Other than their wacky concept cars, not many vehicles that wear a Hyundai badge can garner so much attention from the public due to its bizarre appearance. The previous Hyundai Coupe RD came close, but this latest oddity from Hyundai called the “Veloster” takes it to another level. Hyundai wants us to refer it as a coupe, but the Hyundai Veloster is probably what you will get when you crossbreed a coupe and a hatchback.
It has all the sleek low roofline of a coupe but at the same time it provides some of the practicalities of a hatchback from that rear hatch and an additional rear door. Yes, we did mention an additional rear door because it’s only available on one side. Why not on both sides we’re not quite sure, but it sure does make the Veloster stand out from the rest. Compared to its more sedated siblings such as the Santa Fe, the Sonata, or even the new Tucson, the Veloster is that child who wears his underwear on his head just because he could.
|Name||Hyundai Veloster Turbo|
|Engine||1,591cc; inline-4 turbo|
|Transmission||7-speed dual clutch|
|Max Power||184 hp @ 5,500 rpm|
|Max Torque||265 Nm @ 1,500 – 4,500 rpm|
|Price (OTR without insurance)||RM154,437.49 (with GST)|
We can confirm that the Veloster name wasn’t derived from “velour lobster”, apparently it was conceived by combining the words “velocity” and “roadster”. The Veloster is a totally new model in Hyundai’s lineup which picks up the legacy from the Hyundai Coupe GK that was discontinued a few years back. It started life as a concept car in 2007 before entering production in 2011, and finally reaching Malaysian soil in late 2012.
Fitted with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, the base Veloster can be yours for RM139k. However, the car you see here is the Veloster Turbo and it costs RM154k, because Hyundai has bolted on a turbocharger and swapped the six-speed auto with a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. That RM15k difference buys you a more pumped-up styling and grants you an additional 50 hp and 100 Nm over the “base” Veloster, giving you a total of 184 hp and 265 Nm. Sounds like quite a potent combo indeed, but does it drive as intriguing as it looks? Let’s find out.
We won’t call the Veloster pretty but it’s definitely eye catching, more so when it’s lacquered in bright sunflower shade like on our test car here. Still under the Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design philosophy, although the interpretation differs from the rest of its siblings, the end result is some sort of a mechanical insectoid shape that never fails to spark curiosity to those nearby.
Like the “regular” Veloster, the Veloster Turbo shares the coupe-ish silhouette with the shallow side windows and a sloping roof that ends to an almost horizontal rear hatch, but there are a few things that set the Turbo apart from the regular variant. The nose is immediately different with the huge single frame grille, but other differences are somewhat subtle.
The foglamps front and rear are now round in shape, as are the dual central-exit tailpipes, while the bumpers are more aggressive and the Veloster Turbo comes dressed with side skirts. It wears a different set of alloys, which means it loses out the colour-coded spokes on the rims, but the wheels still measure 18 inches in diameter, wrapped in 225/40 R18 tyres.
It goes without saying that the Veloster’s USP is its asymmetrical doors. Recent example can be seen on the R55 MINI Clubman, where the third door is rear-hinged on the right-hand side of the car, but MINI’s configuration only favours the left-hand drive markets because the third door is conveniently built on the passenger side. The third door on the Veloster is just like any other regular door, but Hyundai one-upped the MINI by reversing the layout depending on where the steering wheel is, so the third door will always remain on the passenger side. MINI has then since fitted regular doors on their latest F54 Clubman.
The interior is visually pleasing, particularly the center panel on the dashboard where you will find the controls to almost everything inside and a 7-inch touchscreen display. Although there’s no navigation included, the infotainment system covers the basic stuff such as Bluetooth connectivity and external media input, and it’s hooked up to the Mobis premium sound system with a subwoofer in the boot.
Hyundai has put some nice touches to uplift the sporty vibe on the inside, and this begins with the stainless steel pedals and thick bolsters on the front seats, although we do think that the instrument cluster could be more interesting. It looks too plain here but the graphics used are crisp and clear. Leather-wrapped steering wheel with shift paddles is standard along with leather seats, and the driver gets a semi-powered seat that reclines manually.
The rear seats can accommodate a couple of full-grown adults and there’s just about enough leg room, but the seats are best treated as temporary perches for your passengers because headroom is really tight back there. The third door does add a smidge of convenience to get into the back, but getting to the seat behind the driver requires your passenger to do a little crab dance over the cupholders in the middle seat base.
While the rear space is slightly compromised, the Veloster is far from impractical. There are ISOFIX mounts behind the seatbacks, and they split 60/40 and fold to increase the 320 litres boot space. Elsewhere there are “his and hers” 12v outlets at the base of the dashboard, a two-tiered storage space under the front center armrest, a well-sized glovebox and a cupholder for all four occupants on board. They are also protected by six airbags.
The tilting and sliding glass roof helps to create a more airy interior, although the view out from the driver’s seat isn’t really generous. The first thing you’ll notice is the poor over-the-shoulder view out when reversing, but that’s where the reverse camera come into play.
The 1.6-litre four-cylinder lump under the bonnet of the regular Veloster serves up 130 hp and 158 Nm of torque. Fitted with a turbocharger, it bumps the figures to 184 hp and 265 Nm respectively. In some markets, there’s a more potent version of the same engine, increasing the pony count to 201 hp.
The six-speed torque-converter auto ‘box on the regular Veloster has also been replaced by a seven-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT) developed in-house by Hyundai, while power is sent to the front wheels. Hyundai claims that the Veloster sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in 8.0 seconds flat before maxing out at a top speed of 214 km/h. Apart from the S mode on the transmission, there’s no Sports mode to play with but there’s an active ECO mode to lower fuel consumption.
With the striking looks and the fancy tech under its bonnet, we were expecting the Veloster Turbo to be the car that will finally put Hyundai’s name within the big league of manufacturers who produce entertaining cars. Initial impressions weren’t great, in town the DCT takes awhile to react and will make anyone look daft when exiting a junction. It gets worse on slopes, because the absence of hill-hold assist means you have to play with the throttle balancing to prevent the car from sliding backwards.
Once on the move it didn’t get any better. The DCT seems to be confused on which gear it should be in, and when it does it’s always a gear too high. If you think you can take matters into your own hands by overriding it with the shift paddles, you’d be wrong. The input given from the paddles was lost in translation because the gear you want is delivered to you a few moments after you flick the paddle. Talking to the gearbox in Korean didn’t help to quicken things up either, trust me I tried.
Hyundai fans by now would expect that this writer will say something good about the engine as its saving grace; unfortunately it is not. Like riding a horse that’s been stuffed with cotton balls up his nostrils, getting it up to speed is a torture, and you’ll feel bad for asking it to do so.
The lag from standstill doesn’t go away until peak torque arrives from 1,500 to 4,000 rpm, and then you reach a twilight zone where the revs climb and nothing happens until the power arrives at 5,500 rpm. Keeping the engine in the power band is almost a black art, but for most of the time we suggest you to keep it between 2,000 to 4,000 rpm for good progress.
The car is capable of doing big numbers on its speedo, but once you get there you wouldn’t want anyone to spoil your tempo because getting back to the previous speed is a huge effort. Forget about overtaking too, because that requires a meticulous planning which might involve some paperwork. Floor the loud pedal and the car will literally do that, increasing the engine noise without any substantial gain of the numbers on the speedo, a sensation familiar to that of a CVT gearbox.
Ride quality is acceptable on those low profile 18-inch tyres, and while the powertrain doesn’t appreciate being hustled, handling is adequate but it won’t inspire you on the twisty B-roads. Loads of grip are provided by the excellent Hankook Ventus S1 Evo2 rubbers, but mid corner bumps will unsettle the rear end so the tail can feel twitchy sometimes. You could alter the steering’s behaviour by toggling between three modes offered on the Flex Steer system but it still feels numb most of the time. I took it to the short and sweet Bukit Tinggi route and he just wanted it to end as soon as possible.
Eventually, we gave up treating it as a hot hatch because it simply isn’t one, not even lukewarm. We figured it’ll be better off doing what its owners are presumed to do, which is to cruise around town to been seen by others. It works like a charm, and the sunflower hue amplifies its magnetic charge of attraction. In fact, the attention it got was borderline embarrassing, although we reckon this is how it feels like driving a Lambo, without the power to escape the attention, of course.
IS THIS CAR FOR YOU?
If you’re looking for a hot hatch that can will entertain you on your weekly touge with your mates, you need to look elsewhere. The Veloster Turbo may have the ingredients to create a cracking little car but the execution falls short to make it a proper contender to some of the more established brands. However, if you like your car to stand out from the rest, the Veloster fits your bill. While you’re at it, you may be inclined to go all the way and spend another RM4k on the Sport package, which will add some orangey bits on the interior and some chequered decals on the exterior, if that tickles your fancy.
We’re comparing the Veloster to its closest cousin, the Kia Koup. Both share almost the same mechanical gubbins underneath, particularly the 1.6-litre turbo four, but the Koup gets the higher-tuned version of the engine. Unlike the Veloster, the Koup’s turbocharged engine is mated to a six speed torque converter auto and yet, it gets from 0 to 100 km/h quicker and has a higher top speed than the Veloster.
The Koup is slightly bigger and offers more space inside too, but even though the Koup is a handsome coupe, we don’t think it will be able to match the Veloster for street cred. We haven’t sampled the Koup at press time, but based on the specs sheet it appears to have the upper hand over the Veloster.
|Hyundai Veloster Turbo||Kia Koup 1.6 T-GDI|
|Type||inline-4, turbo, DOHC||inline-4, turbo, DOHC|
|Type||Electronic Power Steering||Electronic Power Steering|
|Transmission||7-speed DCT||6-speed automatic|
|Front||MacPherson Strut||MacPherson Strut|
|Rear||Torsion Beam||Torsion Beam|
|Front||Ventilated Disc||Ventilated Disc|
|Rear||Solid Disc||Solid Disc|
|TYRE & WHEELS|
|Tyre||225/40 R18||225/40 R18|
|Wheels||18-inch Alloy||18-inch Alloy|
|DIMENSIONS & WEIGHT|
|Max Kerb Weight||kg||1,360 kg||1,364 kg|
|Luggage Capacity (VDA)||Litres||320 litres||433 litres|
|Tank Capacity||Litres||50 litres||50 litres|
|Consumption||litres per 100km||7.1 litres||7.7 litres|
|Max Speed||km/h||214 km/h||222 km/h|
|0 to 100 km/h||sec||8.0||7.4|
|Price||RM||RM158,988.00 (including insurance)||RM135,888.00 (including insurance)|
WILL I BUY IT?
I personally wanted to like the Veloster Turbo. During the reveal, it appeared as though the Veloster Turbo could finally change my perception on Hyundai and their ability to make an enjoyable driver’s car, but the end result is not what I hoped for to say the least. If anyone tells you that the Veloster Turbo can run rings around the likes of the Ford Fiesta ST or the Peugeot 208 GTi, do console them and offer some sympathy. The future’s not bleak though for Hyundai, for they have just setup a performance-oriented N division and it’s headed by the former VP of BMW M. Hopefully their future N cars will deliver more excitement other than just looks.