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Hyundai Veloster: A Thrifty Show Off

What it is: A head-turning sporty coupe from an automaker that didn’t used to turn heads.

Base price : $17,300

Mileage ranges from 28 miles per gallon in the city to 40 miles per gallon on the highway.

What’s worth knowing: Korea-based Hyundai is surging, with a lineup of vehicles that are visually sharp, packed with features, and often cheaper than the competition. The Veloster fits that formula, giving Hyundai a low-end “halo vehicle” that will help enhance its image, even among buyers who would never buy it.

Who it’s for : Young drivers who don’t mind the inconveniences of a cramped two-door, and mid-life style seekers who aspire to be younger.

What’s good : With its snouty front fascia and muscular haunches, the Veloster is a car other drivers will definitely gawk at. Grippy cornering adds some cattle to the hat. The cabin is smartly designed, with comfortable front seats and a handsome V-shaped center console that houses most of the controls. The modest base prices include upscale features such as Bluetooth for hands-free phone calls, heated mirrors, and a 7-inch touchscreen for the climate and audio system and vehicle settings. A stealthy third door on the passenger side (with a hidden, recessed door handle) allows easy access to the back seat, while demonstrating some clever thinking by Hyundai’s designers.

What’s bad : Acceleration is okay, but won’t necessarily make your heart beat faster (although a forthcoming turbo model could change that). There are the usual tradeoffs that come with two-door compacts, including limited trunk space and reduced rear visibility.

How it stacks up: While sporty, the Veloster isn’t exactly a performance car, and better-tuned machines like the Mazda Miata or Ford Mustang will provide more thrills. But they also cost thousands more, and for the price, the Veloster is a great combination of fun and functionality. It’s zippier than the Ford Fiesta, cheaper than the Mini Cooper and roomier than the Fiat 500. Buyers looking for the same sporty feel with a bit more room should check out the Mazda 3, Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf.

What to do if you want one : Make sure you’ll stay in love with the showy styling, for a few years at least.

Rick Newman is the Chief Business Correspondent for U.S. News & World Report and a longtime car buff. He covers corporate and consumer trends from the magazine's New York bureau. Rick is also the magazine's car reviewer and writer his "micro-reviews" here on a regular basis.

Follow Rick on Twitter: @rickjnewman.

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