Hyundai Veloster

I don’t know for sure, but I think it entirely possible that this is the first time a Hyundai road car has been seen within these pages. This new Veloster is here not because it breaks any new conceptual ground (even the single rear door idea has been done by cars as diverse as the AMC Pacer and Mini Clubman), but because it remains fascinating to me to see how swiftly and confidently Hyundai has marched into this corner of the market.

In more conventional classes if you can provide a product that’s cheap, well equipped, has a vast warranty and is at least competent, even now it will sell. But here is a Hyundai that must sell on style, image and dynamic ability.

Inconveniently, I only feel qualified to pass judgement in one of these areas and I can tell you the Veloster is quite capable and reasonably engaging to drive. If I damn with faint praise, that is not my intention. The standards set by those few cars that populate this class are not exactly demanding, and I liked the eagerness of its little twin-cam 1.6 motor, the tenacity of its roadholding in poor weather and the swift snap of its six- speed gearbox. It was, after a fashion, fun.

It was also indicative of the problem that Korean car makers are now causing some of their European counterparts. It will be some time yet before Hyundai becomes any kind of threat to BMW, Mercedes, Audi and their ilk, but there are others more directly in the firing line. If yours is a brand without a premium image or a very distinct US P, I think hard times may lie ahead.

Manufacturers who have for too long sold cars they thought merely good enough for an uncritical market will soon be repenting at leisure. In fact it may already be happening: Renault has announced the variety of cars it is to offer to British customers is to be slashed. Expect more drastic measures from more underachieving companies soon.

Engine: 1.6 litres, four cylinders
Top Speed: 125mph
Price: £17,995
Power: 138bhp at 6300rpm
Fuel/co2: 43.5mpg, 148g/km

Andrew Frankel