2012 Hyundai Veloster at 2011 Detroit Auto Show

  • Competes with: Honda CR-Z, Scion tC, Mini Cooper
  • Looks like: A concept car come to life
  • Drivetrain: 138 hp 1.6-liter direct-injection four-cylinder, six-speed manual or DSG transmission
  • Hits dealerships: Summer 2011

There is a renaissance going on with small cars that are big on fuel economy. It might have started with the Mini Cooper and the Smart ForTwo, but in the past year, we’ve seen the Ford Fiesta, Chevy Cruze and Honda CR-Z all sport 40 mpg figures … in certain trims, at least.

Now comes the Hyundai Veloster, the radically styled, three-door hatchback — meaning two front doors, one door behind the front passenger and a hatchback — with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with no hybrid components. It’s expected to return an estimated 40 mpg on the highway.

Hyundai manages that impressive figure — along with 138 horsepower, which is better than the CR-Z and Mini — by using direct injection. A weight of 2,584 pounds for the manual-transmission model doesn’t hurt, either. In terms of weight in this segment, only the Mini Cooper is lighter, by 49 pounds.

You can’t escape the resemblance to the CR-Z hybrid. However, the Veloster has more of an organic, round shape compared with the CR-Z’s crisp line and angles. The third rear door and rear seat give the Veloster more utility than the CR-Z, too. A promised $17,000 starting price comes in a few thousand under the Honda as well.

Is it better with this formula? It’s impossible to tell without driving it, but we’re anxious to test it and happy that any company is competing in such an intriguing segment.

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