The Hyundai Veloster – Hyundai says the name is a combination of the words "velocity" and "roadster," – was an instant hit when arrived as a 2012 model. Its funky styling, with two small doors on one side and a single big one on the other, combined form with function; coupe styling on the driver side and sedan-like access on the passenger side.
The Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) voted it best new Sports Performance Car under $50,000 for 2012. Yet, a first drive with the Veloster left us wishing for more power.
The response came quickly in the form the 2013 Veloster Turbo. Instead of 138-horsepower and 123 lb-ft of torque from the little 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, the turbo version has 201 horses and 198 lb-ft, a whopping 46% more power and 60% more torque. Wish granted!
Unique trim outside and in
But that’s not all. The Veloster Turbo also sports a unique front end with a larger grille to feed the intercooler and a pair of big chromed exhaust pipes centered under the rear bumper to expel the spent gasses.
Other changes include projector headlights and larger (18-in) alloy wheels wrapped in lower profile (40-series) tires. To cope with the added performance the Turbo gets larger ventilated front brake rotors, quicker steering, retuned suspension and a wider ratio spread in the manual gearbox.
On the non-functional front there are fake air outlets atop the hood, "fog" lights and plastic skirts added to the rocker panels.
On the inside, the Turbo differs from the standard Veloster with a set of alloy pedals and unique electro-luminescent gauges.
There are splashes of contrasting colour on the door pulls and outside edges of the centre console and that two-tone theme is carried over to the leather seats – graphite and blue with "Turbo" stitched into the seatback. But the overall effect is still pretty dark.
Loaded with equipment
The Veloster turbo comes loaded, in one trim level only. Standard equipment includes power windows, locks and mirrors, heated seats, remote keyless entry, push-button ignition, air conditioning, a 178-mm full-colour touch screen for the standard navigation system and rear-view camera and a 450-watt, eight-speaker Dimension audio system.
Yet despite all this additional equipment and performance the turbo costs only $3,000 more than a similarly-equipped standard Veloster.
And it retains remarkable fuel economy, with NRCanada ratings of 7.9 litres/100 litres on the highway and 5.2 in the city. Even if you spend too much time with the turbo spooled up and your licence in jeopardy, you will still have a fuel-sipper.
All the inherent goodness of the Veloster's original design remains not only untouched, but enhanced in the Turbo.
The three-door body allows access to a useful rear seat and, unlike previous attempts at this design, using the rear door doesn't require the front door to be open or front-seat occupants to be inconvenienced.
The hinges are on the front and the handle cleverly hidden in the C-pillar. And as a big bonus, there is actually room back there for two people of reasonable dimensions.
The big rear hatch allows access to a useful amount of cargo spacethat can be enlarged by folding the rear seat back down.
The downside of the sleek design and sloping roof includes a small rear window with a spoiler positioned in its middle and glass that distorts what little view that remains.
The engine is a delight, smooth and quiet even under full throttle. The turbocharger, intercooler and direct injection that transform the little four are well integrated, as if they were part of the original design.
The power flow is seamless with little to no turbo lag. While there is not much sensation of power, be very careful as it is applied so smoothly you can get into ticket territory very easily.
This is also a turbo engine that likes to rev so the good stuff doesn’t start to strut until the tach is well into mid-range.
That’s the good news. The bad is that those horsepower and torque numbers promise more than the car delivers. Granted it is considerably faster than the standard version and has the visual clues desired of a performance car.
But to me it is lacking attitude, that mysterious something that reminds you with every throttle, brake or steering application that this is a performance car.
Perhaps it is because the engineering team did such an excellent job of coordinating the added performance with daily-driver utility. The ride is pleasant, if a little brittle on rough surfaces, thanks to the low-profile tires, and the electric steering is more weighted but still a little vague.
The handling is a slight advance on the normal Veloster. The steering is heavier, by design, the ride stiffer and the limits higher. It will understeer as you approach those limits but no more so than with most front-wheel-drive cars.
The Veloster Turbo is a fresh interpretation of a hatchback and another example of Hyundai value, even if I did expect a little more attitude.