DETROIT — When we first heard details on the Hyundai Veloster three-door hot-hatch we wondered if it was the new CRX that Honda didn’t build. With two six-speed transmissions to choose from, a kicking power-to-weight ratio and up to 40 mpg the answer is yes.
The near-production 2012 Hyundai Veloster shown at the Detroit auto show is a curious FWD hatchback offering three doors (one on the driver’s side, two on the passenger’s) and a liftgate in a design that incorporates the aggressive lines of the Sonata and Euro-market i40 Wagon with a rear end inspired by … a motorcycle helmet.
The aggressive and sporty look is backed up by a 1.6-liter direct-injection four-banger with dual continuously variable valve timing. It offers a relatively potent 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque. Though not as powerful as the 180-horsepower Scion tC (the most powerful car in this class), the Hyundai weighs 2,584 pounds compared to the Scion’s 3,060 pounds — a difference of nearly 500 pounds.
“Somehow I think Colin Chapman would be pleased,” Hyundai USA boss John Krafcik said at the press conference unveiling the car.
You have your choice of two transmissions, both with six speeds: a lightweight manual for purists and a new Hyundai-developed dual-clutch transmission for everyone else. Hyundai estimates the combination of the DCT, small engine and low weight will produce a stellar 40 mpg.
No one’s driven the Veloster yet, at least no one who can talk about it, so all comparisons to the venerable Honda CRX and the new Honda CR-Z hybrid must occur in the purely hypothetical realm. But it doesn’t take a genius to see the Veloster smokes the CR-Z with better fuel economy, more power, lower weight, better transmissions and a more attractive aesthetic.
Hyundai, like Honda with the CR-Z, is marketing this car as “fun to drive.” It made a point of noting the McPherson struts and coil springs up front and what they call a V-torsion beam rear suspension out back. We think that’s marketing speak for a variation on the twist-beam torsion bar. The car rolls on 17-inch alloys with 18-inchers available.
Ultimately, the Veloster may compete against cars from Mini instead of Honda, since it offers more power in a package that weighs slightly more than the three-door Cooper but less than the five-door Clubman. Look for the Veloster this summer with a price starting around $17,000.