Mercedes-Benz A-Class VS Hyundai Veloster
- Ride comfort
- So-so warranty
- Okay only rear headroom
- Tight rear door apertures
- Unique looks
- Grunty 1.6-turbo engine
- Great dynamics
- Small boot
- Only three doors
- 2.0-litre engine lacks grunt
Meet the world’s most aerodynamically efficient passenger car. Mercedes-Benz says the drag co-efficient for this new sedan version of its fourth-generation A-Class is the lowest ever measured for a passenger vehicle.
Which is quite a claim, but you only have to look at it to see how much work has gone into marrying good looks with slippery aero performance.
|Engine Type||1.3L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Promise me something. Don’t judge a Hyundai Veloster just by its looks, especially this new generation which has just arrived.
So, what is it, then? If anything it could be the perfect compromise car: a coupe with easier access to the back seats than a two-door, a choice of engines, an affordable entry-point, plus good dynamics and a comfortable ride.
I went to the Australian launch of the new Veloster and here’s what I found out about this much improved second-generation model.
|Engine Type||1.6L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Mercedes-Benz knows its way around a sedan, and this A-Class is a well-equipped, comfortable and efficient city-sized four-door.
But more than that, to my eyes anyway, it’s a perfect example of restrained form matching aero function with beautiful results.
Would your preference be an A-Class with a hatch or a boot? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
The Veloster might not be the perfect family car with its small boot and three doors, but if you are looking for something different and sporty then the Veloster with its great driving dynamics could be the funnest reason not to buy an SUV like everybody else.
The Turbo is the sweet spot in the Veloster range for value - the most bang for you buck, plus plenty of great features.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
A global carmaker can’t hold its head up in public without a formal design strategy, and Mercedes-Benz uses ‘Sensual Purity’ as a guiding principle in developing the look and feel of its current models. It may sound airy-fairy, but I for one reckon it’s accurate in describing the A-Class sedan.
The overall form is flowing and minimalist, the major exception being a hard character line running down the side of the car from the trailing edge of the angular LED headlights and along the top of the doors to link with the tail-lights.
A rear-biased glasshouse emphasises the length of the bonnet, at the same time delivering a broad, muscular stance with short overhangs front and rear.
Ultra-fine panel gaps, careful sealing around the headlights and curved strakes either side of the bonnet keep the look clean and simple, not to mention super-slippery.
The interior has been styled to within an inch of its life, the dash dominated by the slick twin 10.25-inch widescreen ‘MBUX’ display covering instruments, ventilation, media and vehicle settings.
Five signature, turbine-style air vents (three in the centre, and one at each edge) lift the dash’s visual interest, and the quality of fit and finish is top-shelf.
Nobody had seen anything quite like the Veloster before the first one arrived in 2012. This ugly-pretty hatch with cranky frog looks made Australia rubber neck.
It arrived just after Hyundai had finished winning over Aussies with small affordable cars with outstanding five-star ANCAP safety scores and it was a case of 'now for something completely different.'
I’m going to put it out there and say the styling was about half-a-decade ahead of the trend because by the time 2017 rolled around brands like Toyota were coming up with pretty similar designs in the form of its C-HR and even more recently Lamborghini’s Urus bears more than a passing resemblance to the Hyundai. Where have you ever seen that written before?
This second-generation Veloster has arrived looking a bit more grown up and serious than the pioneering first-gen, with its longer nose and sleeker head and tail-lights, the latter of which now extend through into the tailgate.
And while it’s not quite as toy-like in its design as the original it’s still fun looking and different with the pumped up wheelarches, central exhaust, a roofline which slopes dramatically down to the oversized rear spoiler and the three-door design – one for the driver, the front passenger and a single entrance to the second row.
Yep, if you didn’t realise it then you should know that from the right-hand side the Veloster looks like a two-door coupe, but from the left it appears to be a four-door. Not even Hyundai can give me a reason why, other than it offers the practicality that a two-door coupe can’t.
All Velosters come with 18-inch alloy wheels but each grade’s rims come in a different design, while the Turbo and Turbo Premium have blacked-out side skirts and a sporty grille with a red-painted lower air-intake.
Each grade of Veloster comes with a different interior package with a black and blue colour scheme with cloth material in the entry-level car; while the Turbo’s cabin is black with red highlights using cloth and leather; and the Turbo premium is similar but with leather upholstery.
That said, there’s way too much hard plastic used on all grades, from the dash to the door sills and that brings the feeling of quality down even if the fit and finish of the cabin is excellent.
At 4240mm long, 1800mm across, and 1399mm tall the Veloster is about 100mm shorter in length than an i30, a little bit wider and not quite as tall, giving it a low and planted stance.
Colours include 'Red Ignite', 'Yellow Thunder Bolt', 'Chalk White', 'Dark Knight', 'Tangerine Comet', 'Phantom Black' and 'Lake Silver'. Frankly a frog-looking car should come in green, but that isn’t offered, neither is blue, grey or purple.
At a bit over 4.5m long, a fraction under 1.8m wide, and close to 1.5m tall the A-Class sedan is 130mm longer and 6.0mm higher than the hatch version.
The A-Class sedan driver is presented with the same sleek widescreen display as found in the hatch, and storage runs to two cupholders in the centre console, a lidded bin/armrest between the seats (including twin USB ports), decent door pockets with room for bottles and a medium-size glove box.
In a swap to the rear, sitting behind the driver’s seat set to my (183cm) position, I enjoyed adequate knee and headroom, although stretching up a to a straight-back position led to a scalp to headlining interface.
In the A 200 a centre fold-down armrest incorporates two cupholders, again there are generous pockets in the doors with room for bottles, and adjustable ventilation outlets are set into the back of the front centre console. Always a plus.
There are three belted positions across the rear, but the adults using them for anything other than short journeys will have to be good friends and flexible. Best for two grown-ups, and three kids will be fine.
One snag is the size of the rear door aperture. Okay for taller people on the way in, but a limb-unfolding gymnastic exercise on exit.
But of course the reason we’re all here is the boot, and the sedan’s extra length translates to an additional 60 litres of luggage space for a total cargo volume of 430 litres (VDA).
Extra space is one thing, but usability is another. The benefit of a hatch is a large opening that allows bulky stuff to find a home, and Merc has pushed the sedan’s boot aperture to just under a metre across and there’s half a metre between the base of the rear window and the lower edge of the boot lid.
That’s made a big difference and access is good, with the rear seats folding 40/20/40 to add extra flexibility and volume. There are also tie-down hooks at each corner of the floor (a luggage net is included) and a netted pocket behind the passenger side wheel tub (with 12-volt outlet).
At the time of writing Mercedes-Benz wasn’t quoting towing specifications, and don’t bother looking for a spare wheel, the tyres are run-flats.
It’s not. Well not very practical anyway, not in the same way a Hyundai i30 is or even a Kona SUV is.
Let’s go straight to the obvious one – the three doors. A door for the driver, one for the front passenger and another on the kerb-side of the car for entry into the two seats in the second row.
Yes, it’s quirky and different, but it’s frustrating for the those who need to climb in from the left-hand side and scoot across a hard plastic tray and cupholders in the centre to sit behind the driver.
To be fair, the aperture of the entry has been widened by 58mm, improving entry and egress and headroom in the second row has been increased, too.
At 191cm tall I can just sit behind my driving position while my hair is brushing the ceiling. Not a place I’d like to be a on a long trip, that’s for sure.
Hyundai argues that the third door provides practicality that a two door doesn’t have, which is true, but that’s like making a T-shirt with one long sleeve and a short one just in case it’s colder than you thought outside. No, it isn’t… but I can’t think of a better analogy right now.
Did you notice that the front doors are different lengths? The driver’s door is long because the B-Pillar on that side is positioned further rearwards than the other side while the passenger door is short. This causes a few issues – the driver’s door is heavy and if you park next to somebody you might have trouble opening it far enough for you to clamber out.
But if you don’t have kids and will only occasionally ferry people around in the back, then the Veloster is far more suitable.
Cabin storage is good with two cupholders in the back, and two up front, along with slim door pockets up front, a large centre console storage bin under the centre armrest and a big hidey hole in front of the shifter.
As for power outlets you’ll find a 12-volt along with two USB ports up front – a media connection and charging-only one.
Price and features
The A-Class sedan is launching with two variants, the A 200 at $49,400, before on-road costs, and an entry-level A 180, arriving in August 2019 at $44,900.
We’ll cover active and passive safety tech in the safety section, but above and beyond that standard equipment for the A 180 runs to 17-inch alloy wheels, ‘Artico’ faux leather upholstery, the ‘MBUX’ widescreen cockpit display (two 10.25-inch digital screens), auto LED headlights and DRLs, keyless entry and start, auto-dimming rearview mirror, climate-control, sat nav, multi-function sports steering wheel, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, ‘Active Parking Assist’ (with ultrasonic proximity sensors front and rear), tinted glass, plus nine-speaker, 225W audio with digital radio, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The A200 steps up to 18-inch alloy rims, and adds a dual exhaust system, four-way electrical adjustment for the driver’s seat (with lumbar support), a folding rear armrest (with twin cupholders), adaptive high-beam assist, and a wireless device charging bay.
There are three grades in the Veloster range with the entry-point simply called Veloster, which lists for $29,490 with a manual gearbox and $31,790 for the automatic transmission.
Above this is the Turbo, which lists for $35,490 for the manual (add $3K for a dual-clutch auto) and at the top of the range is the Turbo Premium for $38,990 in manual guise and, that’s right, three grand extra for the dual-clutch.
The standard equipment list is impressive. Well, it is for the Turbo and Premium, but the entry-grade Veloster still comes with a good safety suite (read about that below) and features such as LED daytime running lights, a 7.0-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, single-zone climate control, sports front seats, leather-clad steering wheel, 18-inch alloy wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport 3 tyres and switchable drive modes if you go for the auto transmission.
The Turbo is the sweet spot in the Veloster range for value coming standard with an 8.0-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, eight-speaker Infinity sound system, proximity unlocking, LED headlights, sat nav, digital performance gauges, digital radio and Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres.
The Turbo Premium has all of the Turbo’s features but adds leather upholstery, heated and ventilated seats, power adjustable driver’s seat, head-up display, heated steering wheel, sunroof, and wireless charging for your smartphone. Plus, this grade gives you the option of the two-tone effect with the black roof for $1000. Premium paint on all grades costs $595.
Engine & trans
Both models are powered by the same 1.3-litre (M282) direct-injection four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine as the hatch, the A180 tuned to deliver 100kW (at 5500rpm) and 200Nm (at 1460rpm), with the A 200 bumping that up to 120kW (at 5500rpm) and 250Nm (at 1620rpm).
There are two engines in the Veloster range: a 110kW/180Nm 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol four cylinder in the entry-grade car; and the 150kW/265Nm 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four in the Turbo and Turbo Premium.
Both engines can be had with a six-speed manual, while the 2.0-litre is also available with a six-speed automatic and the 1.6-litre is offered with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto.
For me, the best combination is the turbo engine with the manual gearbox. For more on what the Veloster is like to drive, skip on down to that section below.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 5.7L/100km for both models, with a CO2 emissions figure of 130g/km.
Over roughly 250km of open highway driving on the launch program the A 200’s on-board computer coughed up a figure of 6.3L/100km. So, the real-world highway cycle figure is higher than the claimed combined number. Which is a miss, but not a massive one, and fuel-efficiency is still pretty impressive.
Minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded, and you’ll need 43 litres of it (plus a 5.0-litre reserve) to fill the tank.
Hyundai says that after a combination of open and urban road driving the 2.0-litre petrol engine with the six-speed manual will use 7.0L/100km, while the six-speed auto will need 7.1L/100km.
In my test drive of the automatic the trip computer was telling me it was using an average of 7.1L/100km but that was mainly country roads.
As for the turbo engine Hyundai says consumption will be 7.3L/100km with the manual gearbox and 6.9L/100km with the dual-clutch. My testing of the DCT car saw the trip computer report 6.8L/100km after motorways and then getting lost in Brisbane’s CBD during peak hour. Not bad at all.
Three things stand out on first meeting with the A-Class sedan – ride comfort, steering feel, and road noise, or rather the lack of it.
The ‘biggest’ compliment you can pay a small car is that it rides like a bigger one, and behind the A 200’s wheel you’d swear the wheelbase was appreciably longer than the 2.7 metres it actually measures.
Over long undulations, even higher frequency bumps and ruts, the A-Class remains stable and composed thanks to a thoroughly sorted (strut front, torsion beam rear) suspension, with beautifully progressive damping a particular highlight.
Electromechanically-assisted steering points accurately and delivers good road feel without any undue vibration. And despite the A-Class launch drive loop covering typically coarse-chip bitumen roads through rural Victoria, overall noise levels remained impressively low.
Acceleration is brisk rather than properly sharp, but in the A 200 there’s more than enough oomph to keep things on the boil for easy highway cruising and overtaking.
With maximum torque available from just above 1600rpm, and a seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission keeping revs in the sweet spot, the A 200 breezes through the cut and thrust of city traffic, too.
Auto shifts are smooth and quick, with manual changes via the wheel-mounted paddles adding even more direct access to your ratio of choice. And the bonus is no sign of the slow-speed shuntiness sometimes exhibited by dual-clutch autos, especially in twisting, three-point parking manoeuvres.
Special call-out for the cruise control which responds to adjustments quickly (including 10km/h jumps up or down with a firm press of the thumb) and rapidly retards downhill speeds.
Several unbroken hours in the front seat couldn’t generate a twinge of discomfort, the brakes are strong, and over-shoulder visibility is marginally better than in the hatch (not that it’s a weakness in the latter).
Add the sleek and intuitive multimedia system, high-quality audio, plus excellent ergonomics and you have a neatly resolved compact sedan that’s easy to use in the city and suburbs, keeping solid road-tripping ability up its sleeve as well.
I kicked things off in the base grade Veloster with its 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic, then upgraded to the Turbo Premium with the 1.6-turbo and dual-clutch auto, before piloting the mid-range Turbo with the six-speed manual gearbox. It was enough for me to see straight away which I’d want in my driveway.
And ‘yeah-nah’, it wasn’t the base grade Veloster. Not for me, anyway. The frankly superb (for the money) suspension is let down by an engine which can’t offer the performance a car this well set-up deserves.
Still, you get the look, great handling, outstanding steering and a comfortable and composed ride for less money than the rest. So, if ‘extra sporty’ driving doesn’t matter to you, then you will still love the way the entry Veloster feels to pilot.
If you have a little more to spend my recommendation is the middle-of-the-range Turbo with the six-speed manual. This is the bang for your buck winner with that 1.6-litre turbo making 150kW/265Nm at a pretty darn good price.
You’ll find the same engine in the Hyundai i30 N-Line, but the Veloster Turbo with a manual gearbox is 1270kg - 45kg lighter than the i30, giving it a better power-to-weight ratio.
The lightness and all that torque rushing in from 1500rpm, combined with quick and natural steering makes the Veloster Turbo feel so pointable, changing direction almost as quickly as you can think it.
The manual gearbox just ups the engagement factor, with a light clutch pedal and easy ‘flick of the wrist’ shifts.
If you’re going to be commuting in traffic daily then you’d probably be happier with the dual-clutch auto, which reduces the driver-car connection but has its own benefits over the manual.
First, the DCT can shift faster than any human, and second when it moves to a higher gear the burbling exhaust note lets out satisfying deep burps.
The official 0-100km/h acceleration time for the Turbo cars is 7.1sec for the DCT auto, and 7.7sec for the manual.
All Velosters have the same suspension tune and it’s much improved over the previous model. MacPherson struts underpin the front while suspension in the back has been swapped from a torsion beam to multi-link set-up which has improved high-speed and cornering stability, while giving the Veloster a comfortable and composed ride.
Hyundai has done a top job in designing the driving position, too, with a low hip point, supportive seats and plenty of elbow room.
You might be wondering what visibility is like in a car with a mini-tank turret and it’s nowhere near as bad as you might think.
Hyundai has moved the A-pillars back to improve the view, but they are still a bit in the way while looking rearward, your sight obstructed by the chunky C-Pillar and small windows. But use your mirrors and the reversing camera when parking and you’ll be fine.
That brings us to looking at how practical something like the Veloster is…
Think automotive safety and Mercedes-Benz will be one of the first names to pop into your mind, and the A 180 offers in impressive suite of active features including ABS, BA, EBD, stability and traction controls, a reversing camera (with dynamic guidelines), ‘Active Brake Assist’ (Merc-speak for AEB), ‘Adaptive Brake’, ‘Attention Assist’, ‘Blind Spot Assist’, ‘Cross-wind Assist’, ‘Lane Keep Assist’, a tyre pressure warning system, the ‘Pre-Safe’ accident anticipatory system, and ‘Traffic Sign Assist’. The A 200 adds ‘Adaptive Highbeam Assist’.
If all that fails to prevent an impact you’ll be protected by nine airbags (front, pelvis and window for driver and front passenger, side airbags for rear seat occupants and a driver’s knee bag), and the ‘Active Bonnet’ automatically tilts to minimise pedestrian injuries.
The A-Class was awarded a maximum five ANCAP stars in 2018, and for smaller occupants there are three child restraint/baby capsule top tether points across the back seat, with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions.
This new-gen Hyundai Veloster hasn’t been given an ANCAP assessment yet, but it’s likely the rating could be split between a four-star score for the entry grade and a five-star for the Turbo and Turbo premium.
This is because the entry car has AEB but it’s not the pedestrian detecting type which is found on the top two grades and is necessary for a five-star score.
All Velosters have rear parking sensors, but none have front ones.
The LED headlights on the Turbo and Turbo premium are excellent. Keep this in mind if you’re thinking of the base grade and you live in a country area – its full beam headlights are nowhere near as good.
For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX mounts and two top tether anchor points in the second row.
That lags behind the mainstream market where the majority of players are now at five years/unlimited km, with some at seven years.
On the upside, Mercedes-Benz Road Care assistance is included in the deal for three years.
Service is scheduled for 12 months/25,000km (whichever comes first) with pricing available on an ‘Up-front’ or ‘Pay-as-you-go’ basis.
Pre-payment delivers a $500 saving with the first three A-Class services set at a total of $2050, compared to $2550 PAYG. Fourth and fifth services are also available for pre-purchase.
The new Veloster is covered by Hyundai’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 15,000km or 12 months for the base grade Veloster and costs $279 for the first two visits followed by $365 for the next then $459 and $279 for the fifth.
The Turbo and Turbo Premium need servicing every 10,000km or 12 months and you’ll pay $299 for the first three visits then $375 and then $299 for the fifth.