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Cheap thrill: Hyundai's new Veloster

Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 02:09 PM

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One of life's great mysteries — apart from whether Brad and Jen will ever get back together — is what kind of car the Gen-X crowd really wants to drive.

It causes automakers more sleepless nights than a Starbucks triple espresso post-Leno.

First and foremost, it has to be cheap. Less than $20k, at least. It has to be connected — so Bluetooth, USBs and iPod plug-ins are a given. And the biggie — it has to be cool. Which doesn't mean a/c as standard.

Hyundai is having a fresh stab at wooing the 18 to 25 set with its funky new three-door sports coupe, the Veloster. And with pricing from $18,075, it already has their attention.

The Veloster certainly looks the part with its aggressive, bulldog stance, ski-slope roof line, and raked-back screen. Then there's the surprise-and-delight rear door on the right side to provide easier access to the back seat from the curb.

And while you wouldn't want to take a roadtrip out West in the back, there's just enough room for a cruise to the beach, or Ybor on a Saturday night.

Powering this head-spinning Hyundai is a 1.6-liter, 138-horse four-banger from the Accent sedan. Take your pick from either a six-speed manual transmission or new six-speed, dual-clutch automatic.

Early buff-book reviews of the Veloster criticized the car's tepid performance. And while this is no rocketship, it's still a fun drive once you realize foot-to-the-floor is the best way to go.

In return, however, you get terrific economy — 28 mpg city and 40 on the highway.

And for those craving zippier sprinting, this summer will see the arrival of the 201-horse Veloster Turbo.

Whether the Veloster becomes a hit with the Gen-Xers has yet to be seen. But for a 50-something gray-hair like me, it's $18 grand of fun.

Tampa-based auto writer Howard Walker can be reached at walkweb@verizon.net

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