I take it personally. Hyundai has very calculatingly, and very shrewdly, designed and developed a car, knowingly, that will irritate people like me. The Veloster appeals to folk who don’t know, actually more importantly, don’t care. That’s very insulting to me.
Before I bother to elaborate, let’s take the Blue Max game on the Veloster’s admittedly sharp display. Blue Max is a real-time challenge to post a high score in a 10-minute time limit.
It’s actually cool, if extremely distracting (there are some nice animated trees on the screen, and if you don’t pay attention you will be wrapped around a very non-animated tree in a moment), but it also exemplifies the essence of the Veloster: it’s a car for the Facebookers and the Angry Birders, in other words the current generation of youths who are more interested in the next iPhone than the next Ferrari.
It’s not for the kids who grew up leafing through car-buff books and collecting Matchbox toy cars. As far as the Veloster owner is concerned, his car doesn’t have a 1.6-litre engine developing 128bhp and 167Nm of torque. No, his little Veloster is orange, and look, it has orange streaks in the wheels, and look at the happy green trees on the screen, and wow, it totally has three doors in an asymmetrical layout! Yay, high fives all around, now let’s all skip hand in hand to Virgin Megastore …
How can I not take it personally?
I blame the consumer, obviously. Hyundai isn’t climbing charts in every single market in the world by being stupid. The Korean giant knows very well what it’s doing. Except when it comes to dissecting this thing for what it is — a car. Not only that, but seemingly a sporty car, they say...
Well, let’s elaborate now, shall we? The Veloster’s chassis — independent up front with MacPherson struts and a torsion bar rear, perfectly typical for this type of car and segment — is wobbly. Then there’s the vague steering that’s never consistent, changing its heft irregularly as you go along so that it feels like the physical steering ratio is being adjusted on the go.
To its credit, though, the chassis is good at suppressing the unwanted qualities of our roads, but I thought a sporty car looks at comfort only as a second criterion? Still, at least it is commendably comfortable, and the ride is quiet.
Powered by that 1.6-litre engine, the Veloster has the urge to get up to speed from rest, but with an asphyxiated naturally aspirated motor, mid-range acceleration simply doesn’t exist.
Step on it from about 100kph, and then proceed to give up. And you will give up, because after kick-down no matter how brilliant Hyundai’s warranty is, you’ll be convinced by the din coupled to the stationary speedo needle, the engine is busy shredding itself to bits. The transmission is a modern six-speed unit, yet even all those ratios, evenly spread out, can’t provide the grunt to call this car remotely sporty. I am convinced that with a six-speed manual the Veloster would be transformed, but with the slush-box, it’s just, well, slushy.
There, I’ve elaborated. Now for the good bits, of which there are plenty. The Veloster’s interior is just miles ahead of the competition in this price range. Our tester came with leather, premium mood lighting, a multifunctional steering wheel, six airbags, that 7in screen, a reversing camera, LEDs, accented 18in wheels, power seats, a huge panoramic roof…
There’s actually lots more, but even if we stop here nothing else for the money comes close. Korea has really got this bit figured out.
The dash design is very youthful, all swoopy and a bit over-thought, to be honest, but you can’t say they didn’t try hard. Since the Veloster has a big selling point with its novel door arrangement, which makes it a fresh sight on the streets as well, the designers carried this breezy innocence into the cabin too. I suspect that the typical Veloster buyer, no offense, will love it.
As a product, it’s marketed and conceived brilliantly, and will no doubt be a success. The Veloster has a huge amount going for it — especially since you have to keep reminding yourself of its excellent pricing: Dh74,900.
But as a car, I get the feeling it doesn’t even care about its mediocrity — it knows it won’t matter.
I ask you, how can I not take that personally?