Hyundai Veloster Hot Hatch Asks "Honda Who?"S

When we first heard details on the Hyundai Veloster curious three-door+hatch we asked if it was "the CRX Honda didn't build?" With two six-speed transmissions, a kicking power-to-weight ratio and up to 40 mpg the answer's yes. Hell yes.

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This near-production 2012 Hyundai Veloster is a curious front-wheel-drive hatchback, offering three full hinged doors (one driverside, two passenger side) and one rear liftgate in a design incorporating the aggressive new corporate nose of the new Sonata and European i40 Wagon with a rear inspired by a motorcycle helmet.

The aggressive and sporty exterior's backed by a 1.6-liter direct-injection four-cylinder "Gamma" engine with dual continuously variable valve timing (D-CVVT), offering a relatively potent 138 hp and 123 lb-ft of torque for its small displacement. Though not as powerful as the 180-hp Scion tC, the most powerful car in this class, the Hyundai weighs 2,584 pounds compared to the latter's 3,060 pounds — nearly a 500 pounds difference.

At the press conference, Hyundai USA CEO John Krafcik said "Somehow I think Colin Chapman would be pleased."

Hyundai Veloster Hot Hatch Asks "Honda Who?"S

Both transmissions offered are six-speed: a lightweight manual for the purists and a new Hyundai-developed six-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) for everyone else. Hyundai estimates the combination of the DCT, small engine, and low weight will produce a stellar 40 mpg.

No one's driven the Veloster yet, at least no one who can talk about it, so all comparisons to the CRX and the CR-Z have to take place in purely hypothetical land. But in purely hypothetical land the Veloster smokes it with better fuel economy, more power, lower weight, better transmissions, and a more attractive aesthetic.

Hyundai Veloster Hot Hatch Asks "Honda Who?"S

Hyundai, like Honda, is marketing this car as "fun to drive" and points to the McPherson struts and coil springs up front. There's also what they're calling a V-torsion beam rear suspension out back, which we think is marketing speak for a variation on the twist-beam torsion bar. Cars come standard on 17-inch alloys with optional 18-inchers.

Ultimately, the Veloster may compete more with the Mini than with anything from Honda, offering more power in a package weighing slightly more than the three-door Cooper but less than the five-door Clubman. The Veloster's going on sale this summer with a price starting around $17,000.