First Drive: 2012 Hyundai Veloster videos reviews hyundai first drives
First Drive: 2012 Hyundai Veloster videos reviews hyundai first drives
2012 Hyundai Veloster. Click image to enlarge

Following the Veloster’s striking exterior design is a tough act for any interior, but in this car it doesn’t disappoint. Our vehicles were “Tech Package” equipped, and had the benefit of leatherette seat bolsters and leather-wrapped steering wheel, along with the navigation system and high-end audio, but in all areas the Veloster’s interior fit, finish, materials selection and functionality excelled. Cup holders were where they should be, the seats were comfortable with good support, interior door handles combine great design and ease-of-use (you don’t have to lean out to reach them, as you do with some coupes), the manual shifter looked good and fell nicely to hand, I liked the panorama roof as it made the car feel bright and open, and the seats are multi-adjustable, with surprisingly good legroom for rear-seat passengers, whose rear door features a wider than expected opening angle.

Headroom in the rear was a problem for me, but not for my co-driver. Those with a long torso will find their head in contact with the rear roof rail, and will have to slouch to fit. Front seat headroom is sufficient but compromised by the presence of the sunroof. The driver’s seat does have up/down adjustability, however.

We drove the Sea-to-Sky highway to Squamish, taking some secondary road diversions en route, and also drove for about an hour in downtown Vancouver. The Veloster’s suspension is firm and perhaps a little harsh over broken pavement, and the steering is sharp. The engine does not break a sweat when climbing the Sea-to-Sky highway, and seemed more than adequate for normal driving conditions. The manual transmission is smooth, clutch take-up is light and progressive and the standard EcoShift indicator suggests the gear that will provide the best fuel economy (there’s also a game that teaches fuel efficient driving called Blue Max).

First Drive: 2012 Hyundai Veloster videos reviews hyundai first drives
First Drive: 2012 Hyundai Veloster videos reviews hyundai first drives
2012 Hyundai Veloster. Click image to enlarge

The automatic transmission was something of a disappointment for me. Perhaps my expectations were too high after driving dual clutch transmissions from Volkswagen, Mitsubishi and Porsche, but I found paddle-shifted gear changes lacked the bite and precision of similar transmissions from those companies, feeling instead like a conventional torque-converter automatic with supplementary paddle shifters. In “automatic” mode at low speeds, the transmission seemed reluctant to shift, holding low gear for too long, and then shifting abruptly. Once underway the driving experience was perfectly fine. I suspect that most drivers will not regularly paddle shift, anyway, and the operation of the transmission will likely fade into the background.

Something else to note about the driving experience is that the car feels very substantial and the interior is exceedingly quiet. Wind noise is rarely noticeable and according to Hyundai, the noise levels in the car are class-leading. The Kumho tires, however, are very noisy on rougher pavement, which is perhaps even more noticeable due to the usually quiet cabin.

Outward visibility to the front and rear is very good, with large external mirrors helping to keep surrounding traffic in view. Rear visibility is compromised by the large C-pillars making the rear camera more of a necessity than being a handy supplement. These systems are becoming so good that consumers may start to see this feature as a “must have” in their list of desirable features.

All-in-all, the 2012 Hyundai Veloster is a pleasure to drive. Both trim levels offer huge value compared with other “niche” cars like the Honda CR-Z, Mini, Scion tC and Fiat 500. Perhaps the Kia Forte Coupe is another competitor, but the Veloster may just bust right out of its niche and surprise manufacturers of more mainstream compact and subcompact vehicles with its popularity.

Available now, the 2012 Hyundai Veloster is built in Korea.

Pricing: 2012 Hyundai Veloster
Base 6MT: $18,999
Tech Package 6MT: $22,499
DCT automatic transmission: $1,400
Delivery and Destination: $1,495

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