First Drive: 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

The Hyundai Veloster’s nontraditional styling, clever packaging, and cheeky driving dynamics impressed us when we first drove one earlier this year.  Not quite a coupe, and definitely not a hatchback in the mainstream sense, the Veloster impressed us with its versatility and economy, as well as its ability to make an impact wherever it goes.  Naturally, then, when Hyundai announced plans for a Veloster with the power to match its unique looks, our interest was piqued.

To see if the Veloster Turbo can hold its own on the road, Autosavant was invited to test the Veloster Turbo, as well as the Elantra Coupe and Elantra GT, last week in New Jersey.

Much-needed boost with no added guilt

The big news surrounding the newest Veloster refers to changes under the hood.  The Veloster Turbo is outfitted with a turbocharged, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine good for 201 horsepower — almost 50 percent more than the standard four-cylinder’s 138.  There is a also a munificent increase in torque, from 132 to 195 lb.-ft.

On paper, the increases in power ought to translate to noticeably perkier performance and make the Veloster Turbo a true sports car.  On the road, however, the Turbo’s added boost definitely makes a difference in acceleration, and provides a helpful whoosh of power in higher gears — especially on models equipped with the 6-speed manual transmission, like our tester.

A tourer, not a sprinter

Despite the extra power, the Veloster Turbo is not a “sports car” in the truest sense of the term.  The boost is most apparent in passing maneuvers, when the powertrain is able to dip into a reserve of power absent from the naturally aspirated model.  The engine is not a rev-happy unit like the one in the Honda Civic Si, and lacks the engine note of a performer like the Volkswagen GTI.

Based on our short drive experience, the most compelling reason to opt for the Turbo is for its small penalty in fuel economy over the standard engine.  Turbo-equipped Velosters are expected to return 30 mpg (combined, averaging the 6-speed manual and automatics’ figures), as opposed to 32 mpg (combined) for the naturally aspirated models.

However, the Veloster Turbo is an energetic companion on back roads and the highway.  In comparison to the Elantra twins we tested on the same day, the Veloster’s steering and turn-in had more weight and more natural feel and the suspension was firm without the teeth-gnashing sensation of a true hot-hatch’s.

Watch your head!

Still quirky

In most other surface-level ways, the Veloster Turbo differs only slightly from the base Veloster models.  It remains a three-door-only model — prompting one journalist at the Veloster Turbo press preview to ask “if and when the Veloster will finally get its missing door.”  It has the same quick and intuitive omnibus infotainment system that we reviewed on the non-turbo Veloster.  And it offers the feeling of driving a different kind of car for the sake of being different.

Our tester was swathed in the new-for-2013 optional matte gray paint, a $1000 option.  Want to know how matte paint feels?  It’s a tactile kind of amazing.  In gray, it makes a very different appeal to the eyes than the bright oranges, blues and greens that are also available.

Compelling, but not a GTI

Hyundai identifies hot hatches like the Volkswagen GTI and the Mini Cooper S Clubman as key competitors for the Veloster Turbo.  We’re not entirely convinced.  The Veloster Turbo is the answer to the issues we identified in the standard Veloster, but it still lacks the grunt and refinement necessary to compete with the current field of hot hatches.

For more on our First Impressions of the Veloster Turbo, check out the video below.

Autosavant attended a manufacturer-sponsored event at which the Hyundai Veloster Turbo — in matte gray paint — was available for evaluation.  Want to read about the Elantra GT or Elantra Coupe? LIKE our Facebook page for updates as they happen, and follow Autosavant on Twitter!

Author: Jeff Jablansky

Jeff Jablansky was born with his hands planted firmly at 10 and 2. He has written for automotive enthusiast publications in the United States and abroad. His favorite road trip memory involves a Hyundai, a winding desert road and a herd of sheep. He is convinced that there is a car culture that goes beyond taxis in his current city of New York.

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