The dual-clutch automatic is improved, but it's still not sharp enough for this frisky sportster.
Rich Ceppos • The Turbo Ultimate is the most expensive model in the all-new, second-generation 2019 Hyundai Veloster line-up.
Its intriguing three-door configuration continues (two doors on the passenger's side, one on the driver's side), and the Ultimate comes with a long list of standard equipment, ranging from leather seats to a head-up display and a full complement of active-safety equipment.
The Ultimate is powered by the same 201hp (150kW) turbocharged 1.6-litre inline-four that we previously sampled in the spunkadelic Veloster Turbo R-Spec; a car that defines low-cost fun and virtually matches the performance of the class-leading Honda Civic Si and Volkswagen GTI – if not their vivid connection to the driver. Typical of Hyundai, though, it smokes them on price.
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Why We Tested It and How It Performed: We wanted to assess how the optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT) and all-season rubber that comes on automatic-equipped Turbos affected the Veloster's performance and driving personality relative to the R-Spec – which has a six-speed manual gearbox and sticky, 225/40ZR18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer tyres standard (manual-transmission Ultimates also get the grippier footwear).
We also wanted to evaluate whether Hyundai had improved the shift quality of its corporate DCT.
Our long-term 2017 Kia Soul Turbo rolls with the same engine and DCT as the Veloster Ultimate, and its transmission serves up a smorgasbord of bumpy shifts and low-speed shudders – along with a predilection for early upshifts that make the little crossover seem much slower than it is.
Out on the road, this Veloster feels like it was designed for eating twisty roads in big gulps, just like the R-Spec – and we suspect the DCT helped improve its straight-line performance at the track.
Despite weighing 65kg more than the manual-only R-Spec, it sprinted to 60mph (97km/h) in 6.0sec, 0.2sec quicker.
The Ultimate’s 14.6sec, 98mph (156km/h) quarter-mile (402m) dash was a scant 0.1sec and 1mph better than what the R-Spec managed, however.
The all-season tyres fared better and didn't degrade cornering grip much at all: the Ultimate circled the skidpad at 0.90g, down from the R-Spec's impressive 0.95.
Only in our braking test did the Ultimate's more prosaic rubber suffer an eyebrow-raising performance shortfall: its 171ft (52m) stop from 70mph (113km/h) was fully 20ft (6m) longer than the R-Spec's.
Missing in action are the advantages of a dual-clutch transmission: lightning quick, seamless gear changes.
No matter what you're doing with the throttle or brake, or whether you have the shifter in D or are using the steering-column-mounted paddles to control the action, upshifts and downshifts happen in slow motion, and in normal driving the gear changes are far from seamless.
As to the price, the USD$29,035 (AU$40,500) Ultimate DCT's value proposition is tepid compared with the also-well-equipped USD$23,785 R-Spec (manual-equipped Ultimates are USD$27,535).
The USD$5250 premium for the Ultimate DCT buys you more features but zero additional behind-the-wheel fun. And for less you could have either a Civic Si or a GTI, which start at USD$24,995 and USD$28,490 respectively.
Get the manual R-Spec, save a bunch of money, and partake of the joys of shifting for yourself.