You saw a familiar face at a restaurant recently. You could not be for certain because you do not remember him or her to be this good looking.
You remember him or her in your primary school to be erm, less attractive looking, or any other adjectives, if you may. This brings me nicely to Korean car makers, Hyundai Motors and Kia Motors. Korean car makers of yesteryear were best described as boring and dreary. They also make not so reliable cars, bordering probably Italian cars’ famed electrical problems. However, in year 2006, Kia Motors hired Peter Schreyer, the man who widely known to have penned the Audi TT. Since then, Schreyer had completed restyling of Kia’s lineup to be more recognisable at first sight. In December 2012, he was named one of the presidents of Kia Motors and 3 weeks later he became both the Chief Design Officer of both Hyundai Motors and Kia Motors.
The Hyundai Veloster concept was first unveiled at Seoul Motor Show in 2007. It went into production in 2011. It is a 3 door concept, promising sporty profile of a coupe with functionality of a hatchback. With OTR price of RM 113,701 without insurance, the Hyundai Veloster 1.6 M/T is competing with the likes of Honda CRZ 1.5 M/T (RM 115k) and Ford Focus Sport hatchback (RM 112k, Sport+ at RM 125k). The name Veloster is coined from the term Velocity and Roadster, but unfortunately the variant that Hyundai Malaysia brought in, is anything but a tarmac scorcher.
Up front is new 1.6 Gamma MPi engine producing 130 hp at 6,300 rpm and maximum torque of 158 Nm at 4,850 rpm. Drive is to the front via a 6 speed manual gearbox. An option of 6 speed automatic transmission is available for an additional RM 5k (or RM 9k if you want the Premium trim). The naturally aspirated engine is best described as just adequate for this 1,243 kg car. Most of the time, you are required to drop 2 cogs to extract the best possible out of the 1.6. Beyond 5,000 rpm, the engine runs out of breath quite quickly. But fortunately it does not sound trashy at that high rpm range. Hyundai-Sime Darby Motors must be applauded for introducing a manual gearbox in the predominantly automatic transmission Malaysian market. Manual gear shifting quality is good. Endowed with good gear ratio, travelling at 110 km/h is just slightly over 2,500 rpm at 6th gear.
The exterior design details may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is certainly attractive. The test car comes with signature Veloster Red colour, turns quite a number of surprised looks at this Korean product. Short front overhang, side and bonnet character line with distinctive headlight design enhances the sportiness of this coupe-back. The unique selling point of this car is the 3rd door which opens on the kerb side. Now, some may say this is gimmicky, but those who owned a 2 door coupe before, will say that the addition of the 3rd door is a nice to have. However, due to a slopping roof line, getting in and out of the rear is a bit of challenge if you are taller than 5ft 7” and/or if you are slightly over the average weight. The rear seats are comfortable, with surprisingly good leg room but can get a bit claustrophobic for long journey. A rear arm rest on the 60:40 foldable seats would have been welcomed by the rear passengers, in addition to the cup holders and storage space at the bench.
The front passengers get bucket seats, which is properly supportive during spirited driving. Steering is both height and reach adjustable. The centre console is cleanly designed with 7″ touchscreen in between the aircon vents and the keyless start button at the bottom. The Veloster has USB / iPod and Aux-in connectivity. The sound quality is better than most cars on the market today with a feature called Gracenote, which allows song title and singer name to be displayed on the screen when playing music through iPod or iPhone. However, it does not remember the last song played when you switch off your car, which is quite frustrating if you do short distances drive with multiple stops. You may abandon using the iPod or iPhone with the sound system altogether.
Shod with 215/45 R17 Nexen N8000 tyres (these tyres are performance tyres from Korea, with threads that look like Continental Sport Contact 3), the Veloster means business. The chassis felt well sorted out, cornering is quite flat with minimal body roll. The electric power steering do rob some kind of road feel but it does not really feel disconnected. I think I am more concerned about the lack of a turbo that robs the driving dynamics that the chassis and 6 speed manual gearbox rightly deserves. In the US, South Korea and Australia market, the Veloster is blessed with 1.6 TCi GDi that outputs a healthy 201 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 265 Nm of torque at 1,750 – 4,500 rpm. I feel that the 1.6 MPi engine trades km/h for km/l. The shift up alert consistently reminds to shift up early, which of course is not followed through. Despite so, over 3 days test drive, I managed to clock 9.6 l / 100 km in pure city driving, while on highways, 6.7 l / 100 km.
What is the Veloster then? It is a very respectable effort from the Hyundai Motors in making a car which is unique looking, appeal to younger generations and at the same time have acceptable driving dynamics than most Japanese cars. Quality of fittings and material on the dashboard and door panel are good for the price bracket. Personally, I think that if Hyundai-Sime Darby Motors brought the turbo version with 6 speed manual transmission into Malaysia at probably, about RM 5k extra, it would built up a huge following among tuners in Malaysia just like the US market. This is evidenced by the growing Veloster’s popularity at annual SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) show and motorsports. Would I buy one with turbo? A solid yes. But without a turbo, I think I might have to go with Ford Focus Sport.
All Hyundai cars sold in Malaysia comes with 5 years or 300,000 km warranty, whichever comes first.
For more pictures of the Veloster, drop by our Flickr gallery!
Note: Hyundai-Sime Darby Motors will be introducing new features to the Veloster soon. Among the highlights – Isofix, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, Voice Command, Passenger Airbag Deactivation Switch and Warning Indicator, Rear Fog Lamp and Headlight Leveling.