Hyundai Veloster an a-door-ably quirky coupe

Hyundai has opened up new thinking by fitting an extra door on its Veloster coupe, says Andy Russell.

Let's turn the clock back to the end of the last millennium when the coupe was king and no line-up was complete without one… and sometimes two.

Coupe launches came thick and fast, and not just from niche car-makers, until it seems they made way for a new breed of crossovers –one-size-fits-all family transport.

Prestige brands still found a place for coupes but, for most of us, BMW's 6 Series or even 3 Series, Audi's A5 or the Mercedes-Benz's C-Class or E-Class Coupe are out of our price range.

Suddenly it seems more affordable coupes are making a comeback with some cracking new models this year. Much attention has focused on Toyota's GT86 – hailed as the new Celica – and the jointly-developed Subaru BRZ.

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Even more affordable is the all-new Veloster from Hyundai – a manufacturer that has stuck with a coupe without grabbing huge headlines or sales.

That has all changed with the Veloster which has a unique claim to fame in the coupe class.

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When you think of a four-door car a saloon springs to mind but the Veloster is a four-door hatchback-style coupe – if you count the tailgate as a door. It sounds unusual but doesn't look odd and makes sense – there are two front doors, a tailgate and one in the back on the nearside which is cleverly disguised with a concealed handle so you don't really notice it. And unlike the MINI Countryman, which has the door set up on the nearside only for left-hand drive models, the Veloster's configuration is adapted for left and right-hand drive markets.

So the stylish Veloster looks good and if you want a practical four-seater coupe it also fits the bill – and not only on price – for having three passenger doors works well. That rear door isn't huge but it's big enough for average adults and it's not difficult to shuffle across the back seat but, if you carry children, you know they can't open the back door into the path on traffic.

Legroom is adequate for adults if those up front make a concession and headroom for tall adults is tight although the long overhead rear screen frees up space and is shaded to help keep the sun at bay. Go for the Sport model and the panoramic electric tilt/slide sunroof makes the cabin light and airy but eats into headroom.

The boot is deep, flat-sided and offers a family hatchback-rivalling 440 litres but you do have to contend with a high sill. Rear seat backs fold 60/40 but not flat and leave a step up from the boot floor.

Launched with a new 138bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine, it will soon also be available with a 184bhp turbo charged version.

The non-turbo model is hardly the peppiest sports coupe but combines useful performance with decent fuel economy – high 30s running around, mid-40s driven sensibly on a run. It trickles along comfortably at low revs but with peak torque at a heady 4,850rpm, not a lot happens lower down the rev range when you put your foot down hard but it revs freely and above 4,000rpm is perky enough to be fun, accompanied by a sporty exhaust note.

The Veloster may be more practical than your average coupe but it still aims to be sporty to drive. The suspension is firm which makes the low-speed ride particularly susceptible to poor surfaces with some feedback reaching the cabin through the snug, supportive front sport seats. But it handles competently, feeling stable and assured through corners but the steering, while responsive, does not have as much feel as more dynamic rivals.

The cabin looks good, although some of the hard plastics show how Hyundai has helped keep costs down but at least they are well textured and it feels well built.

The swoopy, curvy dashboard is eye-catching with brightwork highlights and puts the driver in command with easy-to-use switchgears and big, recessed dials. The driving position has good adjustment but with that sunroof you'll need the seat set low. Rear visibility is hindered by a small screen and chunky pillars so I was glad of the rear-view parking camera – part of the �1,100 media pack along with satellite-navigation and premium sound system.

Standard Veloster includes 17in alloy wheels, 7in touchscreen media centre, Bluetooth with voice recognition, climate control, reversing sensors, front fog lights and LED daytime running lights, radio/CD with MP3 connection and USB port, stability and traction control, hill-assist control and six airbags. The Sport model adds 18in alloys with body-colour inserts, black leather upholstery with heated front seats, panoramic glass sunroof, cruise control, keyless entry and ignition and alloy pedals. Red leather and front door trim panels are a �300 option.

The Veloster attracts attention for all the right reasons with many admirers surprised to learn it is a Hyundai. Hyundais are clearly putting on the style without losing sight of pricing, equipment and affordable value.

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