If you are looking for an inexpensive rental oozing with personality, the Veloster makes for an excellent choice, provided you and your party can fit comfortably.
Car Class: Intermediate/ICAR
Availability: Enterprise, National, Alamo
Alternatives: Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Kia Soul, Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla, Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Jetta
|Drive off||Walk away|
|Unique styling||Cramped interior|
|Peppy base engine||Choppy ride|
|Easy to use infotainment and controls||Limited visibility|
Over the past few years, there has been a dramatic shift in consumer tastes as drivers flock to SUVs to such an extent that some automakers are abandoning the car segment entirely. Hyundai, on the other hand, maintains a strong car lineup from the entry level Accent to Sonata. Somewhere in between lies the Veloster, a quirky hatchback similar in size to the Accent but based on the bigger Elantra. Newly reimagined from the ground up, how does the 2019 Veloster compare with other choices within the intermediate rental car category in spite of its size disadvantage? This week, we pack light and experience life behind the wheel of a 2019 Hyundai Veloster Base.
The 2019 Veloster is available with two engines. Most models on the rental lots will be powered by a 2.0L four-cylinder making 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. Turbo and Turbo Tech trims, as their names suggest, are equipped with a 1.6L turbocharged four-cylinder making 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. While the base motor is mated to a 6 speed automatic, the turbo is matched to a 7 speed dual clutch transmission. Despite being the base model, the engine is very responsive when the vehicle is in sport mode. However, that also brings significant engine drone and overly heavy steering. As such, we left it in smart mode for most of the time.
With a relatively short wheelbase and low profile tires, the Veloster packs a choppy ride. We found that the wheels are constantly caught between the cracks and imperfections on the road, which makes maneuvering crappy city roads a chore. Fortunately, it gets much better once the vehicle gets up to highway speeds or on smoother roads. Unsurprisingly given the Veloster’s low starting price, refinement isn’t exactly its strong suit. There is significant engine, road and wind noise right from the get go and it only gets worse with increasing speed. While these noises somewhat makes the drive more engaging, the novelty quickly wears out and we found ourselves blasting the radio on longer road trips.
Visibility is a mixed bag. While the view from passenger side isn’t too bad given the larger rear side glass of the third door, the view across the shoulder on the driver side is impeded by the B pillar. Likewise, rear visibility is next to nothing due to the tiny rear window. Fortunately, all Velosters are equipped with blind spot monitoring and a backup camera that greatly helps with lane changes and reversing. On the highway, visibility around larger vehicles (i.e. tractor-trailers) can be limited, a price to pay for choosing a low-slung sports-ish hatchback.
Comfort and Convenience
For a base model, the Veloster comes reasonably well equipped. Standard features include a 7-inch infotainment screen with Apple Carplay, Android Auto and two USB ports, manual climate controls, cloth front heated seats, heated steering wheel, 6-way manual driver seat, back up camera and blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert. Higher trims offer niceties such as LED headlights, navigation, leather, sunroof and automatic climate control. Notably absent from the feature list are active safety features such as automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning. While we understand the need to keep costs down, these features have been shown to be effective in mitigating collisions and we wish Hyundai would have made them available.
Given what they were working with (not a lot), Hyundai’s engineers and designers have done a commendable job with the interior. While all the materials are hard to the touch, including the armrests on the door panels, they are textured to look interesting. In addition, there are also splashes of blue trim around the centre console and seats, which again add visual interest to an otherwise all grey cabin. Speaking of the seats, they are clad in cloth in our rental and feature slightly more aggressive bolstering compared to other cars in its category. However, the lack of a lumbar support and seat tilt adjustment make finding a comfortable driving position a challenge for us. We had to choose between legroom and being able to reach the steering wheel. We chose the latter, in case you are wondering.
Like most other Hyundais in Canada, the Veloster comes standard with heated front seats and steering wheel, which we really appreciate. It may not be a big deal in the summer, but trust us, a heated steering wheel is a god-send when winter hits.
Ease of Use
Like our previous Hyundai Santa Fe XL rental, the Veloster is equipped as standard with a 7-inch infotainment system that is easy to use and quick to process touch inputs. Adding to the ease of use, hard buttons and knobs are located below the screen for quick access to volume, tuning, media, radio and phone functions. In line with its target demographic, the buttons are stylized for a bolder look compared to other models under the brand. Charging duties in the Veloster are handled by a couple of USB ports in a storage area in front of the gearshift, which is double that of the Santa Fe XL despite having half the seating capacity.
In line with its youthful image, the Veloster’s instrument panel has also been given a makeover to appeal to a younger driver. Gone are the traditional black dials and white numbers. In its place we find red and checkered flag accents that evoke a sense of speed (and add five horsepower). In between the dials sits Hyundai’s corporate information screen. Measuring 3.5-inches, the monochromatic display provides basic trip information and vehicle settings. Audio, navigation and safety systems information however are not accessible from the screen. Given that this is our third Hyundai rental, we have gotten used to the layout of the steering wheel but we can see how a new renter can be confused by the sheer number of buttons. Generally speaking, the left side houses audio and phone controls while the right contains controls for the cruise control and information screen.
The Veloster has one less door than other vehicles in its category. Yes, you read that right, the Veloster is a three door hatchback. With this design, the Veloster essentially has two different side profiles. While this design grants the Veloster a unique personality, there are several drawbacks when it comes to practicality. Firstly, the Veloster is strictly a four seater with a centre console replacing the centre rear seat. Secondly, the rear seats can only be accessed from the passenger side (since that’s where the only rear door is). You can climb in/out from the driver’s side if the passenger side is blocked (with a child seat) but it is a multi-step process moving the seat and seatbelt out of the way. Finally, the sloping side profile meant rear seat headroom is at a premium. With a 6 ft driver up front, the rear seats are a very tight squeeze for adults.
Fortunately, the front seats offers much more space to stretch out with ample leg and headroom even with the seat at its highest position. Despite the limited width of the cabin, we never found ourselves too close for comfort. As expected from such a small vehicle, trunk space behind the second row is only 19.9 cubic feet. That being said, the hatchback design provides a much bigger opening compared to other sedans n the category. Fold the rear seats down and the space expands to 44.5 cubic feet, which is more than enough for a couple’s week worth of luggage.
As you might have guessed, the Veloster packs a lot of style for its size. It may wear a Hyundai badge, but during our time with it, the Veloster drew a considerable number of stares from pedestrians and drivers alike. Despite being on the market for a number of years now, it is still a rare sight on the roads and one of the only new vehicles with a asymmetrical door configuration. In our opinion, the Veloster not just stands out from its category, it stands out, period. If you are looking for an inexpensive rental that is oozing with personality, the Veloster makes for the perfect choice, provided you and your party can fit comfortably in the cozy interior.
Enterprise/National/Alamo: Classified as an intermediate car, most, if not all Velosters on the lot will be in the base trim like our rental. Spot Turbo trims by the sunroof and LED lighting.
Avis/Budget/Hertz/Dollar/Thrifty: While Avis/Budget previously had the previous generation Velosters in Turbo trims, we have yet to spot any 2019 models on the lots. Similar, we have yet seen any Velosters from Hertz/Dollar/Thrifty.
The Veloster shares the crowded intermediate car class with other popular players including the Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai’s own Elantra sedan and GT, Ford Focus, Kia Soul and Forte, Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla, Volkswagen Jetta and Golf as well as many others. While each rental agency may have their own specific trims and fleet allocations, renters should expect a range of models available at time of pick up.