2012 Hyundai Veloster Tech first drive review: Small-caliber carnivore

2012 Hyundai Veloster Tech

2012 Hyundai Veloster Tech

When Hyundai was giving us the spiel on the new 2012 Hyundai Veloster, something was missing: Any reference to the Hyundai Tiburon. Fair enough, perhaps, because the Tiburon was larger, heavier and had bigger engines, even a V-6, while the Veloster has only a 1.6-liter four.

But we’ll contend that, absent any direct replacement for the Tiburon, the Veloster fills that spiritual void in Hyundai’s lineup. And both are named for predators. Tiburon means “shark” in Spanish, and Veloster, well, if there isn’t a flesh-eating dinosaur with that name, there should be.

The 2012 Hyundai Veloster would certainly earn such status, if only its mission in life were to prey on critters further down the food chain than those on which, say, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe might dine. The Veloster isn’t an air-superiority carnivore.

But for its size, it’s formidable. The 1.6-liter four is rated at 138 horsepower at 6300 rpm and makes a respectable 123 lb-ft at 4850 rpm, thanks to continuously variable valve timing on intake and exhaust camshafts and gasoline direct injection. It’s the same engine in the 2012 Kia Rio we recently reported on though in a sportier chassis with sportier tuning.

Sporty? The 2012 Hyundai Veloster is a coupe, or at least a four-door disguised to look very much like a coupe. And those four doors aren’t exactly where one might expect, and they don’t look like one might expect. Of course the Veloster has the usual front doors, one each for driver and front passenger, but instead of two rear side doors, it has only a rear door on the right with the outside door handle hidden in the door trim.

2012 Hyundai Veloster Tech rear side door

The 2012 Hyundai Veloster has only one rear side door, hinged at the front.

Unlike every vehicle we can think of with the asymmetric door arrangement, the Hyundai Veloster’s rear door is hinged at the front instead of at the rear edge, “suicide” style. Hyundai says that the front-hinged door is more convenient because the front door doesn’t need to be opened for the rear door to open.

The fourth door, then, is the rear hatch. It’s fairly conventional, with a large access and fold down rear seatbacks for hauling all that stuff that can’t be stuffed into a sedan’s trunk. The 2012 Hyundai Veloster, however, has the split rear window, like the Honda CR-Z. From the driver’s seat, the view is primarily through the lower, vertical pane, and it’s equipped with a wiper that covers a surprisingly wide area of glass.

The 2012 Hyundai Veloster has a short hood with headlight clusters (with LED “headlight accents”) that sweep well up the front fenders. A rising shoulder line and an abbreviated rump result in a large C-pillar that wraps around to the hatch, resulting in large blind rear quarters for the driver. At least the view directly behind the Veloster is adequate to see whether the car behind is an, um, official vehicle of some sort.

The styling of the Veloster includes either a black panel on the roof or, as part of an option package, a panoramic sunroof that looks black. It’s matched by a black panel inset into the rear bumper. Altogether it visually raises the rear of the car and accentuates the stubby tail. Speaking of which, the Veloster borrows a page from the Mini Cooper S and the Cadillac CTS-V with a center-mounted dual-outlet exhaust.