Buyers may be attracted to a car for a number of reasons. Brand cache, value, or perhaps a vast array of features and equipment: they can all sway people towards making a certain purchase. Then there are those who base the majority of their decision on style – or more precisely, styling. And when it comes to styling, for the price, few can compete with the still edgy Hyundai Veloster.
A consistent top-seller in the local sub-$80k sports car segment, the Hyundai Veloster has regularly occupied one of the top two spots for much of its three years on sale – making for a long-standing battle with the Toyota 86.
Priced from $24,490 plus on-road costs, the Veloster line-up was recently updated for 2015, with the pointy end of the range receiving particular attention.
Sure, the base Veloster gets 90 per cent of the looks, but its 103kW/167Nm 1.6-litre four-cylinder is far from a firecracker.
Trade the entry-level naturally aspirated G4FD for the turbocharged G4FJ though, and voila, you have the Veloster SR Turbo tested here and its force-fed flagship twin, the SR Turbo +.
With a turbocharger added to the mix, both the $29,990 Turbo and $33,990 Turbo + get 150kW of power at 6000rpm and 265Nm of torque between 1750rpm-4500rpm. In either trim, a new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission commands $2500 over the standard six-speed manual tested.
Seemingly sharp in isolation, if the SR Turbo’s $29,990 sounds familiar – a drop of $3000 from its pre-facelift figure – that’s because it is. The aforementioned Toyota 86 starts at the same price, as does the Hyundai’s South Korean stable mate, the manual-only Kia Pro_cee’d GT (which can currently be had for the same amount driveaway).
Consider too, that right now you can jump into two of the best and most entertaining light hot-hatches doing the rounds – the Ford Fiesta ST at $25,990 and recently updated Volkswagen Polo GTI at $27,490 – for less than the Hyundai Veloster Turbo. Admittedly both a class smaller, it’s still food for thought.
Standard kit includes automatic dusk-sensing projector-beam headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED tail-lights, and a rear-view camera and rear parking sensors. A push-button start, cruise control, and tyre pressure monitoring are also all on the list.
A body kit, new grey grille surround and new 18-inch alloy wheels help the Turbo stand out even more, while inside there are comfortable and heavily bucketed leather-appointed sports seats (semi-electric for the driver), a lovely and tactile ‘premium’ steering wheel and gear knob, and well placed alloy pedals.
Teamed with an eight-speaker stereo with AUX/USB inputs and Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, the Veloster SR Turbo’s range-wide seven-inch LCD touchscreen now no longer has satellite navigation.
Eliminated from the standard SR Turbo model for 2015, sat-nav has instead been grouped with a panoramic glass sunroof on all ‘+’ variants. The non-‘+’ turbo Veloster also misses out on climate control air-conditioning, heated and ventilated front seats, heated and electrically folding wing mirrors, and Hyundai’s three-mode ‘Flex Steer’ adjustable-weight power steering system.
Sitting up front, the cabin isn't a bad place to be. A long dash boosts the impression of space and, while there are harder, cheaper materials used, all buttons, dials and instruments are reasonably intuitively laid out.
There’s a manual handbrake, two cup holders, narrow door pockets, a good phone spot tucked under the centre stack, and the integrated rear-view camera is a gooden when parking.
Only able to accommodate two, in the back there’s ample legroom – even for those hovering around six-foot – but rear headroom is tight to say the least. Rear occupants do, however, get a plastic centre storage tray, two cup holders and one netted map pocket behind the front passenger.
A key point of difference of the Veloster is the ‘extra’ door on the passenger side. Even with the extra door, however, due to the car’s heavily tapered rear end and the door’s small aperture, getting in and out of the back without clipping one’s head is still a chore.
Annoyingly, tackle accessing the rear seats from the driver’s seat and you’re required to readjust the backrest every time you do, as it doesn’t ‘remember’ your seating position after being tilted or slid forward – a total nuisance.
Drop the 60:40 split-fold rear seats forward (they don’t lie completely flat) and you can expand the deep boot beyond its 320-litre seat-up capacity. A luggage hook, cargo net and space saver spare can also be found there.
Once on the move, road noise does penetrate the cabin – particularly over coarse-chip bitumen and the like – though oddly, any aural excitement from the engine has been all but muted. We also encountered not-so-infrequent creaks and rattles when traversing poorer quality and rutted roads.
It doesn’t take long behind the wheel to become aware that the Veloster’s shape is none too helpful for vision, with thick B- and C-pillars working against you along with a narrow view out the back (thanks, spoiler).
Hyundai Australia’s NSW-based chassis development team worked extensively to improve the Veloster’s ride and handling for 2015 – regardless of the model you choose.
For the Veloster SR Turbo (and SR Turbo +), all four tyres are now 10mm wider than before (225mm up from 215mm) and there are new front damper hydraulic rebound stops and a 22mm-thick front anti-roll bar (down from 24mm).
In order to compensate for the increased mid-corner roll caused by using a smaller-diameter stabiliser bar, the local tuning team increased front spring rates from 2.6kg to 2.7kg. Dampers too were matched and ‘finessed’ for low-speed performance, with Hyundai’s overall goal being to boost front-end agility, sharpen turn-in and promote a more ‘playful’ rear end.
Keep things within the city limits and the improvements are obvious. The ride over smooth roads is a top-shelf blend of comfort and composure. Clearly angled more to the ‘sporty car’ end of the spectrum than the ‘sports car’ end, the Veloster is softer and more ‘mature’ than the stiffer and heavier but more agile Pro_cee’d GT.
Undoubtedly a step forward from the previous car, the suspension revisions have done a lot to boost the Veloster Turbo’s dynamic ability, though, large bump- and road join-induced scuttle and bobbing highlight that some of the funky hatch’s past body control issues still remain. Even at lower speeds the Veloster can be slow to settle.
Satisfactory for most urban commutes, the Veloster Turbo Series II’s upgraded motor driven power steering (MDPS) system becomes a minor disappointment when you stumble across entertaining back roads.
Light and a little vague directly off-centre, load it up and the steering suddenly becomes heavier but no more communicative. Apart from feeling a little strange, the inconsistency can sometimes make picking the required steering lock for a particular corner difficult to accurately judge.
As we found out in our recent 'warm-hatch' comparison, despite the Veloster Turbo featuring the same engine as the Pro_cee’d GT, all is not equal.
In the Kia, the unit is punchy and characterful, however tucked under the Hyundai’s stubby scalloped bonnet, both punch and character seem to have been intentionally omitted or at least toned down – an even greater let down given the Veloster’s large-diameter twin exhaust pipes.
Give it full throttle at 2000rpm in fifth gear at 70km/h and it’s got enough grunt to respond well enough. There’s not a whole lot below 2000rpm, but by 3000-3500rpm there’s a lot more pull and response to be found.
Go north and a heavy sinking of the boot is rewarded with decent performance between 4000-6500rpm. That said, the Veloster will comfortably cruise along in fifth gear at 80km/h with revs nestled around 2200rpm, or maintain similar rpm in sixth at 100km/h. Claiming to use 6.9 litres of unleaded fuel every 100km, over our week with the car (which included Mandy’s single-day advanced driving course) we averaged 8.9L/100km.
Combining to cement the model’s place as a style- rather performance-driven model are spongey and uninspiring brakes; a light and relatively feedback-free clutch pedal and an accurate but slightly slack shifting six-speed manual transmission; and 40-aspect Hankook Ventus tyres that fall short of delivering solid grip – both mid-corner and off the line.
Coming with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, 12 months roadside assist and lifetime capped-price servicing, the Hyundai Veloster Turbo has plenty of aftersales incentives. Be aware service intervals are recommended every six months or 7500km though, with costs ranging from $159 to $259 per service for the first three years or 45,000km.
Hyundai Australia says 82 per cent of Veloster Turbo sales year-to-date have been automatics and that an 80:20 auto v manual split has been consistent since the model was first introduced. The more affordable Veloster Turbo is also outselling its dearer ‘+’ derivative by around seven to one.
This suggests the majority of Veloster buyers aren’t overly fazed by the car’s badge but rather its styling and perceived value. And while equipment is far from negligible on the Turbo, the uniquely styled Hyundai lacks the agility, dynamism and fun of other cars you can get for the money, or for less.
The updated Hyundai Veloster Turbo is worth a recommendation but bear in mind its limitations and take a good look at what else you can get yourself into for the money. Styling might be important to some, but surely substance is important to all.
Click on the Photos tab for more 2015 Hyundai Veloster Turbo images by Tom Fraser.