Strength in Weirdness
We’re spoiled for choice when it comes to sport compacts these days, with old standbys such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Subaru WRX as well as newcomers such as the Hyundai Elantra Sport, Nissan Sentra NISMO, and soon a new turbocharged Honda Civic Si. With such a variety of hot and warm compacts on the market, standing out could be an issue for some models but not for the Hyundai Veloster Turbo.
The quirky three-door hatchback is getting up there in years. The base Veloster first went on sale in model year 2013, and shortly after that the Turbo model arrived with power to match its racy looks. The Veloster Turbo continues to use a 1.6-liter turbocharged I-4 that produces 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque and comes mated to either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Even five years later, the Veloster’s look is polarizing and attention grabbing, especially in the Vitamin C shade of burnt orange our tester was finished in.
Our car’s interior matched the exterior with black leather seats with orange accents. The color-coordinated cabin makes it feel like something special, and the low seating position further backs up the car’s sporting credentials. Most of the materials feel nice to the touch, with decent plastics used in the dash and doors. The door panel armrest has excellent padding, but I wish the center console armrest matched in cushiness. Despite a divided rear window, visibility is good all around.
The three-door layout is still weird, but it’s more convenient for rear passengers than having just two doors. Ingress and egress to and from the back seats is easy, and legroom was plentiful for this 5-foot-7-inch author. I like that the third door is on the passenger side so rear occupants always exit on the curb. If you want to enter on the driver’s side or just throw your stuff in back, there’s a lever on the seat base that flips the seat back forward.
The Veloster Turbo is fun to drive around town. The manual shifter feels good rowing through the gears, and the clutch is easy to learn and live with in traffic. Power from the turbo comes on pretty quickly and doesn’t dip when you shift. Peak horsepower arrives at 6,000 rpm, and peak torque is available from 1,750 to 4,500 rpm, giving you a very usable powerband to work with. The ride isn’t bad on the highway, but wind and road noise penetrates into the cabin. The engine note is low and rumbly, but it doesn’t drone. Over rough pavement, the suspension transmits a lot of vibration to the cabin.
In testing, the Veloster Turbo was more of a warm hatch than a hot one. When we last tested the car in 2012 we encountered wheel hop when attempting to launch, and that was again the case with this 2017 model. The boosted Hyundai did 0–60 mph in 7.3 seconds and completed the quarter mile in 15.5 seconds at 90.7 mph (146 km/h). Both results are slower than the last Veloster Turbo we tested and also slower than the competition. A 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI with the six-speed manual and the base 210-hp 2.0-liter turbo-four did 0–60 mph in 5.9 seconds and finished the quarter in 14.5 seconds. A 2014 Honda Civic Si with the six-speed manual and 205-hp 2.4-liter naturally aspirated I-4 hit 60 mph in 6.5 seconds and did 15 seconds flat in the quarter at 93.5 mph (150 km/h). A 2015 Ford Focus ST, with its 252-hp 2.0-liter turbo and six-speed manual, accelerated to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds and completed the quarter mile in 14.8 seconds 94.3 mph (152 km/h).
The Veloster Turbo took 27.2 seconds to complete our figure-eight course, compared to 25.2 for the Focus ST, 26.1 for the GTI, and 26.9 for the Civic Si. Although the Veloster didn’t shine in testing, the experience behind the wheel wasn’t bad. Testing director Kim Reynolds complimented the hatch for being nimble and entertaining on the figure eight. The chassis offers decent handling at the limit, but the stock Kumho Solus all-season tires aren’t well matched to the car’s sporty personality. On a particularly fun stretch of Mulholland Drive, I experienced more tire squeal than normal. I still enjoyed the car, but the tires and the less-than-confidence-inspiring sound they made when pushed at seven/tenths put a damper on the fun.
With all this in mind, would I choose a Veloster Turbo at our as-tested price of $26,260 USD? Personally, I’d probably spend a little more to get a similarly equipped GTI or Focus ST. But there’s something about the Veloster’s funky looks and unorthodox three-door design that appeals to me. The car’s big headlights and curvaceous rump demand attention, whether positive or negative, and the asymmetrical door layout still gets comments even five years after its launch. For those who want something more conventional, Hyundai also offers the Elantra Sport sedan and Elantra GT Sport hatchback, which use a similar 201-hp turbo-four but ride on a newer chassis. Those options will feel fresher and likely be more practical, but for the sport compact shopper who wants something a little different, the Veloster Turbo is pretty much the only game in town.
|2017 Hyundai Veloster Turbo|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$26,260|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 4-pass, 3-door hatchback|
|ENGINE||1.6L/201-hp/195-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||2,907 lb (62/38%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||167.3 x 71.1 x 55.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.3 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.5 sec @ 90.7 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||125 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.83 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.2 sec @ 0.61 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||25/33/28 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||135/102 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.69 lb/mile|