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As the latest entry in the automaker's seemingly perpetual new-product barrage, the 2012 Hyundai Veloster boldly picks up where the now-departed Tiburon left off. Making its world debut in Detroit, this affordable, front-drive sport coupe puts its own spin on the genre, with style, spirit and a healthy dose of innovative features that should merit it must-drive status in the minds of potential buyers when it arrives in showrooms later this year.

Inspired by contemporary superbike design cues, the 2012 Hyundai Veloster's sheetmetal embodies a further extension of the firm's "fluidic sculpture" form. Crisply defined contours, boldly sculpted fascias, steeply-raked blackout A-pillars, wraparound lamp treatments and prominently arched wheelwells that house a selection of 17-inch and 18-inch alloys combine with the Velostar's innovative three-door-plus-rear-hatch configuration to serve up a package that boasts equally high levels of visual punch and practical charm.

>See more new cars unveiled at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show

Inside, the 2012 Veloster also reflects a host of motorcycle influences, most notably in its center stack and console, which recall a bike's fuel tank and seat configurations. Even the air vents are shaped like motorcycle tailpipe outlets. Beyond style, the Veloster's best-in-class interior volume complements its front-hinged-and-generously-scaled second passenger-side door that greatly simplifies access/egress to the car's impressively proportioned aft quarters. An equally generous cargo bay is accessed via a large liftback that features two individual glass panels. Veloster buyers seeking even more "transparency" can opt for the available power panoramic glass roof.

Given the Veloster's young-and-active primary target market, it's no surprise that Hyundai fitted it with a noteworthy set of on-board electronics keyed around a standard 7.0-inch multifunction touch-screen display that works with the standard 196-watt/six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/XM Satellite Radio sound system and the available 450-watt/eight-speaker Dimension Premium Audio package. Both systems include Pandora Internet radio and Gracenote Media and support Hyundai's new Blue Link telematics/infotainment system, which will be available with a number of different service packages. Blue Link fully integrates with the Veloster's optional navigation package that also includes a rear-view camera. Other standard features on this sporty new Hyundai include Bluetooth connectivity, iPod/USB/RCA inputs and a 115V AC power outlet that will support game consoles. Safety features include, but are not limited to, six airbags.

Driving the front wheels of the 2012 Hyundai Veloster is a naturally aspirated version of the 1.6-liter Gamma four-cylinder engine that features gasoline direct injection (GDI) and Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing (D-CVVT) technology. Making 138 horsepower and 123 lb-ft of torque, it can be paired with either a standard six-speed manual gearbox or Hyundai's all-new six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission (DCT) that offers both quicker acceleration and better fuel economy than a conventional autoshifter. The DCT also includes an "Active Eco" mode that modifies the engine and transmission mapping to help bump real-world economy by over seven percent. Hyundai is projecting that will translate into about a 40-mpg average on the highway -- better than the Honda CR-Z Hybrid. Given a curb weight of just 2,584 pounds, the Veloster's off-the-line acceleration should be engagingly brisk regardless of gearbox.

To keep the Veloster's corner-carving prowess on a similarly high plane, Hyundai engineers teamed MacPherson front struts with a V-shaped torsion beam rear axle and a quick-ratio electrically-boosted, low-drag power steering setup. Other key elements in the Veloster dynamic formula include a Vehicle Stability Management System, four-wheel ABS disc brakes with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake-force Distribution, and the choice of standard 215/45HR17 all-season tires or optional 215/40VR18 performance rubber.  

No official word yet on pricing, but we expect the new 2012 Hyundai Veloster will come in below its rear-drive marquemate, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T, and open somewhere around $18,000-$20,000.

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