If you don't count the H1 people-carrier, Hyundai has arguably one of the best-looking range of cars and SUVs on Thailand's roads.
Although they don't sell in large numbers here because they have to be imported, the Tucson sport-ute plus the Sonata and Elantra saloons look far more inspirational, design wise, than their counterparts from Japan's mass-market nameplates.
And it doesn't stop here. After surveying the Thai market for a year or so, Hyundai Motor (Thailand) has decided to officially import the Veloster, which will effectively replace the Coupe.
Even though the Veloster lacks the classic two-door profile of its predecessor, it has sort of raised the bar in the coupe stakes.
The Veloster in Turbo form looks particularly eye-catching with its sloping roofline, huge, centrally located twin exhaust pipes and stylish lights and bumpers on both the front and rear.
As if that weren't enough, Hyundai has also developed asymmetrical doors to give the Veloster a unique packaging among coupes. There's a rear door on the left-hand side of the car _ but none on the right _ so that passengers can more easily access their perches at the back.
Veloster Turbo is attractively priced at 1.739 million baht.
To accommodate this particular portal, the front left-hand side door is shorter in length than its counterpart on the right. It sounds a little odd, but maybe Hyundai just wanted to have some fun for this design has little merit if judged solely in terms of practicality.
Little, we say, because once you get inside the car you'll notice that while there's enough leg space in the rear, the head room there is limited _ especially if you happen to be 180cm or taller.
At least, the hatchback-style boot lid opens to reveal a decent amount of storage space than can be increased by folding the back seats nearly flat. But the rear has been designed with a high loading lip.
Since Hyundai wants to make the Turbo as funky a car as possible, there's not only a sunroof but a glass top stretching all the way to the back. It may look great, but it means that there's no shade for rear-seat occupants, nothing to protect them from glaring sunlight.
The driver and front-seat passenger get better treatment: more comfort, better seats and the design of dashboard in front of them is reminiscent of that used in Hyundai's saloons and SUV; it is stylish and effective enough from an ergonomic point of view.
But as soon as you start it up, the Veloster starts to disappoint a little. Not that it does anything particularly bad, but the overall driving experience isn't as sporty as its appearance and that Turbo badge might suggest. You might have been expecting the 184hp, 1.6-litre petrol-turbo engine to light up some fire-crackers, but it won't. The performance is always adequate, but it never feels urgent, even when you engage the six-speed automatic (not a dual-clutcher, just an ordinary torque-convertor) into kickdown.
It appears this application is more of an exercise in engine-downsizing, the principle being to utilise a small block engine to enhance fuel economy and a turbo blower for real-world tractability.
And it doesn't sound at all exciting, despite those macho-looking tail-pipes. If you're after a drivetrain that thrills the eardrums and gives you an adrenaline rush, a car like the Mini Coupe or the Volkswagen Scirocco does a far better job.
The boot has a high loading lip; the rear seats fold nearly flat.
As for the chassis, Hyundai has given the Veloster a decidedly taut set-up which ensures a stable ride at high speeds, but backfires with a lumpy, low-speed ride on less-than-perfect city roads.
Initially, the steering feels nicely weighted for zipping around town and motoring along straight highways, being neither too light nor too heavy. But once the tarmac begins to bend, the rack doesn't feel sharp enough and refuses to play games with the sporty chassis set-up.
And while one's rear vision isn't totally impaired, the distinctively styled rear windscreen doesn't offer a natural view of what's happening behind you.
Once again, the Veloster won't shake its key rivals when it comes to the overall driving experience. But tremors are most likely to be felt by its competitors when it comes to the price.
At 1.739 million baht, the Veloster is among the very few coupes to be priced below 2 million baht in Thailand (the other one being the smaller Honda CR-Z). And if you also take account of the comprehensive safety kit, the Veloster Turbo is good value on paper.
There's even a non-turbo version of the Veloster available which retails for an eye-popping 1.299 million baht. We haven't driven it, but be prepared for compromises because lots of features have been taken out and the 130hp output it boasts on paper should make it a slouch next to this Turbo.
Still, it has to be said that Hyundai has done a good job making the Veloster Turbo a very tempting car in both style and price terms. In other words, it's got lots of showroom appeal.
But once it gets moving, the Veloster feels simply too ordinary and there's something slightly misjudged about its execution. It could have been a different story had it been an Elantra saloon or Tucson SUV.
AT A GLANCE
The bold overall appearance is complemented with sassy details making the car truly distinctive on the road.
The turbo engine is more about real-world tractability and economy rather than thrills.
Handling and ride................. 6/10
Taut chassis yields good grip but lumpy low-speed ride. Steering could have felt sharper.
Practicality.......................... 7/10Left-side-only rear door eases entry/exit, but headroom is limited. Boot has high loading lip.
Safety kit............................. 9/10
In Turbo form, the Veloster is packed with all kinds of active and passive safety features.
The Veloster stands out with a stylish body and an unbeatable price tag among other comparable coupes in Thailand. Too bad the performance and driving manners are too ordinary.
The fascia design may look very familiar; that’s because it’s similar to other Hyundai models currently on sale. It doesn’t sound at all exciting, despite those macho-looking tail-pipes’ OR TRY THESE
The fascia design may look very familiar; that’s because it’s similar to other Hyundai models currently on sale.
It doesn’t sound at all exciting, despite those macho-looking tail-pipes’
OR TRY THESE
About the author
- Writer: Richard Leu
Position: Motoring news Editor