When the Hyundai Veloster debuted for 2012, it came packed with stylish looks, stellar fuel economy, and a low price. Sales have been so good, Hyundai says, that it can barely keep up with demand. Yet for all its initial success, the Veloster had one fault: a notable lack of vroom. With 138 horsepower and 123 lb-ft of torque, the Veloster just didn't have the bite to back up its sporty looks.
Hyundai hasn't stagnated in addressing this. Say hello to the 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo.
We recently drove the car at a media preview event, and came away thinking this is the Veloster we wanted in the first place. This more potent version of the Veloster uses the same size engine as the original -- a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder -- but it has been fitted with a high-tech, twin-scroll turbocharger. The extra hardware brings the hatchback's output to 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, impressive increases of 46 and 59 percent, respectively, over the naturally aspirated original Veloster.
The difference is immediately noticeable. Where the standard Veloster tends to lug when starting off in the lower gears, the Turbo is pretty much all go. Surprisingly, the added power doesn't penalize when it comes to fuel economy. The Veloster Turbo is rated to attain up to 38 mpg with a manual transmission, and 34 with an automatic, all while drinking regular unleaded vs. the premium fuel other turbo engines often require.
We put the 2013 Veloster Turbo through its paces over hundreds of miles around the San Diego metropolitan area, through the region's mountainous border roads, and even on an autocross course. It was hard not to come away smiling after experiencing the spicy version of Hyundai's stylish 4-passenger coupe/hatch with the funky third rear door.
Like the standard version of the car, the Veloster Turbo can be had with a 6-speed manual transmission or 6-speed automatic, though this version of the auto has a new Sport mode and paddle shifters mounted to the steering wheel. We liked the short throws in our 6-speed manual test model, which was so easy to operate that one could learn to drive a stick shift on it.
Turbocharged front-wheel drive cars have a reputation for torque steer -- where directional control can get slightly compromised under full throttle acceleration -- but this wasn't a problem in the Veloster Turbo. Neither did the car suffer from turbo lag, when engines of this type hesitate while the turbocharger spools up.
Slightly bigger brakes are employed on the Veloster Turbo, and they never lost their composure during our spirited drive. Neither did the suspension, even though it's the same one utilized by the non-turbo Veloster. In addition to the extra power and unique styling elements, the Veloster Turbo comes standard with features like leather seats, heated front seats, a 450-watt premium audio system, and 18-inch wheels.
If we have a gripe about the new car, it's one that also applies to the regular version: limited rear visibility due to a horizontal beam that splits the rear window in two. We also would request -- and in fact did -- that Hyundai tighten up the steering a smidge in the Veloster Turbo so it feels sharper.
One of the Veloster Turbo's closest competitors will be the Volkswagen GTI, which also utilizes a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that makes 200 horsepower. That German hot hatch still has the edge in handling and boasts a more upscale interior, but it also costs a couple grand more. And like the rest of Hyundai's lineup, the value aspect should be a key factor here.
In fact, Hyundai purposely dubs the Veloster a "reverse halo," a car that younger drivers will crave now, and which will also act as a gateway to other models in the lineup when those owners are ready to move up. When the 2013 Veloster Turbo goes on sale this summer with a starting price of $22,725, we wouldn't be surprised to see even some not-so-young buyers eager to get in line.