Hyundai Veloster Turbo — Pleasing performance

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

We were intrigued by the futuristic looking Hyundai Veloster with its sporty demeanor, hidden third door and useable hatch when we first saw it; but after 30 miles behind the wheel our excitement over this unusual car was melting faster than a snowman on a warm spring afternoon.

What cooled off our enthusiasm was the 1.6-liter 138-horsepower four-cylinder engine, the only one available. Adequate, yes, but we felt the small four was more suited to the entry-level Accent in which it also resides, not a car that looks like this with such sporty pretensions. The performance didn't match the persona. To Hyundai's credit it wasted little time upgrading the Veloster with an engine that should have been available from the get-go, a turbocharged version of the 1.6-liter pumping up horsepower to 201 and torque to 195 pound-feet — running on 87-octane gas.

This gives the Veloster the performance that makes it fun to drive whether mated to a manual shifter or the six-speed automatic. Don't get all tingly, this is no rocket ship, but the little car has the ability to take on most driving situations with success. Our affection with Veloster’s driving demeanor grew as we discovered that it corners really well although it lacks a bit of feel through its electric power steering, and it exhibits decent low-end torque, but hampered occasionally by turbo lag.

On paper the performance looks OK — 7 seconds from 0 to 60 and 15.2 seconds at 92.1 mph in the quarter mile. From behind the wheel it feels better than OK, but even with the extra horses, the Veloster is still slower than such competitors as the Volkswagen Beetle Turbo, Ford Focus ST and Mazdaspeed 3. It beats all three in gas mileage, however, rated at 25 mpg city and 34 mpg highway for the automatic and 26/38 for the manual.

What really made the drive for us was the living area that contains comfortable leather seats and a well-thought-out dashboard design with handy switchgear including very useable steering wheel controls. The climate controls are a good example of what has been done correctly, with a huge center knob that has an outer ring for temperature and an inner ring for fan speed. The air direction buttons are large and clearly marked and are within easy reach. Toggle switches on the steering wheel for audio and cruise are the best idea yet.

The center stack and controls incorporate a push-button starter and an exclusive Supervision Cluster provides information in a large, clear and interactive setting. Two screens are located between the tachometer and speedometer. A seven-inch touchscreen sits high in the center stack surrounded by controls for the LG 450-watt Dimension Premium Audio System with eight speakers.
There’s enough connectivity and available technology to jumpstart the heart of a dead audiophile with iPod interface, Bluetooth phone connectivity, Pandora radio, Hyundai's BlueLink emergency communications system, outbound text messaging, location sharing (via Facebook) and a geo-fence system that alerts you when the car travels outside of a defined area for keeping tabs on younger drivers.

Safety has not been sacrificed. Every Veloster comes standard with excellent antilock brakes, traction and stability control, and front and side airbags and side-curtain airbags. On the other hand the Veloster has rather awkward sightlines created by mammoth outside mirrors and thick A-pillars that can be challenging.

While we liked the Veloster driving experience, we still haven't warmed to its quirky design. It seems to be a love it or hate it proposition. Hyundai did have an unusual idea by incorporating a second, useable swing-out door on the passenger side. It certainly adds to the convenience of loading people and cargo, although one wonders why not another door on the driver's side? All things being equal, we would probably opt for the competitor's brand.

One look at the front view of the 2013 Veloster Turbo from a rearview mirror would strike fear in the heart of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. It has a big, bold hexagonal grille and sculpted side skirts that give it the appearance of a monstrous vacuum cleaner that will suck up anything that gets in front of it; definitely not your typical hatchback design.

We think that with the amount of standard equipment, the turbo edition is well priced starting at $22,725. That's about a $3,000 increase over the most expensive non-turbo model. But in addition to the engine, Hyundai has added considerable features. Our loaded test car with automatic transmission and several options including panoramic sunroof and navigation with backup camera came to $27,520.

Base price: $22,725; as driven, $27,530
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 201 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 195 foot-pounds @ 1,750 rpm
Drive: front wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 104.3 inches
Length: 167.3 inches
Curb weight: 2,888 pounds
Turning circle: 34.12 feet
Luggage capacity: 15.5 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 34.7 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 34 highway, 25 city
0-60: 7.0 seconds (Road & Track)
Also consider: Volkswagen Beetle Turbo, Scion tC, Mazda Speed3

The Good
• Generous list of standard equipment
• Energetic turbo-charged engine
• Unique third door for rear entry
• Long warranty

The Bad
• Lags competition in performance

The Ugly
• Polarizing styling