Veloster: Practically a coupe

ODDBALL DOORS: They make sense when you see there are two on the kerb side and just one on the driver's side.
ODDBALL DOORS: They make sense when you see there are two on the kerb side and just one on the driver's side.

It's a curious beast, Hyundai's Veloster, but it makes a lot of sense if you take the time to look at it properly. It's as swoopy as a coupe ought to be, but offers a pair of doors on the kerb side of the car, so it can still be a useful passenger carrier.

Call it a gimmick if you like, but it's a clever one. Rather more clever than the only other car to go with the two doors on one side and one on the other; the Mini Clubman. That car was restricted because of its fuel tank inlet ducting, which dictated that the two kerbside doors could only be fitted on the right hand side. Which meant that in most parts of the world, children could be disgorged into the sidewalk, while in countries such as Britain, its Commonwealth, India and Japan they either had to wait till the front passenger got out or walk into the traffic flow.

No such problem occurs with the Veloster, launched this month by Hyundai in New Zealand. It has been designed for both left and right-hand drive markets, and those who want to use the car for the school run can do so in relative safety.

It also means those with the wherewithal to buy one can secure themselves that rare bird indeed, the practical coupe. It really can seat up to five - at a squeeze, four's better - and it's not a same-old, same-old sedan or hatch. Actually, it seems odd to describe them that way in the context of an Hyundai, because truth be known the Korean company's Accent, Elantra and i30 models are among the sexiest of their type on the market.

But the Veloster is sexier still, not only for the previously mentioned doors, which are difficult to spot on the left side of the vehicle, until you notice the hidden door handle, but also for the car's general profile that may lack the delicacy of the company's sedans, but fronts up instead with an engaging low-slung chunkiness, which is set off effectively by the teardrop shape of the design's side-glasses.

There are some drawbacks. The rear view is a little restricted, and some older adults may not enjoy clambering out of the back, even with that clever door system. But it's really designed for children and teens, and they will have no problem being seen stepping out of the Veloster.

Just one power train is being offered at first in New Zealand. It's what Hyundai calls its new Gamma 1.6-litre four-cylinder gasoline direct injection (GDI) engine, which drives the front wheels through Hyundai's six- speed double-clutch transmission. The engine makes a segment- leading (for non-turbocharged engines) 103 kilowatts at 6300rpm and peak torque of 166 newton metres at 4850rpm.

Fuel economy is rated from 6.4 litres per 100 kilometres (combined) while the CO2 rating of 151 grams per km is superior to many similarly-sized hatchbacks.

So, whether you regard it as a cool coupe or smart hatch, the Veloster is certainly a unique and interesting motoring alternative for the New Zealand automotive market.

The company uses the same design language, labelled "fluidic sculpture", which was kicked off for the brand by the i45 sedan three years ago. It has to be said that the innovative 2+1 door configuration provides practicality and individuality.

Inside, the design of the centre console and controls take their inspiration from a high performance motorbike. You'll find a seven-inch multimedia touch-screen with video playback, Bluetooth streaming and USB/ auxiliary inputs.

The Veloster achieves the maximum five-star Australian NCAP safety rating and comes standard with stability control and an alphabet soup of other electronic safety acronyms.

The Veloster will be available in two trim levels (1.6 Entry GDI and 1.6 Elite GDI) priced at $39,990 and $44,490 respectively, the difference being a rear-view camera, projector-beam headlights, a panoramic glass roof, leather trim and a power driver's seat, along with a proximity key and engine stop- start system and 18-inch alloy rims instead of 17-inch items.

We'll bring you a full road test when we're offered a car for an extended drive.

The Press