I’ve been trying to get a Veloster as a rental for a while, and Enterprise delivered for me in Altanta this time around. Between the optimistic name and the cool looks, I was looking forward to see what Hyundai brought to the table in the sporty hatch segment. Sadly, rental spec is not kind to this silly little coupé. That’s too bad, because the Veloster has some fun elements amid a laundry list of mediocrity usually reserved for lower-budget American cars.
I think the one feature that truly sums up the car is the Veloster logo screened onto the front seat backs: most cars would have embroidery where the little Hyundai has some sort of puffy ink. The entire interior is best described as a hot mess. The front seats are shapely and body-hugging, with solid bolstering, but the lower center cushions are flat and cardboard-y. After a mere half hour, my butt was screaming. And what are great bolsters without adjustable lumbar? Not much. Adjustability was fantastic in all other dimensions, though.
Moving on to the IP, holy underwear, Batman. The dash looks like a 2010 Civic got it on with an old Grand Am. It’s actually better in daylight than at night, where the endless array of backlit buttons is also endlessly distracting. The MMI screen is raked back at such an angle that only the lower half is easily reachable. Thankfully Apple CarPlay seemed to work fine. The silver-painted plastic trim is *everywhere*, spilling onto the doors in the form of upper trims and very intrusive grab handles that duplicate the function of the traditional cup pulls set further back and obscure access to the window and lock controls. The controls for the HVAC are decently laid out and took little time to sort. All functions worked, too. The MMI and rear camera setup functioned well and with minimal fussing. I was able to connect my phone via cable and Bluetooth with no fuss at all.
The outside of the poor Veloster is part of the problem. It’s overstyled to an artful degree that so overpromises that the car could never really deliver anyway. The rear treatment is, in, my opinion, pretty good. Where the Chrysler Cross(back)fire looked unfinished, the Veloster comes to its conclusion directly and forcefully. The car sits balanced front to back with well-defined haunches and brings to mind some of Renault’s artistry in the Wind. The front end suffers a bit from excessive canard syndrome, but the whole look is consistent and grew on me over the course of my rental.
Where the outside and inside meet, visibility goes out the proverbial window. Aside from the interesting glass hatch (I like it), there is not much greenhouse in the Veloster, making visibility an afterthough. Particularly bad is the view over the left shoulder, which is simply a wall of black B pillar. The driver’s mirror includes a blindspot viewer in the upper outer corner to help. The right side of the car benefits from the third door, which includes a window that can be opened to relieve wind noise and booming from open front windows.
Rental spec sadly meant that the Veloster I was driving was equipped with the naturally-aspirated 1.4l mill and a functional DCT automatic. Oh, man. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about this combination. I spent about 80% of my time in the car thinking “damn, this would be pretty fun with a snail and a stick.” The promise spoken by the Veloster name and the hyper-styled exterior fell on the stone-deaf ears of the lame powertrain. It didn’t even sound good.
General driving dynamics were decent. Road grip was good and for as much as you could push the tiny mill, the suspension was not the weak point of the system. Handling was another area where the car could use an upgrade. I’m not going to say it needs one, because the available power will never get you in trouble that way.
I realize that it sounds like I think the Veloster is a bad car, and that is not true. This is not a penalty box car (even in rental trim), nor is it a modern Mustang II. It’s actually a fun little way to get around that could do with some upgrades and factory performance options to help it live up to its enticing name. To start with, a high output motor and a decent six-speed manual, along with improved seats. Everything else works fine and is not only functional, it’s largely easy to figure out and use. The rest of it is all style points, and truthfully, if you’re a hot mess of a person, the Veloster will be a great fit for you right out of its hot mess of a two-box. You’re trying just as hard as Hyundai is.