One of the most coveted achievements for a car manufacturer has to be the successful creation of a new market niche or perhaps even a niche within a niche. Chrysler did it with the minivan and the Ford Edge went a long way to creating the CUV market. Winning with a new niche means taking chances with design. Hyundai has taken a big chance with the introduction of the 2012 Veloster at the 2011 North American International Auto Show.
Hyundai’s press release calls it a 3 door coupe, but standing beside it one realizes that the Veloster is taller than a traditional coupe. It is substantially larger than a 3 door MINI Clubman and decidedly less sporting than a 3 door Mazda RX-8. It may be possible that Hyundai has succeeded in creating a new niche, but time will tell if consumers actually buy it.
Media reactions on the Detroit show floor seemed mixed. Some didn’t seem too fussy for the design, while others (myself included) went gaga over it. Interestingly, I didn’t hear a single person say they hated it or thought it was a poor idea. I think that most were just happy to see a car manufacturer taking some chances.
Sporty style may be the hook that draws buyers in but those who are looking for more aggressive performance will have to look elsewhere. The Veloster is powered by a direct injected 1.6l 4 banger that generates 138 horsepower and 123 lb/ft of torque. Not exactly the numbers one might want in a potential lapping day warrior. The big positive here is that Hyundai has chosen to put a 6 speed manual in as the base tranny, while their first dual clutch transmission will be optional. Either choice has the potential to make the most out of those 138 ponies and actually make the V fun to drive. For those who are more worried about fuel economy, the Veloster is a winner there as it promises to deliver 40 mpg.
Obviously the Veloster will be marketed to the younger consumer, which means that a full complement of techie toys will be expected. A seven inch touch screen display controls a wide range of media options including internet radio, video playback and game console connectivity. Also included is Hyundai’s Blue Link platform which basically does everything that GM’s OnStar does.
The 3 door body style allows for easier rear seat access, which has always been weak point for 4 place coupe owners with kids. The back seat of the Veloster is definitely for kids only however, as the roofline doesn’t leave much usable headroom. I say usable because there actually is headroom, but as the photos show, most of that space is above with top edge of the windows! Those who suffer from claustrophobia need not apply.
All in all, the 2012 Hyundai Veloster is an interesting package that promises to be a fun little runabout, especially when combined with the base 6 speed manual transmission. Only time in the showroom will tell if Hyundai’s design gamble will pay off.
Gary Grant is the publisher at The Garage Blog and regular contributor to CarInsurance.org