There is a new look for the 2020 Hyundai Veloster, and in the humble opinion of this writer, it’s a marked improvement over the old model. A bit more handsome, I reckon, and certainly less arresting than the superseded vintage.
As before, the new Veloster has three passenger doors, which makes it a four-door, when you include the hatch (as the market tends to do). The driver's side gets a single, longer door, while two shorter doors are employed on the passenger (and kerb) side. It’s all part of the quirky angle the Veloster is going for, in attempting to straddle the worlds of coupe and hatchback.
The driveline options are mostly shared with the broader Hyundai range. While there is no diesel, there is an Atkinson-cycle 2.0 litre petrol on the base Veloster spec, which makes 110kW @ 6200rpm and 180Nm @ 4500rpm, running through six ratios worth of manual or torque converter automatic gearbox. Prices for this spec start at $29,490.
What we’ve been driving however, is the the turbocharged 1.6-litre ‘Gamma’ four cylinder motor, which makes a much more sprightly 150kW @ 6000rpm, along with 265Nm of torque between 1500 4500rpm on the tacho.
There’s a six-speed manual option as well, alongside a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic option, which we've got on test here. (For reference’s sake, this puts the Veloster on par with the i30 N-Line.)
There are two specifications for this model: Turbo and Turbo Premium. We had the latter on this drive, which equates to $41,990 (before on-road costs) when you add in the automatic gearbox. Add in the black two-tone roof ($1000), and your asking price is just shy of forty-three large.
There’s $3500 between the Turbo and Turbo Premium, which has a leather interior, heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, electric driver’s seat adjustment, heads-up display, rain-sensing wipers, wireless charging, and electrochromatic rear-view mirror as the major differences.
When you consider the i30 N-Line premium sits at $35k for a similarly-specced interior and identical driveline, the Veloster’s anti-hatchback styling and layout comes with a big bump in price.
The Veloster shares the same wheelbase (2650mm) and wheel track (1549mm front, 1563mm rear) as the i30, although the body is slightly shorter (4240mm), lower (1399mm) and wider (1800mm)
The Veloster gets an interior layout that is unique in the Hyundai range, although it ultimately shares numerous items from the same parts bin.
Buttons feel good to the touch, and overall quality passes muster. The 8-inch infotainment system, sitting proud of the dashboard, is a familiar friend these days. There is the right host of features available (Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, digital radio and native navigation), all run through an easy-to-use operating system.
The boot isn’t big, but it's reasonably deep and gives 303 litres worth of storage space. If you need more room, sacrifice the second row by folding down the backrests.
When it is occupied with two passengers (the Veloster is only a four-seater), the second row is decently comfortable. The windows cinch down from the coupe styling, and you have no air vents or power outlets to fight over, but there are cup holders, a couple of storage spots and plenty of legroom. Headroom is good too, all things considered.
Once upon a time, the Veloster would have been firmly regarded as a hot hatch. But, in this era of 200kW+ pocket rockets, this example really only qualifies as warm. Not that it’s a bad thing; it’s all about balance for what is definitely not meant to be some kind of track legend.
The dual-clutch gearbox is mostly smooth, feeling decisive around town and at different throttle applications. It’s never going to be as outright smooth as a torque-converter auto, though: at low-speed stuff, like chock-a-block car parks, you do feel a little flutter of the dual-clutch gearbox doing its thing.
It’s not a quick gearbox like other hot (or warm hatches), but it’s fast enough for this application, and I appreciate its deliberate nature.
You’ll need to forgo the six-speed manual (which we haven’t driven yet in this application) if you want the full active safety package on a turbocharged Veloster. Because of problems at the production line, Hyundai hasn't been able to offer this important safety tech across the range, which is the same dilemma for the i30 N-Line range. A bit of a kick in the pants for those who like three pedals, no?
Lane keep assist is a hard taskmaster, and can get into the habit of constantly tugging you from each side of the lane into an imaginary centreline. Maybe I’m a bit too lax with my own lane placement, but I found myself turning this feature off on narrower, windy roads.
Having peak torque come on from 1500rpm is great, making the engine feel gutsy and responsive in all of the right places, matched fluidly by the gearbox. You’ve got a few driving modes that tinker with your steering, throttle and gearbox calibration, and you can slip the gear shifter across for a more sporty shift pattern.
There’s a bit of exhaust note at idle and under throttle, giving the Veloster an element of theatre and finishing off the engaging package nicely. It’s no Namyang-special fire-crackle, but certainly enough to help the Veloster feel a bit less cookie-cutter than your typical hatchback.
The Veloster, with the 1.6-litre turbo engine, has enough pepper in the sauce for your typical commuter car that does the odd bit of long hauling and recreational bitumen-bashing here and there, without going to the extent of track and targa days.
The ride is on the sporty side. It’s not uncomfortable, but also not plush. Some patchy and uneven surfaces give you a minor jiggle, but that’s about as bad as it gets. Considering the whole warm pretensions of the Veloster, the ride is on-point.
On the flip side, the somewhat sporty chassis means the Veloster does enjoy being thrown into a corner or two. Once again, think i30 N-line: It’s not as uncompromisingly hardcore, but still good fun and competent in the turns.
The added bonus is: it’s more comfortable on the grind. Steering feels responsive, and while the steering ratio is faster, it still feels relaxed. It’s adaptive, as well, softening right up at low speeds, and firming up at pace (especially in Sports mode).
Brake torque vectoring plays a part on the dynamic driving, and is something you certainly feel in the higher-pulse situations. Understeer gets quelled by the car giving minute dabs of brake force onto the inside front wheel, forcing more drive (and grip) to the wheel doing all of the work. Other manufacturers call this system an electronic limited-slip differential, but it’s pretty much the same thing.
Another point here is the 225/40 R18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber that’s employed across the Veloster Turbo range (non-turbo models get Pilot Sport 3s) . It’s a good tyre, with plenty of lateral grip in the corners and no suggestion of getting flustered.
The Veloster Turbo (and Turbo Premium) servicing schedule is covered by Hyundai's capped programme, which has intervals of every 10,000 kilometres or 12 months. Expect to pay $299 for the first three services, while the fourth and fifth visits will cost $379 and $299 respectively.
And like the rest of the Hyundai range, the Veloster is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Pricing for this Veloster does seem to creep up a bit, when you look at where it sits in comparison to the wider i30 landscape. It’s similarly priced to i30 N, which is not as well specced on the interior, but has significantly more mechanical pedigree to boast about. The hardcore N variant is more compromised by its hardcore nature, however.
There is also the i30 N-Line premium to consider. Coming in at the mid-30s, this is where the Veloster really starts to look expensive. There is much commonality between the two, and when there are still some basic hard plastics in the Veloster’s cabin, you’re left with only the more idiosyncratic look and unique packaging as the major drawcard.
Is that enough to cut a deal with the buying public? Well, some might love the look, and may be happy to pay more for the Veloster’s out-of-the-box approach. The more pragmatic amongst us might not value that so highly, however. I imagine the i30 range will still be the default choice for many, but this Veloster does give punters a nice counterpoint to consider.