Faceoff: 2012 Hyundai Veloster vs. Mini Cooper Clubman
First place: 2012 Hyundai Veloster
With a starting price of just $18,999, the Hyundai gets a huge leg up on the Mini when it comes to making those monthly payments. Already well-equipped with standard kit such as media connectivity, heated seats and 17-inch alloys, our $22,499 tester also came with a Tech Package that added more stuff, including leather on the seats, steering wheel and shifter, navigation, rear back-up camera, 18-inch alloys, rear wiper, and huge sunroof. The only item missing was a $1,400 six-speed double-clutch automatic transmission.
As the spiritual successor to Hyundai's long-gone Tiburon coupe, the new Veloster is based off the also-new-for 2012 Accent subcompact platform. But Hyundai designers have done a good job making its coupe look unique.
Visibility a plus for the Hyundai
Photo: John LeBlanc
Although it shares a third door with the Clubman, because the Veloster's third side door is conventionally hinged (as opposed to the suicide-door design of the Mini) it's much easier to get into the Hyundai's back seats. Compared with the two-door Cooper hatch, the Clubman adds 82 mm in wheelbase and 61 mm more legroom for its two rear passengers. But the Hyundai still offers more room for its +2 occupants. Compared to the Mini's obtrusive barn door pillars, it's also easier to see out the back through the Veloster's horizontal spoiler from the driver's perspective.
Admittedly, in both the Veloster and Clubman, the back seats will only be used occasionally. More than likely, you're buying these coupes over a four-door hatch for their added style and promise of more performance. And from the driver's seat is where you'll find the biggest difference between these two cars. Compared to the BMW-bred Mini, driving enthusiasts will notice the Veloster's economy car roots.
Not as fun as it looks, but a great buy
For starters, the Veloster is not a performance car. Its 1.6-litre direct-injected four's 138 hp and 123 lb.-ft. look good on paper. But in use, you need to get the revs up past 4,500 rpm to take advantage of the extra torque the Veloster has over the Clubman, and the Hyundai mill sounds less refined getting there than the more refined Mini. At 1,230 kg, the Clubman weighs more than the 1,172 kg Veloster. But the Hyundai feels heavier and more cumbersome when hustled. In tight, quick corners, it doesn't have the fluidity the Mini exudes. And the Veloster's steering is relatively lifeless, and doesn't like to return to centre.
If driving is your priority, and your wallet is big enough, it's hard to argue against the Clubman. It's definitely the most versatile non-Countryman Mini in the showroom. And it oozes the refinement expected form a car that was fathered by BMW engineers.
In the end, though, the Hyundai coupe wins, primarily on price alone. Although it's overall less refined than the Mini, we don't think it's almost $7,000 less refined. So if they can put up with some of the Hyundai's rough edges (especially its disappointing non-performance car experience), most buyers will be happy with the Veloster's features and unique packaging.
Buy this car if ... a low-price and interior volume are musts.
Don't buy this car if ... you want the best driving subcompact three-door coupe.