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2019 Hyundai Veloster first drive review: A superb second act

Hyundai's taken everything its learned about sporty cars and distilled it down into a great compact hatchback.


Read the in-depth 2019 Hyundai Veloster review

The first-generation Hyundai Veloster was a fun little thing, despite Hyundai not really knowing how to build a properly sporty car at the time. It wasn't an area where the automaker had a lot of experience, and it showed.

It's a wonder what seven years will do. The 2019 Veloster feels better put-together before you even turn the key, and once you set out on the road, you'll find a solid, competent sports hatch that is ready to compete against some long-time segment darlings.

A looker full o' quirks

If there's one thing the Hyundai Veloster has always, and will (hopefully) always have, it's that Zooey Deschanel brand of sanitary quirkiness. The driver's side has one big, coupe-like door, but the passenger side has two smaller doors. On the inside of the top-spec Turbo Ultimate trim, the driver and passenger door panels rock different colors.

But whereas the last generation was quite a bit much to behold, Hyundai's styling has grown more cohesive. It now carries a relatively familiar family face, but there's still some weird stuff to help it stand out, like wonky scalloping on the quarter panels or the wee rear diffuser that straddles the center-exit exhaust.

Weirdness doesn't beget a super-cramped interior, thankfully. There's ample room up front, and thanks to the placement of various cut lines and trim pieces, I feel like I have a space all my own as the driver. The second row is a bit cozier -- at 6 feet tall, my hair ever so slightly brushes the headliner and my knees are only about an inch from the front row, but it feels roomier than before, if only barely.

It's by no means normal, just a bit more grown up.


Back-road hustler

The base Veloster comes with a 2.0-liter I4 good for 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque, mated to either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. If you care only about standing out and not standing on the gas pedal, it'll do you just fine. Automatic emergency braking and a 7-inch infotainment system (with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) are standard, regardless of cog-swapper.

But Hyundai only has its Turbo models available during my time in Austin. For a four-grand price premium, the engine changes to a 1.6-liter turbocharged I4 putting out 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet. The exterior is a bit more expressive, as are the interior color choices, adding splashes of color in the seats and on the dash. The base R-Spec trim can only be had with a six-speed manual, whereas the range-topping Ultimate is mated exclusively to a seven-speed dual-clutch unit.

The R-Spec's manual is very good, with a clutch bite point that has plenty of feel and a B&M-developed short shifter that is tight and rewarding to use with every shift. The DCT is almost as good as the manual, and buyers will like it, but it gets confused when downshifts bring the engine near redline, and I keep experiencing a delay between pulling the paddle and feeling the clutches engaging a lower gear. When shifting up, though, the DCT blasts through the gears as well as any other competitor's transmission.

The cabin is better appointed than before, but still full of some Veloster-spec weirdness.


No matter the method, the drive is rewarding. A new multi-link rear suspension keeps the car well composed in tight corners, and lighter aluminum steering knuckles has the car digging into turns with confidence. The car feels vastly more solid than it ever did, and when the curves get tight, there's little body roll. The only tradeoff here is that its stiffness is more obvious over highway expansion joints and poor-quality pavement.

The 1.6-liter offers enough low-down torque that you won't have to reach toward the high end of the tachometer in daily driving, and it sounds quite nice no matter the revs -- something I first noticed when this engine landed in the Hyundai Elantra Sport. There is a fake-sound synthesizer that bumps up the volume in the cabin, and while it's never so loud as to be annoying, I believe the engine sounds better with it turned off.

The 200-ish-hp sporty car segment has some heavy hitters like the Honda Civic Si and Volkswagen Golf GTI. Hyundai morphed the Veloster into something that's wildly better to drive, and while it feels more adult, it still hasn't lost that little bit of weirdness that makes it unique. If an automaker wants to perform in this segment, it needs to bring its A-game, and this time around, Hyundai did.

Editor's note: Roadshow accepts multi-day vehicle loans from manufacturers in order to provide scored editorial reviews. All scored vehicle reviews are completed on our turf and on our terms. However, for this feature, the manufacturer covered travel costs. This is common in the auto industry, as it's far more economical to ship journalists to cars than to ship cars to journalists.

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