Hyundai's Veloster shares its base powertrain with the Accent hatchback and sedan, but this year it strikes out on its own with a forced-induction version that pushes its limits.
The four-cylinder's a 1.6-liter, with advanced features like dual continuously variable valve timing and direct injection. It turns in 138 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque, and is paired with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a novel six-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT), which can perform faster shifts than some automatics while boosting fuel economy.
Whether you opt for the manual or the DCT, you'll be putting a lot of your right foot (and revs) into it to power away from lights and corners. The small-displacement four's output is impressive enough, given the Veloster's curb weight of less than 2,600 pounds. However, we've found it lacks the low-end torque to deliver a brisk launch, especially since both gearboxes are geared tall, to maximize fuel economy. As a result, the Veloster can seem sluggish off the line, though it lightens up and gets more energetic as it lifts revs above 4000 rpm. Zero to 60 mph times are estimated at under 9.0 seconds.
Either transmission is a fine choice, in our experience. Manual Velosters have nice, progressive clutch takeup, though the shifter throws are still a little long and tight. The DCT pulls off shifts just as quick and responsively as the one found in the Ford Focus and Fiesta. Hyundai's feels a bit more composed at city speeds, since they've tuned in more idle creep--the natural slow roll to speed that follows a lift off the brakes. Hillstart Assist Control is also included, to keep the Veloster from rolling back before uphill starts.
Opt for the Veloster Turbo, and acceleration times drop into much more relevant territory, at least as far as Honda Civic Si and VW GTI fans are concerned. The twin-scroll turbocharger boosts the Veloster's output to 201 hp in all, and peak torque arrives way down on the powerband at 1750 rpm. The turbo four thrums to life and stays thrummy, cooperating well with the manual shifter--it has an eerily VW-like, cable-throw feel--or the six-speed automatic that takes the DCT's place. The dual-clutch unit can't handle all the Turbo's torque, so its automatic transmission adopts paddle controls for shifting and a sport-shift mode that adapt just as well to the Veloster's mission. At full rasp and howl, we'll peg the Veloster Turbo's 0-60-mph times at under 7.0 seconds; Hyundai doesn't estimate its own times, and we expect the hardcore enthusiast magazines to generate numbers even below those.
Get the Veloster out on a curvy road, where you can keep either engine at a boil, and the story gets downright involving. The Veloster handles well, better than any other Hyundai, within spitting distance of the Mazda3 or Focus or GTI or Civic Si, though without the final round of polish to steering and ride feel. The Veloster has a fairly stiff front strut setup, twinned with a V-shaped torsion beam and integrated 23-mm stabilizer bar, and monotube shocks.
It's a vast improvement over the Elantra’s twist-beam-axle rear, but not quite as delicately controlled as those other machines and their fully independent suspensions. You can throw the lightweight Veloster around tight corners, yet it stays composed over all but the most broken surfaces. Make a quick transition, and it simply hunkers down evenly, shifting its weight with no snap but an even, predictable attitude. The Veloster rides about as comfortably as those vehicles, or as any short-wheelbase car can, and Turbos don't fare much worse for their bigger 18-inch wheels and Kumho Solus KH25 215/40R18 tires.
The defining trait of the Veloster, turbo or no, is relentless understeer, and that signals the difference between a sporty coupe and a sports car. The line would blur more if the Veloster's electric power steering felt a little less artificially weighted. It can feel overly heavy just off center, though effort tapers and feels more fluid at speed, more so on faster-ratio Turbos. Brake feel is excellent, though, with confident four-wheel discs with slightly larger front rotors on turbo models.