Driven: 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

By John Beltz Snyder

July 18, 2012

—Brooklyn, Michigan
Depending on how well you’ve familiarized yourself with the look of the Hyundai Veloster, you may or may not notice the differences in appearances between it and the new 2013 Veloster Turbo. You could be forgiven for simply coming away with a vague sense that the Turbo looks more aggressive. Once you’ve seen the changes side-by-side, though, you can’t miss them.
First, the grille on the Turbo is opened up a bit, and not split into two by painted bodywork. The front bumper, fascia, and foglight housing are all unique to the Turbo. It features projector headlights with LED accents. The new car has an updated body kit, and special eighteen-inch alloy wheels with the chromed edge of the spokes giving them a blade-like look.
[Click here to read our review of the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth]
In back, the LEDs are repeated in the Turbo’s taillights. A spoiler tops the rear window, and the bumper, diffuser, and dual central exhaust tips are all unique to the turbo, the latter being the prominent feature that sets this apart from its naturally aspirated sibling from the rear.2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Rear End
Inside the car, the standard black leather seats come with either blue or grey highlights, to create a visual difference. The Turbo also comes standard with heated front seats, aluminum pedals, and proximity key push-button start. Also standard at entry level are the seven-inch touchscreen display, and Hyundai’s Blue Link technology and Bluetooth connectivity. (The base Turbo is nicely equipped, and the only options package apart from the automatic transmission—the Ultimate package—adds a sunroof, navigation, back-up camera and sensors, auto headlights, and a 115-volt outlet. That’s it.)
Besides those things, which don’t necessarily jump out at you at first, the Veloster Turbo’s interior feels pretty familiar. The seats are comfortable and nicely contoured, with just enough bolstering to keep you in place without feeling like you’re wearing a corset. Passengers are surrounded by an attractive design of hard and soft plastics, with a nice center stack, and controls that feel solid to the touch. The third door is on hand to make access to the second row much easier, and to provide the Veloster a sort of signature feature. Also, the split rear window is the same, making it a bit difficult to see behind you through the rear-view mirror—it does let in a lot of light, and looks particularly cool from outside the car.
Underneath the hood, a twin-scroll turbocharger, capable of up to 18 psi of boost, is mated to the Veloster’s 1.6-liter GDI four-cylinder. Together, they produce 201 peak horsepower at 6000 rpm, with the maximum 195 pound-feet of torque accessible from just 1750 rpm. It’s a big improvement—especially experientially—from the naturally aspirated version’s output of 138 horsepower (at 6300 rpm) and 123 pound feet of torque (at 4850 rpm). Thankfully, the Turbo doesn’t suffer much at the pump. The manual-transmission-equipped model offers 26 miles per gallon in the city, and 38 on the highway (down slightly from the Veloster’s 28/40 mpg). Equipped with the six-speed automatic, it suffers a little bit more, at 25/34 mpg—driver engagement and up-front cost aren’t the only reasons to choose the do-it-yourself gearbox.
So, having driven and enjoyed the 2012 Veloster quite a bit (you can read Seyth’s first drive here, or your author’s account of his weeklong vacation with the car here), we were excited to take the Veloster Turbo from the wonderful city of Ann Arbor, through the scenic and winding roads of Irish Hills, to the Michigan International Speedway in the town of Brooklyn.
First order of business: gotta check out the power delivery in this thing. Our main complaint about the old Veloster was that it could feel a bit anemic. (Sorry to continuously compare the Turbo to the naturally aspirated version, but, after all, it’s only natural.) Leaving the lot, we stepped on the gas, let off the clutch, and ran the engine through the revs pretty ferociously. Then we shifted to second gear and repeated the process. The Veloster Turbo responded eagerly, spinning its front wheels from the stop, and revving smoothly but fairly quickly all the way to redline. There wasn’t a lot of drama, apart from the screeching tires, but it definitely felt quick. Our hopes and expectations had been met.
2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Interior
 Shifting with the six-speed manual transmission was no different than it had been in the less-powerful vehicle, at least physically. The shifter felt very solid, and landed nicely and confidently in each gear. The clutch had a generous amount of travel, but was light, solid, and easy to use—not springy or lumpy or finicky at all. The only difference in the shifting experience was psychological. Because everything was happening faster under the hood and, subsequently, on the road, it encouraged us to be faster with our left foot and right hand. Finally, we were able to row this really driver-friendly gearbox closer to its full potential, and it brought a smile to our face.
With the extra power on tap, we found the Turbo to be very forgiving. Shifting too soon and landing too low in the revs was not a huge problem. Just lay into the accelerator, and the forced induction makes up for any errors. Yes, we were surely slower when we did that, but the engine didn’t feel like it was penalizing us too much for a small error or circumstantial necessity.
This also came in handy later in the day, at MIS. Hyundai had set up a long but tight autocross course in a large lot on the premises. In sharp corners with orange cones in close proximity on either side, simply stepping on the gas in second gear seemed to take less time than downshifting, then shifting back up. This was further evidenced by Winding Road editor Brandon Turkus, who topped the leaderboard of the sizable group of journalists on hand, employing this very method. (Bravo, Brandon!)
But the extra boost didn’t make the Veloster Turbo tougher to drive smoothly. Quite the opposite, the long travel of the gas pedal gave us a lot of room to work with. And when we wanted to take off (from any spot in the rev range, really), we just dug deeper into the pedal, and were met with an immediate response from the engine. No turbo lag here, just instant-on power, especially in the lower gears.
When we extoll the virtues of this new turbocharged powerplant, it’s difficult not to make it sound awfully fast. Keep in mind this is a small-displacement engine, and speed is relative. It’s fast for its size, that’s for sure, but it is still very sane and easily controlled, despite its penchant for spinning the front wheels. Please don’t try to outpace a 370Z from a stoplight; you’ll just embarrass yourself.
The relative sportiness of the turbo motor is mirrored by some nice suspension tuning. The Veloster’s suspension already offers good road feel, but the Kumho Solus 215/40R18 rubber wrapped around those eighteen-inch alloys works as a sort of amplifier. It is like a four-legged animal on skates, with all its muscles tensed. Bumps in the road are transmitted to the driver via floor, seat, and steering, but nothing is particularly jarring. Fillings stay in place, and the car follows the contours of the road nicely. In corners, body roll is mitigated well, and the Turbo feels stable through the bends. What motion there is serves to inform the driver, and comes on progressively. It feels naturally sporting and communicative, yet still quite comfortable.2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Autocross
Steering response and feedback are definitely to our liking in the Veloster Turbo. Even on-center, the steering wheel offers a nicely palpable yet subdued amount of vibration that feels very specific to what is going on between road and tire. Response is immediate, even if turn-in could be a bit snappier. The tiller feels the same weight and speed at any steering angle, and response is very predictable, if a bit robotic. It’s a good rack to work with, especially if one prefers steering that’s all business, not playful and loose.
This Turbo, like the standard Veloster, is not a loud car. We were kind of hoping for a bit more of an engine note in the souped up version, but it is still a very low volume. The exhaust is also mostly silent in most types of driving. If you have good ears, though, the turbo offers an audible whine under load, which is met with a toneless whooshing through the exhaust. It’s not much to speak of, but it is a good cue, nonetheless, to a tuned-in driver that all the new bits under the hood are doing their job. Tire noise is very low, too, which is easy to appreciate, and wind noise only creeps in at higher speeds. The little operational sound that the Turbo does offer comes through the sidewalls of the tires and the suspension when driving over surface irregularities. You can make up for this innate quietness, though, through wheelspin, which is an integral part of the Turbo’s repertoire.
A little more about the autocross: the Veloster Turbo is a fun match for this sort of thing, with some exceptions. On our course at MIS, nailing the launch seemed to be a huge part of setting a good lap time. We ran it with the traction control off, so as not to get slowed down by the electronics. It took a bit of finesse—and practice—to get a hard start without losing too much traction. Also, we had to ease on the power in the corners, or else the inside wheel would gladly let go of its grip upon exit.
In general, though, whether it be in shifting, acceleration, or other dynamics important to going fast and having fun, the Turbo was at once capable and forgiving. It starts with a car with so much potential, and mitigates the main weakness—lack of power—without screwing up the rest of the package. All the Veloster Turbo needs, now, is the right person behind the wheel.
2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo
Engine: Turbocharged inline-4, 1.6 liters, 16v
Output: 201 hp/195 lb-ft
0-60 MPH: 7.2 sec (est)
Weight: 2800 lb
Fuel Economy, City/Hwy: 26/38 mpg
Base Price: $21,950