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Hyundai Veloster Turbo (2013) long-term test review

By the CAR road-test team

Long Term Tests

19 September 2013 09:00

Month 7 running a Hyundai Veloster Turbo: goodbye to the Veloster; will it be missed?

The Veloster Turbo is a 90% car. It’s agonisingly close to hitting the hot-hatch bullseye, yet it falls just short of the mark when it comes to those intangible qualities that are as difficult to define as they are to engineer – character and charisma.

You see, the Veloster – or Velociraptor as it was quickly christened – is a slow-burn car. On first acquaintance it feels a little soulless, a touch bland. It’s quick, handles neatly, rides decently and looks sharp enough, but a quick blast leaves you a bit non-committal. Drive it for 14,880 miles, however, and its qualities shine through, bright and clear.
The powertrain plays a key role in the Veloster’s silver medal. The 1.6-litre engine dishes up 184bhp at 5500rpm and a useful 195lb ft of torque from 1500-4500rpm, but there’s little that engages the driver.

Sure, the engine is smooth and eager, but it sounds so dull and industrial. There’s no rev-me soundtrack, no redline bark, no burble-pop on the over-run. It just sounds like, well, any old four-potter, not the heart of a pocket rocket.The throttle response could do with sharpening up too – it’s woollier than the One Man and His Dog fan club. The quick and accurate steering would also benefit from more feedback and a touch more weighting.

The cabin needs a lift, too. Accommodation, driving position and layout – it’s all good, but a couple of embroidered Turbo badges on the seats is not enough for your performance flagship, Hyundai. It needs a grippy and small-diameter steering wheel, Recaro buckets and some vibey instrumentation – attributes that would make it a special place to be.

Although this sounds like a litany of errors, bear in mind that this is the last 10% that I’m addressing here – the rest is, in my eyes, all spot on. I love the Darth Vader looks, the solid build quality, the reliability and also the underdog spirit generated by Hyundai pointing a sharp stick in the eye of Europe’s long-standing hot hatch dominance.

I really hope Hyundai don’t bottle it and that the next-gen Veloster keeps its looks and layout. I want its engineers and designers to evolve and polish its rough edges. If they imbue it with the personality and charm it deserves, they’ll have a cracker on their hands.

When the Veloster first arrived, I was certain it was going to be a car that went back unmissed. This month, when it drove down my road for the last time, I realised that I was
90% wrong.

By Ben Whitworth


 

Month 6 running a Hyundai Veloster Turbo: latest Veloster update

The latest entries into the Veloster Turbo’s log book read as follows…

The front tyres have lost their bite and now constantly scrabble for traction. The Hankooks have done well but more than 12,000 turbo-enhanced miles in less than six months have taken their toll.

The sat-nav is quick and intuitive, with clever touches like alternative route options, and the ability to phone destinations such as hotels. But not being able to input full postcodes is so 20th century.

Economy seems locked into the low 30s. Driven hard and fast it returns 30-32mpg. Driven like it’s on an economy run with a £1m first prize it manages 34-35mpg. No prizes then for guessing how I drive.

It seems everyone loves the Hyundai’s looks and style. ‘Magic car fella,’ was the latest comment from a shiny-suited spiv as I was parking up in Chichester last week. ‘Proper Star Wars, innit.’ Quite.

A long three-up run showed that rear passenger room is fine if tight on headroom, but tyre noise made the trip wearing. But, back home the matt grey paint job still looked pristine, despite being grubby.

By Ben Whitworth


Month 5 running a Hyundai Veloster Turbo: why does the Veloster attract so much road rage?

The Veloster Turbo has a profoundly different effect on people, according to its speed. When it’s stationary, people are intrigued by it. It’s unusual to park up and not have someone wander over to ask what I’m driving, why it has three doors or to request a squiz inside.

Firstly, they can’t believe it’s a Hyundai; secondly, they can’t believe that a Hyundai can look so out there; and thirdly, they can’t believe that such a sharky out-there Hyundai packs serious turbo power and costs below £22k.

It certainly looks unlike anything else out there. Chunky, low-slung and almost overloaded with curves, creases and kinks, the Veloster looks like it shouldn’t work, but it sure as hell does. Alien-eyed headlamps, gun-slit windscreen, raked roofline, bazooka tailpipes: it sounds all wrong, but it looks all right.

Drive through town and you can see people’s eyes lock on, see their foreheads furrow as they try to work out what this battleship-grey wedge is, and then watch their turned heads in the mirrors.
Crank up the pace, and things change dramatically. People hate being passed or overtaken by this car. Why, I have no idea. I’ll pass a slower car on the motorway, and within a few minutes it’s suddenly hanging a few inches off my rear bumper, trying to bludgeon its way past. It’s as if powering past these cars is the automotive equivalent of telling a chap at a dinner party that his wife’s looking a bit chunky and things are only going to get worse if she has that third helping of dessert.

BMWs, Audis and white vans seem particularly prone to Velosteritis. Most of them can’t countenance the thought of being outdone by a Korean hatch. It’s not like they didn’t see it coming. This is not a car that says, ‘Hey, it’s the slow lane for me. Going fast? Pah, too much effort. Horlicks, slice of shortbread and a tartan rug? Don’t mind if I do.’ The Veloster looks quick and has the performance to match. Keep up or pull over.

By Ben Whitworth


Month 4 running a Hyundai Veloster Turbo: the driving experience

Its styling may be in-yer-face aggressive and its stance out-my-way muscular, but when it comes to its actual personality, the VT is quite a subtle and modest character. From the (2in too high) driver’s seat, the driving experience is less about eye-flattening performance, neck-straining cornering prowess and buttock-clenching handling and much more about smooth, brisk progress.

I realised this after a late-night sortie along West Sussex’s winding country roads. You don’t take the VT by the scruff and hurtle it down the road, pitch it into corners and red-line it along the straight bits in between. It isn’t keen on covering ground that way, feeling harried and more than a touch ragged.

But pour the VT along smartly, scythe smoothly through corners with accuracy, keep the blown engine in its gutsy mid-range, and it feels planted, secure and real-world fast. There’s almost whiff of mini grand tourer about this car – it’s fast, comfortable, well equipped and deceptively spacious, in front or back. It may not deliver the full-fat hot-hatch driving experience its looks promise, but it’s still an engaging and nuanced steer.

By Ben Whitworth


Month 3 running a Hyundai Veloster Turbo: why aren't the Veloster's headlights performing properly?

The Veloster's lights are big, in both size and style. Sweeping up from the perimeter of that gaping grille to the wheelarch’s midway mark, the anthropomorphic lamps define the face of the car, imbuing the coupe with a squinty, out-my-way visage. The problem is that for all their LED-enhanced diurnal sexiness, when it comes to actually illuminating the road ahead, the light thrown out by the projector-beam halogen headlamps would barely attract a moth. Maybe I was spoiled by the Mini Coupe’s powerful bi-xenons, or maybe my eyesight is going. Whatever, it has me flicking to full-beam at every opportunity.

In fact, the illuminations on the Veloster are all a bit odd. The daylight running lights are distinctively cool – and piercingly bright – LEDs, as are the brake lights and the side repeaters housed in the wing mirrors. But the low-tech headlamps are joined by lightbulb-powered indicators in the rear lamp units. Odd given the complexity of the tail lights which feature very cool bubble-filled polycarbonate swirls and waves.

While the headlamps do a paltry job in the dark, the infotainment screen that sits atop the centre console is eye-wincingly bright. Even on its dimmest nocturnal setting, it’s dazzling. Glancing at it has the same effect as an unexpected flash photograph. No surprise that I’ve almost worn off the moon symbol on the ‘night’ button that shuts it down.

In other news, the blown 1.6-litre engine doesn’t half sound dreary. With just over 4000 miles under its cambelt, it has started to loosen up, and it’s now far keener to dish up its 184bhp and 195 lb ft. That’s enough grunt to make the Veloster feel brisk rather than properly quick. Despite the little engine’s big-hearted approach to performance, there’s precious little aural reward from a redline run. No serrated top-end bark, no induction hammer, not even any shhwiiiiizzz turbo whine – just a weedy, characterless noise. Such a pity. This oddball Korean deserves better.

By Ben Whitworth


Month 2 running a Hyundai Veloster Turbo: good first impressions from the Veloster Turbo

The Veloster Turbo and I are getting on very well indeed. It’s one of those rare cars that successfully brings together relatively humdrum componentry and combines them with a dash of finesse to create an engaging ownership proposition.

Viewed in isolation few of its key hot-hatch assets shine. Take the 1591cc 1.6-litre turbo engine. It’s smooth, flexible and punchy, but it’s hardly charismatic, and it sounds flat, dry and bereft of aural muscle. Gearshift quality is good. There’s an unexpected mechanical feel to the way the stubby lever slots through the gate. Pity then that this is spoiled by a throttle response that’s fluffier than a kitten. The electrically-assisted steering is decently weighted, accurate and direct at 2.78 turns between locks, but there’s little to keep you informed of the tyres’ antics.
The suspension is similarly modest. The Veloster rides with a firm compliance, and does a decent job of balancing ride comfort and body control. But punt it hard, ask it to deliver, and it soon feels a bit loose and baggy.

All of which sounds like a long snag list that contradicts the opening line of my report. But when they are all bundled together, they somehow work with surprising harmony. Just like the styling, enhanced by that matt metal paint job.

By Ben Whitworth


Month 1 running a Hyundai Veloster Turbo: the Veloster arrives

If you’ve read the last few issues of CAR, you’ll know that we like Hyundai’s Veloster Turbo a great deal. While the anaemic performance of the naturally aspirated engine in the standard Veloster dims its overall appeal, the Turbo posts some far more attractive go-faster figures.

It’s the first of Hyundai’s models to be powered by the company’s new direct-injection, 1.6-litre turbo engine. The high-compression twin-scroll turbocharger pumps up the power from 136bhp to 181bhp – a handy boost. But of more significance is the huge 59% jump in torque from 123lb ft at 4850rpm to 195lb ft that kicks in at 1500rpm and stays constant until 4500rpm. Top speed climbs marginally from 125mph to 133mph, but the sprint to 62mph drops from a sluggish 9.7 to a more palatable 8.4 seconds.

The car arrived just 24 hours before I wrote this report, so apart from a quick romp up the A3 to New Malden – home to one of Europe’s largest concentrations of Korean nationals – to take some pictures I’ve yet to put in some proper miles. But three-inches-too-high driving position aside, first impressions are very good.

With under 2000 miles on the clock, the engine feels brittle and tight but still punches cleanly through the mid-range and delivers easy in-gear go. Pity it sounds a bit weedy, especially given the size of the exhaust pipes. There’s a pleasing lack of electronic trickery going on – no sub-menus that allow you to tweak steering, throttle or suspension settings. It’s a WYSIWYG car – you get a torquey, blown engine; firm but not stupidly stiff suspension; responsive brakes and electric steering that’s weighty but not exactly chatty.

In Turbo guise, front-on it combines Aston One-77 vents and headlamps, gaping Audi RS4 maw and a raked back screen. It’s pretty arresting side-on, too. Heavily flared wheelarches, creased flanks and floating A- and B-pillars shouldn’t work, but somehow do. Describe the rear and it sounds awful – out-sized blistered rear lamps, tiny rear screen, drainpipe-sized central exhaust pipes and traffic light-sized fog lamps – but it all hangs together coherently.

At £525, that matt grey paintjob is exceptional value – Mercedes charges you £2995 for something similar on a SLS AMG. It amps up the Turbo’s aggression factor, sucking in the car’s slabby sheet metal to give it a lean, taut look. Very Darth Vader.

The paint is the only optional extra fitted. The rest is standard, and that list is as long as it is impressive. Your £21,995 gets you 18in alloys with chromed accents, a steroidal body kit, leather, climate control, keyless entry, sat-nav, a ballsy eight-speaker sound system and a rear-view parking camera. There’s plenty more, but no room to list it all here. And don’t forget that handy asymmetric four-door layout. It might look like a gimmick but it makes entry and egress to and from the rear seats far easier than you’d imagine.

The Turbo has hefty competition – for around the same money you can get a Ford Focus ST, VW Scirocco, Peugeot RCZ, Mini Coupe or Honda CR-Z. We have six months to find out if the Veloster Turbo can hold its head high in such company.

By Ben Whitworth