2012 Hyundai Veloster – Click above for high-res image gallery

At a media breakfast in Los Angeles this morning, Hyundai Motor America president John Krafcik let slip that the Korean automaker expects to breach the 40 miles-per-gallon barrier with its forthcoming small sports coupe. Conveniently, if they can reach that performance target, that would best the new 2011 Honda CR-Z, which, despite its hybrid powertrain, achieves just 36/39 city/highway when equipped with a CVT and 31/37 with a manual gearbox. The as-yet-unnamed Hyundai coupe (the nameplates Veloster and Tiburon are still up for discussion) will achieve those figures with a conventional four-cylinder engine, eschewing the added cost, complexity and weight of a gas-electric system.

Likening the forthcoming model to a long-distance runner, Krafcik promises that not only will this Hyundai best the Honda in fuel economy, it will also deliver better performance as well as added utility (read: rear seats and better access). Given that it won't have the cost penalty of a hybrid drivetrain (a 140-horsepower, 1.6-liter engine is expected), we'd be surprised if it doesn't come in at a lower price-point, as well.

In addition to sipping gas, Krafcik emphasized to Autoblog that a key mission for the affordable coupe will be enticing the world's young and increasingly auto-ambivalent consumers with additional technology – all Velosters will come with a large screen on the dashboard as standard equipment, presumably to manage connectivity features in addition to more traditional vehicle functions.

With 40 mpg practicality and superior utility, it would appear that the Veloster not only has a shot at taking on Honda's CR-Z, but also more conventional economy cars like the Ford Fiesta, perhaps trading a bit of practicality in favor of edgier coupe styling and (hopefully) greater performance.

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