As Larry David might say, the 2019 Hyundai Veloster is pretty, pretty good. The Seinfeld creator often says this with more than a little sense of relief and an acknowledgment of unexpectedly favorable outcomes for his bumbling travails in the show Curb Your Enthusiasm. Only there really isn’t anything unexpected about the new, second-generation Veloster’s satisfying overall execution.
Hyundai is a couple generations into general competence and long ago became immune to cheap shots like “Hyundais are good, for Korean cars.” More recently, the automaker has grown ambitious about making its mainstream models more appealing to drive. Recently, sizzle has trickled into models as unpretentious as the price-leader Accent sedan and the Kona crossover.
Snap, crackle, and pop have been less discriminatingly meted out to the Veloster. Mechanically similar to the Elantra GT hatchback, the Veloster has a squat, tapered body with pumped-out rear fenders and a commodious, if tight to access, 20-cubic-foot cargo hold. Despite the fact that the redesign sports a faster roofline, Hyundai found more rear headroom—but not reduced blind spots or additional visibility to the rear—by moving the hatch hinges rearward. Materially, the interior is a huge improvement over the old Veloster’s. Hard plastic still abounds, but it’s grained nicely and is impeccably assembled. Simple and clear white-on-black gauges and Hyundai’s ubiquitous touchscreen infotainment system blend into the straightforward, restrained cabin design. Each of the five trim levels is identifiable by different upholstery and pops of color on its seats and dashboard.
And lest we forget, the Veloster still has an asymmetrical layout that places a single, longer door on the driver’s side and a pair of stubbier apertures on the passenger side. The two rear seats can be accessed from either side, but entering from the left requires funneling oneself through the narrow gap between the driver seat and the doorjamb as in a regular two-door coupe. You’ll either like this layout or you won’t, but you won’t find it on any competitor.
Seriously, Forget the Door Thing
Until the high-performance 275-hp Veloster N appears later this year, the Veloster Turbo is Hyundai’s most focused performance machine. With its 201-hp turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-four (carried over from the old Veloster Turbo), firmed-up suspension, and available summer tires, it’s a sort-of competitor to the Volkswagen GTI or the Honda Civic Si. That the Veloster Turbo nearly matches those slightly larger, slightly pricier cars’ specifications is classic Hyundai. We’ll play along, to a point, but we prefer to think of the Turbo as a worthy successor to the half-size-down, soon-to-die Ford Fiesta ST.