The Veloster came out in 2011
It offered a 201-horsepower optional turbo engine
It had a third door granting access to the rear seats
The Hyundai Veloster is the latest victim of the SUV craze and although it had its faults, it’s still unfortunate to see it go.
Hyundai is on a small car rampage, killing off the Hyundai Accent last week and turning the lights out on the Veloster, a quirky three-door, asymmetrical coupe that nobody asked for but that grew on anyone who had a chance to drive it.
My first contact with the Veloster came in 2012 and I experienced everything that was right about the car, and everything that was wrong. Driving some friends up to Quebec City about two hours north of Montreal, I guaranteed everyone there would be enough space for five young adults. We all gathered in once place prior to departure, only to realize as we were getting in that there were only two spots in the back. The fifth friend had to take his Honda CR-Z for the trip, another fine example of 2000s automotive quirkiness.
The Veloster was hailed as the practical coupe when it came out, and it had never even occurred to me to check if there were three seats in the back.
Still, nobody wanted to join our friend in the CR-Z. Everyone wanted to experience the Veloster. We were all in college with big dreams and Porsche 911 screensavers. The fact that a Hyundai was getting this much love from a group that was quick to dismiss anything not German was a testament to the car’s design, engine specs, and overall uniqueness.
The tester had the optional 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, pumping out 201 horsepower to the front wheels and looking particularly sporty with its dual large centre exhaust tips. It had a six-speed manual and could reach 100 km/h (62 mph) in under 7.0 seconds. It was also supposed to average 7.0 litres per 100 kilometres (33 mpg).
The Hyundai Veloster was therefore, on paper, a practical, stylish, fun to drive and efficient turbocharged coupe. This was a big deal 8 years ago and the Veloster turned heads while winning over just about every journalist and consumer that had a chance to drive it. It’s amazing how quickly things have changed in less than a decade.
Are We Witnessing The End Of The Fun Car?
There are fewer and fewer small cars on the market, and fewer and fewer manual cars. Given that the fun factor equation includes variables for both size and the ability to change gears ourselves, we can only assume that fun cars are on the way out, replaced by tiny SUVs with CVT gearboxes and 130-horsepower engines. Or is it really that bad?
Manufacturers are in the business of giving the consumer what they want. Some do it better than others, but the fact remains that if buyers wanted small manual cars, we’d have small manual cars on the market. Small car market share is falling fast year over year. When a particular model offers a manual, the take rate is often under 5 %. For many, a manual is simply a way of saving money and they choose it because it is offered only on the cheapest model in the lineup.
In other words, small cars and manuals are not profitable because people aren’t buying them which means most people don’t want them. Sure, auto journalists love manual cars, and certain subreddits would have you believe that automatics equal death, but automakers can’t cater to these demographics because they aren’t viable.
Some cars have managed to remain manual and popular. The Subaru WRX, for example, has a 90 % take rate on the manual. That is to say that for those who absolutely don’t want an SUV and want a manual, there are still options out there. There just aren’t enough of these people to justify having one in every automaker lineup.
Back to that Veloster, I enjoyed it but I wouldn’t buy it. The third door had a tiny opening making it really hard to get in the back. My two friends started to regret their decision of sitting in the back about 45 minutes into the trip. They also had their school bags in between them and nudging on their shoulders because the cooler and camping equipment was taking up all the cargo space. The front passenger was resting his feet on his luggage. Cellphones, wallets and everything else were scattered about, falling on the ground or getting stuck between the seat and the door.
The 201-horsepower engine was decent, but once the Veloster was loaded it up it didn’t feel particularly fast. And when you floored it the steering wheel would twist under your hands because the front wheels were getting a little too much power. You couldn’t see anything behind you and the Veloster’s blind spot was more like a huge stain. The suspension was way too harsh for what the car delivered in terms of handling.
A small family couldn’t own a Veloster, nor could someone looking for a stylish ride to work because of the rough suspension. Essentially, the car was good for young adults with no kids who hadn’t driven enough yet to realize that feeling every single bump in the road, unless you’re in a 911 GT3 RS or another kind of high-performance car, gets old quick.
For those buyers, Hyundai will continue to offer the Veloster N, a car that justifies its average versatility and harsh suspension with impressive handling that the Veloster Turbo could only dream of.
So if we take a purely cartesian approach to all of this, the Veloster leaving us isn’t surprising. Of course, the purists in us will miss the quirkiness and that design remains well executed even today. But, again, these purists weren’t buying the Veloster.
There will always be fun cars available, just maybe not as many of them.
More Like The End Of Fun Designs
What is more unsettling is the way design is trending in the industry. It will be a very long time before we see another quirky design hit the market. Automakers aren’t taking chances anymore and a car with three doors and an asymmetrical design would never be approved today.
The design philosophy at most automakers appears to be to please as many people as possible and not make too many waves. SUVs are guilty of this more than any other segment. Granted there are exceptions, but most have very little discerning styling feature and yeah, they do all look the same. Sure you can add some neon trim to your Kona, but overall things are a little bland in the design department everywhere these days.
That, to me, is the most unfortunate part of all of this.