2019 Hyundai Veloster

AUSTIN, Texas — I first heard about the Veloster back in 2012 when Hyundai initially launched the quirky little hatchback, and the name reminded me of a carnival ride. “Weird name for a car,” I thought. Fast forward to May 2018, when Hyundai fittingly introduced the second generation 2019 Veloster to the media in Austin, a city that takes immense pride in proclaiming itself the weirdest city in the country (although Portland, Ore., takes exception to that claim).

We met the new Veloster among the world-famous music scene in Austin’s trendy chic Rainey Street District, home of the hip Hotel Van Zandt and headquarters for the vehicles 2019 launch. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend putting it on your “must visit” list.

An intentional departure from mainstream motoring, the new Veloster upholds its “quirky” designation with an asymmetrical three-door design: a single door on the driver’s side and two doors on the passenger side. Other manufacturers have attempted the same three-door layout —†Mini Clubman, Saturn and Mazda RX8, to name a few. There’s also a rear hatchback that opens to reveal a surprising 19.9 cubic feet of storage space behind the rear seat – that’s actually larger than numerous competitors including the Honda C-HR crossover, and double that of the Mini Cooper.

Even with modest dimensional growth and overly ferocious new styling, the Veloster remains familiar and instantly recognizable, and continues with the signature rear-canted rear-visibility impairing roofline, and twin centered exhaust pipes. There’s a new grille shape and stylish sculpturing to the rear hatch and taillamps. Buyers can even opt for a darkened roof treatment if desired. Seriously, we really like the new look.

Inside, the four-seat cabin is surprisingly roomy and comfortable up front with ample head, leg and shoulder room. The passenger’s side and rear seat not so much. There’s an upgraded eight-inch color touch-screen display that controls both the standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto infotainment features. There’s also push-button start and wireless smartphone charging. All operational controls are well laid out and intuitive, with actual knobs and push buttons for most functions. 

There’s a choice of cloth or leather seating material with royal blue, orange, red or yellow accents. While the overall look is attractive, almost everything is inside is finished with hard plastic; only the door panel armrest and center console cover are finished with soft touch materials, and even that was so thin it felt hard.

Veloster is powered by a choice of two different engines: a 147 horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder in the base 2.0 and 2.0 Premium trim levels and a more powerful 1.6-liter 201-horsepower turbocharged R-Spec, Turbo and Turbo Ultimate trim levels. Hyundai only provided the 1.6-liter R-Spec and Turbo Ultimate models for the media introduction and drive. A more powerful 275-horsepower Veloster N will be introduced later this year.

The Turbo trim levels compare more closely to competitors like the Volkswagen GTI or the Honda Civic Si, but felt less powerful than those vehicles. There’s a choice of a six-speed manual shifter or a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. We drove both the Veloster Turbo R Spec with the six-speed B&M Racing sport manual shifter and the Turbo Ultimate with the dual-clutch transmission.

The R-Spec is the mid-level trim package and also the most sporty, with a total price of just $23,785 (MSRP). On the road, the R-Spec shifting was buttery smooth with short throws. A drive-mode-select button gives the driver a choice of “Normal” or “Sport” settings. There’s a new rear multilink sport-tuned suspension for 2019 that delivers more refined and athletic handling with excellent cornering, and predictable, confident overall handling. Both models we drove came equipped with exhaust note enhancement (fake engine noise) via speakers inside the vehicle. It can be turned off if desired for a quieter cabin.

It also helped that the R-Spec comes standard with R18-inch Michelin Pilot Sport Summer Performance Tires that significantly add to the grippy handling we experienced. It’s noticeably better handling than the Turbo Ultimate, which uses all-season tires. Overall we much preferred the driving characteristics of the R-Spec over the pricier ($29,160) Turbo Ultimate trim level.

There’s an abundance of advanced standard safety features, including forward collision avoidance assist with automatic braking. The Turbo Ultimate adds additional safety features including blind-spot assist and pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control available only when selecting the automatic transmission.

While the 2019 Veloster is significantly better in every way, Hyundai was careful to make certain it retained the style, feel and quirkiness of the original Veloster, including the three-door configuration that makes the car especially unique and interesting. The new Veloster goes on sale this summer.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $18,500 - $28,150 (Add $885 for shipping)
Price as Tested: R-Spec $23,785, Turbo Ultimate $29,160
Powertrain: 1.6-liter 201 horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder  and 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic transmission
Fuel Economy: 28-MPG City – 34-MPG Highway (Automatic transmission)
Crash Test Ratings: NHTSA and IIHS have not crash-tested the 2019 Veloster
Seating: 4

Competes With:
Ford Focus ST
Honda Civic Si
Mini Cooper
Volkswagen GTI

Fab Features:
Quirky 3-door styling
Advanced safety features
Sharp handling

— Jim Prueter