Driven: 2019 Hyundai Veloster Review
  • Car Review

Driven: 2019 Hyundai Veloster Review

By David Undercoffler | May 21, 2018

Autolist rating: 4/5
But would we buy it? Yes
Price range: $19,385 - $29,035, including destination

Key takeaways

  • Redesigned for 2019 with new styling and great handling.
  • Comes in non-turbo and turbo models; we’d recommend the turbo.
  • Great mix of practicality, daily livability and useful performance.
  • Still has an oddball setup with three doors.

What is it?

The Veloster is Hyundai’s funky, small hatchback. Redesigned for 2019, and now in its second generation, the Veloster is bigger than the entry-level Hyundai Accent and smaller and sportier than the Elantra GT hatchback.

Like the first-gen model, this new Veloster has three doors and four seats. There’s one door on the driver’s side and two on the passenger side. While it’s a compact coupe, the rear seats are actually useful; a passenger behind the driver will have limited visibility, but there’s enough room in the Veloster for four people above six feet tall.

It competes with a disparate group of fun hatchbacks on the market, including Volkswagen’s Golf and Golf GTI, Honda’s Civic and Civic Si, the Mazda3 hatchback, Toyota’s Corolla Hatchback and the not-long-for-this-world Ford Focus and Fiesta ST.

There are two versions of the new Veloster, with a third due later in 2019. The first two are the base 2.0 model and the Turbo version; both are front-wheel drive.

The base 2.0 starts at $19,385 and comes with a (you guessed it) 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes 147 horsepower and comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is an extra $1,000 on the base 2.0 but comes standard on the $23,635 Veloster 2.0 Premium.

The Veloster Turbo starts at $23,785 and comes in three varieties: the base R-Spec, the Turbo and the Turbo Ultimate.

All three Turbo models come with a 1.6-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 201 horsepower. An excellent six-speed manual is standard on the base R-Spec and Ultimate. A seven-speed, dual-clutch automated transmission is standard on the mid-level Turbo and optional on the high-end Ultimate.

We tested only the Turbo model for the purposes of this review.

Later in 2019, Hyundai’s new performance division N will launch the Veloster N, the sub-brand’s first model to hit the U.S. market.

What’s good

TLDR: Turbo power, looks good, is useful

Power. With a relatively lean curb weight, the base Turbo R-Spec model we tested had more than enough oomph to put a grin on your face. Not only that, but the power comes on smoothly and predictably, and the little 1.6-liter engine never sounds like it’s overworking to deliver the grunt.

Style. The first-gen Veloster was never what you’d consider handsome. Or good-looking. Or styled really in any coherent way. That changes with this model. The front end’s design is cleaner and more symmetrical than its predecessor. Out back, the look is definitely funky but also more handsome than before. Overal,l the unique new look matches the car’s unique three-door setup without being off-putting. We dig it.

Practicality. Despite just three doors and a hot-hatch persona, there’s a lot of daily usefulness baked into the Veloster. It fits four (tall) adults, the rear seats fold flat for extra cargo and the trunk itself has meaningful space. So you can have your cake and eat it too.

What’s bad

TLDR: Skip the optional dual-clutch, lack of options, call shotgun

The DCT. Hyundai’s dual-clutch transmission that comes on some of the Turbo models needs some tweaking. At higher speeds, its shifting is remarkably quick and smooth. But low speeds confound it, leading to either jerkiness or a reluctance to upshift. If you like a manual gearbox, definitely opt for it on the Turbo, especially since the one on the Veloster R-Spec is excellent: the clutch has a progressive and predictable feel and the tightly spaced gearbox comes with a B&M Racing shifter.

No options. To make life easier for its dealers, Hyundai isn’t offering any options on the Veloster. So if you want to add a sunroof to a base model, too bad. Or radar cruise control to a Turbo R-Spec. Also too bad. This may be a turnoff for buyers looking for just the right combination of features.

Fourth seat. While the Veloster can certainly carry four tall adults, the poor sap behind the driver gets the worst seat in the house. There’s no center armrest, which would make things considerably more comfortable, and the small window behind the driver isn’t for the claustrophobic. Granted, Veloster owners likely won’t be carrying four people all the time -- or even frequently -- but when they are, have some sympathy for passenger number four.

5 stars of execution

Safety? Yes

  • All Veloster models come standard with pre-collision braking, lane-keep assist and an individual tire pressure monitoring system. That’s a good amount of safety features for a car that starts at $19,385.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have yet to crash test the 2019 Veloster.

Value? Yes

  • The base (non-turbo) Veloster starts at a cool $19,385 and comes with the aforementioned safety tech, plus Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, LED daytime running lights, a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system and Bluetooth. That’s a strong value, as is the base Turbo version, the Turbo R-Spec.
  • We do wish you could add at least a group of options to certain models. The cheapest Veloster with a sunroof is the $26,285 mid-level Turbo model, which isn’t exactly cheap. Same for the loaded Turbo Ultimate with the automated transmission; it will set you back a healthy $29,035.

Efficiency? No

  • The base Veloster with the automatic transmission is rated at 27/34/30 mpg in city/highway/combined driving; Turbo models with the DCT automatic are rated at 28/34/30 mpg city/highway/combined.
  • It’s not that those numbers make the Veloster inefficient, it’s that others beat it while offering the same power and weight (particularly Honda’s Civic Si). So it fails to earn an efficiency star here.

Driving experience? Yes

  • As mentioned, the Veloster Turbo has more than enough power to regularly put a smile on your face. Not only that but the power comes on smooth and predictably.
  • The Veloster also has confident handling that’s just as happy in daily driving as it is in eager thrill-seeking on the weekends.
  • The best Veloster setup for a true driver’s car is the Turbo R-Spec: great manual shifter, extra grippy tires and a savvy base price of just $23,785.

Execution? Yes

  • Hyundai’s second-gen Veloster is the dark horse of the practical/fun group of cars known as hot hatches (VW Golf GTI, Honda Civic Si). It may not get equal street cred, and its three-door setup might turn away some consumers, but this is absolutely a car worth considering if the VW or Honda are on your list.
  • It does exactly what a hot hatch should: offers reliable, practical, comfortable transportation in a package that’s a hoot to drive. And it’s plenty affordable.

Total Rating: 4 stars

What’s it gonna cost me?

As mentioned, the base Veloster with the 2.0-liter non-turbo engine and the six-speed manual transmission starts at $19,385. Adding an automatic transmission bumps the price up to $20,385.

Standard gear on these models includes pre-collision braking, lane-keep assist, a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, LED daytime lights and a drive model select system with three modes for the car: Normal, Sport and Smart.

The 2.0 Premium sells for $23,635 and adds blind spot monitoring and cross-traffic alerts, keyless entry, an eight-inch audio display system, heated front seats, leather/cloth seats throughout and a premium eight-speaker Infinity audio system with subwoofer.

Next are the Turbo models, led by the Turbo R-Spec. This was our favorite model and definitely the one we’d buy.

That’s because, for just $23,785, it gets you a lot of car: a 201-horsepower turbocharged engine, an excellent six-speed manual transmission with the slick B&M Racing shifter, 18-inch alloy wheels, grippy (and otherwise expensive) Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires, LED taillights, plus the same Infinity audio system that’s in the 2.0 Premium.

The standard Turbo model is $26,285 and comes with the seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission, a sunroof, leather/cloth seats that are heated up front, blind spot monitoring, cross-traffic alerts and climate control.

At the top of the Veloster heap is the pricey Turbo Ultimate. For $27,535 with the manual or $29,035 with the DCT automatic, this version adds goodies like a black two-tone roof, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, leather seats, wireless smartphone charging, adaptive cruise control (on automatic models only) and pedestrian detection.

Also consider:

Volkswagen’s Golf is aging but aging well. It’s worth a look if you’re on the market for a hatchback, particularly the faster GTI model. It’s one of our favorites and even owned by some of our staff.

Honda’s Civic Si is great to drive but less great to look at. Still, it’s definitely worth a look.

Toyota’s new Corolla Hatchback is also worth a look, though it lacks the power and crisp handling of the Veloster Turbo.

We’d skip Ford’s Focus and Fiesta as they’re outdated and generally out-performed by everything else on this list.