2019 Hyundai Veloster Buying Advice
This is the best sporty car for you if you want the automotive equivalent of the “Most Improved Athlete of the Year.”
Fully redesigned for model-year 2019, this front-wheel drive compact hatchback returns with its most notable feature: an unusual arrangement of two conventional front doors and one, rear half door on the passenger side. The original Veloster debuted for model-year 2012, its off-beat design earning that first-generation car something of a cult following. Enthusiasts on a budget embraced the Turbo version, which mimicked attributes of more expensive – and more polished – hot hatches like the Volkswagen Golf GTI.
The second-generation 2019 Veloster is superior to its predecessor in every way and a worthier competitor in its class. Hyundai evolved the quirky styling, added needed refinement, and upped the quickness quotient by introducing the performance-tuned 250-horsepower Veloster N.
Veloster’s competitive set isn’t well defined. It runs the gamut from sporty front-drive compacts, such as the Ford Focus ST, Civic Si, and Mini Cooper, to rear-drive coupes like the Ford Mustang and Toyota 86, to all-wheel drive entries like the Subaru Impreza WRX. It’s not a big seller, and even though it’s Hyundai’s lowest-volume U.S.-market model, it provides the South Korean automaker with an entry that’s struck a chord with small but loyal youth-oriented audience.
Should you buy a 2019 model or wait for the 2020?
Look at the 2019. Aside from the possibility of minor equipment shuffling, we don’t see Hyundai making changes that’ll make the ’20 worth waiting for. It’s almost certain to raise the price, though.
Expect the 2020 model lineup to reprise the 2019 roster. The entry-level version is called the 2.0 and it comes in Base and Premium grades. Next up is the sporty Turbo, which ascends through R-Spec, Base, and Ultimate trims. R-Spec is a de-contented variant that targets customers who want to do aftermarket modifications. Serving as flagship is the Veloster N, a performance-focused model analogous to – though not as powerful or expensive as — the Honda Civic Type R.
ChangesStyling: Hyundai does a fine job updating Veloster’s styling without losing any of the car’s hunkered-down character. Gone are the odd creases and proportions of the first-generation. In their stead: a more balanced combination of angular and smooth elements. The front end sports a more athletic version of Hyundai hexagonal grille, aggressive lower cutouts for the available fog lights, and sharply raked headlights. The body sides and roofline cut a cleaner profile, with the narrow rear glass and lower corner flares giving off an air of an animal on its haunches ready to pounce.
Turbo and 2.0 models have their exhaust outlets at the center of the rear fascia, while the N puts them in the more traditional corner spots. N models have even more aggressive styling with specific front air ducts designed to improve cooling for the brakes. They also have contrasting color trim pieces around the lower front fascia and side skirts and a prominent spoiler that resides above the rear glass.
Similarly, the interior follows Hyundai’s simple, effective design. Instruments and controls are highly legible and fall easily to hand. All models have their infotainment screens atop the center of the dashboard. Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto connectivity is standard across the board. The 2.0 Base grade has a 7-inch display while the rest of the line uses an 8-inch one. Turbo Ultimate models add imbedded GPS navigation that doesn’t require a connected smartphone.
Front seat occupants will have enough headroom and legroom for a sporty car. The housing of the available power sunroof intrudes on head clearance for taller folks. The front seats don’t offer power adjustment, not even as an option. The third door provides much easier access to the rear seating area than in a typical coupe. There’s more space back there than in a car such as the Toyota 86, but you’re not going to want to put anyone larger than a small child back there.
Cargo capacity is decent at 19.9 cubic feet behind the rear seatbacks and 44.5 with them folded. In-cabin small-items storage is good as well with a large cubby under the climate control stack, a reasonably sized center console, a large glovebox, and nicely sized door pockets.
Mechanical: Hyundai has improved Veloster’s driving experience — at least judged by the Turbo model. No 2.0 trim or N version was available for evaluation in time for this review.
The 2.0 Base and Premium borrow their 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine from Hyundai’s Elantra compact sedan. It makes 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. Base grades have a 6-speed manual transmission as standard. Optional on that model and standard on the Premium is a 6-speed automatic. Expect its acceleration to feel much like that of a similarly powered Elantra – not overly quick but fast enough to get out of its own way. Highway passing and merging will require a bit of forethought.
All Turbo models receive a souped-up version of the 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine formerly available in Hyundai’s Tucson crossover SUV. In this application, it produces 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. R-Spec and Ultimate models include a 6-speed manual transmission. Optional on the Ultimate and standard on the Base is a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. There’s a bit more turbo lag (a delay in throttle response before the turbo boost kicks in) than we would like, but acceleration is otherwise very lively. The gearbox in our dual-clutch test car behaved perfectly, with none of the bogging and juddering we experienced in other similarly equipped Hyundai vehicles.
Handling is much improved over the previous-generation Veloster. Turbo grades have a firmly sprung sport suspension that gives the car good grip around fast corners. It still doesn’t quite match the level of prowess exhibited by cars like the Civic Si or GTI, however. Steering that transmits more bumps than road feel is the primary culprit.
Ride quality isn’t great either. Sharp bumps resonate unpleasantly through the cabin. Thankfully, the unwanted secondary motions from the suspension that were common on the 2011-2017 Veloster are not present on the ’19.
We’re also not fans of the Turbo’s engine/exhaust note. The free-flow exhaust certainly helps performance, but the tradeoff is a lot of racket at idle, during acceleration, and when cruising. The gravely noise can wear on your ears unless you turn the stereo volume up to near-uncomfortable levels. We get what Hyundai wants to do here, but an extra layer or two of sound insulation would go a long way toward improving the Turbo’s daily drivability.
The range-topping Veloster N gets a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 250 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. An optional Performance Package increases output to 275 horsepower with no change to the torque rating. A 6-speed manual is the sole transmission, and it includes a rev-matching function that doesn’t require the drive to blip the throttle before downshifting.
Other mechanical upgrades to the N include torque vectoring that can dynamically apportion power between the front wheels as traction needs demand. The suspension gains electronic control with a load-transfer function designed to reduce nosedive during hard braking and rear spring compression during full-throttle acceleration. The new “N Grin Control System” drive-mode selector allows drivers to choose among five presets that adjust throttle response, engine speed rev matching, exhaust note, limited-slip differential performance, suspension damping rates, steering feel, and yaw control (angle of rotation around the vehicle’s vertical axis). The N Custom setting allows for additional fine tuning. On paper, this car has the chops to be a serious competitor to the Civic Type R.Features: Veloster 2.0 models are equipped about as well as most compact-class economy cars. Among the Base grade’s standout features are LED daytime running lights, forward-collision warning, lane-departure alert with automatic steering correction, drowsy-driver alert, CarPlay, Android Auto, and dual USB charging points. The 2.0 Premium gains blind spot alert, rear cross-traffic detection, automatic climate control, cloth/leather upholstery, heated front seats, keyless entry with pushbutton ignition, 8-inch infotainment display, upgraded audio system, wireless smartphone charging, and Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics service.
Turbo R-Spec and N include the same equipment as the 2.0 Base along with more powerful engines, autonomous emergency braking, LED low-beam headlights, keyless entry/pusbutton ignition, 8-inch infotainment with improved audio, and Blue Link. The Turbo Base includes everything in the R-Spec and 2.0 Premium and a power sunroof. Turbo Ultimate grades add pedestrian detection to the automatic emergency braking system, rain-sensing windshield wipers, adaptive radar cruise control (automatic transmission only), leather upholstery, head-up instrument display, and imbedded navigation.
Most Veloster models remain affordable and all benefit from Hyundai’s generous factory warranty coverage. A couple notes regarding prices: 1) All base prices we list include Hyundai’s $885 destination fee; 2) 2.0 and Turbo models have no factory options; and 3) N prices were not available in time for this review.
Base price for the 2019 Veloster 2.0 Base with manual transmission is $19,385. Add $1,000 for the 6-speed automatic. The 2.0 Premium is priced from $23,635.
Among ’19 Veloster Turbo models, the manual-only R-Spec starts at $23,785 and the automatic-only Base at $26,285. Base price for the Ultimate with manual transmission is $27,535; automatic transmission adds $1,500.
The Turbo R-Spec is our pick for best overall value. You’re getting a good amount of performance and features for less than $25,000. We think it would be worthwhile to learn how to drive a manual transmission to save $2,500 over the Turbo Base.
The 2019 Veloster’s EPA ratings are about what you’d expect from a small, sporty car. With the 2.0-liter engine, manual-transmission models rate 25/33/28 mpg city/highway/combined while those with the automatic rate 27/34/30.
Models with the 1.6-liter turbo rate 26/33/29 mpg with manual transmission and 28/34/30 with automatic. The manual-only N rates 22/28/25. Our automatic Turbo Ultimate returned 29.0 mpg in our suburban test loop.
The 2.0-liter and surprisingly, the 1.6-liter turbo, use regular-grade 87-octane gasoline. Premium-grade 91-octane is required for the 2.0-liter turbo.
As of this review’s writing, Hyundai just launched the Veloster N, which is slated to the be the first in a series of performance cars for the brand (think Lexus F). With this not being an especially high-volume vehicle, we don’t expect any major updates in store until at least model-year 2022 or 2023.