Can the quirky, sporty hatchback capture enthusiasts’ attention again?
The Hyundai Veloster is back for a second generation, and although it looks rather similar to the last one on the outside, plenty has changed beneath the surface.
For starters, the 2019 Veloster is a little larger than the previous version, growing by 0.8 inch in length and 0.4 inch in width. Although the car’s overall height is the same, the new Veloster thus improves rear headroom by a welcome 0.6 inch.
The design is also new, informed by a mantra that Michael Evanoff, Hyundai Motor America’s manager of product planning for small cars, calls, “City Rally Car.” Compared to the outgoing Veloster, the 2019 model’s cowl and A-pillar are moved backward to create a longer and less stubby hood, its fender line has been reshaped, and new functional “air curtains” around the wheels help aerodynamics. The liftgate’s handle is now relocated higher up, near the wiper, so it’s easier to grab.
Many quirky styling cues remain, however. Primarily, the fact that there’s one long coupe-style door on the driver’s side and two doors on the passenger side. And there’s still a center-exit exhaust, which Evanoff says was tough to package with the new suspension layout: “We really pushed hard to keep that, we thought that was iconic to the Veloster.” Unlike so many modern sporty cars, those exhaust tips are actually the exhaust, not just ornamental finishers.
That rear suspension is one of the biggest changes designed to make the 2019 Hyundai Veloster sportier. Where the old car had a torsion-bar rear, the new one has a multilink arrangement borrowed from the Elantra GT and Elantra Sport. The car’s steering ratio is also quicker than before, another stab at improving the fun-to-drive quotient.
The two engine options pretty much mirror what was offered on the old Veloster. The base mill is a 2.0-liter inline-four with 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet, gains of 15 hp and 12 lb-ft versus the outgoing 1.6-liter base engine. The engine pairs with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic.
The Veloster Turbo returns with a 1.6-liter turbo-four, rated for 201 hp and 195 lb-ft. Those are the same ratings as before, though the new engine does deliver its peak torque earlier, at 1,500 rpm versus 1,750. It’s paired either to a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch, the latter of which has been reprogrammed to avoid upshifting during cornering.
Hyundai says the two engines had about a 50-50 split on the outgoing Veloster. Turbo buyers, however, were more inclined to pick the six-speed manual gearbox, with 30 percent of them doing so. Stick-shift Turbo models will now be offered with sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires, on 18-inch wheels.
Hyundai officials say that the car’s intake and exhaust were retuned for sportier sounds, but note that backup vocals come courtesy of an “Active Sound Design” system, which offers different levels of noise in the Veloster’s three drive modes. The Turbo’s exhaust is still said to offer genuine “pops,” though, and Evanoff stresses that ASD is a supplement, not a replacement, for real engine sound: “It [the engine] does have good sound character, the ASD just helps that a little bit.”
As for the inside of the 2019 Hyundai Veloster, the back seat is still a little cramped and the hatchback cargo area still has an annoyingly high liftover height. But in most other respects things have improved, with tidier styling and a long list of new features. There’s a color head-up display, for instance, and a 7- or 8-inch touchscreen infotainment atop the dashboard. On Turbo models, that screen even has a “Performance” display with a boost gauge.
The dashboard has an asymmetrical design intended to mirror the asymmetry of the exterior. A roomy pocket ahead of the shifter features charge ports and optional wireless phone charging. The sunroof is larger than before, and there is an optional Infinity sound system.
The list of available active-safety features includes pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, blind-spot warning, automatic high beams, and even a driver drowsiness warning. LED headlights and 18-inch wheels are standard on the Turbo model.
The 2019 Hyundai Veloster will be offered in five trim levels. The base 2.0-liter model will be offered with either the manual or automatic gearbox, while the 2.0 Premium has only an automatic. As to the Turbo engine, the R-Spec is manual-only, the standard Turbo is dual-clutch only, and the Turbo Ultimate can be optioned with either.
The 2019 Hyundai Veloster is still a little bit weird and, in many ways, not hugely changed from its predecessor. But it’s still a car that Hyundai says brings a lot of buyers – specifically young ones – into showrooms. Evanoff says it has a “reverse halo effect,” attracting shoppers who might otherwise be considering cars like the Ford Fiesta ST or Volkswagen GTI. The true test, though, will be whether the revamped Veloster is as much fun to drive as those hot-hatch favorites.