Hyundai’s funky little Veloster hatchback is now completely redesigned for its second generation. Most importantly, it has a new engine and a new suspension that finally makes it drive as well as it looks.
It does look better, too, thanks to new bodywork on a new chassis that stretches the car a little, by 20 mm in length and 10 mm in width, and lowers the roofline while pulling back the A-pillar. The headlights and taillights are thinner and more up to date, and the whole effect creates a shape that just looks a little more sleek. The old Veloster didn’t need much tweaking for style, but it did need the subtle rejigging that’s apparent in the 2019 model.
Two different engines
There’s now a choice of two engines. The base Veloster has the same 2.0-litre engine as the previous generation, though it’s been retuned for more power and now creates 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque. That’s an increase of 15 hp and 12 lb-ft from before. It’s available with either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed automatic transmission.
The big news, however, is the Veloster Turbo, which has a 1.6-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged engine that’s good for 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. That peak torque kicks in at only 1,500 rpm, giving strong acceleration without having to rev the bejeezus out of the little pistons. For short bursts, there’s an overboost at 2,000 rpm that bumps the torque up to 202 lb-ft.
This is the same turbocharged engine that’s under the hoods of the Elantra Sport sedan and GT Sport hatch, though those engines don’t have the overboost feature.
The Veloster Turbo is also available with the 6-speed manual, and it’s a nice, short-shifting box. The automatic version has a better transmission than the 2.0-litre, though, using a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission that shifts with either the traditional gear lever on the centre console or paddles on the steering wheel.
Handle without care
All Velosters now have torque vectoring as standard. This moves power between the left and right driving wheels at the front to give better grip around corners. On a parking lot handling course, the Veloster Turbo acquitted itself well between the cones. There was none of the rocking and rolling of the older generation, and it stayed pretty flat and true from start to finish.
There are three drive modes available, including Normal and Sport. I had the car set to Smart, which apparently monitors your driving and sets the car to react best to what the computer thinks you’ll want. I don’t know if this works or not but the throttle was responsive and the steering was firm – a marked improvement on the previous generation. If “Smart” works as well as Hyundai claims, I don’t know why different driving modes are even necessary, but you get them all the same.
Room for four
There’s a reasonable amount of space inside the Veloster, though this is still a small car. Its claim to fame is its asymmetric design, with only one door on the passenger side for two people to climb into the rear seats. It’s a clever design though, unchanged from the previous generation, and it allows a longer (and more convenient) door for the driver.
Trunk space is significantly increased, thanks to the redesigned rear suspension that takes up less room back there. It used to be 440 litres before folding the rear seats flat, but it’s now a much roomier 565 litres.
There’s a price to be paid for the Turbo’s extra power, literally. The base Veloster starts at $20,999 with the manual transmission and the base Veloster Turbo starts at $25,899. That’s a big jump of almost a quarter of the price just for the peppier engine. The automatic transmission costs an extra $1,300 for the Veloster and an extra $1,500 for the Veloster Turbo.
There’s also a loaded “Tech” version of the Turbo and a couple “Performance” trims for both engines, for a total of eight different variations. Load up everything with the Veloster Turbo Tech and the MSRP tops out at $30,399.
All Velosters do have more tech than before, including standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. However, there’s no forward collision warning available, or active cruise control. Hyundai says there’s not much call for these features from drivers, but the company’s probably just trying to save a buck. In any case, there should be a call for them, and they’ll almost certainly be included within a couple of years.
Today’s hot hatch
Hyundai really had no choice but to improve the performance of the Veloster, thanks to the arrival this past winter of the new Kona subcompact SUV, which is the long-awaited little brother to the Tucson. Buyers now have a small and sensible Hyundai in the Kona, so the Veloster was morphed into a true hot hatch.
It now has all the power and handling you’ll really want, without merely looking the part. And if you want more, there’ll be a 275-hp performance version when the Veloster N arrives in December. But you don’t need it. The Veloster, and especially the Veloster Turbo, give you all you really want for less than $30,000, which is a remarkable price for such a fun little car.