The new Hyundai Veloster Turbo looks like something that just rolled out of a tuning shop on its way to a street race. Compared to the standard version, it has been reworked in a number of key ways to establish its own identity. Starting up front, there is a new fascia with larger hexagonal blacked-out grill, projector beam headlight with LED running lights, round fog lights inside black bezels and a chin spoiler. The effect is menacing and modern. From its profile, the lower side sills resemble ground effect and 18-inch alloy wheels with chrome accents add to its modified look, especially when in motion. Out back, the accentuated diffuser, LED tail-lights, round red reflectors that match the size and shape of the foglights, and the dual center-mounted exhaust round out the exterior revamp.
Perhaps the most striking feature of the Turbo is the optional $1,000 matte gray paint which, by default, catapults the car into another echelon. Matte finish is an expensive option either for paint or vinyl wrap and sometimes even more so as a factory option. For instance, BMW’s “Frozen” matte paint starts at around $3,500 and Mercedes’ “Mango” matte paint is a $3,950 option. Hyundai provides special care instructions which include hand washing only and, of course, no waxing or polishing. The old two-bucket method should be in full effect.
The Veloster Turbo sets itself apart in another, albeit idiosyncratic, way. From the driver’s side, the car looks like a 3-door hatchback, but when viewed from the passenger’s side, it morphs into what appears to be a 5-door hatch. Like an episode of Lost, further exploration reveals the basis for the intrigue. The driver’s side has a long door that swings out wide, requiring dumping and sliding the seat forward to allow access to the rear seats. The passenger side has two smaller doors, one for the front seats and one for the rear, which both swing out much shorter and allow close proximity parking.
While the exterior may be something of a heterodox, the interior follows the usual Hyundai format. The V-shaped center console features a 7-inch multimedia touch-screen flanked by HVAC vents and temperature controls just below. The standard offering of features is generous and we enjoyed the 8-speaker 450 watt Dimension audio system with subwoofer, the SiriusXM satellite radio, iPod USB and auxiliary input jack, keyless entry, push button Start, heated mirrors as well as the heated front seats wrapped in perforated leather with Turbo stitching. The blue accent lighting for the gauges in the dash and blue backlighting for all buttons gives the interior a cool, modern vibe.
Overall, the fit and finish on the inside of the Turbo is commendable and the leather wrapped telescoping and tilting steering wheel, with its multifunction controls, rounds out the offering nicely. The optional Ultimate Package ($2,500) adds navigation, a back-up camera and back-up warning sensors which all function as expected without any strange quirks; the panoramic sunroof gives the diminutive hatchback a more spacious feel. Rear visibility is somewhat distorted thanks to the tiny swath of contoured glass that makes up the rear windshield, so the back-up camera is highly recommended.
The Veloster Turbo uses the same 1.6-liter direct injected 4-banger as the standard model but drops in a twin-scroll 18-psi turbo for boost. The result is impressive, with the tweaked set-up able to produce 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, up from the base 138 hp and 123 lb-ft of twist. The turbine is integrated into the stainless-steel exhaust manifold in one cast and an air-to-air intercooler reduces heat before igniting with the fuel. The manufacturer recommends 87-octane unleaded regular, and the car gets 26 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway which trumps the competition handily.
With a curb weight of just 2,800 pounds (which is less than the Civic SI, VW GTI and Mini Cooper S) and a class-leading, power-to-weight ratio of 14 pounds per hp, the Veloster is a delight to drive. That said, initial acceleration falls a bit short due to a very short first gear which doesn’t really allow the expected launch during 1-2 gear shifts. We don’t have any official specs in terms of 0-60mph times but the 7 second range seems about right.
Hyundai was so confident with the existing suspension of the base model that they made no changes regarding the springs, shocks, stabilizer bars or rear twist beam in the Turbo. They did, however, tweak the steering to a slightly tighter ratio for better cornering, enhanced the exhaust note, revised the intake and enlarged the ventilated front brake rotors to 11.8 inches.
The Veloster Turbo handles extremely well as the chassis is neutral without much body roll; stopping power feels strong. While many folks have reported that the Kumho all-season tires which the Turbo carries over from the base Veloster are poor performers, our model fortunately was outfitted with the optional Michelin Pilot Sport 215/40ZR18 summer tires ($1,200) which had terrific traction.
The gearbox of the 6-speed manual drives power to the front wheels in respectable fashion. The shifter is solid and notches well without any issues, and the clutch, while set up with more travel than one might like, is still light and easy to use. Most of the power comes on in the upper range of the tach and though not as linear as it could be, there isn’t much turbo lag, which is reassuring. As you row through the gears, unfortunately you hear more of the engine and the clicking sound of the fuel injectors than you do the exhaust.
Hyundai has acquired a reputation as more of a copycat than a maverick, but with the introduction of the 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo the tides may well be shifting. The Turbo feels more like the long first leg of a journey that we hope leads to the introduction of an R-Spec model at the very least and, at most, the GT or Track edition of our dreams.
The final cost of our vehicle including the Ultimate Package, matte gray paint, carpeted floor mats and summer tires, is $27,520 which seems surprisingly reasonable for the looks, performance, fuel economy and tech functionality you get in this “4-door” hatchback.
Images: Hyundai USA