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.
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."
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, 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.