Michigan plant focus of Ford’s plan for new EVs and hybrids

http://bostonherald.com/business/automotive/view/2011_1217hyundai_veloster_spirited_sporty

By Jim Mahoney

This car is a blast to drive but, oh, how I wished for about 25 more horsepower. Hyundai has delivered a spirited and sporty high-mileage three-door that enters the market at a very attractive base of $17,300 and puts you into a very tech-savvy coupe at just $21,300.

The car quickly passes the eyeball test with its aggressive bulldog-like stance and muscular, cowled rear end. The sleek windswept windows make the car appear a bit longer than it is and the subtle panel styling accents the rallye nature of the vehicle. With the “Style Package” it adds a panoramic sunroof that I like, 18-inch low profile tires on alloy rims and black out highlights on the grille and hood.

Under the hood is a throaty direct injection, 1.6-liter four-cylinder that rips out nearly 40 mpg on the highway and 27 to 28 around town. Coupled with a six-speed automatic, Hyundai has decided to try and capture the fun commuter market.

The car is sluggish off the blocks and you have to pick your spots to get in traffic so allow for just a moments lag before the torque kicks it. Frankly, it’s more fun to drive and responsive in sport mode either using the paddles or the gear shifter.

Elizabeth Starsiak, VP of Tom O’Brien Hyundai, let me take a six-speed manual out for a comparison spin and the quick shifting and quicker acceleration in my opinion should be standard on all Velostors.

All Velosters come standard with a very nice and modern navigation that is easy to program and use. The media center is intuitive and makes sense. The two-gauge instrument cluster also has an electronic display with fuel levels and other performance info. Controls are modern and easily reached, although I thought the directional and wiper stalks along with the shift paddles feel kind of cheap.

A leather wrapped steering wheel, shift knob, leatherette trimmed cloth seats and panel inserts and a surprisingly quiet and tight interior finish off the stylish presentation. One touch start and door entry are on the upgraded package but why no power seats?

The cabin room is pleasantly big. Drop the rear seats for class leading larger loads, like my golf clubs, and you end up with class-leading storage and even up you can stow quite a bit of gear. The hidden third door reveals tight but functional rear seats.

The upgraded Dimension 450-watt sound system actually sounded better louder than it did at conversation volume and has all the tech desired such as satellite radio, CD, MP3 and will let you play iPod games off the nav screen.

Veloster also has the Bluelink option which enhances all the navigation features on various safety, emergency, remote and car diagnostics. Bluetooth and voice recognition are standard.

The car delivers very responsive steering feedback and turns are quick and sure. The brakes are a bit too grabby but they are functional for this fairly lightweight car. I thought this was going to be an issue but a quick jaunt down the Cape proved otherwise. The car did not get bounced around and cruised quite comfortably.

A couple of concerns for me are that the climate control was sloppy and getting the cabin to a comfortable temp and keeping the windows defogged on a rainy morning took a while. I actually ran the A/C on warm to get it done. Perhaps an electronic system would be called for. Although the sight lines were good, the rear hatch support pillar splits the rearview causing some minor blinding.

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