Review: Hyundai Veloster gets tech right with Bluetooth, USB, Pandora

Finally, somebody did tech right in an under-$20,000 car: Hyundai. the just-out Hyundai Veloster sports coupe comes standard with the sort of auto tech that you hope for but seldom get: a color LCD, Bluetooth, USB jack, Pandora, voice recognition, and integrated Blue Link telematics crash notification and travel assistance. That’s all in the $18,060 base model, along with a 40 mpg highway rating. One downside: In the interests of simplifying dealer inventory, Hyundai makes its navigation system part of a $4,000 options group that rolls in more fragile rims, a sunroof, and chrome grille surround.

The Veloster is a three-door sports coupe with one door on the left and two on the right, meant to compete with Mini Cooper, Volkswagen Beetle, Scion tC, and Honda CR-Z Hybrid. What sets apart the Veloster is the inclusion of all the tech features that come standard and work well. This is what you’ll see on all cars once automakers stop believing CDs are the core of the entertainment experience. Right now this much standard tech is Veloster-exclusive.

Hop in any Veloster and you see a 7-inch touchscreen color LCD from LG in the center stack. making it standard saves Hyundai the hassle of creating a second, cramped entertainment interface onto the radio faceplate of a non-LCD-equipped car. and the LCD is important because of the entertainment choices that can be controlled by the car: iPod and any other USB-connectable music source, satellite radio (standard), Pandora, legacy AM-FM-CD, even video via the RCA jacks (standard) viewable when the car’s parked. Gracenote album art and voice control (“Play Lil Wayne“) are standard. the only thing missing is HD Radio.

Blue Link telematics is Hyundai’s answer to GM OnStar, only cheaper: as little as $79 a year for automatic crash notification and emergency roadside assistance where GM has nothing below $199. It’s $179 for location sharing, spoken text messages, remote door unlock, and for geo-fencing, which translates to: “rat your kid out he drives farther or later than he agreed to.” Location sharing lets you send where you are to other friends’ smartphones or PCs; you’d still need to send a text, or call, to explain why they got the message. the high-end Blue Link package, $279, includes turn by turn navigation even if you don’t have a navigation system.

The telematics help is tiered: when you press the Blue Link button on the rear view mirror, an interactive voice response (IVR) parses your request. If IVR gets stumped, you’re passed on to a live operator. I drove a prototype Blue Link IVR system in the spring and it had trouble finding things like a hotel in downtown Manhattan. It’s better now.

Hyundai did tech right, but it’s not perfect. you can stream Pandora, or any other music source, from any smartphone but to control Pandora from the car’s controls, the phone has to be an iPhone. with an Android phone, the big LCD shows the name of the song and that’s it (photo above). Android is on more phones but unlike iPhone there are multiple flavors that don’t work exactly the same way , so Android and Blackberry are off the compatibility list for now.

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