Thumbs Up: A Veloster that lives up to the potential of the chassis.
Thumbs Down: A sporty car, but not a sports car.
Buy This Car If: You want an economical daily driver with entertainment value and lots of content.
To be perfectly honest, we have a love / hate thing going on with Hyundai’s Gen-Y targeted Veloster hatchback. We love its unique styling and funky three-door-plus-hatch sensibility. We love the fact that the chassis is far stiffer than it needs to be, and we love how much content that Hyundai crams in for the price. On the other hand, we’re not thrilled with a back seat that gives up room compared to others in the class, and we never thought that the base 1.6-liter four cylinder engine, rated at 138 horsepower (or 132 hp if you opt for the six-speed automatic transmission) provided enough grunt to deliver any kind of entertainment value.
Enter the 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo, the automaker’s shot across the bow of the Fiat 500 Abarth, the Volkswagen GTI and the Mazdaspeed3. On paper, the recipe sounds familiar: take a sporty hatchback, infuse it with a turbocharged engine, add more precise steering, bigger brakes and better tires and call it a day. Note that we didn’t throw a stiffer suspension into the mix; Hyundai is so confident about the suspension tuning on its base model that it didn’t change a thing in the suspension for the Turbo variant. Surprisingly, we’re OK with that, since the base suspension in the Veloster really doesn’t need much improvement.
Outside, the Veloster Turbo gets more distinctive front and rear styling, standard fog lamps, unique 18-inch wheels and an available matte gray finish option that Hyundai calls first-in-class. We’ve been unimpressed with most matte automotive finishes to date, since they tend to look like primer to us, but even we’ll admit the Veloster Turbo looks right in a non-glossy finish. If you agree, you’d better act quickly, since Hyundai is only building a limited number of the matte-finish Velosters. Buying one will cost you an additional $995 over glossy paint, and it comes with the standard additional-care disclaimer that matte paint requires hand washing and regular conditioning.
On the outside, the most unique feature of any Veloster model is the semi-hidden rear door, found on the passenger side only. While other manufacturers are content to offer hatchbacks with two or four doors, Hyundai splits the difference and gives Veloster buyers three. If you think about it, the design makes sense (for left hand drive countries, anyway), as it allows easier loading and unloading of passengers curbside. The Veloster’s designers went to great lengths to hide the extra door for more uniform styling, so expect rear seat passengers to ask you repeatedly, “How do you open the rear door again?” The answer is via the handle that’s located in the c-pillar.
Inside, the Veloster Turbo carries over the same design cues used in the base Veloster. The wing-shaped dash is a blend of colors and textures that work well for the application, although we’re not sure how well some of the metallic trim will hold up over time. The most prominent feature of the dash is the large infotainment display, which can be used for navigation, audio or driver coaching to attain the best possible fuel economy.
Instruments deliver the information you need without being too flashy. Tachometer and speedometer are lit with a blue glow, and gauges feature bold white numbers on a black background. There’s a driver information display between tach and speedometer, trimmed in a tasteful metallic accent. There’s even a Veloster-logo badge atop the information display, evidence of how much Hyundai is sweating the smallest details these days.
Front sport seats carry stitched “Turbo” logos, just in case the car’s improved acceleration isn’t enough to remind you which variant you’re driving. The seats are road- trip comfortable, and higher trim Veloster Turbo models also get an inflatable lumbar support. There’s enough bolstering for spirited driving, although not quite enough for track use (which, to be fair, isn’t the Veloster Turbo’s forte).
Rear seats are a mixed bag. There’s about as much leg room as you’d expect, but the plunging roofline means that those taller than six feet will need to mind their head on the hatchback’s glass. The Veloster Turbo is a 2+2, meaning that there are no provisions for a center occupant in the rear seat. Instead, there’s a hard plastic divider and cup holder that can make shimmying over behind the driver an awkward experience. Those limitations aside, the rear seat isn’t a bad place to spend time.
Power comes from a turbocharged version of Hyundai’s 1.6-liter Gamma engine, rated at 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. Buyers get a choice of either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission, but it’s not the dual-clutch automatic found in base Veloster models (which isn’t up to the additional torque of the Turbo variant). While 201 horsepower sounds good on paper, the Veloster Turbo never really manages to feel fast; in fact, “not slow” is really a better way to describe the car. The run from 0-60 mph takes a few ticks less than eight seconds, and frankly we expect better performance from a car marketed as a hot hatch. Fuel economy, however, is impressive, with the Veloster Turbo rated at 26 mpg city and 38 mpg highway when equipped with the manual gearbox (the automatic returns 25 mpg city, 34 mpg highway). We saw an indicated 28.9 mpg in mostly-city driving.
Behind the wheel, the Veloster Turbo delivers solid entertainment value, even if it won’t challenge a GTI from stop light to stop light. Steering is nicely weighted, and the car feels light on its feet. Grip from the stock all-season radials is reasonable, but expect plenty of push in corners thanks to the car’s front weight bias. We wouldn’t change much with the car’s suspension setup, which is plenty stiff (to take advantage of the chassis’ rigidity) even in stock form, though we’d consider a set of lighter wheels shod with stickier tires if we were going to autocross the Veloster Turbo or run regular track days with it. Finally, the stock brakes will deliver all the stopping power you’d ever need for street driving, and we suspect they’d work fine for the occasional track day, too.
If you’re shopping the Veloster Turbo to run with friends driving VW GTIs, Mazdaspeed3s or Ford Focus STs, you’ll likely be disappointed by the car’s acceleration, straight-line speed and cornering ability. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a daily driver that delivers solid entertainment value and an impressive amount of content for the money (along with its own unique personality), the Veloster Turbo is hard to beat. We’d call it the Veloster that Hyundai should have built all along, and hope that Hyundai is seriously considering an even more potent version of the Veloster Turbo as a future model. We’d bet there’s a way to fit the 2.0-liter turbo four from the Genesis Coupe (which makes 274 horsepower) under the hood, and that could make for a seriously entertaining Veloster.
Hyundai supplied the 2013 Veloster Turbo for our review. Base price was $22,725, which includes a destination charge of $775, and options included the $2,500 Ultimate Package (panoramic sunroof, backup sensors, auto headlights, navigation system, rear view camera, 115 volt outlet), the $95 Carpeted Floor Mats and the $995 Matte Gray paint for a total sticker price of $26,315.
For comparison, a similarly-equipped Volkswagen GTI Autobahn would sticker for $32,465, while a similar (but higher output) Ford Focus ST would price at $30,230.