The Hyundai Veloster has always been a polarising proposition, but the line of people who love it has proved long indeed.
In its three years on sale here, it has shared line honours with the more honed but less practical Toyota 86 as the top-selling car in Australia’s budget sports car segment.
Over that period, about 50.0 per cent of these sales have been the 150kW/265Nm SR Turbo version, which until now has been sold in a single specification level from $32,990 plus on-road costs.
Now it’s time for the updated Series II version to prove its mettle. The changes are minimal on the surface — a tweaked grille, some new paint — but there are some more significant tweaks under the skin and, perhaps more importantly to its demographic, the price tag.
It’s no coincidence that Hyundai has cut the starting price of the SR Turbo tested here to $29,990 plus on-road costs — a reduction of $3000, giving it parity with the aforementioned Toyota. Hyundai acknowledges that the sports market is fickle, and you have to make your product story sharp for when the initial buyer fire has reduced to a simmer.
Of course, you don’t get something for nothing. The company has also deleted features such as the sunroof and satellite-navigation. You can still get these features and more, but only on a new variant called the SR Turbo +.
Still, the SR retains a seven-inch touchscreen, rear-view camera, rear parking sensors, LED daytime running lights, dusk-sensing headlights, USB/Aux/Bluetooth connectivity, 18-inch wheels and cruise control. There are also new electroluminescent sports instrument clusters, new colour-stitching on the seats and seatbelts and — with the new $1000 matte blue paint — blue inserts on the leather seats.
Given the SR Turbo + retails for $33,990 in manual guise, you might even see this as a price increase over the previous fully loaded single-spec SR. This is justified by the addition of a Flex Steer system that adjusts steering weight, and heated/ventilated seats, over the old model.
The SR + equipment list also includes extras above the new entry SR including leather-appointed seats, sat-nav, panoramic glass roof, proximity car with push-button start, climate control, electric seats and electrically-folding door mirrors to justify the $4000 hike.
Read more about Hyundai Veloster Series II price and specifications here.
There’s little doubt the Veloster is pretty well-equipped, and though some of the plastics feel cheap in parts, the ergonomics are generally decent and there are some edgy design traits.
Still a Veloster signature are the asymmetrical doors — one on the driver’s side and two on the passenger side. Rear seat entry and egress is made easier, though headroom and outward visibility remain less commendable. There’s a decent 320 litre of cargo space in the rear, with a temporary spare wheel under the floor.
The original Veloster was one of the first projects for Hyundai Australia’s heralded Sydney-based tuning team. The band of engineers told us this week that it had re-worked the Series II, with an eye towards ironing out low-speed ride, taming axle hop at the rear, and sharpening turn-in.
Finally, while the 150kW/265Nm 1.6-litre turbo engine is unchanged — Hyundai Australia didn’t bother with the overseas noise-enhancement system that amplifies engine noise into the cabin — one of the transmissions on offer is.
Out goes the old six-speed auto, and in comes a new seven-speed DCT dual-clutch unit with paddles that cuts fuel use by 0.5 litres per 100km, and which in both versions costs $2500 more than the manual (meaning the auto SR Turbo costs $32,490, and the SR Turbo + auto costs $36,690).
Until recently, only the base Veloster (not tested here) with its 103kW/167Nm 1.6-litre atmo engine has had a DCT, and a six-speeder at that. This is because the new seven-speeder is the company’s first passenger DCT that can handle more than 265Nm of torque (up to 300Nm to be precise).
The theoretical benefits of a DCT are faster changes, meaning a ‘box of this type seems an obvious fit to a sporty car. However, there are a few kinks in this first-generation unit, developed entirely in-house, that reveal themselves under harder driving. While relatively smooth and fuss-free around town — not always a dual-clutch auto strong point — the calibration isn’t aggressive enough when called up to be so.
We found it too hesitant to kick down at time where we wanted it to. In ‘manual’ mode, the transmission can override inputs on track and grab a higher cog.
The manual has a lovely gate and feels decidedly faster and more involving — though its clutch is a little springy and lacks a clear friction point.
As before, the 150kW engine feels pretty strong. Its 265Nm is available across a wide rev band, from 1750rpm through to 4500rpm. It lacks a little aural appeal give its muted note, however. Unlike a Volkswagen DSG, there are no crackles from the twin-port exhausts coinciding with gear changes.
On a brighter note, the localised suspension fettling feels worthwhile. The company’s local team says it learned some tricks from the VelosterRaptor, and played with 49 separate suspension combinations — springs, sway bars and bespoke dampers. There are new hydraulic rebound stops in the front dampers, and the smaller-diameter front stabiliser bar allows each wheel to move more independently, thereby improving road contact.
It feels a little softer and happier to roll in initially at the front as a result, meaning the weight transfer under heavy braking helps the car turn in a little more sharply. Body control is generally strong.
Hyundai has massaged out a little of the twitchiness from the rear end, though given the SR still sports a torsion beam rear setup, there’s only so much it can do. The rear wheels feel more planted and less skittish, and axle hop over mid-corner corrugations feels less invasive than before.
Hyundai has also fitted a new 32-bit motor-assisted power steering system — though there’s still not much connectedness between the wheels and the driver’s hands — and the three-mode Flex Steer system. In its heaviest mode, it feels suitably meaty on-centre.
As before, the tyres (wider 225/40s on 18-inch rims, up from 215/40s) are loud — plenty of road noise pervades the cabin — but refinement is noticeable in the way the car seems to iron out the quirks of ramshackle inner-city roads a little more effectively than before. When we live with one for a week we’ll confirm.
The Veloster SR should be an affordable little sports car to own and run too, given Hyundai offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, a sat-nav update plan, and lifetime capped-price servicing plan.
There’s little doubt that the new sub-$30K list price opens to SR Turbo to more buyers, and some of the suspension tweaks also felt worthwhile on our quick first drive. The DCT needs a little bit of calibration, but the Veloster remains a rather unique proposition in the market.
It looks as eye-catching as any $30K car we can think of, and will give you bragging rights at plenty of traffic light take-offs. That alone makes it interesting.