The second-generation of Hyundai’s hatchback curio - a small sporty front-wheel drive that borrows much of the hardware of the Hyundai i30 but adds more exclusive styling.
While the original model perhaps put more effort into looking different and standing out rather than much dynamic substance, the new version claims to deliver driving enjoyment in equal measure, without compromising on style.
Make up your own mind about how it looks; for our money, it’s a massive improvement with a more aggressive stance and altogether more handsome design that more effectively ties the entire car together. Less subjective, however, are the many tangible improvements.
What’s the Hyundai Veloster like to live with?
We took the Veloster on a nine-day tour of New Zealand’s far-north which was long enough to learn life with this charming hatchback would be a real pleasure.
Negotiating the traffic out of Auckland offered insight into how the Veloster would fare on a daily metropolitan commute. Fortunately, this particular model sacrifices little compared with the Hyundai i30 when sitting in traffic.
The seven-speed dual-clutch auto can be a little aggressive for stop-and-start traffic, but otherwise, slick, light and smooth steering, excellent seat comfort and a cosy cabin without being claustrophobic made what little congestion we encountered a breeze.
A letterbox rear window and a strange downward-biased reward view were the only elements of the Veloster’s exterior that make it less liveable over its more conventional sibling.
Even its curiously likeable two-plus-one-plus-one doors didn’t impact the usability any great degree. Actually, we found the unorthodox layout improved practicality.
Read next: Australian Veloster launch review
On the passenger’s side, a pair of doors enable better rear occupant access, but on the other side, the absence of a rear door allows the driver’s door to be longer and bigger. This makes loading large items through the folding rear seats much easier, as well as easier access for the driver. As is often the case, choice and versatility are best.
During freeway cruising, the Veloster is almost teetotal despite big wheels and sticky sports tyres and its 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol strikes a great balance of performance and efficiency that offers fun or economy when it suits.
There’s also a surprisingly large boot which, along with the second row of seating, doesn’t appear to have been greatly impacted by the more coupe-like roofline when compared with the i30.
Finally, the Veloster is very generously equipped at this most premium end of the spectrum. Luxuries that were once only found in hugely expensive limousines are included in this affordable hatch.
High-quality leather upholstery, heated steering wheel, heated and cooled seats, head-up display and an impressive suite of driver assistance and safety systems are all included in the deal. There’s also an intuitive information and entertainment system that includes a great navigation system and smartphone connectivity.
While most of the driver assistance systems are well executed including the adaptive cruise control, others are a little meddling such as the lane-keep assistant, which is nagging, aggressive and excessively early in its intervention.
Cancelling the system must be done with a push of a button each time the car is switched off then restarted, which we went ahead and did every time.
What’s the Hyundai Veloster like to drive?
In its previous guise, the Veloster didn’t keep the driving dynamic promises that its sporty looking body made. Things could not be more different in the new generation, however.
Not only has the exterior styling become more aggressive and imposing, but the chassis has also taken a big step up to match its new more purposeful stance on the road.
Read next: Full Veloster Turbo pricing and specs
On the simply perfect roads we found near Russell, the Veloster is beautifully rewarding with almost endless grip and a front-drive chassis that completely refuses to understeer. Instead, the Veloster’s tail becomes light and playful at the limit and is fun but manageable.
The massive grip is matched to light but fine steering, its brakes are confident and capable without resorting to more expensive fixed, multi-piston callipers, and the responsiveness from throttle and steering matches the brilliantly tuned body-control.
There’s a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre at the entry point of the range, but the 150kW/265Nm 1.6-litre turbo is absolutely the pick. Strangely, even though the engine is largely a carry-over from the previous generation, it feels stronger and more involving now.
The relatively small unit generates plenty of pulling power from low in the rev-range but is equally happy spinning out to its redline, thanking you in the process with a sporty note from the exhausts.
We can only imagine and fantasise what the Veloster is like when honed into a fire-breathing N monster as is sold to the Americans because the flagship model (which shares the important bits of the i30 N) will not be coming Down Under. That’s perhaps our only grievance with the new Veloster range.
But the absolute best part of the Veloster’s nature is its ability to turn from corner-carving terrier into a sublimely comfortable cruiser when it’s time to head home.
Away from the more interesting path, the Veloster settles into a comfortable ride with surprisingly little road noise despite the 19-inch wheels, and its suspension set up that is so capable of resisting roll in fast corners is supple and smooth.
There are few cars that do such a convincing double act without compromise.
Is the Hyundai Veloster worth the money?
If you wanted to put the price of the Veloster into simplistic perspective then, at $41,990, the flagship we tested costs $6750 more than the equivalent i30 N Line Premium, which is almost identical in mechanicals and specification.
However, there’s a justifiable and reasonable premium to be applied to exclusivity. Anyone who has bought a pair of Hunter natural rubber gumboots over a pair of $15 Aussie Disposals pair will know what we mean.
While you’ll see many i30s on the road (which aren’t a bad looking car in any case) the Veloster takes the same excellent functional recipe and adds the automotive equivalent of an adjustable buckle strap, GoreTex liner and a range of primary colours.
Nearly $7000 might seem like too much of a premium for an exercise in style but for those moments you catch a glimpse of the new Veloster reflected in a shop window or when yet another passer-by complements its charming looks - which happened a lot - it starts to seem like a reasonable proposition.
After spending some time with the dramatically improved model, it’s clear the new Veloster has successfully distanced itself from any other mechanically related model and deserves to be appraised on its own virtues and excellent qualities.
Pros: Amazing comfort/dynamics balance; excellent equipment; surprising practicality
Cons: meddling driver assistance; restrictive rear view: no Veloster N coming to Aus