It was less than a week after I collected the 2020 Hyundai Veloster Turbo, when CarAdvice broke the news that the model was being discontinued in Australia.
Like going on a first date with someone, only to have them tell you they're moving overseas.
The Veloster never really found a strong foothold in Australia, with just 639 new-car buyers in 2020. Not bad in the sports car segment where it resided, but paltry numbers compared to the Hyundai i30 on which it's based, which sold more than 20,000 examples in the same year.
This particular vehicle is a manual Hyundai Veloster Turbo, which sits in the middle of the range between the entry-level 2.0-litre non-turbo model and the top-spec Veloster Turbo Premium.
Priced from $35,840 plus on-road costs, the four-seater Veloster Turbo gets a 1.6-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder engine, which sends 150kW of power to the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission.
And that was perhaps part of its downfall, because for $29,420 plus on-road costs – 18 per cent less – you can buy a Hyundai i30 N Line with exactly the same powertrain, but with a more practical (and subtle) five-door hatch body with seating for five.
|Power and torque||150kW at 6000rpm, 265Nm at 1500–4500rpm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||7.3L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||7.7L/100km|
|ANCAP safety rating||Not tested|
|Warranty||5 years/unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Toyota 86, Subaru BRZ, Mazda MX-5|
|Price as tested (excluding on-road costs)||From $35,840|
Surprisingly, despite the squished profile of the Veloster, the car still enjoys a useful boot and a lightweight hatch lid. If you're a more petite individual who avoids using the hatch on your vehicle to save the embarrassment of struggling to close the thing, this one is super easy.
The Veloster's rakish hatch-coupe body does look good, even with its unique, asymmetric single door on the driver's side and two doors on the passenger side. It stood out in the supermarket car park among the sea of SUVs, and invites an over-the-shoulder glance when walking away.
Behind the wheel, however, the biggest difference to the i30 upon which it's based is the poor rearward visibility thanks to the giant C-pillars. My first accessory would be a set of grandpa-spec fish-eye mirrors.
The dashboard does have a slightly different design to the i30's, but is well laid out with everything where it should be and clear and legible instrumentation. There's no guessing with this car. Some of the plastics are cheap and hollow, but appear to be hard-wearing, and Hyundai has deliberately chosen quality materials for nearly all of the touchpoints.
After a number of hours on the road, I can tell you the seats are supportive and comfortable for the more ample-arsed of us. The infotainment system was fine to use with the 7.0-inch screen, but the majority of the time it was in Apple CarPlay mode, as I enjoyed the sound quality from the truly impressive factory stereo.
The steering wheel buttons are also top-notch. It's that kind of attention to detail I enjoy, where you can tell a handful of people in the R&D department have spent time trying to get it right, making it a joy to use.
As is the steering. The engineers have clearly worked on perfecting the electric steering ratio to find the right balance, ensuring the little Hyundai was never twitchy at speed, but that it responds well to driver inputs.
It's not a naturally smooth-driving car, though. Where I would typically shift, at around 3000–3500rpm, the engine is starting to come on boost and invites a little jerkiness. For normal day-to-day driving, the car seems happiest when you're short-shifting the gears at around 2500rpm.
The gearshifter itself has a nice, positive action about it. It's not as amazing as the best manual transmissions out there in the world, but it's on the better side of the bell curve, slinking into its allotted gears directly and with a reasonably short throw.
Brakes are also good, not great. While they always pull the car up and keep their composure in more demanding driving conditions, I never had the confidence to really hammer on them time and again. The flipside is they are never noisy and don't catch at low speeds.
Grab the Veloster by the scruff of the neck and it'll rise to the occasion. It's not as pointed and aggressive as the i30 N or other dedicated hot hatches, but it has enough there to play, with the very sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres completing the equation.
Floor the loud pedal and torque-steer – once the bane of powerful front-wheel-drive cars – seems to be kept under control, perhaps thanks to the electric steering. The engine's 265Nm hints at wanting to send you off into the nearest field, but the car calmly keeps you tracking straight and true, like an extra hand on the wheel, as the car propels you down the road to the surprise of other road users.
It won't blow your mind, but the Veloster Turbo is plenty quick enough for the city and suburbs. The engine is pokey and decent, and keeps you ahead of traffic if you want it to, with a bit of parp from the exhaust when the big 'Sport' button is pushed and the throttle is leaned on.
The balance between ride and handling works well for most situations, but doesn't feel particularly sophisticated in its execution. Occasionally, the car reminds you it's based on a model designed to compete against the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic.
But my biggest annoyance was with the car's lane-keep assist. Unless you were in the very centre of a lane, the steering wheel would constantly try to fight you. Give in, and the car would ping itself between the two dotted lines as you go down the road, like a bowling ball bouncing off the gutter bumpers installed for children.
Without fail, I would turn off the system after five minutes on the freeway, later enduring the warning chimes as I kissed the apexes on the road between the freeway and my home each night. Sometimes you just want to drive without being nagged.
Ultimately, the Veloster Turbo is a compromised sports car and a compromised hatch – but it's a good compromise for someone needing something in between. A decent pick for a single-car garage, delivering its owner to work relaxed during the week, but offering the ability to have some real fun on weekends.
It may not offer the full-blooded 'N' experience, but the Veloster is a cool car with a properly fun and unpretentious side to its personality. And most of the time it's a usable hatchback with a funky design.