What is it?
The updated version of Hyundai’s quirky asymmetrical hatch (it still has that one big door on the driver’s side, two smaller doors on the passenger side.)
What’s new about it?
There’s now four versions in the range, including a new entry-level SR Turbo model for $29,990 – the same cash as the entry-level Toyota 86.
So you can now have the Veloster for $24,990, or the Veloster+ (with more kit inside) for $29,490 – both with the carryover 1.6-litre 4-cylinder, turning out 103kW and 166Nm.
Then there’s the SR Turbo, and the SR Turbo+ ($33,990), both with the 1.6L turbo 4cyl, producing 150kW and 265Nm.
Gone is the old auto transmission for the SR Turbo models, replaced with a new seven-speed dual-clutch box. The six-speed manual remains the same, as does the six-speed dual-clutch option in the non-turbo models.
Phew. Got all that? Good. Because we’re basically not going to talk about the non-turbo models any more. Just the SR Turbo, and the SR Turbo plus.
You might well be asking why anyone would buy a Veloster Plus when the SR Turbo is just $500 more. The answer is that Hyundai have de-fruited the entry-level turbo – it lacks the sat-nav, panoramic sunroof and climate control of the Veloster Plus (the SR Turbo Plus regains them, plus a bit more.)
There’s also a new matte blue paint option, called Blue Sprinter, which is also what we call streakers at Essendon home games. It looks pretty great (the paint, not the streakers), although it sort of looks like a Veloster playing dress-ups as an Audi R8.
There’s some other very small exterior design tweaks; and the SR Turbo models get new seats, a new steering wheel, and some interior tweaks.
What’s it like to drive fast?
Both of the SR Turbos are quick enough to warrant the bolstered seats. But let’s get this out of the way early: the Veloster in any guise is not really the sportscar it thinks it is. It’s a good car; it’s even a fun car. Sporty? Sure. But a sportscar? No.
Make no mistake, 150kW, and 265Nm, are not to be sneezed at – the Veloster will never disgrace you in a traffic light sprint-off, and would probably surprise some opponents (it’s around seven seconds from nought to 100km/h, in a non-scientific test.)
But it’s not all just about speed and numbers. In everyday driving, the Veloster feels fine - the new seven-speed dual-clutch is smooth and easy, but it refuses to get angry when you want it to. It won’t hold gears even in manual mode, simply over-riding your paddles, nor will it shift down if it thinks you’re being silly, which is frustrating because you really need to have the engine zinging at about 5000rpm for it to come to life.
The manual box obviously won’t change up on you, but you still need to wring the poor thing’s neck to get real pace out of it – change too soon and you’ll be lost in an inexplicable hole of non-torque until the tacho gets up again. The clutch is light and has no particular feel to it – it’s fine for ordinary down-the-shops driving, which is no doubt how it (and most hot hatches, let’s be honest) will spend most of its life. But it lacks the feel of more engaging and sporty cars.
And the Veloster doesn’t sound very exciting, even when you’re really belting it; it would benefit from a louder exhaust, and maybe some 86-style engine noise piped into the cabin.
It’s not slow, and it’s not at all bad to drive, it’s just not as sporty – in feel or performance – as rivals like the 86, or the Polo GTI, or even the Kia Proceed GT.
What about the commute?
Ah, well, there’s the Veloster strengths – it’s comfortable, the new upgraded suspension is well-judged, and it’s a more practical option than a Toyota 86. Get up to freeway speeds and the cabin gets a tad noisy, but over urban and suburban roads it’s well-mannered and hassle-free.
Is there anything bad about it?
Vision out the rear remains terrible – looking in the rear vision mirror is like those macular degeneration ads, with a monstrous opaque bar through the middle. But there’s a rear-camera to help balance that when you’re actually reversing into spots.
Would you have this or a Toyota 86?
We’d take the 86. But then, we don’t ever use the 86’s rear seats, which are more accurately thought of as a parcel shelf; and we like rear-wheel-drive for hanging the tail out occasionally. If we had to fit more than one passenger, or were looking for a daily driver with some extra poke, rather than a genuine hot hatch, we might get the SR Turbo. Or we might get a Polo GTI.
Click here to read the full review on the Hyundai Veloster.