ROAD TEST: Hyundai Veloster 1.6 Executive
This is not the first time that Hyundai has braved the compact coupé universe, but there's no denying that when it comes to quality and driver satisfaction, the new Veloster is a far cry from that bland 'Poop Scoop' S-Coupe of the '90s.
In fact, the Veloster is the furthest thing from nondescript.
Many car companies claim to have blended the ingredients of a coupe with those of a sedan or hatch as if they were concocting some magic cocktail but the Veloster does this in the very literal sense.
Asking a question that perhaps nobody asked (why does a car have to be symmetrical?) it has one door on the driver's side and two on the other side. Quirky? Practical? Genius? It's always a conversation starter.
The styling alone is enough to get heated debates raging. Some love it, others hate it.
I quite like the agro front end and both razor-sharp side profiles gel pretty well with me but that 'beached whale' rear end is something I'd rather not look at every day.
The single rear door allows relatively easy access to the rear cabin, which is a tad roomier than you'd expect - as is the 440-litre boot. An average-sized adult will find the rear legroom and headroom bordering on acceptable but the occupant's head slots behind the roof line and that made me feel pretty claustrophobic.
QUALITY AND FEATURES
It's a far happier vibe up front, where occupants are greeted by what seems like a Star Trek version of Hyundai's vertically split dash. Material quality is just about top notch and there's far more content than you'd expect at the R265 900 price.
Forget options lists, this one's loaded (as standard) with automatic climate control, a powerful sound system and reverse camera (both linked to a seven-inch touch-screen), cruise control and leather seat trim.
The driving position is low, snug and sporty and the short-throw gear stick has a solid and sporty feel to it. The steering is still somewhat less than communicative, though. Overall it gives a sportier driving sensation than any other Korean car I've driven and the rorty engine note adds to the experience.
Yet this racy feel is not matched by the performance on offer. The sole engine option for now is a normally aspirated direct injection 1.6-litre petrol unit, credited with 103kW and 167Nm. Sure, it's got enough to get the average driver around town or countryside at a relatively brisk pace, but it offers nothing to those with performance aspirations.
Let's pick up this conversation again when the 150kW turbo version arrives next year, shall we?
For now, the normally aspirated model works well as a comfort coupe of sorts and while the ride quality is slightly firm it's still rather comfortable over most surfaces.
The Veloster impresses as a well-built, generously-equipped coupe-hatch for those that really want to stand apart from the crowd.
In fact the only car you could really compare this to (fairly directly) is the Renault Megane 1.4 TCe Coupe; although an Astra GTC or VW Scirocco could suffice if you can stretch the budget by another 40-60K.
On the other hand, if you're shopping at this price point and you're more into pedal-to-metal than show-and-tell, you'll naturally look at the smaller hot hatches with real performance on offer, like the turbocharged Peugeot 208 GTI and Ford Fiesta ST.