DETROIT — Hyundai is conducting regional test drives of its new Veloster and Kona. But there’s more to it than that.
Since the automaker spun off its Genesis nameplate to form a new luxury line, Hyundai is faced with the same challenges that helped to create the Genesis nameplate in the first place. It must grow beyond the perception of a value brand (read: cheap).
As an executive told me, Hyundai must convince people that the brand is a great deal more than a great deal.
The way it intends to do that is by offering outstanding safety, great equipment, the best warranty in the industry and good performance. Enter the 2019 Veloster.
In a market that is tilted toward light trucks versus cars by almost two to one, the 2019 Veloster has a leg, or should I say a tire, up. The small sportster is not your run-of-the-mill car.
This is the second generation of the Veloster which was introduced about seven years ago. It had a sloping roof that is like no other in the market. Hyundai will say that the car has a symmetrical two-plus-one-configuration, which is a cute way of saying it has three doors. The third one is on the passenger side and makes access easier for backseat entry.
It had a new cascading grill, full fenders at all four corners, available LED headlights and LED Daytime Running Lights. Functional air curtains at the corners made the 2019 Veloster look wider and the sloping roof made it look lower.
The traditional cascade grille shape had morphed into a strong, three-dimensional design. Much of the redesign is derived from enhanced proportions and volume that made the car look muscular. It really did look good and the 2019 Veloster looked fast.
The fenders were fuller, so were the wheel arches. The cowl point and A-pillars were moved further rearward and connected the hood line and belt line. There were 18-inch alloy wheels.
The roofline had been lowered, the fender line was also more coupe-like, and the rear end now has a more aggressive integrated diffuser. Available LED taillights helped bestow on the rear end a high-tech appearance.
Some Veloster models had a full darkened roof treatment for a high-contrast performance appearance. Veloster’s dynamic rear design had a distinctive glass hatch and center-fascia chrome exhaust tips, with a single outlet for the 2.0-liter model and dual-outlets for Turbo and R-Spec models.
There were two engines. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder made 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. It could be mated to either a six-speed manual or a six-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission.
The1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder made 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque at a low 1,500 rpm. It could be mated to a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed dual clutch gear box.
Torque vectoring is offered on all models. There are seven: the 2.0 manual starts at $18,500, the 2.0 automatic starts at $19,500, the 2.0 automatic Premium starts at $22,750, the Turbo R-Spec manual starts at $22,900, the Turbo with dual clutch transmission starts at $25,400, the Turbo Ultimate with manual transmission starts at $26,650 and the Turbo Ultimate with dual clutch started at $28,150. All prices do not include the $885 freight charge and all models are front-wheel-drive.
We had the top of the line Turbo Ultimate with the seven speed dual clutch transmission and paddle shifters. In short, it was a sharp ride. It was spacious with plenty of room for two sizable grown men. The car got 28 mpg in the city, 34 mpg on the highway and 30 mpg combined.
The bucket seats were deep and comfortable with plenty of lumbar support. I never even looked in the back seat but they did say that there was almost 20 cu. ft. or cargo space with the rear seats folded.
The center stack had a cascading effect. Each row of control buttons were set just little farther inward. There was a band of media controls, then climate controls, and then there was a 12V, USB and auxiliary plug. There was no soft touch dash but it was not that hard either.
This Veloster was a driver’s car. There were three drive modes: normal, sport and smart. I liked sport on the Turbo Ultimate. The road felt good under this car. It had a MacPherson strut front suspension with gas filled hydraulic twin shock absorbers and a multi-link with twin gas filled shock absorber suspension in the rear. And there were stabilizer bars fore and aft.
The torque on the engine meant it could and did accelerate with authority from just about any speed. Handling was great. The route was mostly curving two lane rural roads and the Veloster stuck to them like a sports car that cost twice as much.
Driving through the city, the Veloster never felt overwhelmed in terms of size by the other traffic. Out test model was chock full of creature comforts. It had a premium audio system, a navigation system, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, satellite radio, wireless charging, and a heads up display, automatic climate controls, heated front seats, Blue Link with remote start and map updating and a smart key. That was some of the equipment they want to be known for.
As for safety, our 2019 Veloster had stability control, traction control, electronic brake force distribution, blind spot collision warning, automatic high beams, rear cross traffic alert with collision warning, forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist and smart cruise control. That’s the safety equipment Hyundai wants to be known for.
They’ve got a five-year/60,000 mile new vehicle warranty, a 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty; a seven-year/unlimited mile anti-perforation warranty, five-year unlimited mile roadside assistance and they’ve also got other limited warranties that you’ve got to check with the dealer about.
For $29,160 as tested I thought the 2019 Hyundai Veloster was a good and distinctive buy.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com