Over one of the many challenging passes in the area near Cape Town, the just-launched Hyundai Veloster Turbo behaves impeccably, putting its power down on the billiard-board surface predictably and with a fair degree of grip. Even shifting to a gear higher than ideal showed no tendency for the front end to wash out into understeer, so this is indeed impressive.
The thing is, does this car have enough punch, enough outright handling prowess, to cut it with the likes of the Mini Cooper S or the Volkswagen Scirocco? Those cars are going to be the benchmark for this, the first real performance Hyundai in quite some time, since the discontinued Tiburon V6 that surprised people with its prowess almost a decade ago.
Turbo engine adds welcome boostOn paper things look pretty cool for the three-door-plus-hatch-lid Hyundai coop which was launched with a 1.6-litre engine a year or so ago. The new engine is known as a T-GDI, which stands for turbocharged gasoline direct injection and is fitted with a twin-scroll exhaust-driven blower.
The rated output is 150 kW and 265 Nm of torque, a substantial step-up from the 103 kW and 167 Nm 1.6-litre motor fitted to the naturally-aspirated Veloster. Hyundai offers a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, offering a full-automatic driving style or gear-changes through paddle shifts or the central gear lever.
The manual’s rated 0-100 kph time is 7.8 seconds, while the dual clutch model is said to be good for 7.3 seconds. Top speed is rated at 224 to 225 kph, the DCT getting the slightly faster figure, presumably due to optimised gear ratios.
Revised gearingTalking of ratios, a quicker steering ratio is fitted to the rack of the Turbo model, with revised calibration to invoke quicker responses from steering wheel to the road. The wheels themselves are upgraded with the Veloster Turbo gaining 18-inch alloys which fill those big wheel arches admirably from a side-on or three-quarter view. Tyre sizing on these wheels are 215/40 R18s, and are suitably low profile, although when the car is viewed from straight ahead or from the rear, one could argue that slightly broader section tyres would have made the Turbo look more purposeful.
Still it’s a good-looking car, one of the best in its class, in fact, with all sorts of interesting angles and panel cutaways keeping the viewer intrigued, and the owner proud.
Smooth operatorIn terms of power delivery, it’s ultra-smooth, yet somehow I found myself waiting for a bit more meat in that power-band that never seemed to announce itself. There is no typically mid-range sweet spot, it all seems just a little too linear to make this car really exciting. Again, it will be interesting to have a V-Box-timed shoot-out against its price competitors, notably the Scirocco and Mini Copper S, to see where the Korean coupe lies in the street-racer scheme of things.
In terms of stopping power, the brakes have been upgraded with larger ventilated discs up front.
Interior detailsInside the Volster has a pleasing interior, quite different in style to anything you are likely to get from European offerings. Hyundai has gone for a prominent centre console that is said to be inspired by a superbike fuel tank. What I like about it is that all the major dials and control knobs are present and easy to use. It is a pleasant cockpit, but more than one journo on the launch felt that a touch of added metal bright-work or red stitching or whatever would have made the point that you are indeed sitting in the performance version of the coupe.
The seats are comfortable and offer good lumbar and lateral support, and, while there isn’t too much space in the rear, it is possible to cruise the city with four adults on board, the rear passengers of course accessing from that single kerb-side door.
Getting back to the handling mentioned earlier, rougher elements encountered on our route through various mountain passes showed that the slight deflection over bumps encountered on the non-turbo model a year ago has not been fully sorted. Indeed, with stiffer suspension setting and lower profile tyres it can become quite skittish when driving over mid-corner bumps. Hyundai has established a performance centre at the famous Nurburgring circuit to deal with this sort of issue, but it has not born fruit as yet in the Veloster Turbo.
But the smooth road manners and the overall smoothness of the car nevertheless makes for a pleasant car, and it is only when really pressing on that you wish for greater control of un-sprung weight in the suspension.