To any sane onlooker, a Hyundai Veloster tackling a high-speed wet lap of the famously treacherous 21km Nurburgring Nordschleife should make for some very uncomfortable viewing.
This place isn’t known as the “Green Hell” for nothing. You need to be brave, if not downright courageous, to drive flat-out here. And that’s on a dry track.
But with the South Korean maker becoming the latest manufacturer to open a test centre at this famous German circuit that has become the benchmark for dynamic testing, these sorts of fiery baptisms will become commonplace for its new models.
CarAdvice has been given exclusive access to run the gauntlet in the company’s $31,990 Hyundai Veloster Turbo.
This is a hatch that looks like it means business – especially when cloaked in the optional matte black paint that nods convincingly to the car’s serious sporting intentions.
The Turbo’s main attraction, though, is its 1.6-litre direct injection turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 150kW of power and 265Nm of torque. And that’s on regular unleaded.
Essentially, it’s the same 1.6-litre as the entry-level Veloster, but with an intercooled twin-scroll turbo and a 9.5:1 compression ratio. The turbo’s wastegate is motor driven to more tightly control the maximum 18psi boost pressure.
Hyundai doesn’t publish performance figures, but unofficial testing of the Veloster Turbo with six-speed manual has recorded times of 6.5 seconds for the benchmark 0-100km/h sprint. Top speed is better than 235km/h.
Here at the Nordschleife we’re testing the optional six-speed automatic with paddleshifters, which adds $2000 to the Turbo’s $31,990 price tag and is claimed to be even quicker than the manual.
In fact, Hyundai admits the Turbo makes too much torque for the double-clutch transmission offered with the base Veloster.
Nestled among the Eifel Mountains in western Germany, the Nurburgring’s 20.8km Nordschleife (Northern Loop) is arguably one of the most difficult and dangerous tracks anywhere in the world
To tackle “Green Hell” in the wet, you need to be a professional racing driver, Ring-experienced or stark raving mad, as there are simply no run-off areas on many of the most treacherous sections.
The tarmac itself is a patchwork of more than 40 different consistencies and surfaces, some of which provide as much traction as an ice rink during downpours.
So in the passenger seat we have Belgian driver Dirk Schoysman providing some worthwhile wet-weather instruction.
Incredibly, Schoysman, along with Ring legends Sabine Schmitz and Walter Rohrl, is one of the few people to have clocked up more than 15,000 laps of the track – as well as three podiums in the annual 24-hour endurance race held here.
But it’s after 5:30pm, meaning we’ll be out there on the Ring with any wannabe racer that fronts-up with 26 euros (the standing price for a lap around here) and a set of wheels. No waiver forms, no instructional videos and no safety briefings. Just punch in the ticket and off you go.
We’ve been in the queue for just 10 minutes and already the recovery truck is hauling back some Armco-bitten wreckage. That happens a lot around here, more so in the wet.
Before long, the boom gate raises and immediately I’ve got the Veloster pinned. There’s little if any delay in the boost and the power delivery is linear.
The front-wheel-drive Veloster feels surprisingly composed from the get-go and there’s good grip from the 215/40 R18 tyres, despite the wet track.
The Turbo also gains a slightly stiffer suspension tune than its naturally aspirated sibling – enough for the car to feel sufficiently planted to dial up more pace. The ride, though, is still decent, even over the pockmarked Karussell.
It’s clear that Schoysman doesn’t do ‘slow’ at the Ring, even in these appalling conditions. We soon hit the fast downhill section from the Flugplatz to Schwedenkreuz as Dirk commands, “Flat out Anthony, don’t lift off, you’ll see the line, don’t worry.”
Trouble is you can’t see the line, at least not in this weather.
But the car feels tremendously predictable, even at 220km/h through this quicker section.
The Veloster’s wide torque band ensures there’s always plenty of low-down punch for fast corner exits, but again it’s the smooth power delivery that counts most.
The uprated 300mm front brakes are taking a proper pounding as we are doubly hard on them coming into corners, but the car’s stopping power is consistent and confidence building.
With complete trust in Dirk’s directions we dive into Fuchsröhre at 230km/h plus, despite the known danger of hydroplaning at the bottom of the hill before the climb up to Adenauer-Forst.
By now I’ve also abandoned the paddleshifters in favour of the auto mode, allowing for greater focus on the crucial wet line. It’s also a blatant attempt at self-preservation, not to mention saving the car from a potential writing-off.
The sheer pace and stability of the Veloster Turbo is truly surprising and within minutes we’ve blitzed a pair of Porsche GT3s, a couple of M3s and a fast-moving Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG that signals us to pass him at a right-hander known as Hohe Acht.
It’s making Schoysman smile like a Cheshire cat.
He calls for us to push the SR Turbo through another full tilt run around the notoriously fast left-hand kink leading up to the tight right-hand corner known as the Bergwerk.
This is the notorious black spot where former F1 driver Niki Lauda had his infamous fiery accident during the 1976 German Grand Prix.
Dirk seems unconcerned. “Stay off the brakes, Anthony,” he shouts, before adding more reticently, “though it can be slippery.”
The Veloster Turbo manages to meet the challenge with impressive steering response and weighting from the electric power steering. The Turbo also benefits from a faster rack, needing just 2.8 turns from lock-to-lock ¬– though it’s not overly communicative.
Sadly, there isn’t much of an engine note. It all sounds a bit gruff and soul-less at the top of the rev range, though better in the mid-range when the boost is on song.
However, the Veloster’s wide stance and relatively modest kerb weight (1305kg) mean there’s very little roll, even at the limit here at the Nordschleife.
Though we didn’t have any electronic timing equipment on board the Veloster Turbo during our four wet laps, we did manage to hit an indicated 238km/h on the main straightaway.
Performance isn’t the Veloster’s only selling point, of course; it also looks great.
Most notable is the SR Turbo’s body kit, which runs to a super-size single mouth grille, spoiler and side skirts. Out back, there’s an intimidating pair of centre-mount exhausts the size of storm drains.
The added cost for the top-shelf Veloster also pays for a host of standard kit from satellite navigation to a 7-inch touchscreen, which it shares with the second-tier $28,990 Veloster Plus.
On paper, the Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo could be more fairly described as a warm hatch when compared to the likes of the Golf GTI, Opel Astra OPC and Renault Megane RS265 – all of which have significantly more power and torque.
But the Hyundai stands to prove the measure of a car isn’t always found in its statistics. This is a hatch that delivers a truly rewarding drive with its surprisingly taught balance and composure.
The fact that it can deliver a thrashing to the odd supercar on a slippery Nurburgring is certainly a nice touch, too.