In June my partner and I went and saw “Prometheus”, the much hyped movie from Ridley Scott. I remember saying I hadn’t been as excited by a movie in years.
When we left I recall feeling distinctly deflated; it certainly wasn’t a bad film but it wasn’t what I expected.
And so it was with the Veloster DCT provided by Hyundai. I was genuinely looking forward to getting behind the wheel and finding out what all the noise was about. It’s certainly a pretty car, with a swooping profile not unlike the Volkswagen Scirroco, with the big talking point the passenger side only rear door, making it a four door, four seater three door hatch.
Said door had the handle nicely buried in the apex of a triangle at the rear. The car itself was a finalist in the Australian International Design Awards and priced from around $23990 (at the time of writing, plus on roads etc) for the manual (another 2k for the DCT) it’s keenly and competitively priced.
Sliding into the well designed, sports style, supportive, comfortable leather and cloth seats, a sense of mild dismay came over me. Was this a throwback to the Excel style of the mid ‘90’s? Cheap looking and feeling plastics, including the door grab handles which, although ergonomic (along with the interior, including the centre mounted aircon wheels) and effective, looked, with their satin semi-chrome finish, raw with a moulding ridgeline clearly visible, no give in the padding on the upper door interior, a 7 inch touch screen that lacked a back button to the radio screen yet had it on sub-menus, a gear surround that looked, well, cheap….ok, so the drive had better be good.
Nope. 18 inch rims matched with 40 profile tyres for our test vehicle, riding on a suspension with no real initial give provided the impression of the child’s fairy story of the princess and the pea being felt through twenty mattresses coming true. Hitting a standard rubber speed bump on the roads was like riding over a rock on a bike with a flat tyre. The electrically assisted steering was numb, vague, on centre with a strange weighting lock to lock. It certainly had some heft and grip in turns but wasn’t terribly communicative otherwise. Vision forward was fine, as expected, however rear vision through the spacious glass hatch was slightly distorted by its curvature.
Tyre grip level was velcrolike, hanging on like a limpet through the twisty roads where I live. The double clutch transmission was intended to give a manual transmission like experience; with standard, sports and manual shift options (including via two unbelieveably cheap feeling and looking paddles), it didn’t strike me as anything startling although that neutral manual gearbox feel was apparent occasionally, mainly when going to reverse (with the reversing camera lighting up the touchscreen) and feeling a slight clunk as it engaged first.
Aurally, on startup, another reminder of the Excel with the starter motor turnover sound being, to me, exactly the same as those from the ‘90s and further dulling the enjoyment I expected. Acceleration from the 1.6L direct injection engine was adequate, not neck snapping and brakes somewhat grabby with a light touch of the stop pedal whereas a firm press brought on a smooth and progressive finish.
A few weeks after watching “Prometheus”, we went and saw Disney-Pixar’s “Brave” and it was everything Scott’s film should have been. Funny, witty, dramatic, engaging, relatable, surprising. I walked out thinking that it was one of the best films I had seen, bar none.
To me, the Veloster I tested (with the Turbo version released in late July) was not “Brave”, it was “Prometheus” and what a shame to leave it feeling that way. A higher quality look and feel to the plastics plus a more impact absorbing suspension would, to me, make it an almost unbeatable bargain sports hatch.