The Veloster builds on the powertrain of the Hyundai Accent, but it strikes out in its own direction—with an available dual-clutch gearbox in the base model, a perky Turbo model, and a new stripped-down, enthusiast-oriented Turbo R-Spec model.
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. Brake feel is excellent, though, with confident four-wheel discs with slightly larger front rotors on turbo models.
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.
All Veloster models this year get torque vectoring control (TVC), which should help improve performance in very tight corners; separately, Turbo models get an active sound enhancement system that should bring sportier engine sounds into the cabin while keeping others out.