If you liked everything about Hyundai’s funky three-door-plus-hatch Veloster except for its lack of power in base trim, we’ve got good news: for 2013, a turbocharged Veloster model joins the lineup, and it promises to add a dose of sport to Hyundai’s personality-filled hatch.
The Veloster is a category-buster, and we say that’s a good thing. It’s a hatchback, but it bears more than a passing resemblance to Volkswagen’s not-for-U.S.-consumption Scirocco coupe. It’s got two doors on the passenger side, but only a single door street side. It carries on the familiar “fluidic sculpture” that Hyundai pioneered on the 2011 Sonata, but takes it in a bolder direction. Finally, it borrows some components from the down-market Hyundai Accent, yet never manages to feel like an economy car.
Even inside, the Veloster gives buyers the feeling that they’re getting more car than they’re paying for. There’s a stylized, wing-shaped dash with motorcycle-inspired gauges, split by a large LCD driver information display. A metallic Veloster badge sits atop the information display, showing how much attention to detail Hyundai is giving its products these days. Front seats are good for a commuter car, and the list of options includes such amenities as a Dimension audio system (from Hyundai’s partner, Infinity) and a large infotainment screen on navigation-equipped cars.
The back seat of the Veloster is a mixed bag. Those of average height or under will find headroom to be adequate, although shuffling across the hard plastic divider that splits the seats can be uncomfortable. Rear leg room isn’t great, but we’d call it on par with others in the class. If you haul three adults on a daily basis, the Veloster may not be for you; if you routinely travel solo or with no more than two friends, the Veloster will likely be suitable for your needs.
Base models are powered by the same 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine used in the Hyundai Accent, mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic. Even with the manual transmission, the 138 horsepower it delivers isn’t enough to keep enthusiasts entertained, but those whose primary concern is fuel-sipping frugality will appreciate the car’s 40 mpg highway fuel economy.
If you really like to drive, however, the only engine choice that will satisfy is the 1.6-liter, twin-scroll turbocharger-enhanced four-cylinder, rated at 201 horsepower. Buyers can still get the six-speed manual gearbox, but a conventional six-speed automatic replaces the dual-clutch transmission (which can’t take the turbo’s 195 pound-feet of torque). Even the Veloster Turbo delivers admirable fuel economy, returning up to 38 mpg on the highway.
Hyundai made a point of giving the Veloster a particularly stiff chassis and a sport-tuned suspension, even on base models. In fact, Turbo models get bigger brakes and (slightly) stickier tires, but they use the same springs and dampers as base Veloster models. The entire family makes do with a beam-style rear axle, but it works well enough that most won’t complain about the setup. Feel from the electric power steering could be a bit better, and we find it odd that the Veloster didn’t get the same driver-selectable steering found on Elantra GT and Santa Fe Sport models.
Treat the Veloster (or our preference, the Veloster Turbo) as a two-seat coupe that provides an engaging driving experience and you aren’t likely to be disappointed. You won’t be using the Veloster to fill an awards cabinet with autocross trophies, but we can’t think of another car that delivers the same level of content for such a low price of admission.
Even base Veloster models come with features like Hyundai’s BlueLink telematics system, Bluetooth phone integration and an iPod interface. Stepping up to the Turbo (which starts at around $23,000) gets you leather seats, 18-inch wheels and tires, a rearview camera and a unique body kit. If you still want more, options on the Turbo include a matte gray finish (Hyundai's first matte finish), a voice-guided navigation system and a panoramic sunroof.
For a complete look at all the 2013 Hyundai Veloster models, see our comprehensive review on The Car Connection