DETROIT – After months of teaser photos, Hyundai Motor America Inc. finally takes the wraps off its new Veloster 3-door sporty coupe/hot hatch today at the North American International Auto Show here.

Going on sale in midyear, the ’12 front-wheel-drive Veloster is aimed squarely at small 2-doors in the U.S. market, including the Scion tC and Honda CR-Z, plus quirky models such as the Mini Hardtop and Clubman, the auto maker says.

But Hyundai sees the Veloster as bringing something unique to its class, with its three doors plus a direct-injected 1.6L 4-cyl. engine mated to an optional dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT). The Veloster also offers a host of in-vehicle technologies, including Hyundai’s new BlueLink telematics system.

“Despite its small size, (the Veloster) generates some big numbers, with both impressive horsepower output and up to 40 mpg (5.9 L/100 km) on the highway,” John Juriga, powertrain director-Hyundai America Technical Center Inc., says in a statement.

After much internal debate, Hyundai decided to carry over the name of the concept version of the car, shown at the 2007 Seoul Auto Show, to the production model.

HMA CEO John Krafcik told Ward’s in October it is not so much a reference to “velocity” and “roadster” as it is to a velodrome, a bicycling arena typically having a steeply banked oval track. The concept’s chief designer is a biking fanatic, he noted.

The Veloster churns out 138 hp and 123 lb.-ft. (167 Nm) of torque, which exceeds all but the tC’s 180 hp from a 2.5L 4-cyl., while its 40-mpg rating tops even the hybrid CR-Z’s 39 mpg (6.0 L/100 km) highway fuel economy. The 1.6L mill, codenamed Gamma, and the DCT both are new for Hyundai and were developed in-house.

The Gamma engine uses dual continuously variable valve timing, on both intake and exhaust camshafts, electronic throttle control, variable induction and “innovative anti-friction coatings,” including a diamond-like carbon coating on tappets to reduce valvetrain friction.

The Veloster’s DCT has electric motors for actuation, as well as an external damper for improved noise, vibration and harshness characteristics.

Dimensionally, the car, based on Hyundai’s B platform, is slightly shorter in length than the subcompact Accent sedan, which uses the same architecture.

To enhance its sporty driving characteristic, the Veloster uses a McPherson strut front suspension and lightweight V-torsion beam rear suspension, a Hyundai first. This setup provides greater stiffness and more ability to control body roll, the auto maker says.

Monotube shock absorbers are fitted on the rear suspension to boost ride comfort. The steering is sport-tuned electric powered with a quick-ratio rack for “crisp feel on turn-in,” Hyundai says.

The Veloster’s styling was inspired by that of a high-performance sport bike, Hyundai says, with black A-pillars that “give the glass a helmet-visor appearance.”

There are many shared design flourishes from other Hyundai models, including a hexagonal grille, albeit one more “aggressive than usual,” the auto maker says, plus “Fluidic Sculpture” character lines on the car’s sides. Hyundai’s swoopy design language is featured prominently on the Sonata and Elantra sedans. The vehicle also boasts a glass hatch and dual chrome-tipped exhaust tips.

Hyundai claims the Veloster has best-in-class interior volume and also touts the car’s in-vehicle technology, such as the standard 7-in. (18-cm) touch screen display, with three selectable interface layouts.

Passengers can access Pandora Internet radio and Gracenote, a music-management service that categories music by genre. Gracenote MediaVOCS technology uses an advanced voice- recognition system that can identify artists’ names. Audio tracks from CDs, MP3 players, as well as jpeg image files and mpeg videos, can be stored.

The display screen also features an EcoCoach fuel-efficient driving scoring system. A USB jack, RCA jack and 115V power outlet are present for connecting gaming consoles.

There are two available audio systems for the Veloster: a standard 6-speaker 196-watt unit or a 450-watt premium unit with eight speakers and an 8-in. subwoofer. While both units are XM Satellite Radio-ready, the latter has an XM interface integrated into the head unit with channel logos for XM NavWeather and XM StockTicker.

BlueLink, which includes remote door unlock, voice-to-text messaging and maintenance alert services, will be available at no charge for an unspecified introductory period. Hyundai will roll out pricing for the feature this spring.

The Veloster not surprisingly will come in some loud colors, including Vitamin C (orange), 26.2 Yellow and Electrolyte Green, Hyundai says.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com