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I'll Take What's Behind Door Number Three

The 2012 Hyundai Veloster

You’ve got to admire Hyundai. Once the laughingstock of the American car market, they’ve now got top-selling Toyota looking over their shoulders. And for good reasons: the Elantra, the Sonata…

The only ones laughing now are Hyundai officials. All the way to the bank.

The latest addition to the Hyundai lineup is the 2012 Veloster. I liked pretty much everything about it except the name, the pronunciation of which seems to be subject to the whims of whomever is saying it. Classifying the Veloster is also a bit of a challenge. At first look it’s a sporty coupe. Walking around to the passenger side one spots a conventionally-hinged rear side door (unlike some other center-hinged third doors out there), the handle of which is cleverly hidden in the window frame. It also sports a rear hatch. So, I guess it’s a three-door sports coupe hatchback—although Hyundai chooses three-door coupe which I think is misleading, as most three-door coupes are two-door plus hatch. Confusing, isn’t it?

The car itself isn’t so confusing. It’s a small sporty-looking car which should have great appeal to the younger buyer. And that younger buyer needn’t worry about a useless back seat. I stood outside staring at that right rear door for a minute before opening it, figuring there was no way I’d ever be able to get into the back seat. But open it I did, and promptly slid right in. It doesn’t look like much, but its positioning and shape are just right to allow easy entry. Maybe the headroom is a bit tight for a six-footer; although I did fit back there, had my hair been spiked it would have brushed the headliner. Anyone shorter by an inch or so should be completely happy.

When I pulled into the lot at Fuccillo Hyundai on Grand Island, the Electrolyte Green Veloster that I drove was right out front. The styling really stands out on this car, but in this color you could spot it from the Thruway. There’s also a yummy-looking orange (Vitamin C) and a bright Boston Red. The car I drove had a black interior, which was pleasant enough although I thought the vee-shaped silver-colored trim which surrounded the center vents/HVAC controls was too distracting. The seats were comfy and the controls fairly logical and ergonomically well-placed.

I drove a base model, which was nonetheless well equipped: 1.6-liter DI DOHC four-cylinder engine (the only engine choice for now), six-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shift mode and paddle shifters (a six-speed manual is standard), remote keyless entry, a/c, power windows locks and heated mirrors, 17-inch alloy wheels, AM/FM Sirius XM/CD/MP3 audio system with six speakers, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, tire pressure monitoring system, six airbags, and a bunch of other stuff. All for a list price of $18,550 plus destination. Not too bad. All models are actually base models, with two different option packages being offered: Style (18-inch wheels, chrome grill trim, fog lights, sunroof, premium audio, leather on seats, doors and steering wheel, and alloy pedals), and Tech—which requires the Style Package (different 18-inch wheels with painted inserts, backup sensors, navigation w ithcamera, automatic headlights, push-button start, 115-volt outlet). Each package is two grand.

Driving the Veloster around Grand Island shows off its sportiness, while illuminating the fact that it’s no hod rod. As Fuccillo general manager Dave Pignato pointed out, that will all change next year as a turbo version becomes available. The handling was tight and the steering responsive. Acceleration wasn’t bad—it is a small car and doesn’t need much to get it going. EPA estimates the Veloster at 40 miles per agllon highway, so all of this fun won’t set you back an arm and a leg.

Now if they could just do something about that name.

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Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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