Monday, October 20, 2014

A hot hatch from Hyundai?


When you think of performance hatchback vehicles like the VW GTI, your mind might not think of one brand. Can you hazard to guess what that brand is? If you are like the majority of the sports car world, you would guess Hyundai. Hyundai is hoping to change the perception, and thus gaining a foothold in the coveted hot-hatch market. The car they have charged with this monumental task: the Veloster Turbo. The Veloster Turbo addresses some of the performance short-comings of its' naturally aspirated sister. However, does it address all of them? Let's take a closer look at the 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo.


     When you take a look at the Veloster Turbo parked next to a non-turbo version, you will hardly notice any difference. This is partly because it gives it a sleeper effect that some tuners out there work hard to achieve. There are however, a few key, but subtle differences in the exterior appearance. One of those differences is the front fascia. With the non-turbo Veloster, you have a color keyed bar running across the front grill. When you check the turbo option bo, that color matched bar now becomes black.

     Some other small but key differences is a piece of shiny silver trim running along the side skirts, giving the vehicle that extra special shine. Other differences include a Turbo badge in red on the rear decklid, as well as twin circle exhaust outlets. Overall, the outside still retains the odd, 3-door coupe profile that Hyundai originally set out to give the vehicle. The looks are for the most part, a love or hate thing, and through research, most tend to start out hating it, but it has the potential to grow on them over time. Suggested color for the turbo version: Black or Matte Gray, with this test units' Boston Red a very close second.


On the inside, not a lot has changed either. This is mostly because the changes made from the turbo version, to the non-turbo version occurred under the hood. However, some small changes were made inside to differentiate the two trim levels. One of those differences is the trim color. On certain vehicles, you will get blue, and on others you will get silver/gray. This tester came equipped with the silver/gray option, which went perfectly with the black leather buckets.

     Seats make up an important part of the driving experience, and the Veloster Turbo seats are better than average, but not great. Side bolster support is great, but if you are a larger fellow like myself, you might very well find yourself hanging over the seat, and after awhile, that becomes uncomfortable. Padding was a bonus, as there was just enough to make things comfortable, but not too much where you might start to feel like you will slowly sink into the seats. Controls for the windows are found behind the door handle, which for some people, might take getting used too, but it makes some sense after living with it for a week.

     Material quality does have some room for improvement as well. The dash is mostly made up of hard plastic, which honestly feels like it has the potential to not hold up to wear over time. On a side note, the few soft touch areas in the vehicle feel amazing, like the steering wheel. The steering wheel feels great to hold, and combined with the seats and the shifter, might give you a grin on your face before you even turn the vehicle on. Now we shall take a look at what matters when you purchase this type of vehicle, the performance.


     Hyundai wants soo badly to tap into the hot-hatch market, and with the Veloster Turbo, they might have a pretty good shot, but it won't happen overnight. Hyundai has equipped the Veloster Turbo with a 1.6 liter, inline 4 cylinder engine producing 201 horsepower, and 195 lb.-ft of torque. While not fire-setting numbers by any means, it puts it in the ballpark of such heavy hitters like the previously mentioned VW GTI. However, it is enough power to provide plenty of smiles, like this reviewer found out. It also provides enough power for passing on the highway, and for merging in an expedited manner. 0-60 times are in the 6-7 second range, depending entirely on the person behind the wheel.

    When coupled with the standard 6-speed manual transmission, that is when things really start to come alive. Shifts are short and firm, and provide a quality feel. However, when shifting from 2 nd to 3rd, it is rather easy to skip 3rd and 4th altogether and land yourself in 5th. Clutch feel is also rather good, but the high release point would certainly take some getting used to, and can humble even the most professional of drivers. Combined with some powerful brakes that have little to no fade after repeated hard stops, you have the foundation for a car that can be really great in another generation or 2. With the suspension set up almost identical to the non-turbo version, handling is almost the same, which is to say a little rough, and maybe borderline harsh. The very same could be said for the steering feedback as well, which is a major factor in sports vehicles.

     Hyundai certainly didn't cut corners on safety features,however. The standard safety feature list contains such things like ESC with Traction Control, ABS with EBD and Brake Assist, and many more. While safety ratings aren't available at this moment, rest assured that this is a car that will protect you in the unlikely event that you are in an accident.

 While this isn't a safety or performance issue, the warranty package that Hyundai offers with this vehicle should also be noted. And for a performance-oriented vehicle, it's almost unheard of, with things like 5 yr./ 60k mile bumper to bumper warranty, and Hyundai/Kia's legendary 10 yr./ 100k mile powertrain warranty. With that kind of value, it makes the $26,520 as tested price a bargain, compared to the VW. Fuel economy is also impressive, with ratings of 24 city/ 35 highway, when equipped with the manual transmission.


     Overall, Hyundai has the foundation for what could be a very sporty car in a generation or two. All that is really needed is some suspension tweaks, and a little less turbo lag, and they could have a winner on their hands. But enough of what my thoughs on the car are, because it's what you, the loyal readers, and possible buyers of this car think. Do I think it deserves at least a test drive? I certainly do. But if this is going to be the main family vehicle as well, looking elsewhere might be better, as the back seat might be a little on the tight side.

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