FUN IN A HYUNDAI: 2019 VELOSTER R-SPEC ADDS TO THE DRIVING EXPERIENCE
As good as Hyundai vehicles have become, “fun to drive” is not usually something you associate with them.
Functional, yes, and attractive both inside and out as well. The Sonata is a great midsize sedan, and the Genesis, now broken off as a separate brand, is one of the more underrated sedans in the luxury segment.
They are not sluggards by any means, but still more tuned to efficiency, daily commutes and family trips than performance.
Even the Veloster, when it was launched as a 2012 model, lacked the kind of peppiness often found in the compact segment.
Some early reviews of the first-year Veloster used terms like “lackluster” or “sluggish” acceleration, “wimpy engine” and even “feels sluggish from stoplight” to describe what otherwise was considered a praiseworthy new car. That’s what 1.6-liter, 138 horsepower engine is going to get you.
Hyundai remedied this by adding a turbo version for 2013 that boosted horsepower to 201 with 195 pound-feet of torque while infringing only modestly on fuel mileage figures, which remained over 30 miles-per-gallon highway with either a manual or automatic transmission.
The South Korean automaker skipped production of the Veloster for a year before displaying it as a 2019 model at the annual North American Auto Show in Detroit last January. Full production began in Korea in March, and it went to showrooms during the second quarter of this year.
The 2019 Veloster got a complete redesign, though it retained the odd, asymmetrical three-door configuration with two doors on the passenger side but only one slightly larger one on the driver’s side.
The R-Spec model that served as my recent test vehicle features the 1.6-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine mated with a short-throw, six-speed manual transmission. The combination delivered not only a nifty experience behind the wheel but excellent fuel economy of 26 miles-per-gallon city, 33 highway, and 29 combined.
It should be noted that an even higher performance Veloster N model is new for 2019 and it features a 2.0-liter turbo 4-banger that boosts power figures to 275 hp and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. But the R-Spec kind of hits the sweet spot between the base 2.0 model with its normally aspirated engine (147 hp and 132 lb.-ft.) and the new N.
The Veloster’s interior also got an upgrade for 2019, and there is ample room — at least for front-seat riders. They get to ride in comfortable, uniquely designed cloth seats with up to 42.9 inches of legroom. Not that the seats in the back are uncomfortable, but only 34.1 inches of legroom is offered and headroom is cut back to 35.9 inches because of the slanted roof.
At least it’s easy enough to get into the back from the proper side, but the three-door configuration remains somewhat of a puzzler.
There is a long list of safety features, though blind-spot warning is not included (another reason to keep those mirrors adjusted correctly), and if you aren’t comfortable with the 6-speed manual transmission, you can get the R-Spec with a 6-speed automatic or 7-speed double-clutch transmission with paddle shifters.
Tech functions include an 8-inch display for the audio system (AM/FM/SiriusXM satellite radio), Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, push-button start, Hyundai’s Blue Link services, Bluetooth connectivity (linking a cell phone is a snap), steering wheel-mounted controls for cruise control, Bluetooth, and audio systems, and dual USB charging points.
Don’t like the way your Veloster sounds? Simply adjust the Active Engine Sound system and a synthesizer will amplify or quiet it to your liking. It’s not actual engine sound but kind of an artificial way of adding to the sportiness of the engine tone.
All in all, it's a nifty little ride.
The base Veloster starts at $19,385 with the destination and delivery charges included. The R-Spec checks in at $23,785.
What I liked about the 2019 Hyundai Veloster R-Spec: It packs plenty of punch, and the standard 6-speed manual transmission simply adds to the fun. Why waste money going for the automatic?
What I didn't like about the 2019 Hyundai Veloster R-Spec: Sorry, Hyundai designers, I simply don't “get” the three-door design. If you’re going to have access to the backseats on one side (the right), why not have it on the other? Rear visibility is restricted, so keep those side mirrors adjusted properly.
Would I buy the 2109 Hyundai Veloster R-Spec? For a second car in the family, yes. It’s a bit on the small side and access to the back isn’t all that convenient. But simplly approach it like a two-passenger vehicle and it’s a good choice among spunky compacts.