Monday, September 3, 2012

Test Drive

I had an adventure on Saturday in San Jose.
Lately I've been looking at upgrading my means of transportation. The front-runner for a while was the new Scion FR-S sports car, but it has some serious limitations. While the car is beautiful, it ultimately isn't practical for someone who has more than 2 passengers on a regular occasion. I don't want to have to make someone uncomfortable every time we go somewhere as a group. For reference, the backseat of the Scion is even smaller than the one in Marie's Mustang. Speaking from experience, the Mustang's backseat isn't something I'd consider comfortable, especially when driving from San Francisco to LA. The idea of forcing someone into an even smaller space is enough to make the Scion a no-buy.

Enter the Hyundai Veloster Turbo
The Veloster is one of Hyundai's latest models, a 3-door hatchback with a 201 hp turbo charged 1.6L engine. This particular one is in the "Marathon Blue" color.
As an upgrade to the standard Veloster - the Turbo model gets a full leather interior with heated seats, new headlights, wheels, body styling, and fancy paddle-shifters for the automatic transmission.

Anyway, long description aside - I didn't even know about this particular car until a few days ago. I've been looking mostly at Toyota models, but nothing was really standing out to me amidst the Corollas, Camrys, and Prius models. There's a stigma that Hyundai isn't known for high quality vehicles, but a couple of years ago they introduced the Genesis and Equis models which have been the stepping stones for a re-invigorated automotive line. This newest Veloster model is aimed at sporty and fun daily driving with a big of practicality thrown in.

I went down to San Jose to test drive one on Saturday. My initial impression was love at first sight. I'd seen the standard Veloster before, but the upgraded styling on the Turbo, as well as the stunning blue in the bright San Jose sun, really stood out to me. From all angles the Veloster looks fantastic.
It's definitely a funky shape. But it reminds me that cars don't, and shouldn't, ascribe to a "standard" look.
Looking at the interior is proof that a lot of care was spent making sure it was as comfortable inside as "different" on the outside. The leather felt fantastic, and there are lots of technical gadgets to play with - bluetooth, handsfree stereo, upgraded speakers, a subwoofer, heated seats, a 7" touchscreen to control it all, and the fancy gearbox with sports mode. Oh, and a push-button starter - that thing is just too cool.
What I didn't specifically photograph was the third door on the Veloster. On the passenger side, there's an additional door for the back seat, which is also infinitely more usable than the FR-S's. I had no problems sitting behind the 5'11" sales rep, who was only pulled up a little farther than he normally would sit.
Anyway, all of the visual characteristics of the car aside - I did actually drive it. I was floored. It's still a front wheel drive car (like my Scion) - so it handles basically the same. But the added power and torque  made it feel exactly like what I imagine I'm doing when driving. In essence, the Veloster has the engine I always wished the xA did. After taking it on the freeway and around city streets, I was sad to have to get out again.

The dealer was really understanding about me not planning to buy this past weekend (as much as I would have liked to) - but I definitely am looking forward to December when I'll be able to get my own. I'm really excited.

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