the useful back seat turns out to be an unanticipated bonus for most Veloster shoppers, who are drawn by the model’s dramatic, one-of-a-kind appearance.
“When the vast majority of people come to look at the car, they’re thinking that it’s a standard two-door coupe. They don’t even know the third door exists,” stated Silva. Often, when they discover it, “that puts a nail in the sale.”
Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction and non-fiction books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at www.jeffreyzygmont.com.
2013 Hyundai Veloster Vehicle type: 3-door, 4-passenger, front-wheel-drive sports coupe Price range: $18,225 to $23,725 (plus options) Warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles basic warranty; 10 years/100,000 miles powertrain warranty; 7 years/unlimited miles corrosion warranty; 5 years/unlimited miles roadside assistance Base engine: 1.6-liter I4 Power: 138 horsepower at 6,300 rpm; 132 lb.-ft. torque at 4,850 rpm Base transmission: 6-speed manual Fuel economy: 27 mpg city; 37 mpg highway Wheelbase: 104 inches Length: 166 inches Width: 70 inches Height: 55 inches Weight: 2,584 pounds Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons Turning circle: 34.1 feet