2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo road test
Hyundai cranks up the boost on its flashy urban runabout
Who knew Hyundai could be hip? The three-door Veloster proved it by beating out some serious competition during last year's AJAC Test Fest where it won the title of Best Sports/Performance Car Under $50,000. It wasn't perfect, though. Despite taking home the trophy, it really wasn't much of a sports car. Our major complaint revolved around the car's lack of performance relative to its looks — with only 138 horsepower from a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, it was by far the slowest car in its segment, taking the better part of 10 seconds to hit 100 km/h.
Hyundai obviously had a fix in mind. The solution comes in the form of a turbocharger and an intercooler, which, attached to an engine with stronger internals and other tweaks, boosts horsepower to 201 and torque to 195 lb.-ft. Both are serious improvements over the regular Veloster, and on paper push the car into territory occupied by legends like the Honda Civic Si, Volkswagen GTI and Mini Cooper S.
A little wishful thinking
In reality, the turbocharged Hyundai doesn't feel anywhere near as manic as its competitors. For instance, the gearing in its six-speed manual is still tuned for economy than sport, and that's held up by its fuel-economy figures, which are 7.9 L/100 km in the city and 5.2 on the highway. It's not too far off the 7.2/4.9 figures of the less-powerful original. The flat torque curve masks some of the thrill too; you just don't get the same big rush forward as you do with other pocket rockets. Against the clock, there's no doubt the Turbo is faster (we estimate eight seconds), but the butt-dyno says otherwise.
One possibility is that our Turbo had been filled with regular gasoline ... it works just fine that way, but extra performance can be expected for those who invest in high-octane premium.
Upgraded steering and suspension, but they don't feel it
The Turbo model's suspension tuning is pretty much identical to the plain Veloster, which means entertaining but not giggle-inducing. Like a lot of modern Hyundais, the damping just isn't quite right, allowing too many thumps and bangs into the cabin without offering the controlled body motions you'd expect. It's hard to be too picky about that given how far the company's styling, technology and reliability have risen in recent years. If the Veloster had the same sorted balance as a GTI or the chuckability of a Cooper S, we'd stop bitching.
The Turbo sports a quicker-ratio steering rack, but feedback is largely absent. This trait can be chalked up to the use of electric power steering, which saves fuel and space underhood. The larger front brakes are one thing upgraded from the base car and prove to work just fine, and the six-speed shifter is reasonably precise. We didn't get the opportunity to try the optional six-speed automatic, which unlike the regular Veloster, is a real automatic, not an automated dual-clutch transmission.