This article also appears in
Subscribe now »
For 2019, the Veloster R-Spec has the upgraded chassis (now featuring independent rear suspension) that is the foundation of the second-generation Veloster's new, stiffer platform. (Bill Visnic).

What we're driving: 2019 Hyundai Veloster R-Spec

I don’t deliver much critique about vehicle styling because everybody’s entitled to their own tastes, but it’s important to say up front that I’ll never think the Veloster—even in its faintly less-funky, new-for-2019 second-generation skin—is a beautiful car. Unique and sort of “tuner-bait,” yes, but beautiful, no.

So the question with the Veloster has to be whether its exterior design would be a reason not to buy it. Given that its chief rival, the Honda Civic Si, is more conventional but still hardly easy on my eyes makes it mostly a toss-up: which brand do you prefer and whether the $1,410 you save with the Veloster is enough to force the choice.

Once you’ve made up your mind about the visuals, the differentiation for affordable sport coupes often is how dynamically “pure” they feel, because they’re invariably shoving around 200 hp through the front wheels (the just-released Veloster N, like the Civic Type R, ratchets that into the 300-hp neighborhood). In this respect, the 2019 Veloster R-Spec is in line with the rest of the class—planted and reliably understeer-ish in fast corners, better than a midsize sedan but mostly one-dimensional. Faintly communicative steering that sure doesn’t improve with big throttle inputs in the lower gears. But certainly more enjoyable than some dreary crossover.

Hopes were high that the heavily revised Veloster’s new independent rear suspension (IRS) might inject the handling personality these low-cost sporty coupes typically lack, but the wish is only partly realized. This new chassis rides with enhanced suppleness and that seems to translate to more “content” handling, but at the same time, the IRS doesn’t seem to provide any alternatives for cornering posture. In short, you still can’t use the throttle to get the car to rotate.

The Veloster R-Spec’s 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cyl. is a pleasure: elastic and uncomplaining, although a power peak at just 6,000 rpm is another aspect of this turbo-coupe class that takes some fun off the table. But the 201-hp Gamma is plenty punchy in the midrange and its flexibility means you don’t have to overuse the standard (and only) 6-speed manual transmission, even if its action has been worked over, Hyundai said, by short-shift specialist B&M. It does seem like the 26 mpg city/33 highway figures could be a little better, though, for 1.6-liters.

Hyundai’s got plenty of good going on here with the second generation of its high-value sport coupe: willing engine and satisfying manual transmission, reliable handling, a useful (and unique) 3-door package, agreeable interior furnishings and a healthy list of standard equipment. The Veloster R-Spec is an awful lot of entertaining car for less than $24,000.


2019 Hyundai Veloster R-Spec

Base price:      $22,900

As tested:        $23,785

Highs:               Flexible turbo engine; manual-trans only; good overall value

Lows:                Polarizing design; chassis could be more engaging

The verdict:     The eager mutt from the pound that becomes your best friend

Continue reading »