More special than an affordable mainstream hatchback, but less exciting than a true hot hatch, the 2016 Hyundai Veloster is a unique choice within the class. However, it’s starting to show its age.
The Hyundai Veloster gets some technology changes for 2016. The optional navigation system has been revised to accommodate Hyundai’s upgraded Blue Link telematics system, along with HD Radio and Siri Eyes Free. The Veloster Turbo trades its optional six-speed automatic for a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (a six-speed manual is still standard), and a new Rally Edition takes the Turbo up a notch with more aggressive styling and suspension.
Like it or loathe it, the 2016 Veloster still has a different look to it. The aggressive front of the Turbo model has held up well over the years, and new special editions keep the Veloster fresh in the trendy world of sporty hatchbacks.
All Velosters get aluminum wheels as standard equipment, and none are smaller than 17 inches in size. That helps make the Veloster look a little more upscale than it is. Still, not everyone will fall for the appearance and the odd right-side-only third door takes some explaining.
The Veloster’s interior is about what you’d expect to find in a subcompact car, which makes sense given its Hyundai Accent roots. Plastics aren’t special, but most panels and cubbies are well-assembled.
Space in the rear is notably compromised by a lack of headroom, meaning even moderately tall passengers will hit their heads on the roof or rear glass. Despite the third door on the passenger’s side, access isn’t that great. Kids will fit, though, provided they don’t require anything more than a booster seat.
Before buying the manual, check to see how the seat and the pedal placement fit you. Shorter drivers may find the clutch engagement tricky unless the seat is pushed far forward, at which point the steering wheel is too close.
The base Veloster gets a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with 132 horsepower, which is pulled from the Accent. That engine is paired with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. The more potent Veloster Turbo is arguably the way to go if you want much in terms of excitement.
It, too, gets the option of an automatic transmission, which is now a seven-speed dual-clutch unit. The standard manual transmission does a good job of accessing the power, but it’s clunky to use and smooth shifts from first to second gear are tricky.
We haven’t tried the dual-clutch transmission, but if it performs as well as the unit in the Hyundai Tucson, it’s probably the better bet for everyday driving.
The trouble with the Veloster Turbo, however, is that it doesn’t feel very exciting to drive. Power comes on relatively quick, but the sensation of thrust is very muted. The result is that you have to look at the speedometer to get any sense of how fast you’re going. Steering could be sharper, too. At least the engine noise is kept to a minimum, which helps on long highway drives.
Our test Veloster Turbo is EPA-rated at 25/33 mpg city/highway. Fuel economy, however, should have been slightly better than the 27 mpg combined I achieved.
The 2016 Veloster comes standard with a USB port, Bluetooth and a six-speaker stereo with a 7-inch touch screen.
The new navigation system that’s optional on all Velosters for 2016 features easy-to-use buttons and reasonably good graphics for an inexpensive car. Hyundai’s Blue Link system and new Siri Eyes Free will appeal to those who want to put connectivity with smartphones and watches first.
Howver, there are areas where the Veloster’s humble roots and relative age show in this department.
You start the base model with a key that looks like it came from a 2002 Elantra. Driver assistance features that are becoming more commonly available, such as blind spot monitoring and forward collision warning, are not available.
The Hyundai Veloster gets a top five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for its overall performance in crash tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Veloster a Good rating in the moderate overlap frontal test, and an Acceptable in side crashes, but the second-lowest rating of Marginal in the tougher small overlap test.
A review camera is standard, but features like blind spot monitoring and forward collision warning are unavailable on the Veloster.
The Veloster starts at $18,000 for one with the base engine and a manual transmission. The least expensive Turbo model comes in at $21,600. All models are well-equipped, with must-have power accessories, aluminum wheels and Bluetooth.
You could see the 2016 Veloster two ways, as a seriously compromised performance car or a nice subcompact hatchback. It’s refined compared with other subcompacts and offers a lot of content for the money when pitted against trendier competitors.
The Turbo model is a strong performer, too, even if it isn’t very exciting to drive and the handling lacks the same precision and involvement of hot hatchbacks. But as an overall car, the Veloster falls down because it’s getting old.
Newer Hyundai models show the company continues to leapfrog itself in terms of quality and refinement, and the four-year-old Veloster is of another generation. Some odd ergonomics and tech omissions are issues that have been more sorted on rivals, as well as Hyundai’s newer products.