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Car reviews - Hyundai - Veloster - SR Turbo

Our Opinion

We like
Minimal compromises for style over practicality, facelift brings subtle but meaningful improvements, value-for-money, fuel economy
Room for improvement
Poor rear visibility, uninspiring engine note, dynamics still ragged

Hyundai logo25 Jan 2016

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

Price and equipment

Affordable coupes were big news in 2012 when the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ twins and Hyundai Veloster launched, igniting Australia’s sub-$80,000 sportscar segment that had, for some time, rarely seen a single model regularly crack four-digit sales in a calendar year.

It was almost unheard of for these types of fashion-forward cars to sustain meaningful sales volumes beyond the early adopter honeymoon period. With completely different approaches but similarly low prices, both Toyota and Hyundai managed to rewrite the sales rulebook.

Fast-forward to 2015 and sales remain strong enough for Hyundai to get away with the mildest of updates for its Veloster, while introducing the $29,990 (plus on-road costs) SR Turbo manual tested here that aims to maintain sales momentum – especially in the face of strong competition from the sharply priced dynamic darling that is the new Mazda MX-5.

It makes ownership of the desirable forced-induction Veloster more affordable than previously and on a par with entry to the Toyota 86 stable. And $2000 cheaper than the least expensive MX-5. Kia’s technically similar but dynamically superior Pro_Cee’d GT has been and gone from the market and the Holden Astra GTC is nowhere in the sales race.

In any case, Hyundai has gone for the more practical approach with the Veloster’s unique three-door layout, decent-sized hatchback boot and usable rear seats.

Oh, and a long list of standard equipment including a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth audio streaming, CD player, DivX video and MP3 playback facilities, iPod compatibility, USB and auxiliary audio inputs and an external amplifier feeding seven speakers.

The touchscreen also provides the reversing camera display, which is supplemented by rear parking sensors. A multi-function reach and height-adjustable leather-wrapped steering wheel features buttons for audio, telephone, cruise control and trip computer.

Contrast-trimmed sports front seats have electric slide, tilt and lumbar adjustment on the driver’s side plus manual height settings. All seats are leather, as is the gearlever.

The automatic dusk-sensing projector-beam headlights have LED daytime running lights while the rear clusters are also LED. Hyundai also throws in tyre pressure monitoring for the 18-inch alloys, manual air-conditioning, keyless entry with push-button start and an anti-theft alarm.

Interior

Not much has changed inside the Veloster, but the SR Turbo’s new Supervision instrument cluster is remarkable for its conservative plainness compared with the colourful clocks of the original. We were happy though, for the new layout is a high on clarity as it is low on character.

Hyundai’s interior thinking has moved on from the Veloster’s rather busy mish-mash of interestingly textured hard plastics. It might feel cheap to touch but is not unattractive and sets the scene for some hunkered-down coupe driving.

The front seats are sublimely comfortable, although we’re not sure they need to be emblazoned with garish ‘turbo’ embroidery. Then again, our test car was bright yellow so garish was in its personality.

In addition to the instruments, Hyundai has updated the central touchscreen, which has crisp graphics and is easy to use. For example, pairing a smartphone via Bluetooth is a cinch.

We even managed to fit three tall adults inside, although the one in the rear seat was sprawled diagonally to get comfortable, mainly due to the lack of headroom. In reality, the rear seats are for children and occasional adult use.

A typical Veloster bugbear is the split rear windscreen, divided by a spoiler that makes the view through the interior mirror feel claustrophobic.

Visibility, then, is not great but the hi-res reversing camera display, rear parking sensors and the Hyundai’s compact dimensions and manoeuvrability made it easy to drive and park in the city.

Cabin storage and drinks carrying ability is plentiful and pretty well thought-out, including a map pocket in the passenger-side front seat and a luggage net in the useful 440-litre boot.

We can forgive the Veloster its few style-compromised foibles but on the move, road noise was exhaustingly intrusive.

Engine and transmission

With a handy 150kW of power developed at 6000rpm and useful 265Nm of torque on tap from 1750-4500rpm with 1330kg to pull, the Veloster’s 1.6-litre direct injection turbo-petrol engine pulls strongly from low revs and rarely feels like it’s in a rev-range flat spot.

It’s no tarmac-torturing hot hatch and the turbo can sometimes be caught napping between throttle applications, but the Veloster’s performance is most definitely on the right side of adequate in all driving scenarios.

Fat twin tailpipes produce a pleasantly raspy sound at idle and low speeds, but that soon disappears as revs and road speed increase. The engine gets boomy above 4000rpm and starts to sound strained as the revs pile on, which removes some of the emotional appeal expected from a sportscar.

The manual gearchange is pleasant, with a slick, short throw and a clutch pedal that feels just right. In fact, one of the Veloster’s strong points is its consistent and well-matched control weights.

Fuel consumption was a respectable 6.8 litres per 100 kilometres across more than 500km of mixed driving, a tenth of a litre better than the official combined figure.

Ride and handling

In theory, this should be the area in which the Veloster is most improved. The original had a crashy ride, anaesthetised steering and ragged dynamics when pushed.

New shocks with hydraulic bump-stops and an increase in tyre size from 215/40 R18 to 225/40 R18 provide slightly more sidewall flex and take the edge off larger impacts but are offset by stiffer front springs that compensate for a 2mm reduction in front sway bar diameter. We’d say it’s an improvement, but the Veloster is still a busy car on poor surfaces.

Hyundai claims the tweaks provide “sharper turn-in and more aggressive drive out of corners” and while we’d agree that it tips nicely into corners, has confidence-inspiring levels of grip and well-weighted steering (now upgraded to more powerful 32-bit control electronics), the helm remains uncommunicative and the traction control system can regularly be felt curtailing acceleration on corner exits well before the car itself feels like it is struggling to put its modest power down.

Some of the edges have been filed off the Veloster’s ragged fast-road dynamics but it is still not the most rewarding or fun car to fling down a country lane.

The small front-drive, rear torsion-beam coupe benchmark remains the Honda CR-Z hybrid, which was sadly discontinued in early 2015.

On the upside, the Veloster’s brakes do a great job with their linear pedal feel and consistent bite.

But being front-drive and based on budget hatchback underpinnings, the Veloster was never going to be a dynamic diamond and is a very different proposition to the Toyota 86, which has a rear-drive platform/drivetrain combination wrought from the parts bins of Subaru, Toyota and Lexus.

Safety and servicing

Hyundai provides a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty on all passenger vehicles, with roadside assistance for the same duration.

Service intervals are six months or 7500 kilometres, with the first 1500km service free of charge. At the time of writing, Hyundai’s iCare lifetime service plan website quoted between $159 and $399 for scheduled maintenance over the first five years, depending on whether it was a minor or major service interval.

In August 2012 ANCAP awarded the pre-facelift Veloster a maximum five-star safety rating with 35.47 points out of a maximum 37 based on data from Euro NCAP’s test of a left-hand drive and information supplied by Hyundai. It scored 15.47 out of 16 in the frontal offset test, 16 out of 16 in the side impact test and 2 out of 2 in the pole test. Pedestrian protection was judged ‘marginal’. The test pre-dated whiplash protection assessment.

The Veloster comes with dual front airbags, side airbags and head-protecting side curtains as standard, along with anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and electronic stability control. Both front seats are fitted with intelligent seat belt reminders and pretensioners.

Verdict

The Veloster has matured into a decent little package since the first iteration launched in February 2012 (the SR Turbo equivalent to the model tested here followed in August of that year).

Some of the more polarising design features have been toned down and some of the oily bits have been given a tickle-up to build on an already successful (at least sales-wise) base.

The SR Turbo manual tested here is the sweet spot in the Veloster range. We enjoyed our week living with it and so will most people in the market for this type of car.

Just don’t expect it to excite on twisty roads because this coupe majors on style and practicality rather than a thrill-a-minute driving experience. For that, see your Toyota, Subaru or Mazda dealership.

Rivals

Toyota 86 from $29,990 plus on-road costs
Redefined the level of dynamics and excitement available in a sportscar – for small hatchback money. Spartan spec compared with the Veloster and slightly slower in a straight line but show it a set of corners and the Hyundai won’t know where it went. Sacrifices the Veloster’s practicality to achieve this, though.

Subaru BRZ from $37,150 plus on-road costs
The Toyota’s twin sister, with added exclusivity, better colours and higher levels of standard equipment in return for a substantially higher entry price.

Mazda MX-5 from $31,990 plus on-road costs
If you don’t need rear seats or a big boot, it is difficult to look past the fantastic new MX-5. Pin-sharp handling, pin-up looks, surprising day-to-day usability and almost unbelievably good fuel economy.

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