Car reviews - Hyundai - Veloster - range
Punchy Turbo engine, sharp and unique styling, settled ride quality, fun handling
Room for improvement
Anaemic 2.0-litre engine, entry-grade cabin plastics, poor rear space, noisy cabin, some torque steer with Turbo
Hyundai’s quirky new-gen Veloster provides point of difference to small-car market
27 Sep 2019
IN 2012, Hyundai shook up the affordable sportscar world with the quirky and unique Veloster – not quite a hatch, not quite a coupe and not an outright sportscar, but an intriguing blend of all three.
Offering an alternative to warm-hatch buyers as well as fans of the likes of the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ, the Veloster added handy volume to Hyundai’s bottom line, with more than 3000 annual registrations for its first three years on sale.
Now returning in all-new, second-generation guise, the Veloster is not expected to reach the same sales heights as its predecessor but will rather act as a brand builder for Hyundai.
So how does the all-new Veloster stack up? Read on to find out.
First drive impressions
When the first-gen Veloster was put out to pasture, two grades were on offer, with either a normally aspirated or turbocharged 1.6-litre engine as the two powertrain choices.
The new generation has expanded range choice to three variants including the more up-spec Turbo Premium range-topper, while the 1.6-litre atmo engine has been dropped in favour of a larger and more powerful 2.0-litre unit.
While retaining the same basic body shape, Hyundai has applied some significant styling changes to the Veloster, with a more modern front end with a wider take on the brand’s cascading front grille, sharp LED headlights and a sporty front splitter and side intakes.
At the rear, new LED tail-lights give the Veloster a more premium, upmarket feel, while the coupe-like profile, aggressive rear diffuser and dual-exit exhaust pipes on Turbo variants enhance its sporting identity. Eighteen-inch wheels across the range are also a welcome addition.
The new addition to the Veloster engine family is a 2.0-litre normally aspirated Atkinson-cycle petrol four-cylinder unit, which drives the front wheels via either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission.
Peak power output is pegged at 110kW at 6200rpm and 180Nm at 4500rpm, representing a 7kW/13Nm increase over the engine it replaces.
Driving the 2.0-litre for the first time, it quickly becomes apparent that the base-level engine makes for a good competitor for everyday hatchbacks, however being a genuine sportscar is a bridge too far.
For any sort of sporty driving, the 2.0-litre’s tachometer needs to sit around 4000rpm or higher, at which point you can achieve some genuine thrust when putting the foot down.
However, lower in the rev range the engine is severely lacking in punch, especially when driving up hills where revs need to remain above at least 2500rpm to avoid running out of steam.
One positive of the weaker engine is there is almost no danger of overwhelming the Veloster’s front-drive layout, with torque steer nowhere to be found and plentiful throttle able to be applied mid-corner.
If you want your Veloster to have some genuine sportscar credibility, the 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine is the only real option.
Producing 150kW at 6000rpm and 265Nm from 1500-4500rpm (with an extra 10Nm on overboost),
the Turbo’s engine also drives the front wheels via a six-speed manual, or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Performance-wise, the 1.6-litre is a huge step up over the 2.0, with torque coming on much earlier in the rev band and providing a generous shove that continues all the way to redline.
Even in regular day-to-day driving, the Turbo is probably the pick, with smoother driving characteristics that don’t require the engine doing large amounts of work.
As the better option for both high-performance and day-to-day driving, it is not hard to see why 50 per cent of buyers opted for the more expensive engine – a trend that is expected to continue into the new generation.
The only downside for the Turbo is some torque steer that occurs during hard acceleration. A sophisticated limited-slip differential would do wonders to fix this, however such equipment is reserved for N models in Hyundai’s line-up.
Transmissions on both engines work well, however the conservative output of the 2.0-litre can make the gears feel quite long, particularly when paired with the manual.
Handling generally has a fun and sporty character, with a light steering calibration that is nevertheless direct and nimble.
Some understeer can be felt when cornering and applying some throttle due to its front-drive layout but is mitigated with the torque vectoring system and Michelin Pilot Sport tyres.
Also aiding handling is the new Veloster’s independent rear suspension set-up, which replaces the old model’s torsion beam.
Both handling and ride are enhanced, the latter of which feels well settled on most surfaces despite 18-inch wheels being standard across the range. However, the 18s do allow a lot of road noise to come into the cabin, particularly in less-than-perfect road conditions.
Stepping into the entry-level Veloster’s cabin, occupants are greeted with a clean and simple interior layout, however its entry-level status is clear with plentiful hard, black plastic and cloth-trimmed seats.
At the other end of the scale, the Turbo Premium is packed full of specification including full-leather seats with heating and ventilation, a heated steering wheel, a head-up display and wireless smartphone charging.
The mid-spec Turbo is probably the sweet spot with mixed cloth-and-leather upholstery, an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav and DAB+ digital radio, an eight-speaker premium audio system, a 4.2-inch digital instrument cluster and paddle-shifters on automatic versions.
While front-row headroom and legroom are ample, the rear pews – accessible through only one rear door with an uncomfortably small aperture – are cramped, with taller occupants sure to struggle with both the knees and crown of the head rubbing against the front seats and roof.
With 303 litres available, the Veloster’s boot is not particularly large but offers generous depth, enough for a decent amount of luggage.
Hyundai has said the Veloster will play a role in helping change the brand’s perception away from a boring, value-focused brand to one that offers exciting, different products that can form an overall brand identity.
While the Veloster will not set the world on fire for sales, what it does is give Hyundai a fun, quirky image and offers buyers an alternative to the sometimes-homogenous offerings in the small hatch and SUV segments.
If buyers are looking for an affordable, quirky and stylish hatch, the entry Veloster would make for a good option, however if performance is on the agenda, the Turbo and Turbo Premium are a must.
Model release date: 1 September 2019
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