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Hyundai's Veloster is a genre-bending risk that appears to be paying off. As a category killer of sorts, the Veloster is at once a stylish sporty coupe, a stylish three-door hatchback with innovative packaging, and a model that can almost provide the driving experience of a sports car.
And for the 2014 model year, the Veloster gets closer to the sports-car label—with the new 2014 Hyundai Veloster Turbo R-Spec, a leaner, stripped-down version of the Veloster Turbo that's configured for those who want a big step up in performance from the base model but could do without all the extra comfort and convenience features.
Relative to the Veloster Turbo, the Turbo R-Spec gets a stiffer suspension, different steering tuning, and a B&M sport shifter. Sportier interior trim and special badging are part of the new model's presentation, and it's offered only in Marathon Blue, Sprint Gray (exclusive to the R-Spec), Elite White and Ultra Black
The Veloster remains mostly unchanged otherwise; and that's a good thing. As a synthesis of different types of vehicles, it's daring when its competition isn't, and that starts with its grabby, sport-shoe styling and arresting look that erupts from its unconventional four-door layout. There's a hatch in back, a driver-side door, and two smaller front-hinged doors on the passenger side. Only in the most generic way does it mimic some of the shapes of the Accent and Elantra that it borrows parts from. Altogether it's distinctive and energetic, with lots of disruptive lines and surfaces that never seems to run out of ways to entertain owners and onlookers. Inside, the Veloster is nearly as much of a trendsetter; it's put a V-neck on the Veloster's dash and tucked a big LCD locket in the middle—avoiding the clutter, and reconciling sporty and functional.
At the base level, the Veloster's 138-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine has been cribbed from the Veloster. On that model, it's teamed with a six-speed manual or a dual-clutch automatic, and they're both good enough for us to say that you should leave it to personal preference. It's a little short on torque off the line, but its EPA highway fuel economy of 37 mpg highway is excellent, and we saw more than 30 mpg in an extended test. Go for the Veloster Turbo and it's a different story entirely; it packs a twin-scroll turbocharger for 201 hp in all, a 195-lb-ft blast of torque on tap at low engine speeds, and a choice between six-speed manual and paddle-shifted automatic transmissions. good for 0-60 mph times of about 7.0 seconds or less, with just a slight crimp in gas-mileage numbers.
To fit the Turbo's greater power, these models get stronger brakes and stickier tires—which helps improve the Veloster's handling in general. We're not wild about the electric power steering; it's low on feedback, and weighty when it doesn't need to be, but it doesn't disrupt the Veloster's generally flat, crisp cornering, which gets unsettled only if it's pitched over bad sections of pavement.
The Veloster is quite spacious up front for two, even with the available sunroof or panoramic roof. As for the back seat and that catchy side door, they're more playful than practical. Anyone greater than child-size is going to find it tight back there. The Veloster just isn't meant to be a four-person commuter; think of it instead as a versatile two-door hatch, with rear seats that fold down easily to create a very useful cargo area. And there are plenty of bins, cubbies, and nooks for stowing away smaller items.
At a base price of well under $19k, the 2014 Veloster stands out for its generous list of standard features for the money. Audio features on all Velosters include a USB/iPod interface, RCA inputs, Bluetooth hands-free, and GraceNote music display technology that allows you to request music with voice commands. Upgrades on the Turbo model, which starts around $23k, include leather seats, big wheels and tires, a rearview camera, and more. Options include a huge panoramic sunroof, a navigation system, upgraded wheels, and a 115-volt outlet. Automatic climate control is newly optional in the Turbo for 2014, and daytime running lights are a standard feature across the model line. And as part of the Blue Link suite of services, the Hyundai Assurance Connected Care service is included for three years regardless of the level of subscription.
If you opt for the edgy Turbo R-Spec, you'll do without some features. Push-button start and proximity key; the electroluminescent instrument cluster, side-mirror turn signals, and leather heated seats are among the many items deleted in this focused performance model.
- Sport-shoe design sensibility
- Way more practicality than most sports cars
- New R-Spec realizes Turbo's potential
- Blue Link is standard, impressive
- Great grip and poise
- Tight back seat
- Sluggish off the line (base engine)
- Steering can be vague; on Turbos, heavy
- Ride isn't always delightful
- Dual-clutch automatic should have snappier shifts