When the 2012 Hyundai Veloster made its world debut at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show, there was a shadow lurking on the stage. From any angle and at any time there was the ghost of the old Honda CRX hovering around it. The Veloster is small, like the CRX. It's a fastback of sorts, like the CRX. It's got some sportiness like the CRX. And it's aimed squarely at first-time buyers, like the CRX. So it's the second coming of the CRX, right?
"We interviewed a lot of millenials," said Brandon Ramirez, Hyundai's product manager for the Accent, Elantra and Veloster, "and we interviewed a lot of compact coupe buyers. What they all wanted was versatility. So there was no question that the Veloster was going to be a four-seater. And that's why there's a third door."
Well, that's not like the two-door, two-seat CRX. So maybe the Veloster isn't just a CRX after all. And maybe Hyundai isn't about to take the spot in enthusiasts' hearts won by the CRX. Maybe the Hyundai Veloster is something truly new.
Tale of Tape
The Veloster rides on the same platform as Hyundai's Elantra sedan. It's not quite the same on the outside, though, as there's 2 inches sliced out of the wheelbase and another 10.2 inches total lopped off the front and rear overhangs. But just because it's more than a foot shorter than the Elantra overall, and almost 8 inches shorter than a 2011 Scion tC, that doesn't mean it's small by the CRX's historical standards.
|2012 Hyundai Veloster||2011 Hyundai Elantra||2008 Hyundai Tiburon||2011 Scion tC||1985 Honda Civic CRX Si||1988 Honda CRX Si|
|Engine||1.6-liter direct-injection DOHC four||1.8 liter DOHC four||2.0-liter
|2.5-liter DOHC four||1.5-liter
|1.6-liter SOHC four|
|Transmission||Six-speed manual||Six-speed manual||Five-speed manual||Six-speed manual||Five-speed manual||Five-speed manual|
Compared to the original CRX, the Veloster is a giant. It's 21.5 inches longer, 4.3 inches taller and weighs a full 630 pounds more. Let's just admit it: In an age where cars are built around deformable structures, come overstuffed with safety equipment and attempt to compete with crossovers and SUVs, it's not likely that any manufacturer will ever build something directly comparable to the old CRX again.
The CRX is, for better or worse, a relic of the not-long-ago past.
But that doesn't mean the Veloster is too big. It's almost 7 inches shorter than the 2008 Hyundai Tiburon it kinda/sorta replaces. By 21st-century standards, the Veloster is a pint-size machine.
Tale of Suspension
Since the Veloster is based on the Elantra, it's no surprise that the suspension design is the same. That means a pair of MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam (Hyundai calls it a "V-Beam") axle in the back. Not exactly the stuff of legends here. There's a 24mm anti-sway bar up front (the Elantra uses a 23mm bar) and a 23mm rear bar (the Elantra does without a rear bar). Of course, the shocks and springs have been retuned to work with the Veloster's dimensions and tires.
Interestingly, Hyundai has slowed the Veloster's steering down a bit from what's in the Elantra. While both are electrically assisted rack-and-pinion systems, the Veloster runs a 15.6:1 ratio while the Elantra's steering runs a 14.2:1 rack.
The standard tires are 215/45HR17 radials with 17-by-7-inch alloy wheels. A set of 215/40VR18 tires with 18-by-7.5-inch alloys is optional. So if you're a fan of steel wheels, don't buy a Veloster.
Tale of Power
"It's an all-new engine," explains Ramirez about the Veloster's power plant, "from the new Gamma engine group." Whatever Greek letter it wears, what's important is that this all-aluminum 1.6-liter four packs just about every trendy, of-the-moment technology known to internal combustion.
So the Gamma engine sports dual overhead cams with dual continuously variable valve timing (D-CVVT) operating on all 16 of its valves. Of course it features direct gasoline injection. And with direct injection comes a high 11.0:1 compression ratio.
The Veloster's engine runs 77mm cylinder bores with a relatively long 85.4mm of crank stroke for a total of 1,591 cubic centimeters of displacement. The 138 rated horsepower comes at 6,300 rpm, but the long stroke means the torque peak is down at a more modest (but still screaming) 4,850 rpm. Of course it would be nice if there were more than just 123 pound-feet of twist available at that point, but that's what you get.
In contrast, the standard 1.8-liter engine in the Elantra doesn't use direct injection, but does feature virtually everything else the Veloster's 1.6 does. It's rated at 148 hp at 6,500 rpm and 131 lb-ft of peak torque at 4,700 rpm.
In fact, the Gamma engine has already appeared in Korean-market versions of the Elantra and it's likely that it will soon come over to the Alabama-built U.S. version of the Elantra eventually as well. However, Hyundai's Ramirez denies there are any current such plans.
When the Veloster was first shown in concept form at the Seoul auto show way back in 2007, it was equipped with a 2.0-liter engine. So there's likely room aboard for something bigger down the line. Hyundai officials have also mentioned that a turbocharged version of the 1.6-liter base engine could be on the way, too. Now that would be interesting.
Tale of Trannies
The Veloster will be offered only with six-speed transmissions: either a manual or an all-new Hyundai-built dual-clutch (DCT) automatic.
Fifth and 6th gears in both transmissions are overdrive ratios. However, the overdrives are deeper in the manual with its 0.688:1 6th gear compared to the DCT's 0.743:1 top cog ratio. Some of that is made up in the final-drive gearsets, where the manual runs a 4.26:1 final-drive ratio and the DCT goes off at a super short 4.81:1.
Hyundai's DCT is its own unique design and, according to Ramirez, the company isn't paying royalties to any copyright holders (like Audi) on any transmission design elements. According to the press materials, the DCT is a critical element in allowing the Veloster to achieve its claimed 40 mpg fuel economy rating on the highway.
An "Active Eco" mode optimizes both engine and DCT performance to improve economy by a claimed 7 percent in "real-world" driving, according to Hyundai. Fictional world performance will be tougher to pin down.
Tale of Sculpture
According to Hyundai's press release, the "Veloster's unique design takes inspiration from a high-performance sport bike. Veloster has distinctive black A-pillars that give the glass a motorcycle helmet visor appearance." Yeah, OK, whatever.
There are a lot of neat details in the Veloster's Korean-designed appearance, from the LEDs embedded in the headlight buckets to the deep front grille to the heavily sculpted tail and central exhaust. One element that does seem to come straight over from the second-generation CRX is the glass panel set into the tail to increase rearward vision.
While 17-inch wheels will be standard, many (if not most) buyers will opt for the optional 18s. "On the 18s there's a painted insert matching the body color," says Hyundai's Ramirez. "At least on some colors. Other colors will get black painted inserts."
Although the car was introduced wearing a flattering shade of matte gray, Hyundai says it hasn't approved the flat paint option for production yet. "We received some very positive reactions to that color at the auto show," a Hyundai spokesperson told Inside Line. "We're definitely looking into making it available as an option, but it won't be available initially."
The most notable element of the styling, however, is how un-fast the fastback roof is. For all intents and purposes the roof is nearly flat, with the rear window acting almost as a glass roof. Could be a problem in direct sunlight.
At first glance there's no apparent difference between the right and left sides of the car. What's remarkable about that is the left side has one relatively long door, while the right side has two shorter doors for easier access to the rear seat. That third rear door is front-hinged in the conventional manner, as opposed to rear-hinged as in the old Saturn Ion coupe or various extended-cab pickup trucks.
In fact, the third door is so well integrated into the styling that it begs the question why Hyundai didn't just go all the way and build the Veloster as a four-door?
Tale of Inner Space
Hyundai seems particularly proud of the Veloster's interior space utilization. For instance, even though the Hyundai's wheelbase is 2 inches shorter, Hyundai claims more front headroom, legroom and shoulder room than in the Scion tC. But what Hyundai isn't shouting about is that the tC offers 2.9 inches more rear legroom than the 31.7 inches aboard the Veloster. Neither the tC nor the Veloster is limousinelike, but that 2.9 inches can make a load of difference to a friend stuck back there on a late night when the Veloster's owner is the designated driver.
Mimicking the outside design theme, Hyundai says the dash and controls were all crafted to appear as they might on a sport bike. Even the floor console, Hyundai claims, is built to resemble the seat on a motorcycle. Whatever. It all seems reminiscent of other current Hyundais to our eyes and that's no bad thing.
Hyundai sees all the millenials going for the onboard connectivity and free-form gadgetry aboard the Veloster. There's a standard 7-inch touchscreen atop the center stack that can be configured in three different layouts, and Pandora Internet radio is part of the package as well.
Complementing the Pandora feed is Gracenote, which includes displayable cover art, voice recognition for operating it all, standard Bluetooth integration for personal electronics and enough onboard memory to store up to 10 CDs worth of music, images or video. There are also standard RCA jacks for plumbing in video or game consoles and a 115-volt power source to power them. Of course there's also a USB port and auxiliary audio jack. And everything plays with 450 watts of audio dynamite.
"We also have an 'Eco-Coach' feature," explains Ramirez. "It tracks current fuel economy and lets the owner compare his results with other Veloster drivers through the MyHyundai.com Web site." Fortunately, he also promises that participation in that feature is voluntary.
BlueLink, roughly Hyundai's equivalent of GM's OnStar support service, will also be standard. For a while at least, before the monthly service fee kicks in.
Tale of the Sticker
Set to go on sale around July in three different configurations, the Korean-made Veloster should start somewhere between $17K and $18K and top out in the low $20K range with every option the dealer can talk you into adding.
But where's the performance? If you're going to build a car that looks like a sport bike and puts the driver behind sport bikelike controls, shouldn't it perform like, you know, a sport bike? Maybe even just a little?
Well, like we said, a turbo version is likely in the works. Hopefully, a more sophisticated rear suspension is part of the package, too. Expect the aftermarket to jump in full force as well. It's enough to give even the ghost of the CRX some hope.