It’s clear the new Hyundai Veloster Turbo is a very different beast from the moment you hit the start button. The engine wakes with a growl and stutters into an unsettled idle, like it’s struggling to get going.
It’s a display of attitude and intention way beyond anything offered by the first Veloster. That was a strange car, the very definition of ‘fine’. It wasn’t bad, a little expensive, but in Turbo guise moderately quick both in a straight line and through corners. Trouble is, no-one aspires to ‘fine’.
The 1.6-litre turbo four had decent grunt but was uninspiring and the chassis typified Hyundai’s pre-N dynamic mindset: safe, sensible understeer at the limit. Off the record, certain Hyundai personnel admitted its shortcomings and promised the next one would be much better. This is where we find out.
Sitting on the PD platform that underpins the latest i30 gives the new Veloster a good headstart, though many of the component parts have carried over. The engine still produces 150kW at 6000rpm with a wide torque band of 265Nm from 1500-4500rpm, and an extra 10Nm at 2000-4000rpm on overboost at full throttle.
The choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch still applies, the rolling stock remains 18 by 7.5-inch wheels wrapped in 225/40 tyres, and the brakes are quite modest (305mm vented front discs, 262mm solid rears).
There are some crucial differences though, chiefly the installation of a multi-link rear suspension set-up in place of the previous car’s torsion beam which, combined with a 27.6 per cent stiffer body shell, gave Hyundai’s talented local chassis development team more tools to work with.
It took the evaluation of 15 front and 28 rear damper iterations before the sweet spot was found, but it was worth it. The Veloster Turbo has one of the finest ride/handling balances in recent memory, its passive suspension set-up beautifully compliant without sacrificing accuracy.
A couple of corners is all it takes to realise the new Veloster is a much more appealing performance proposition than its predecessor. No longer is the front-end the fuse that kills the fun; it turns in crisply, the tyres offer decent grip, and the pivot point now feels to be towards the centre of the car rather than a metre forward of the front bumper. Nicely calibrated ESP, too. Long story short, it’s much more enjoyable to drive.
To manage expectations, it’s not going to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Keen drivers would be well advised to spend a little extra on an i30 N, but for what the Veloster Turbo is meant to be – a quirky warm hatch for those who want something different – it now has the capacity to raise a smile.
You’ll pay a premium to stand out, however; the Veloster Turbo starts at $35,490 for the base six-speed manual, rising to $38,990 for the Premium (dual-clutch adds $3500), while the identically-powered i30 N-Line can be yours from $26,490.
That said, the Veloster drives better, with lighter steering and a smoother ride, a funkier interior and plenty of kit as standard, including an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with smartphone mirroring, sat-nav, premium audio, lovely thin-rimmed sports steering wheel and SmartSense active safety (forward collision warning, blind-spot warning, lane assist and rear cross-traffic alert).
Stepping up to the Premium adds leather seats – the fronts heated and cooled – heated steering wheel, wireless phone charging, head-up display and sunroof. You either love or hate the asymmetrical door design, and the larger driver’s door can be awkwardly heavy.
The Veloster Turbo has never been for hardcore enthusiasts; it’s for those who want something more ‘exotic’ than an everyday hatch. The difference is now they’re rewarded with a genuinely good car. There are faults – the clutch is too light and lacks feel, the gearbox could be slicker and the engine is still a bit ho-hum – but it’s fun to drive quickly, with excellent everyday manners. Now, about that Veloster N…
HYUNDAI VELOSTER TURBO SPECS
Engine: 1591cc inline-4cyl, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 150kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 265Nm @ 1500-4500rpm
0-100km/h: 7.0sec (est)
Likes: Improved handling; great ride; upgraded interior; sharper styling; lots of kit
Dislikes: Engine no better than average; a bit pricey; doors different for different’s sake
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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