The biggest fashion in custom cars over the past few years has been matte-black paint or vinyl wraps -- a look that gives a sinister, half-finished look, as if the builders only paint resource was rattle cans of flat primer. Yet automakers haven't dared offered such a paint on a mass-market car, because despite its tough appearance, matte finishes can take wicked amounts of upkeep. Leave it Hyundai to boldly go where other fear to tread by offering a matte-black paint as an option on its Hyundai Veloster Turbo -- but you have to promise to give up automatic car washes
Before Hyundai, only a few luxury automakers offered a matte finish, and even then only as a high-cost option; BMW will sell five hues of flat paint on its new 6-Series Gran Coupe at a $5,000 premium. Hyundai's matte finish option will add $1,000 to the $21,950 base price of the three-door Veloster Turbo. The difference between a matte finish and a traditional glossy car paint isn't in composition -- there's still layers of colored paint covered by a clear coat -- but on matte cars that clear finish has been laid on rough to keep light from reflecting. (Many custom cars with matte finishes are actually vinyl wraps, which aren't durable enough for automakers to sell on new cars.)
The trouble? Nearly every car-care product and the entire car wash industry was designed to polish marks out of clear coat paint with abrasives or waxes. Even soft abrasives can create a shine on a matte finish where there should be none -- and there's no good way to restore a flat finish without a complete respray.
Hyundai's matte option comes with its own 11-page owner's manual, a cleaning kit and a disclaimer that the customer has to sign acknowledging the risks. The automaker makes clear that its warranty doesn't cover poor maintenance, and provides these tips as a warning:
Do not use wax, detail spray, ArmorAll, or any products made for normal paint. Use only products specifically developed for matte finish paint.
Do not use products that are even mildly abrasive, such as polishes, glazes, or rubbing compounds.
Do not use mechanical cleaners or polishers.
Do not use terrycloth, cloth or paper towels. Do not rub the finish vigorously — this will burnish the paint finish causing a permanent shiny spot. Shiny spots cannot be removed.
Do not use commercial car wash facilities or their shine enhancement products. Most carwash brushes, large mechanized "towels" and shine enhancement products can damage matte paint.
Remove foreign substances such as insect remains, tar, and road debris using a soft applicator and a mild solvent, saturate and soak area before cleaning — rub lightly.
Hand-wash with a soft wash mitt and mild cleaning product safe for matte paint.
Use microfiber cleaning cloths with alcohol-based window cleaner, for basic surface clean-up.
Hyundai's matte customers won't lack for cleaning options. Car cleaning suppliers already offer dozens of matte-friendly products, and there's even a market for clear car bras that are also flat instead of glossy. As difficult as its care may seem, many people already put similar effort into maintaining their cars. For them, caring for the Veloster Turbo's finish would be a small price for having one of the most distinctive cars on the road, at a fraction of what other matte-paint cars usually cost. The rest of us will just have to ogle while we feed dollar bills into the automatic wash.