So, the Hyundai Veloster Turbo is an i30 N-Line in pricey fancy dress? We presumed so... And we were wrong.
As I write this, CarAdvice is in the thick of our six-month custodianship of the 2020 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Premium before you. And I must say, the Sydney crew has warmed to the, erm, warm coupe nicely.
Most like the styling, the general on-road spunk, and the four-door design quirk. But mention its $41,990 list price and suddenly everyone baulks as some innate pragmatism kicks in. “You could buy an i30 N for that amount” is first port of call, closely followed by “It’s just an i30 N-Line in drag” predictably next.
Different target buyers, really. But I could see shoppers viewing the milder N-Line as a truer alternative which, at $34,990 list for the top dog Premium auto version, is a handy $7000 saving for what appears to be the same powertrain and want-for-little spec and make-up shoehorned into more conventional bodywork.
Further, the gear-heads among us are curious whether one offers more fun factor and pace than the other. And, further still, we're keen to see how the Veloster Turbo that’s rated well thus far as an 8/10 prospect measures against the more critically captivating (8.3 to 8.4 rated) i30 N-Line breed.
Pricing and Spec
From our Veloster Turbo Premium auto’s $42K ask, it’s quite a long drop down to $29,490 for the non-turbo manual base variant. Similarly, the N-Line falls a fair way from the i30 N-Line Premium auto to the $26,490 for the non-primo manual N-Line – a bloody great car in its own right – though, of course, a bread-and-butter i30 Go is just under $21K drive-away.
But both are high-spec variants offering impressively rich levels of specification and equipment.
Of course, the key drawcard at this area of Hyundai’s small-car neighbourhood is the combination of common 150kW and 265Nm, 1.6-litre turbocharged four engines, identical-ratio seven-speed dual-clutch gearboxes and sport-tuned handling packages – in fact, each wears identical, top-shelf Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres of 225/40 18-inch dimensions. They are essentially equals in the ‘go pretty fast’ department.
Want a manual? The Veloster Turbo Premium with conventional cog-swapper is offered for $38,990, but you’re out of luck with the i30 as ‘Premium’ and ‘manual’ aren’t offered together in one variant.
So, how does the flagship Premium spec differ between them? Short answer is: not much at all.
Common features include LED headlights (but low beam on the Veloster, low and high on i30), heated and power-folding mirrors, rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, 4.2-inch TFT driver’s screens, 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment, sat-nav, DAB+, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, inductive phone charging, keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, sports seats, paddle-shift wheels, leather-appointed trim, seat heating and cooling, and a space-saver spare wheel.
Discrepancies? The i30 gets high-level Hyundai Auto Link Premium app access, 10-way electric seat adjustment, front parking sensors and a panoramic glass roof as standard versus a smaller single-pane sunroof.
The Veloster, though, makes do with semi-powered seat adjustment and 'regular' Hyundai Auto Link, though does fit a head-up display not included in the i30, as well as an eight-speaker (rather than the i30’s seven-speaker) Infinity audio system.
Both fit AEB, adaptive cruise and lane-keeping, but unusually only the Veloster fits blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert safety features.
Close, right? Nitpick away for your preferred poison, but overall it’s the i30 by a nose for what’s realistically a fulsome and even pegging.
Tech and Infotainment
Not a lot of surprises here. It’s Hyundai’s oh-so-familiar format in its ‘large’ 8.0-inch screen format: big, clear, intuitive to use, with decent proprietary navigation and audio quality in both cars.
The i30’s higher-grade Auto Link Premium links your phone to the car’s onboard computer via an app, allowing you to check its status, turn on its air-con or unlock its doors remotely – nice, if hardly essential stuff.
The Veloster’s counter is its Performance Gauge app, which is a screen that displays real-time boost, G-force and torque if you’re inclined to keep your eyes off the road ahead.
Reversing cameras are both guided, though the i30’s feed is sharper and less grainy than the Veloster's, and perhaps something down to different camera hardware spec.
The Veloster’s head-up display is pretty handy if you’re having a decent punt. Better yet, the screen trades a speedo for a tacho graphic when you activate Sport mode, though the crystal-clear TFT driver’s screen in either otherwise presents a nice, large, digital speedometer.
Further, the Veloster adds an extra Smart setting to the common three drive modes of Normal, Sport and Eco, allowing it to select whichever of the three is most appropriate for the driving conditions.
Interior packaging is greatly influenced by proportions, and even a cursory glance reveals the Veloster to be significantly shorter (by 105mm), marginally wider (by 5mm) and noticeably lower (54mm) in roof line. That said, commonality under the skin reveals itself in identical wheelbase and track widths front and rear.
Then there are the doors. The i30 is a thoroughly conventional five-door with the general practicality the format brings. But the Veloster’s unorthodox, so-called “2+1 hidden door” can be more challenging. Rear access only from kerbside through the only rear door is either novel or a complete pain depending on your viewpoint.
The Veloster’s second row is darker, tight and more claustrophobic, with less head and knee room than the i30 and no air vents. Let’s face it, the sport coupe is all about the driver, a little less so about the front passenger, and rear plus-two seating is supplementary.
I managed four adults in the Veloster without too much row-two complaint, but for genuine four-up comfort, the i30 is the most prudent choice.
Design-wise, initial impressions are that the i30’s Premium twist is more upmarket than the Veloster’s: darker grey colourisation, neat cool blue control lighting, richer-looking door cards and generally nicer material choice. But spend time swapping between the two Hyundais, which we did a lot, and the Veloster is no more downmarket – it’s merely funkier in look and material choice.
For instance, the door trims aren’t merely asymmetric in sizing, they actually use different textures in common areas – a flat panel on the passenger side, a dimpled corresponding one on the driver’s side – and it’s about the only car I can think of that does this. Weird, but weirdly cool.
Both have excellent front seating with heating and ventilation: the Veloster is a little flatter, firmer and racier; the i30 is more cosseting, suppler and mature. They cater for different tastes, one style no better or worse than the other, but the i30’s does have full electric adjustment. I much prefer the excellent, smaller and more contemporary i30 steering wheel as a matter of preference, but the Veloster offers a fine, if larger, tiller in its own right.
But of the two, the Veloster has lower-slung seating and a more driver-centric control layout for what’s easily the sportier vibe.
For boot space, it’s all the i30’s way. The five-door’s 395L boot, with its deep floor, offers 92 extra litres (303L in the Veloster) with the rear seats in play and expands to a superior 1301L (plays 1081L in the Veloster) volume with the rears stowed.
Overall, the i30's cabin is better balanced and more well rounded, while the Veloster is more driver-focused and selfishly indulgent (in a good way). But both equally impress in the right places.
Both run Hyundai’s 1.6-litre turbocharged T-GDi four-cylinder for identical 150kW and 265Nm outputs. And the ratio stats in their seven-speed dual-clutch transmissions are identical.
In fact, everything seems identical with the powertrain except engine compression ratios – 9.5:1 for i30, 10.0:1 for Veloster – though each runs happily on 91-octane fuel, the Veloster offering a more favourable 6.9L/100km combined consumption claim to the i30’s slightly thirstier 7.1L/100km. Why? Perhaps the Veloster’s more lightweight (1300kg plays 1344kg) kerb figure has much to do with it?
Elsewhere, each offers multi-link rear architecture, Australianised suspension tuning, and the same 305mm front and 262mm rear brake disc sizing, though the tuning of their handling packages would reveal themselves as quite different to one another.
On the Road
Seat of the pants, there seems to be very little performance difference. Both are satisfyingly punchy, in a nicely warmed over sense, and only noise acceleration reveals any shortcoming by way of measured, rather than properly head-pinning, torque.
Their dual-clutchers are great on the boil, a bit grumpy around town at modest pace, though generally quite intuitive and polished for units tied to a boosted small-engine format.
Could the Veloster be slightly quicker to the speed limit? Maybe. Perhaps much of it is the placebo effect of the sport coupe’s noticeably richer, bolder note from its neat ‘dual-central’ exhaust outlets.
They really do have distinctively different characters on the road. And that’s the biggest surprise of all. We expected much commonality in the on-road experience – same machine with different body shell – but there was much more separation in vibe than we’d bargained for.
The i30 N-Line has rated so highly in reviews past, mainly because it's so well rounded and evenly tempered. The handling is spirited and cooperative, yet balanced nicely with tempered ride quality for a generally ‘even’ and moderate Jekyll-and-Hyde blend.
Like the cabin design, there’s impressive maturity in its jib that’s not nearly as focused and single-minded as its more heroic i30 N big brother and, perhaps wrongly, the N-Line warm hatch cops criticism because of it.
In fact, if there’s a glaring fault in the i30 N-Line’s on-road manner, it’s that the steering becomes oppressively and artificially heavy once you swap from Normal to Sport mode. It’s really an unnecessary transition.
Where the Veloster is clearly superior is in steering feel and feedback. It’s lighter, clearer, more even and much more informative in feedback, be it Normal or Sport. We’re not sure what technical or calibration differences are at play, but it’s very noticeable between the two Hyundais.
Further, the Veloster is downright sportier everywhere, and it becomes apparent once you start linking corners. It doesn’t ride quite as nicely as the i30 N-Line, but it sits flatter, feels lighter on its (identical) Michelin feet, and has a crisper dynamic edge with more lively communication with the driver. Hook it through a turn and somehow it makes those front tyres hook up and grip harder, too.
For driver’s satisfaction, the i30 N-Line is good, but its Veloster stablemate is noticeably fitter. And it’s the inverse when it comes to all-round niceness, comfort and long-haul pleasantries.
Both, unsurprisingly, get Hyundai’s five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. However, the i30 N-Line Premium works out to be cheaper to service than the Veloster Turbo Premium over the same interval periods: $807 and $1385 for three- and five-year prepaid servicing plans for the five-door against $897 and $1571 for the sport-coupe, each requiring 12-month/10,000km servicing intervals.
So, the Veloster Turbo Premium auto asserts itself as the nicer, more fun-filled driver’s car than the i30 N-Line Premium, but by enough measure to justify the extra $7000 sting?
For some buyers, perhaps so, but the funky four-door sport coupe still finds itself up there in the low forties nudging properly hot driving machines, which ultimately hampers its value pitch.
Equally, the price is starting to get up there for its five-door nemesis tested here, which perhaps isn’t our best-value pick of the i30 N-Line bunch.
Still, the Veloster Turbo – our six-month long-termer – has made its point against a valid cross-shop rival as more than just a funky façade with a strange door format. It’s better and more capable than that.
On that alone it raised the collective eyebrows at CarAdvice, if probably not high enough to get a higher overall rating than the excellent all-rounder that is the i30 N-Line.