It's one of the most hotly anticipated new cars on display at the 2011 Detroit auto show--and maybe that's surprising, since the 40-mpg 2012 Hyundai Veloster comes from humbler beginnings than super cars like the Porsche 918, Cadillac CTS-V Coupe and BMW 650i that also are vying for attention at Cobo Center.
The Veloster is on the most-wanted list for a couple of simple reasons: because it underscores Hyundai's stellar growth in the U.S., and because it follows a string of hits from the company that won North American Car of the year in 2009 with the Genesis sedan, is a finalist for the same award this year with the 2011 Hyundai Sonata, and recently introduced the toughest challenge yet for the likes of the Honda Civic yet with its 2011 Hyundai Elantra.
The Veloster arrives late this year as a 2012 model with its hatchback full of unique, and potentially game-changing, features and functions. At the top of its list is a funky quartet of doors. Hyundai calls it a three-door vehicle, but the Veloster has four doors in all, counting the hatchback, the driver-side door, and the pair of doors on its passenger side. It looks as if it could be a rear-hinged rear door, like the one on the MINI Cooper Clubman, but in reality the Veloster's second passenger-side door is conventionally hinged. The end result? A quirky-looking compact that seems better integrated than, say, the Nissan Juke, but still a shape that arrests more than it awes.
The Veloster rides on a 104.3-inch wheelbase, with an overall length of 166.1 inches and width of 70.5 inches. While Hyundai says it handily outpaces coupes like the Honda CR-Z and Scion tC in interior room--as well as the MINI Cooper and Clubman--at 15.5 cubic feet behind the rear seat, it also outpaces the Juke's 10.5 cubic feet of cargo space.
The Veloster also is one of two Hyundais fitted with the company's new Blue Link telematics system, which also will be available in the Sonata sedan in the 2012 model year. BlueLink ties together all sorts of in-car infotainment and communication functions, as well as OnStar-like connections with live human operators and even mobile apps to enable functions like crash notification and remote door unlocking. Additional BlueLink packages link up with third-party apps like Pandora's internet radio; translate a driver's voice into responses to received text messages; add on plug-and-play video via USB connections; and bundle in voice recognition and controls. It's all governed via a seven-inch LCD touch-screen display. (For more on BlueLink, turn to our sister site, AllCarTech.)
Like Ford's new media hub in the 2011 Ford Edge and 2011 Explorer, Hyundai BlueLink also pulls together a USB port and RCA jacks for smartphone and gaming-system connectivity--in park, Hyundai says--while the Veloster also offers a 115-volt power outlet for recharging.
BlueLink also will incorporate an "EcoCoach" to help drivers learn more about their fuel consumption and driving habits, and will help teach more efficient driving techniques, according to Hyundai.
As another step toward Hyundai's stated goal of being the most fuel-efficient automaker in the world, the Veloster comes with a small-displacement engine that stretches a gallon of fuel farther than many other sport coupes, like the Scion tC. The Veloster's 1.6-liter direct-injected four-cylinder engine will turn in 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque, and will be mated to Hyundai’s first dual-clutch transmission in some versions. A six-speed manual also will be offered. The company predicts the Veloster will achieve a 40-mpg rating on the EPA highway fuel-economy test, but hasn't made clear if the manual-gearbox Veloster will hit the same mark.
With a curb weight of about 2600 pounds, the Veloster checks in the same range as the CR-Z, and is substantially lighter than the Scion tC. Handling has been an area of rapid improvement at Hyundai, and hot-hatch enthusiasts will be studying the Veloster's hardware bona fides. The front suspension is a MacPherson strut design, with a torsion-beam axle in back. Electric power steering helps give it a tight turning circle, and 17-inch wheels are standard.
Bluetooth and a USB port will be standard on the Veloster. Hyundai BlueLink will be optional; the Veloster promises other add-on features like satellite radio, real-time traffic and weather, a 450-watt audio system, push-button start, a panoramic sunroof, chrome and piano-black trim, 18-inch wheels, and fog lamps. Safety features include six standard airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction and stability control, while a rearview camera is available. A palette of brightly named colors will include Ironman Silver, Electrolyte Green, Vitamin C, and Marathon Blue.
The 2012 Veloster promises to make life difficult for the Japanese competition--the Nissan Juke, the Scion tC and especially the Honda CR-Z. And oddly enough, in this era of in-car infotainment and sporty hybrids, there's no mention of the Veloster's road performance and numbers.
A first drive in the Veloster is coming later this year. In the meantime, there's more to come on the Veloster and on the rest of the Hyundai lineup from Detroit. Stay tuned here, bookmark our 2011 Detroit Auto Show page, and follow us on Facebook or Twitter @therealma for the very latest from Cobo Center.