Hyundai Veloster: Three-door sportster Option

By Lee Pang Seng
THE Hyundai Veloster should appeal to those who want more than just an ‘ordinary’ sportster, styling-wise, that is. As a three-door sports car, the Veloster has few peers along that odd arrangement: it has one door for the driver and two to serve the front and rear passengers.

This may even set off an argument among admirers who may have thought they saw a two-door or four-door sports car, depending on which side you see the car from. The arrangement has its practicalities: the rear passengers alight from the car on the kerbside, making it a safer option being away from moving traffic.

As it were, the Veloster is quite roomy inside for a sports car, especially against some rivals, although a tall occupant in front would reduce leg space a fair bit in the rear. Space-wise, the Veloster is quite accommodating as the luggage area can also hold a fair bit, including a couple of golf bags. Besides, the 60:40 split rear seatrests would come in useful if you want to load more items, up to a point of course, given the racy orientation of this car.

Hyundai-Sime Darby Motors have made available three model options here, these being the manual and automatic transmission Veloster, with a premium specification automatic model. The engine is a 1.6-litre multi-valve, double cam unit with continuously variable valve timing. The long 85.4mm stroke (against the 77mm bore) gives it an undersquare configuration. Output is rated at 97kW (132PS) at 6300rpm and a modest 158Nm at 4850rpm. Transmission options remain the same six-gear units whether it is a manual or an automatic.

We had the manual six-speed Veloster for a weekend and being forced to crawl along the Federal Highway from Subang Jaya (among other roadways) reminded us as to why we gave up manual car ownership since the early 1990s. The Veloster’s clutch feel is weighted and not as light some cars with softer action. Shift travel through the six gears is a bit on the long side, with a distinct feel of engagement as it moves out of one gear and slots into the next: you could say it was a notchy sensation. It fits in with the key and ball type synchromesh employed.

On the go, the engine revved quite willingly, although it did seem a bit reluctant to wind up beyond 5500rpm, unlike some rival sports cars from Japan that sounded smoother as the engine revs approach 8000rpm. In that respect, the Veloster came across as pretty ordinary rather than to fulfil the outgoing orientation of its design (this view tallied with our first drive impression more than two years ago at Hyundai’s R&D centre in South Korea).

While the power delivery is fairly respectable, there was no mistaking the urge to hit the accelerator pedal harder for more horses. This is where a turbocharged engine, with a fair boost, would fan the ego a lot better. We have had our shares of gung-ho drivers wanting to check out the Veloster’s acceleration prowess but the normally aspirated power did leave us wanting more.

Perhaps the three-door body configuration added more than necessary to the Veloster’s weight. The door is not light as it has impact bars, glass window, and the operational ancillaries for the window and locking mechanism. A heavier body means more weight for the engine to pull (for a front-wheel drive) and that leads to less exciting 0-100km/h sprints and moving acceleration.

The six-speed manual transmission is of the close-ratio type with the sixth gear being the clear overdrive. We could ‘cruise’ in urban areas up to fifth gear without the transmission snatching. Using the lift mechanism on the gear shift to engage reverse was easy enough although the long throw design means pushing the lever a fair bit longer to the left.

The Veloster is quite well set-up for winding roads: it has MacPherson struts in front and a coupled torsion beam at the rear with coil springs and dampers. It took to most corners well enough, using third and fourth gears, to carry a fair bit of speed through. Body roll was reasonably well checked and the electric power steering provided sufficient directional feel to allow us to explore the car’s dynamic limits.

It rides over bumps quite nicely even though the suspension tuning is on the firm side. Taking bumps at decent speed allows the impact to be soaked up although driving over rumble strips (or a patch of bumpy road) made the ride more of a jolting one. The wallow over road dips due to the stiffer springing was exaggerated at higher speeds and your passengers would feel that more than you. The Veloster runs on 17-inch alloys with 215/45 R 17 tyres.

We like the larger glass area of the hatchback door as we could see more of the following traffic via the rearview mirror. With its low slung, sports car styling, reversing (from an angled parking lot) was mostly done with guesswork on the approaching vehicles. We also like the pushbutton start, with which we have to step on the clutch instead of the brake pedal for automatic transmission cars to start or stop the engine. Likewise, merely pushing a button on the door handle to lock and unlock is just as convenient (as long as the key fob was on us).

An interesting feature is the Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). A warning light located next to the speedometer comes on when the tyre pressure drops below 25psi (175kPa). There is an air pressure sensor weighing about 40gms in each wheel. Powered by a small battery, it is expect to last about 10 years. It monitors air pressure for 60 seconds on stationary mode and at 15-second intervals at speed above 10km/h. The TPMS goes into ‘sleep’ mode when the engine is switched off.

Special tyres mean careful and dedicated handling in their removal and installation on the wheels to avoid damaging the sensors. A special tool is required to install a new sensor-cum-tyre valve. If there is a continuous blinking of the warning light, it indicates that the TPMS is faulty.

There is also a Voice Command function for the audio system, with the master control switch located on the right side of the steering wheel spoke. While the Veloster loaned to us had the indicator stalk on the right side, the newer models now come with this item on the left to follow the European standards.

For an imported car, the Veloster is competitively priced for those who want a sports car to putter around during the weekend. The manual transmission model we drove goes for RM113,701.00 on the road without insurance. The automatic models are at RM118,571.00 and RM129,285.00 (premium). The premium model comes with a more impressive sound system, Bluetooth, reverse camera, panoramic sunroof and 18-inch alloy wheels with slightly lower profile tyres.

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