2012 Hyundai Veloster review:

2012 Hyundai Veloster

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Hyundai's navigation system has been improved with more options and better graphics.

Spoken turn-by-turn directions and audio sources are piped through a 450-watt Dimension premium audio system with a total of eight drivers, including a center fill and a powered subwoofer. Audio quality is good, but is probably best described as "good for this class." I did like that the system's audio settings included a trio of Dynamic EQ modes for enhancing bass and treble or simulating surround from stereo sources, but I didn't like that getting to the audio controls required so many button presses. I'll come back to this point in a bit.

Available audio and video sources include a single-disc CD slot with MP3 capability, standard USB and auxiliary audio connectivity, and an optional iPod connection that bridges the aux and USB ports into a 30-pin dock connector, the aforementioned SiriusXM Radio connection, Bluetooth audio streaming, and an AV pigtail that breaks the 3.5mm auxiliary input into a trio of RCA connections, which I was able to find a fantastically fun use for.

In addition to the new BlueLink menus, the entire Hyundai infotainment system has undergone an overhaul before its appearance in the Veloster's dashboard. A new Info menu is home to an Eco-Coach feature that monitors your fuel economy and a game called Blue Max. More options are available for tweaking under the Settings menu, and the map screen gives users access to more information than ever, including graphic lane guidance, previews of services (such as lodging and fuel) at upcoming freeway exits, and so much more.

However, I'd say that perhaps Hyundai's interface is venturing dangerously close now into the realm of TMI (too much information). Performing a simple task like adjusting the stereo's bass now requires about five button presses and takes you through the new Settings menu, which has about a dozen buttons that all look more or less the same at a glance. Similarly, it took a concerted effort to find the option on the map screen to unmute the spoken turn-by-turn directions; as it turns out, there's a small unlabeled slide-out menu on the bottom of the map screen. Hyundai's system used to be simple, but smart and for day-to-day usage, it still is. Just don't try to go digging through that Settings menu while driving; it's a bit of a mess.

Two very different driving games
I mentioned that our Hyundai Veloster came with an RCA pigtail for connecting an external video source when parked. It was also equipped with a 115-volt AC power connection in the center console, which gave me the great idea of hooking up an Xbox 360 to the hatchback and doing some driving in Forza Motorsport 4 while parked. With all of the connections made, I powered on the gaming console and was greeted by the game's title screen and within minutes I was piloting a Hyundai Genesis Coupe around the Hockenheimring in Germany. The 7-inch screen is a bit small for serious gaming and its colors a bit washed-out when displaying auxiliary video. However, the Dimension audio system sounded fantastic, filling the car with virtual engine noise, tire squeals, and crunching metal.

How do you drive a Genesis Coupe in Germany while sitting in a Veloster in California? With the help of an Xbox 360.

The Veloster may not be a driver's car, but there's more than one way to have fun with it. I wouldn't recommend that you drag your Xbox or PlayStation into the car on a regular basis, but it's nice to have the option to pull over and kill some time on a road trip or at a Hyundai owners meet.

When the car is in motion, drivers can play a different kind of game with their Hyundai's infotainment system, with a game called Blue Max. Accessible through the Info menu, Blue Max presents the driver with meters for fuel economy and speed. Pressing the game's round start button starts a 10-minute timer. The driver is awarded points for maintaining a high instantaneous fuel economy as the time counts down; at the end of each round, the score is recorded. I liked that the game challenges drivers to enjoy the Veloster in a different way; I made dozens of attempts over the week to continually improve my score.

The Blue Max game challenges drivers to maximize their fuel economy in 10-minute increments.

In sum
The disconnect between the Veloster's appearance and its performance was disconcerting for the first few days of testing. But once I stopped treating it like a sports car and started driving it like stylish city car that it is, I found that I was able to better enjoy the ride--as long as I made sure to dodge any potholes.

The Veloster's eye-catching style and specifications bring to mind the non-S Mini Cooper. Granted, the Mini's BMW tuned suspension would run circles around the Hyundai, but you'd pay quite a bit for the privilege to do so.

The 2012 Veloster starts at $18,060 for a base model with the six-speed manual transmission, including the destination charges. That gets you BlueLink, Bluetooth, and pretty much the full suite of available audio options. People who don't want to fiddle with three pedals can select the Veloster's available six-speed EcoShift dual-clutch transmission (DCT) for an additional $1,250. Step up to the Style package for $2,000 to add the Dimension premium audio system, larger 18-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, and more. Finally, add 2,000 more greenbacks for the navigation package, which adds navigation, the 115-volt AC power connection, a rearview camera with proximity sensors, keyless entry with push-button start, and different 18-inch wheels with colored inserts. Add that all up and you reach an as-tested price of $22,060. The closest apples-to-apples Mini Cooper that we could spec rings up at over $4,000 more expensive and even then, the Hyundai just barely edges the Cooper out with better tech.

The Veloster is available with a massive panoramic sunroof as part of its Style package.

On the other side of the coin, drivers looking to save a few bucks, but still get good tech or compact car utility should consider the Ford Fiesta or Honda Fit, which are slightly smaller cars, but are also a few thousand bucks cheaper when similarly equipped.

Tech specs
Model 2012 Hyundai Veloster
Trim n/a
Power train 1.6-liter GDI, FWD, six-speed manual transmission
EPA fuel economy 28 city, 40 highway mpg
Observed fuel economy 24.6 mpg
Navigation Yes
Bluetooth phone support Yes
Disc player Single-slot CD
MP3 player support Standard analog 3.5mm auxiliary input with AV pigtail, USB connection, Bluetooth audio streaming, optional iPod connection
Other digital audio SiriusXM Radio
Audio system 8-speaker, 450-watt Dimension audio system including subwoofer and center fill
Driver aids Available rearview camera with proximity sensor
Base price $17,300
Price as tested $22,060

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