The Veloster Turbo in some autocross action.
Patrick Rall's picture

A review of the Hyundai Veloster Turbo: Korea's handy hatchback with big power

I have driven the Hyundai Veloster a handful of times including spending a full week testing the funky little hatchback and my only concern was that it could use a little more power – a problem that is well solved with the Hyundai Veloster Turbo which adds a turbocharged to the standard 1.6L engine and more than just a little more power.

When I have previously driven and reviewed the Hyundai Veloster, I loved how it handled and rode but like many others, I wanted more power out of this uniquely designed hatchback so that it offered a sporty feel to match the sharp exterior design. The Veloster looks like a hot hatch but it needed a little more power to put itself soundly into the sport compact class.

Enter the Hyundai Veloster Turbo.

The Exterior
For those who are unfamiliar with the Hyundai Veloster, it is a compact hatchback but unlike –well – anything else on the market, the Veloster has both a front and rear door on the passenger’s side but only a single door on the driver’s side. This design allows for a sporty, compact feel but the “extra” door on the passenger side makes for very easy access to the back seat. This is ideal for loading passengers, kids or cargo into the back seat and it is a truly unique design that I’ve really grown to like. For the most part, the design of the Hyundai Veloster Turbo is identical to the non-turbocharged models with the “three door plus a rear hatch” design but the Veloster Turbo receives a body dressing that is far more aggressive than the standard Veloster.

Across the front end, the Hyundai Veloster Turbo is most easily recognized by the massive grille opening that dominates the revised front fascia. This huge grille allows for plenty of air flow to both feed the turbocharged engine while also helping to let plenty of cooling air hit the intercooler and radiator. This grille area is finished all in matte black with a floating chrome Hyundai “H” and while the Veloster Turbo has fog lights mounted low on the outer edge of the front fascia, the Turbo model uses a large round design fitted into large matte black bezels that fit nicely with the Turbo grille. The Turbo shares the hood with the non-Turbo models but that isn’t a bad thing – as the dual vented hood looks great just the way that it is. The headlights are the same shape as the non-Turbo models but the Veloster Turbo wears some high tech projection headlights underlined with LED trim that looks great and provides great visibility.

Along the side, the Hyundai Veloster Turbo doesn’t stray too much from the design on the non-performance model but along the bottom edge of the car, the Turbo models are fitted with lower side sills that reach further down to give the car a much sportier stance. The Veloster Turbo also gets a unique set of 18” alloy wheels with chrome inserts that are only available with this performance model of the sporty hatchback. Aside from the sills and the wheels, the Veloster Turbo is identical to the rest of the Veloster lineup with the rear passenger’s side door handles integrated into the rear pillar to support the sporty 2-door look – even though there is a second full sized door on that side of the car. Some companies have tried squeezing a rear door on a vehicle designed to only have 2 doors along the side of the car but none have done it as well as the Veloster.

Out back, the Veloster Turbo features similar design changes to those seen up front beginning with the removal of the thin reflectors on the outer corner of the rear fascia to make room for larger round units set in matte black cladding. The basic shape of the rear end is the same right down to the rear fascia but the Veloster Turbo has an integrated diffuser area at the bottom of the rear fascia along with some bright polished round exhaust tips poking through the body rather than the wide, flat tips on the non-Turbo models. The changes out back are subtle but they do a great job of being just enough to help the Turbo stand out from the other Veloster models. The rear end is finished with a bright red and chrome “Turbo” badge on the right side of the rear hatch.

The changes made to the front end of the Hyundai Veloster Turbo go a long way in making the car look like a proper sport model while also helping with aerodynamics and both feeding and cooling the 1.6L turbocharged engine. I like the look of the Hyundai Veloster – I love the look of the Veloster Turbo.

The Interior
On the inside, the Hyundai Veloster Turbo is practically identical to the non-turbocharged models with the main difference being the various finishes around the cabin. The silver trim found on the standard Veloster around the infotainment system, around the HVAC vents, on the center console, in the door grab handles and on the steering wheel trim has been replaced with a dark grey trim that provides a more aggressive, sinister look. To add to that sporty look, the Veloster Turbo offers a blue interior trim package that adds changes the stitching on the seats, the color of the leather side and hip bolsters and the grab bars on the door and on the center console with an anodized metal look on those plastic components that get the blue finish. Finally, the changes made to the Turbo model are rounded out with a full leather seating surface for the front and rear, a leather wrapped steering wheel and a unique gauge cluster that is a bit sportier than the standard Veloster – even though the actual layout is pretty much identical.

Where the Hyundai Veloster Turbo does not vary much from the non-Turbo models is in the functionality of the interior. Where some performance trimlines with either remove lots of goodies to save weight or pack the car full of new features to help justify the cost increase – the Veloster Turbo offers all of the same great interior gadgetry as the rest of the lineup. This begins up front where the leather clad steering wheel carries controls for the stereo, the Bluetooth phone system, the voice activated navigation program and the trim mileage readout that is nestled between the two large gauges. For those who don’t mind reaching away from the wheel for a second, the standard 7 inch touch screen mounted high on the center stack combines the controls and readout for the multimedia system, the navigation, the hands free phone system and the rear backup camera with old school buttons and knobs located on the sides and bottom of the screen area for those who arent fans of the touchscreen functionality. The HVAC controls rely on a large central knob and a collection of buttons that make for easy use when driving as they don’t require the driver to do any hunting for the control in question. This area also houses the buttons for the standard heated seats which are a really nice touch for this sporty hatchback.

In terms of interior comfort, the unique design of the Hyundai Veloster (both Turbo and non-Turbo) offers lots of space for the driver and front passenger while offering a surprising amount of room in the back seats. Mind you, the Veloster Turbo isnt going to comfortably seat four 6’4” adults but for a family with two young children, there is plenty of leg room in the back seats with the “extra” rear door allowing for easy access. Up front, the Veloster Turbo offers a great amount of head room, leg room and elbow room for a compact hatchback while the high back, leather covered sport seats are comfortable for a long ride while also providing solid grip during hard cornering. Adding that little extra wow factor is a nice big sunroof that is part of the Ultimate Package (which I would recommend).

Finally, like all proper hatchbacks, the Hyundai Veloster Turbo packs a great amount of cargo space under the rear hatch with a very large opening for easy loading. While the Veloster Turbo would make a very good family sportser with easy access to the roomy rear seats, this car is one of the best compacts that I have tested when it comes to loading and unloading anything from the rear seat or the cargo area. Some hatchbacks have the space under the rear hatch and in the back seat but you have to access them (and load items) through a small hatch opening but with the way that the Veloster hatch mounts so high up on the roofline – there is a absolutely huge opening that allows you to make use of every inch of available cargo space.

While the changes made to the interior of the Hyundai Veloster Turbo are fairly subtle, they follow in the theme of the exterior where a little goes a long way. The bright “Turbo” logos embroidered on the front seats make this model unmistakable but with all of the amenities and roominess of the standard non-Turbo Veloster combined with a dark trim package and gobs of leather – the Veloster Turbo is a hot hatch that is packed full of cutting edge technology with a smooth, sporty look.

The Drive
The Hyundai Veloster Turbo derives its power from a similar 1.6L 4-cylinder engine as the standard Veloster but as the name would indicate, this performance package adds a turbocharger and a whole lot of power. Where the Veloster produces 138 horsepower and 123lb-ft of torque, the Veloster Turbo packs an impressive 201 horsepower and 195lb-ft of torque – a significant increase that makes a very significant difference. When I drove the original Veloster, I enjoyed the handling but it just fell a little flat in terms of acceleration both from a stop and through the midrange but the addition of the Turbo package more than fixes those shortcomings. From a stop, the Veloster Turbo pulls hard through the gears with surprisingly little wheel spin or torque steer, allowing this hot hatch to make good use of the power. Many compacts that pack power in this range can be hard to launch but even with the quick spool time and the relatively “instant on” power band, the Veloster Turbo doesn’t blow away the front tires like some of the competitors. This is a car that you can launch hard and it will come off the line just as hard with any wheel spin being minimal before the tires track and rocket you up through the revs. The standard 6-speed manual transmission provides easy shifting from gear to gear under hard acceleration that takes very little time to learn and while and automatic transmission with paddle shifters is available – I would 100% recommend that buyers opt for the manual transmission for optimal driving fun.

Some have criticized the Hyundai Veloster Turbo for the fact that, unlike some performance packages around the industry, the company has not beefed up the suspension or braking system. The good news is that the standard Veloster is a ton of fun to drive with acute handling properties and solid braking. In standard non-Turbo form, the Veloster combines a comfortable ride with handling characteristics that make it a great deal of fun to drive on a twisty road. The Veloster Turbo offers those same characteristics but thanks to the added power – the Turbo model will hit those twisty roads a whole lot faster. Even though the Veloster Turbo doesn’t pack a specially tuned suspension system, it is still a great handling car that also provides a very smooth, easy going ride on the highway whereas some performance models opt for a stiffer suspension setup that compromises comfort when driving normally. Thanks to the good people at Hyundai, I had a chance to spend a week driving the Veloster Turbo on the open road after spending a couple hours on a tight autocross course that really showed off just how well the shared suspension and braking package of the entire Veloster lineup handles itself in a high performance setting. The Veloster Turbo is light on its feet and very nimble in tight quarters while also maintaining a great deal of stability on wide open, high speed turns so while some may criticize the Veloster Turbo package for not including a revamped suspension system – I suspect that those who drive the Turbo will love how it handles itself on the tight turns and on the open road.

Finally, Hyundai has designed this turbocharged engine in a way that helps to keep the fuel mileage numbers very high, allowing the company to advertise 24mpg around town, 35 on the highway and a combined figure of 28mpg; all of which are figures which I found to be very realistic under normal driving circumstances. I did notice a decline in fuel economy when I was driving the Veloster Turbo very hard but that is to be expected of any turbocharged performance model. The important fact here is that when driving the Veloster Turbo conservatively, you should very easily be able to hit the big highway number so this should be a great car for a long cross country drive without breaking the bank at the gas stops along the way.

The Final Word
The Hyundai Veloster Turbo takes the handling characteristics of the original Veloster that makes the innovative hatchback so entertaining to drive and adds enough power to make it one of the most engaging “hot hatch” models available in the US. Hyundai took everything that was right with the standard Veloster and resolved my only complaint with the original 4-door hatchback by tacking on more than 50% more horsepower and torque.

If you are in the market for a compact car that has an impressive amount of passenger and cargo space, lots of high tech interior amenities, a ‘fun to drive’ attitude on the street while also being very capable in a performance venue like an autocross course and great fuel economy all for a great price – the Hyundai Veloster Turbo might be the car for you. My Veloster Turbo test car came fully loaded with the standard manual transmission and it carried an MSRP of $25,395 so while it is quite a bit pricier than the standard Veloster, this is an ideal package for someone who wants a car that you can take to an autocross course with confidence while also having lots of interior space and features. In terms of a hot hatch, the Veloster Turbo doesn’t require any compromises.

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