Hyundai's Veloster even more funky, sporty

Peter Atkinson
Hyundai's funky Veloster is winning points for practicality as well as originality

There's a very fine line between genius and gimmickry when it comes to reimagining the motor car.

In a world where every major marque seems to be searching for its own little niche, Hyundai's polarising Veloster has carved out its own unique space. Clever, no doubt, but is it clever design or clever marketing?

The recent arrival of a second-generation edition of the uniquely designed, half-coupe, half-hatchback has ensured that this alluring little Korean machine won't go down as some flash in the pan.

In fact Hyundai has preserved the best bits of the original Veloster - including its unique double doors on the passenger side only - while comprehensively redesigning the rest.

It gets more tech and more attitude, delivering a car that's more confident and more convincing in just about every way than the model it replaces.

And that's no small feat. The original Veloster, controversial as it might have been, was also an unquestionable sales success - something that became apparent during our week in the second-generation model. Only when driving the new Veloster did we notice just how many of the original Velosters are on our roads.

In fact Hyundai sold almost 20,000 units in Australia in its first iteration - significant numbers for a car that's designed to appeal to a specific market segment and damn the rest.

Its unique looks, funky appeal and sharp pricing have helped sustain that popularity - primarily among young drivers, most of them female.

So while we don't quite fit into that demographic, we came away from our week in the Veloster suitably impressed.

This new model will be offered in three trim levels - a base-model with a normally-aspirated two-litre, four-cylinder engine (110kW) and two higher-spec variants, each with an impressive 150kW, turbocharged 1.6-litre engine. One gets a six-speed manual or auto; the flagship Veloster Turbo Premium gets a nifty seven-speed dual-clutch auto.

Australia (and New Zealand) are the only right-hand drive markets that receive the Veloster - and while we got every variant of the original model, sadly we'll miss out on a planned high-performance model (under Hyundai's N-performance brand) this time around.

The Veloster produces enough output to make it an engaging, if not outright sporty, proposition. The engine almost feels a bit sleepy until you engage the Sport mode button on the centre console, but gains an impressive edge, not to mention a pleasingly raspy exhaust note, once that function is switched on. Even at idle the Veloster has a slightly unrefined, character-filled sound.

The turbo engine is a logical fit for this car - sharp and powerful enough to satisfy those attracted by the car's sporty lines, yet not fiery enough to get its generally young drivers into too much trouble. We drove the Veloster with a six-speed manual, which allows the little engine to spin freely and unleash its full potential.

It certainly looks the part - picking up on the sharp styling cues that have helped Hyundai match the market-leading Japanese and European cars for sheer kerb appeal.

The Veloster's driving dynamics generally measure up to what's promised by those edgy looks.

Hyundai has developed a lightweight, multi-link suspension system that has brought a decidedly sporty touch to the Veloster, which was never previously noted as a driver's car.

That's supported by clever electronics, including a Torque Vectoring Control system that helps with cornering - not to mention the slick little Michelin Pilot Sport tyres and aggressive 18-inch alloys on premium models.

While grip and balance were adequate, we found the Veloster to feel just a bit unsettled on the open road - lacking the granite-like solidness of rivals like the VW Golf and even, it must be said, its Hyundai i30 stablemate.

Beyond that, steering is nicely weighted, the brakes are very effective and the car is difficult to unsettle when cornering at speed.

The new Veloster is almost identical in proportions to the original model - 4240mm long, 1800mm wide and 1399mm high. Wheelbase is 2650mm - making it small and nimble enough for most city-parking duties.

But for a compact machine it provides decent and flexible space for the occupants - with rear-seat accessibility greatly enhanced by that double-door configuration.

Beneath the sloping rear hatch is a decent little trove of cargo space - not enough to fit a set of golf clubs in at first go but still a generous allocation for such a nimble little thing.

It's also generously equipped - with features stretching to heated and ventilated sports seats (higher spec models), wireless smartphone charging (a wise feature for this market), head-up display and quality 8-speaker audio.

Our test machine enjoyed a will-width glass sunroof, as well.

Prices for the Veloster have, very sensibly, been kept just below the $30k mark for entry-level models, ranging all the way up to a still-attractive $41,990 for the top-spec, turbocharged DCT variant. Our test-car seemed like very solid value at $35,490 for the turbo engine plus a six-speed manual transmission.

If this is a gimmick, it's one that has stood the test of time.

HYUNDAI VELOSTER TURBO

HOW BIG? Compact and petite in its design, the Veloster's unique double doors make better use of the interior space than many vehicles of comparable size.

HOW FAST? Sufficiently quick to back up its smart looks, but hardly a rocketship.

HOW THIRSTY? Depending on what engine transmission package you choose, it will drink between 6.9L/100km and 7.3L/100km. Surprisingly, the turbocharged 7-speed DSG models is the quickest and also the most frugal.

HOW MUCH? Starting a tick under $30-grand, prices go all the way beyond the $40k mark for top-end models.