Car Review: 2019 Hyundai Veloster R-Spec is a fun-to-drive 3-door hatch

When you’re shopping for a new ride, there are so many options — but if two doors aren’t enough, and four doors is one too many, there is just one option left.

The Hyundai Veloster checks the box for a three-door car, and it comes in a full range of performance levels from 147hp, to a new fire-breathing 275hp model.

For 2019, the Hyundai Veloster was redone — and it’s now no longer just a car that lives off its odd style. The fun really starts with a 201hp turbo four-cylinder engine that’s paired with a six-speed manual transmission. While it might not be as slick shifting as a Mazda Miata, it is much improved for 2019.

Still, it doesn’t like to be rushed so firm, slower shifts are best. The clutch is light, but a bit strange in engagement. It takes some practice to get to smooth operation.

Get a few minutes of seat time and this little car is engaging and fun to drive. The little turbo four moves the Veloster with authority when needed, or is just a fuel efficient daily driver at 35 mpg on the highway and 30 mpg in a week of my mixed driving.

Handling is also much improved. The 2019 R-Spec is fun in the corners and it feels like the steering wheel is connected to the car. There is some lean in tight, quick corners but the limits are higher than before and it’s great fun on back roads.

Normal driving isn’t a chore with the little Hyundai, as it soaks up most bumps well. Bigger bumps are felt, but it’s well controlled.

This little Hyundai is also improved on the inside. There is good amount of space for a small car. It includes space for people and also some clever storage areas for smaller items that keep them out of sight.

Where the three-door Veloster excels from a coupe is with its easy access to the back seat; no more odd contortions for back seat riders. It makes it a bit easier to load little ones in car seats, too. The latch systems are deep in the seats, which mean it can be a bit of a chore to connect them. The rear cargo space is good sized for such a small car but the floor lies below the opening so heavy items are a lift-up-and-out affair.

The Veloster R-Spec is the more basic trim level but it doesn’t feel cheap for the $23,700 price tag. Yes, the performance is where the money goes, but its unique cloth interior seems durable without looking cheap. The seats are manual and were comfortable enough for the week that I drove it, but there isn’t a lumbar adjustment control. The doors are a bit odd — including one large driver’s door that you have be careful with in tight parking spaces, and two doors on the right side which are smaller and easy to open in tighter spaces.

A large eight-inch touch-screen offers good resolution for the price point. With the ability to use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you can use that screen for NAV from a phone. The sound system with subwoofer has one of the better sounds in the under $30,000 cars category.

The exterior of the Veloster gets people’s attention — a car with only three doors tends to do that. It looks more grown-up than before, and it has the new Hyundai front styling cues. It looks a bit more like a Hyundai Elantra compact when you see it from the front.

The Veloster R-Spec stands out when you view it from the side with blacked-out, 18-inch wheels. The body is more adventurous than the front end with a sloping roof line and a lot of interesting shapes. You also notice the odd number of doors; the long door on the left, and the two smaller doors on the right with a hidden ,rear door handle. The back end carries over the sportier nature with large exhaust pipes in the middle of the rear fascia. The exhaust pipes are surrounded by a cool-looking lower rear diffuser and the rear spoiler on the roof.

The 2019 Hyundai Veloster R-Spec is a ton of fun in a small, city-friendly package. With 201hp and high handling limits, this little ride can help you standout — and it won’t break the bank. Your small car doesn’t have to be a boring box on wheels.

Mike Parris is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association. The vehicles are provided by DriveShop, FMI or Motus One for the purpose of this review.

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