It features plenty of sanitized, youthful appeal and positive energy, with nary a hint of danger or bite. It's ostensibly designed for those looking to express themselves in a more spirited, edgy way than they can with Hyundai's other excellent yet docile compact offerings, the Accent and Elantra.
The Veloster certainly looks the part. Its aggressive stance features wide shoulders around the rear wheels, accented by dual center-mounted exhaust tips below the rear bumper. Up front, fake engine vents on the hood hint at power lying in wait beneath.
But unfortunately, it's going to be a long wait. Hyundai built this car with an eye on a 40-mile-per-gallon fuel economy rating and a competitive price tag, both of which the South Korean-made Veloster has. But the sacrificial lamb in that equation was horsepower and acceleration.
This Hyundai lacks both. If you're OK with that, you'll be OK with the Veloster.
The underpowered heart of this Hyundai is a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder unit that makes 138 hp. and 123 pound-feet of torque. It's the same unit the company uses in its smaller and lighter Accent.
Though outmatched by the heavier Veloster's weight, the engine does have a bit of tech going for it in its direct injection system. This fuel-saving trick and the Veloster's standard six-speed manual transmission help the car hit 28 miles per gallon in the city and 40 on the highway. During 225 miles of more city than freeway driving, I averaged 25.5 mpg.
Although the Veloster has the proportions of a two-door coupe, Hyundai managed to tuck behind the passenger door a third door. It's a real, front-hinged door too, and it provides access to the Veloster's two rear seats. Hyundai says they chose to put it on the right side of the car for better curbside access.
Fit and finish inside the Veloster are impressive. With a base price a hair over $18,000, there is little else you can get with this content and quality. The best feature is a 7-inch touch screen at the center of the dashboard. The screen controls the six-speaker audio system with iPod and USB integration.
In city driving the car moves with agility. But get the car on the open road or in the passing lane and the engine just looks at you and shrugs.
The Veloster is unique, practical and a well-made bargain. But if you want your car's bite to back up its bark, you're going to be disappointed. Fuel-efficient, economical and powerful; you can only have two of the three. Hyundai went with the first two.
2012 HYUNDAI VELOSTER
Base price: $18,060 (including destination charge)
Price, as tested: $22,155
Powertrain: 1.6-liter, dual overhead cam, four-cylinder engine with direct injection and dual continuous variable valve timing; six-speed manual transmission
Horsepower: 138 at 6,300 rpm
Zero to 60: 8.8 seconds (as tested by Motor Trend)
Curb weight: 2,740 pounds
Wheelbase: 104.3 inches
Overall length: 166.1 inches
EPA fuel economy: 28 miles per gallon city/
Final thoughts: A tasty sandwich, but where's the beef?