If your ideal car is one that is small, fuel-efficient and offers great value, a compact hatchback could be the way to go. There are many cars in this class that meet those requirements, and some are even fun to drive. At first glance, the 2016 Hyundai Veloster appears to fit into this subsection, with a wide, low stance and muscular fender flares. But the actual driving experience may leave you wanting.
Certainly, there are some cool aspects to the Veloster. Its unique three-door body style, with the third door on the passenger side, offers easier access to the rear seat than a two-door coupe can. Inside, the Veloster comes with a substantial number of standard features, including a rearview camera, a touchscreen infotainment system and satellite radio, all of which are typically optional extras in this class. Estimated fuel economy is good, too, with both engine and transmission packages hovering around the 30 mpg mark in combined city/highway driving.
But while the Veloster meets the basic requirements of a compact hatchback, it doesn’t offer much in the way of excitement. The base engine is extremely slow and the turbocharged engine, while definitely an improvement, is slower than pretty much every hot hatch on the market. The suspension, particularly in the sportier states of tune, transmits a flurry of impacts into the cabin while traveling on rough surfaces. Usually this is a natural byproduct of capable handling, but even around corners the Veloster seems out of place.
While there are no three-door vehicles to compare against the 2016 Hyundai Veloster, there are plenty of two- and four-door rivals to consider. The 2016 Ford Fiesta is one of our favorites, with three engines to choose from, including an extremely satisfying performance-minded ST variant. The 2016 Volkswagen Golf is a bit more expensive, but the cabin has higher-quality materials and the sporty Golf GTI practically invented the “hot hatch” segment. The 2016 Mazda 3 is one of our favorite cars as well, with a 0-60-mph time that beats the Veloster Turbo by a hair; it gets better fuel economy to boot. While the Veloster has some high points, we think most of the competition is more desirable overall.
The One to Buy
The Veloster is extremely slow when powered by the standard four-cylinder engine. As its name suggests, the 2016 Veloster Turbo adds a more powerful engine in addition to a variety of luxury features.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2016 Hyundai Veloster is a four-passenger compact hatchback with three doors (one on the driver side and two on the passenger side) and four trim levels: base, Turbo R-Spec, Turbo Rally Edition and Turbo.
The base Veloster comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights, heated mirrors, full power accessories, a rearview camera, cruise control, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, cloth upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split folding rear seatback, a cargo cover, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 7-inch touchscreen electronics interface and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack, Pandora Internet radio capability and a USB port.
The optional Style package adds 18-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, upgraded exterior and interior trim, foglights, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, an eight-speaker Dimension premium audio system and Hyundai’s first-generation Blue Link emergency telematics system. To this package the Tech package can be added (see below).
The Veloster Turbo R-Spec comes with a more powerful engine, a lower body kit, sport-tuned suspension and steering, a torque-vectoring system that selectively applies the brakes to improve handling around tight turns, an Active Sound Design feature that channels exhaust sounds through the stereo speakers, LED taillights, a B&M sport shifter and the features from the Style package (minus the sunroof, exclusive trim and foglights).
The new Turbo Rally Edition adds 18-inch Rays wheels, even sportier suspension components and leather upholstery. It is available solely in “Matte Blue” paint unique to the Rally Edition.
Compared to the R-Spec version, the Veloster Turbo features slightly less aggressive tuning for the suspension and steering along with a few additional creature comforts. It adds unique wheels, different styling elements, foglights, side mirrors with integrated turn signal indicators, keyless ignition and entry, heated front seats, driver lumbar adjustment and leather upholstery.
The base and Veloster Turbo models are available with a Tech package, which includes rear parking sensors, automatic headlights, keyless ignition and entry, automatic climate control, a 115-volt household-style power outlet and a navigation system with the new second-gen Blue Link system (includes improvements such as Google-based navigation search and engine remote start).
Powertrains and Performance
The 2016 Hyundai Veloster in base trim comes with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 132 horsepower and 120 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automated manual known as DCT.
In Edmunds performance testing, a Veloster with the base 1.6-liter engine and a manual transmission went from zero to 60 mph in 9.5 seconds. That’s about a second slower than the average for a budget-priced subcompact hatchback, and is definitely not swift. A DCT-equipped Veloster we tested did it in an even slower 10.2 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is pretty good, though, at 30 mpg combined with the manual transmission (27 city/35 highway) and 31 mpg combined (28/36) with the DCT.
The Veloster Turbo, Turbo R-Spec and Rally Edition come with a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder good for 201 hp and 195 lb-ft. All come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, but the Turbo is also available with a seven-speed DCT.
In Edmunds testing, a manual-equipped Turbo went from zero to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds, which is much more respectable than the base Veloster’s time, but still about a second slower than the class average for a sport-compact hatchback. Equipped with the manual gearbox, the turbocharged Veloster models are rated at 28 mpg combined (25 city/33 highway); the Turbo with the DCT is rated at 29 mpg combined (27/33).
Every 2016 Veloster comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. Most Velosters will have some version of Blue Link, Hyundai’s emergency telematics system, which offers roadside assistance, crash response, remote door lock control, remote start, stolen vehicle recovery assistance and monitoring features for parents with teenage drivers (speed, geo-fencing and curfew limits). A rearview camera is standard, with rear parking sensors available as an optional extra in the Tech package.
In government crash testing, the Veloster received five out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for frontal-impact protection and five stars for side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Veloster the highest possible rating of “Good” in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset and roof-strength tests, with the second-highest rating of “Acceptable” for side-crash protection. The Veloster received the second lowest score of “Marginal” in the IIHS test for small-overlap frontal-impact protection. Its seat and head restraint design was rated “Good” for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
In Edmunds brake testing, the base Veloster came to a stop from 60 mph in a class-average 121 feet, while the Veloster Turbo needed 126 feet, which is longer than average for a sporty coupe or hatchback.
Interior Design and Special Features
A three-door layout sets the 2016 Hyundai Veloster apart from other compact hatchbacks. While the single driver-side door creates a coupelike appearance, the two smaller passenger-side doors provide added convenience for loading people or parcels. The truncated opening is a bit low, though, so taller passengers will have to duck quite a bit when they get in.
The backseat has a decent amount of legroom, but the seat cushion is mounted quite low and headroom is limited by the sloping rear roof line. That same roof line also places the heads of occupants under the sun-warmed glass of the hatch. The deep trunk holds 15.5 cubic feet of cargo space under that hatch, and with the seats folded down, maximum cargo capacity is 34.7 cubes. That’s respectable if you’re comparing the Veloster to two-door coupes, but most compact hatchbacks have at least 10 additional feet of space.
Up front, the cabin boasts a youthful and modern design that looks a bit better than it feels. There is an abundance of hard plastic, but it’s textured for a more favorable appearance. The Veloster’s controls are well organized, and the standard touchscreen interface is easy to use. A USB port and Bluetooth connectivity are standard across all trims, while the Tech package for the base and Turbo versions adds Apple Siri Eyes Free integration and HD radio.
Although the Veloster looks like a sporty hatchback, it doesn’t really drive that way. The base model is just plain slow, especially when equipped with the automated manual transmission. Acceleration is better on the turbocharged models, but their performance is off the pace of hot hatches like the Focus ST and Volkswagen GTI. It’s not all bad, though, as the 201-hp 1.6-liter turbocharged engine is generally refined, and the power comes on so smoothly that you almost can’t tell it’s turbocharged. The manual transmission is easy to shift, too.
For city commutes, both the base and the Turbo Veloster feel adequately nimble, but if you start pushing the car harder on twisty back roads, disappointment sets in, as the Veloster just isn’t as sharp or communicative as most rivals. It’s not a very comfortable car, either. If you drive on cracked streets with lots of potholes, the suspension will be easily upset by bumps and ruts. The harsh ride in the turbocharged models might be acceptable if the Veloster was more fun around turns, but that’s not an area where this hatchback excels.