2012 Hyundai Veloster Driving Impressions

The heart of the matter is the rear suspension, making Veloster totally obedient, and there are other good things to make the driving enjoyable. Steering is solid, secure, and gives great feedback. The new 1.6-liter direct-injection engine is super smooth, and the 6-speed gearbox is sweet. Brakes are just-right sensitive, for such a sporty car.

The unusual rear suspension, V-beam torsion axle with an integrated 23mm stabilizer bar, was designed and developed mostly by one Detroit-bred engineer in California over six months; hundreds of spring, shock and tire combinations were tried on the test track and highway, to get the ride and handling just right. It is.

We drove the Veloster hard through some of our favorite corners without a trace of understeer. It stays flat, and that's quite a compliment for a car like this. The cornering is as stable as the steering is solid. It's also very light, at 2583 pounds, and that helps a lot.

The new 1.6-liter engine makes 138 horsepower. The math yields a specific output of 86.3 horsepower per liter, tops in the field. Called the Gamma GDI, it's got all the right stuff, including Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI), and Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing (D-CVVT).

Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 28/40 mpg City/Highway, or 32 miles per gallon Combined. By comparison, the Honda CR-Z hybrid is rated at 31/37 mpg City/Highway. Those figures are for a Veloster with manual transmission; with the DCT, it drops a bit. In a hard couple hundred miles, including two-lanes, freeway and city, we averaged about 29 mpg, with both the 6-speed manual and DCT.

In these days of high expectations, Veloster is powerful enough. It loves to run between 3500 and 5500 rpm, where torque is best. Even holding it at 5000 rpm in second gear, it's nice and smooth, doesn't feel like it's screaming. Cruising at 70 mph is only 2700 rpm in sixth gear, you don't even know the engine is there.

The standard manual transmission is a beauty, except for the big shift knob. The throw is short and tight, and the clutch is a joy, so shifts are smooth and fun. Our feet didn't fit the pedals for heel-and-toe downshifting, but that's our feet and our technique; doesn't mean it can't be done.

We weren't crazy about the 6-speed DCT, or Dual Clutch Transmission. On the other hand, we are crazy about VW/Audi's DSG, or Direct Shift Gearbox. The Hyundai version uses a dry clutch, and there's an engineering debate about its merits. All we know is the Veloster's shifts aren't sharp, almost too smooth, stealing feeling from the car. It feels like an automatic, not a manual transmission with some invisible person making perfect shifts for you. Plus, the paddles feel cheap and aren't designed with care (however the shifting pattern is correct). Seeing as how the DCT costs another $2250, we'd stick with the sweet 6-speed manual.

As for any doubts about the all-new engine and transmission, Hyundai offers a 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty.

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