What Is It?
The 2016 Hyundai Veloster receives minor updates across the lineup as well as a low-volume, range-topping new Rally Edition. The basics, however, remain the same: It is a fuel-efficient small hatchback with distinctive styling and a novel three-door setup. The passenger side has two doors; the driver side has one.
What's New About This Model?
Every 2016 Hyundai Veloster receives a slightly different hood design free of the previous model's vent accents. The grille has also been slightly tweaked, but shoppers will probably be more interested in the new functions added to the standard 7-inch touchscreen interface. These include swipe-scrolling functionality (as on a smartphone), HD radio, Apple Siri hands-free integration and when so equipped, multiscreen navigation display and enhanced map guidance.
The 2016 Veloster Turbo gets a new automatic transmission option. Whereas the base Veloster keeps its six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission tuned to maximize fuel economy, the Turbo's new transmission is a seven-speed dual-clutch that Hyundai says has been engineered to better handle the turbocharged engine's higher torque output. A traditional six-speed manual remains standard. The Turbo model also gets more aggressive seat bolstering (with available orange accents), upgraded gauges, wider 18-inch wheels and red seatbelts on the Turbo R-Spec sub-model.
What Is the New Veloster Rally Edition?
Like the existing Veloster R-Spec, the Rally Edition gets a lower-body kit and other special styling elements, red and black sport seats, sport-tuned steering and suspension, and a B&M Racing sport shifter for the six-speed manual transmission. However, the Rally Edition differentiates itself with an even more performance-oriented suspension tune that includes updates to the springs, dampers and stabilizer bar. Rays 18-inch wheels (lighter by 5 pounds versus the regular R-Spec rims), carbon-fiber-look exterior aero accents and exclusive matte blue paint and blue interior trim are also included.
Only 1,200 Rally Editions are currently slated for production.
How Much Does It Cost and When Will It Go on Sale?
Pricing was not announced; however, the 2016 Veloster will be available at dealers in May 2015. Last year's model started at $18,000 for a base model, with the Turbo R-Spec starting at $21,600 and the Turbo starting at $22,600 (it had additional, comfort and convenience-oriented equipment).
How Many Body Styles and Trim Levels Are There?
The 2016 Hyundai Veloster is a four-passenger compact hatchback with three doors (one on the driver side and two on the passenger side) and four trim levels: base, Turbo, Turbo R-Spec and Rally Edition.
What Kind of Engines and Transmissions Does It Have?
The base Hyundai Veloster features a 1.6-liter four-cylinder that produces a modest 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual is optional (known as EcoShift DCT). With either transmission, acceleration is much slower than average for a compact hatchback. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 30 mpg combined (27 city/35 highway) with the manual and 31 mpg combined (28/36) with EcoShift DCT.
The Veloster Turbo, Turbo R-Spec and the Rally Edition get a turbocharged version of the same engine good for 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is standard and a new seven-speed automated manual (known more simply as DCT) is optional on the Turbo. Even with this added power, the Turbo models are still at least a second slower from zero to 60 mph than other performance-oriented compact cars. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 28 mpg combined (25/33) with the manual and 29 mpg combined (27/33) with DCT.
What Unique Features Does It Offer?
The Veloster's oddball three-door body style is its definitive "unique feature," allowing for rear-seat access from only one side of the car to create the appearance of a two-door coupe on the other side.
However, for 2016, the Veloster gains distinctive, if not unique, electronic features. Scrolling through phonebook entries or track lists can now be accomplished by swiping the standard touchscreen as you would a smartphone. While trying this in other Hyundai/Kia products, we found that it doesn't work particularly well in practice, as the combination of a moving, jiggling car and a less responsive screen result in errant pressing of menu entries rather than swipe-scrolling. Another nod to the ever-increasing ubiquity of smartphones is the addition of Apple's Eyes Free Siri integration, which allows you to access your iPhone's voice commands using the car's controls. This feature is becoming increasingly common in the automotive world, but is still a rarity in this price range.
What Models Can It Be Compared to?
Given the Veloster's odd nature, it can be compared to any number of subcompact or compact hatchbacks of varying performance degree.
The Ford Fiesta ST in many ways delivers the performance and handling that the Veloster Turbo has always promised with its looks but ultimately failed to deliver. The Fiesta is one of the best bangs for the buck on the market, with a punchy little turbocharged engine and superbly responsive handling.
The Mazda 3 does not have the Veloster's distinctive character, but it does better it in terms of handling, fuel economy, interior space and performance (compared to the base Veloster). The 3 is our top-rated compact car.
For those looking for something with distinctive styling, the Volkswagen Beetle or Nissan Juke certainly won't disappoint. And although they are seemingly nothing alike, there are elements of both that align with the Veloster — especially in terms of their similar prices.
Should You Wait for It?
Apart from the Turbo model's new automatic transmission option, the changes to the Hyundai Veloster for 2016 are not substantial enough to wait. The savings you could potentially enjoy by opting for a 2015 model most likely would outweigh this coming year's added benefits. At the same time, we doubt that the new transmission or Rally Edition will vault the Veloster above (or even near) the current crop of performance-oriented hatchbacks that it has struggled to compete with in the past.