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2012 Hyundai Veloster

Hyundai Veloster: style over substance Add to ...

One of the toughest crowds in the car business – Generation Y – is about to have another new model for its consideration. It’s the Hyundai Veloster, a car for people who apparently don’t care about driving, and aimed directly at buyers aged between 20 and 30.

“The Veloster is designed for young urban drivers,” Hyundai Canada president and CEO Steve Kelleher said at the launch in Vancouver. “We don’t usually market a car this specifically, but we know that we need to target up-and-coming consumers – particularly Gen-Yers.”

How tough is this market? Hyundai reckons that only a scant 5 per cent of all Gen-Yers are “car people” with 15 per cent at best bothering to follow the industry at all. A tough crowd.

But first, what is a Veloster? Originally unveiled as a concept car at the Seoul Motor Show in 2007, it’s a three-door hatchback coupe that will be competing directly against the likes of the Honda CR-Z, Fiat 500, and Toyota Scion tC, among others.

And when we say a three-door hatchback coupe, that’s exactly what we mean. The Veloster is the two body configurations put together, with a conventional rear hatch, and one rear door, on the passenger side. It’s the first car to offer this arrangement and was designed at Hyundai’s Irvine, Calif., studio. Hyundai designers are calling it a two-plus-one body style.

As far as the name goes, Veloster is what the company called it during the R&D process, four years ago, and the name “just kind of stuck,” according to Hyundai’s manager of product planning, Michael Ricciuto.

But getting back to those hard-to-please Generation Y-ers. Although boomers are still the biggest market at this point in the game, that’s going to change before you know it and, over the next decade or so, Y-ers will go on to account for more than 40 per cent of all new-car sales, while boomers will slide down to 25 per cent. The remaining market share will presumably be taken up by Generation X-ers.

“Y-ers are tech-savvy, autonomous and, above all, connected,” adds Ricciuto. “They place technology and style over power and performance.”

Which may account for the Veloster’s rather mediocre on-road behaviour. With power coming from the same “Gamma” 1.6-litre, four-cylinder engine found in the Accent, the Veloster could definitely use a shot in the arm in the power department. During a day of driving in and around the Vancouver area, in all kinds of driving conditions, this non-Generation Y baby boomer found Hyundai’s newest to be kind of unresponsive, slow to rev and shy on reserve power.

Buyers can choose from a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic that features dual clutches with no torque converter. According to Hyundai, the automatic transmission, because of its direct shifting characteristics, will help give the Veloster a 5 to 6 per cent increase in fuel economy, with tighter shift points and improved acceleration. Can’t say as I noticed either one, and it’s questionable whether it’s worth the additional $1,400 buyers will have to shell out to get it. But, however you slice it, both drivetrains are disappointing when the rubber hits the road.

Hyundai is specifically targeting the Honda CR-Z and, to a lesser extent, the Fiat 500 with the Veloster. As well as having more seating and better performance than its Japanese and Italian rivals, Ricciuto claims that it’d take 83 years of driving to recover the price difference between the Veloster and CR-Z. Having driven both cars, I’d say that the CR-Z will run away and hide when it comes to handling, braking, and cornering, but the Veloster is livelier, with more interior elbow room and that funky right-side back door.

It’s also got lots more to play with in the electronic do-dads department. Among other things, you can get a Gracenote voice-recognition system that will allow you to verbally call up just about any album ever recorded with the accompanying album cover art displayed on the dash monitor. Ford uses a similar program with its Sync system. If that’s not enough, you can plug your favourite video game in and play it on the car’s monitor. Bored with those two? Then you can always go back to the car’s Bluetooth capability or play the on-board Blue Max fuel economy game that is, and I quote, “an entertaining way to teach fuel-efficient driving techniques.” And let’s not forget the optional navi system, which is also voice-activated and comes with XM satellite radio and a CD player. So much to do, so little time.

Being a Hyundai, the Veloster comes well equipped for its just less than $19,000 base price. Heated front seats, a back-up camera, air conditioning, cruise control, fog lights, telescoping steering and steering-wheel-mounted controls are all standard, and options include the navi system, a huge power sunroof, larger 18-inch wheels and tires and various interior goodies.

globedrive@globeandmail.com

Tech specs

2012 Hyundai Veloster

Type: Three-door, compact hatchback/coupe

Base price: $18,999; as tested, $22,499

Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder

Horsepower/torque: 138 hp/123 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed manual/automatic

Drive: Front-drive

Fuel economy (litres/ 100 km): 7.2 city/4.9 highway (manual); regular gas

Alternatives: Honda CR-Z, Fiat 500, Scion tC, Nissan Versa, Kia Forte, Ford Focus

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