2013 Hyundai Veloster Ecoshift DCT review: Uncommon coupe for the common man

2012 Hyundai Veloster Ecoshift DCT

2012 Hyundai Veloster Ecoshift DCT

The 2012 Hyundai Veloster is the only car we know that has its own theme song. Actually it has a choice of three for the driver can chose to play—like the little ditty Windows plays— when the car starts. Or one can turn it off altogether when it gets tiring. Actually, we’d prefer the opening strains to Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, but that’s just us.

Common Man wouldn’t be inappropriate, however. Our test 2012 Hyundai Veloster starts at a base price of $18,055, our tester’s price includes an automatic transmission. And then add $775 delivery. You can get into a six-speed manual gearbox 2012 Veloster for just $18,225, delivery included.

Our first-drive Hyundai Veloster was a manual-transmission version, and we found that the pedal position would be frustrating for the experienced sports car driver, so we were eager to try the Veloster with the automatic. The Veloster’s automatic transmission, dubbed “Ecoshift DCT,” isn’t the traditional automatic with a torque converter, a fluid connection between the engine and the transmission that even with “lock-up” feature that provides a solid connection between the engine and the wheels still lacks tactile sense of friction surface on friction surface.

2012 Hyundai Veloster Ecodshift DCT interior

The interior of the 2012 Hyundai Veloster Ecodshift DCT is comprised of organic curves and contours. (Click to enlarge)

The DCT in “Ecoshift DCT,” however, stands for “dual clutch transmission.” Think of a conventional manual transmission with an electronically-controlled clutch and you’ve got the picture. Except that the Ecoshift DCT allows quicker shifts by essentially disengaging the lower gear’s clutch while engaging the next gear up…or vice versa on the way back down. It’s confusing to mentally picture but trust us, it works.

As its description—an automatic transmission—suggests, the transmission can be left to shift on its own. But this type of transmission usually allows manual shifting as well, and a sports coupe almost demands it. The Veloster’s Ecoshift DCT obliges, with tip shifting of the console mounted selector or paddles mounted on the steering wheel spokes. It’s fairly conventional for today’s paddle shifting. Pull the left paddle towards the wheel upshifts, the right for downshifts.

How does it work? Quite nicely, thank you. Upshifts are quick and solid and downshifts match revs as they should.

2012 Hyundai Veloster Ecodshift DCT back door

The 2012 Hyundai Veloster Ecodshift DCT has a back door on the right side only. (Click to enlarge).

It’s almost hard to find things to say about the Veloster’s Ecoshift other than it has to be used frequently to keep the engine where it needs to be to move the car. As has been noted elsewhere and including us in our initial drive, the 138 horsepower engine in the Veloster has some heavy lifting to do. Not that the Veloster is particularly hefty. Hyundai lists its curb weight at a commendable 2,657 to 2,813 lbs, depending on how equipped. But the 2012 Hyundai Accent weighs about 200 lbs less and is powered by the selfsame engine, so you know who wins that drag race.

At least the Veloster is lower and has a three-inch wider track, not to mention a sport-tuned suspension, so it’s faster in the twisties and around a road course. Of course, those matchups are less likely because (a) no one’s taking an Accent to the track to be your sacrificial lamb, and (b) going all-out ten/tenths on the road is an invitation to be and make highway statistics. We recommend autocross if you’re really intent on proving your stuff, and there the Veloster could be a lot of fun.

The other recommendation, if you’re sufficiently flush, is the Hyundai Veloster Turbo. In our first drive of the Hyundai Veloster Turbo, we found it definitely good for California canyon scooting. We look forward to getting one for a longer test.

A week’s driving of the non-turbo Veloster, however, put the EPA estimated fuel economy numbers to the test. The EPA says the naturally-aspirated 2012 Veloster with Ecoshift should earn 28 mpg city and 38 mpg highway. We got 28.9 mpg in mixed driving in a hilly area in 60 to 80 degrees temperatures over a full tank of gas. We’ll blame some of the lower than expected mileage on the hilly venue with a stop sign at the bottom of every hill, negating any payback of kinetic energy built up expensively by climbing hills. And hills aren’t part of the EPA’s testing procedures, which are performed on a treadmill-like rig in a laboratory.