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Hyundai's Veloster grows up for Detroit, but keeps it weird

After a brief hiatus, Hyundai's enigmatic hatchback returns to the Detroit Auto Show sporting more tech and refinement.

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Kyle Hyatt
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Kyle Hyatt

News & Features Editor

Kyle Hyatt (he/him/his) hails originally from the Pacfic Northwest, but has called Los Angeles home for the past decade. He's had a lifelong obsession with cars and motorcycles (both old and new), and covers them for CNET Cars as its news & features editor.

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2019 Hyundai Veloster

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Read the in-depth 2019 Hyundai Veloster review

Throughout its life, Hyundai's Veloster has primarily traded on its funkiness. But for 2019, the Korean automaker hopes to imbue the unusual hatchback's willfully odd personality with newfound refinement and tech. After taking a year-long sabbatical, the 2019 Veloster is back, and it's wearing a fresh new look at today's Detroit Auto Show.

You may remember that the original Veloster made its debut in Detroit way back in 2011. At the time, it was a novel take on the affordable hatchback formula. Its asymmetrical door layout made it easy for rear seat passengers to hop in and out while still keeping the lines of the car sporty -- even if the driving experience ultimately wasn't.

The 2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo is Guy Fieri in a Tom Ford suit

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The 2019 Hyundai Veloster looks, both in pictures and on paper, like a much more desirable car. It's still recognizably a Veloster with its three doors and chunky back end, but Hyundai's designers have been hard at work, smoothing out its rough spots all over. Gone is the original car's weird fish-face grille and in its place is a sleek version of Hyundai's corporate cascade grille. The back end is a little less busy and looks a lot more grown up thanks to a set of horizontal tail lights. 

The Veloster appears to sit lower and has a more muscular, coupe-like profile. The Veloster Turbo still has twin center exhaust tips, but they look tamer. This time out they're closer to the size of an orange than a grapefruit.

The Veloster's interior has always been a pleasant (if not overly luxurious) place to spend time, but Hyundai has worked to make the new car's cockpit feel more upmarket and unique. The colored accents dotting the cabin change according to trim level and help the cabin feel like a much more unique place to be than the outgoing car. 

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo cabin
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2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo cabin

A new eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system includes available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

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On the tech front, Hyundai is flexing some muscle and giving Veloster buyers a lot for their money. Qi wireless charging is available, as is an eight-inch infotainment display. They've also packed multi-touch with swipe into the screen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay with Eyes-Free Siri integration and Blue Link connected-car integration, which includes three years of complimentary service.

From a mechanical standpoint, the Veloster is unlike its predecessor. The Veloster is still front-wheel drive but now rides on the latest and greatest Elantra platform, which figures to be a massive improvement over its previous architecture. We can wave goodbye to the previous model's archaic, non-independent twist beam rear axle, too. The new Veloster rides on a more sophisticated multi-link setup that should provide significantly improved body control and ride comfort.

The Turbo receives upgraded sway bars at the front and rear, as well as optional Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer tires.

The 2019 Hyundai Veloster proves that sensible doesn't mean boring

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The base Veloster will come with Hyundai's Nu 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder. This should offer improved fuel economy at the expense of power, producing a reasonable, though hardly Earth-shattering, 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. For the power hungry, the Turbo will come with the direct-injected 1.6-liter Gamma four that delivers 201 hp and 195 lb-ft on 87 octane fuel with an additional seven lb-ft available on overboost.

Both the Veloster and Veloster Turbo come standard with a six-speed manual gearbox, but expect the optional seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with Hill-Start Control to be the more popular choice.

Hyundai plans to offer the 2019 Veloster to US buyers starting in Q2 of this year, and we're looking forward to seeing how this newly enhanced offering stacks up to today's rather robust crop of fun but affordable hatchbacks.

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Watch this: 2019 Hyundai Veloster is sportier than before, but still charmingly weird

The 2019 Hyundai Veloster R-Spec exists because subtlety is for nerds

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