Some love it, some hate it.
The Hyundai Veloster leaves few sitting on the fence.
During my time with the vehicle, I had words with several friends and co-workers who really liked the little three-door coupe’s bold, curvaceous look.
Others reacted as if they’d just swallowed a mouthful of cod liver oil. One colleague just couldn’t stop reminding me how much he disliked the styling.
Mind you, he was sporting a little more grey hair than Hyundai’s target demographic.
But that’s the risk of daring to be different. Think outside the jellybean mould of subcompact styling and you may design something that, to put it diplomatically, can be polarizing.
My first brush with the Veloster was during its media launch last September. At the time, I found its “horseshoe crab” styling kind of funky and cool. But not everybody shared in my enthusiasm.
What struck me even more was the long equipment list in a base model that started at $19,499. Sure, air conditioning and alloy wheels are more commonplace in cars under $20K, and now even heated seats. But the entry car’s seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, rearview camera, and proximity key with push-button start were unexpected.
For an extra $3,500, the top-trim 2012 Veloster with Tech Package adds larger 18-inch alloys, auto headlights, panoramic sunroof, premium audio system with navigation and some interior trim enhancements.
Where Hyundai came up a little short was in performance. The little 1.6-litre four cylinder with gasoline direct injection GDI—the same one that powers the redesigned Accent—produces only 138 hp and 123 lb/ft of torque.
So if an anemic powertrain is what’s holding you back from buying a Veloster, here’s one to consider.
The 2013 Veloster Turbo comes with all the goodies mentioned above, along with sharing top-trim features like the upgraded 450-watt Dimension premium audio system with eight speakers, navigation system, Bluetooth, leather-wrapped steering wheel, alloy pedals, and more.
It has a starting MSRP of $25,999 with six-speed manual ($27,249 with six-speed auto), and delivers some big differences both inside and out.
This starts with more aggressive styling than its non-turbo sibling. Up front is a large hexagonal front grille—menacing and black—flanked by projector headlamps with unique LED accents.
Along the side are sculpted side skirts that visually lower the vehicle, mirrors with signal repeaters, and 18-inch alloys with chrome inserts. In back are unique LED taillights and rear fascia, with wider-bore, centre-mounted twin exhausts that speak to the car’s higher performance.
The Turbo, overall, is also marginally longer and wider.
For an extra grand, you can order the matte grey finish that adds appreciably to the car’s cool factor.
Inside, I found the most noticeable difference to be the leather seating surfaces with available blue accents.
The splash of colour was a welcome flourish in a sea of black.
As well, the Supervision cluster on two TFT screens between speedo and tach provide trip info, distance to empty, fuel economy and the usual stuff like odometer, fuel gauge and temperature.
The most significant Veloster upgrade is the big boost in power. Adding a twin-scroll turbocharger to the little 1.6-litre GDI four-cylinder engine bumps power to 201 hp, with 195 lb/ft of torque on tap between 1,750 and 4,500 rpm.
That’s an increase of 63 hp and 72 lb/ft, with peak torque available much sooner than the 4,850 revs from the regularly aspirated engine.
The Veloster is a bit lighter than the Golf GTI three-door (200 hp, 207 lb/ft) and a little heftier than the Civic Si Coupe (201 hp, 170 lb/ft).
Comparisons could also be made to the Mazdaspeed3, but its 2.3-litre turbo that pumps out a whopping 263 hp and 280 lb/ft makes it a true hot hatch that clearly outmuscles the Veloster.
Hyundai’s little three-door isn’t that kind of car. It’s less expensive, offers standard amenities you won’t find on the Mazda and is a little easier to live with as a daily driver. Particularly if you don’t like a grabby clutch and loads of torque steer.
Straight-line acceleration isn’t neck-snapping, but spirited, with power that builds nicely once you spool up the turbo. It feels quicker than the Si Coupe, but I’ll have to reserve judgement on the GTI and MINI Cooper S. The Veloster Turbo won’t, however, keep up with the Cooper’s JCW variant.
Gear ratios for the six-speed manual are unique to the Turbo, as are the ratios for the six-speed automatic, which in the non-turbo Veloster are tuned with fuel efficiency in mind.
Steering has also been upgraded in this car, with a quicker ratio steering rack and revised calibration. I wouldn’t say the Turbo provides a lot of feedback, but more than its sibling.
Braking too, has been addressed, with larger 300 mm ventilated rotors up front.
All Velosters get MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar up front, and torsion beam with stabilizer in rear. As such, the ride is not punishing in this sporty hatch, yet is reasonably flat in the turns.
One item lacking on the Veloster Turbo’s equipment list is a limited-slip differential to even out the power – especially around corners.
Overall, the Turbo shares much—good and bad—with its sibling, like a spacious 440-litre cargo hold that expands when you drop the 60/40 split fold rear seats, its three-door asymmetrical door design (one on the driver side, two on passenger side) with door handle cleverly hidden in the C-pillar, and reasonable rear knee room for a small car.
Head room in back, however, is an issue and you’ll have to duck on entry. I was able to sit upright in the rear seat, but only with my head directly under the glass. Move forward, and you’ll bump the roofliner.
My advice to six footers is stay up front.
Gripes aside, the Veloster Turbo offers a niche ride for buyers who enjoy a little heat, along with a design that fails to blend in.
Its long equipment list is another big plus, and although not exactly a road rocket, the Turbo is fast enough to have fun – without getting into serious trouble.
At a glance
BODY STYLE: compact three-door hatchback/coupe
DRIVE METHOD: front-engine, front-wheel-drive
ENGINE: 1.6-litre DOHC Dual CVVT (Continuously Variable Valve Timing) with twin-scroll turbocharger and gasoline direct injection (201 hp and 195 lb/ft)
FUEL ECONOMY: 6-spd manual: 7.9/5.2/6.7 L/100 km (city/hwy/comb); 6-spd auto: 8.1/5.3/6.8 L/100 km (city/hwy/comb)
PRICE: base Turbo 6MT $25,999; Turbo 6AT $27,249; Turbo (Matte Grey) 6MT $26,999; Turbo (Matte Grey) 6AT $28,249