When Hyundai introduced the Veloster for 2012, we'll be honest: we expected a little more in the way of velocity. No question, the Veloster had style to spare, but speed? If that's what you were looking for, this Hyundai couldn't help you.
Well, consider help officially on the way, because the 2013 Veloster Turbo is about to hit dealerships nationwide. Packing a fancy twin-scroll turbocharger under its expressive hood, the new Veloster Turbo looks set to shake up the hot-hatch segment for years to come.
What's neat about twin-scroll turbochargers is that they start to generate meaningful power at very low engine speeds, all but eliminating the turbo lag that used to plague turbocharged cars. We know Hyundai is capable of implementing this technology, which it has already employed to great effect in the Sonata 2.0T. The Veloster Turbo starts with a smaller 1.6-liter engine, but its twin-scroll turbo cranks up the output to a robust 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, on regular 87 octane, no less. True to twin-scroll form, all that torque is available from just 1,750 rpm, theoretically leaving hardly any room for lag before acceleration begins with gusto. And somehow, Hyundai has still managed to squeeze out up to 38 highway mpg.
We wanted to see what all this technical stuff translates to in real-world driving, so we headed to San Diego County for the official Veloster Turbo media launch. Folks, we cannot overstate how much the turbocharged engine transforms this car. In the base Veloster, at least one downshift is required to make meaningful forward progress, and the magic number is often two. Even then, you're not exactly blowing anyone's doors off. But in the Turbo? Just leave it in sixth on the highway, whether you have the standard manual transmission or the optional automatic with manual mode. A little squeeze of the throttle is all you need to pass slow-lane dawdlers, and if you squeeze some more, the Veloster pulls toward triple digits (and suspended licenses) like a high-speed train. In sixth gear. It's astonishing. We used to associate such behavior with high-end V8s and V12s, but now you can get the same king-of-the-road character in a $22,000 sport compact with a Hyundai badge on the nose.
Oh, pardon us: the 2013 Veloster Turbo starts at $21,950, and that buys more than just a massively improved engine. Hyundai also throws in unique 18-inch alloy wheels, a quicker steering ratio, a Turbo-specific body kit, LED headlight and taillight accents, heated front sport seats with leather trim and driver's-side lumbar adjustment, keyless entry with push-button start and electroluminescent gauges. That's in addition to the regular Veloster's already impressive collection of standard equipment, including a seven-inch touchscreen and a six-speaker stereo with iPod/USB/Bluetooth connectivity and even Pandora integration for iPhone. Go ahead, try to find another hot hatch with this kind of kit for under 22 large. We like the Mini Cooper S and Volkswagen GTI a lot, but enough to fork over thousands more? The Veloster Turbo would force us to think long and hard about that one.
This is where we should remind ourselves that the 2013 Veloster Turbo's formula leaves room for improvement. Let's start with the throttle response: it's unacceptably slow with the manual transmission. Matching revs on downshifts is pure guesswork. This car needs a Mini-style Sport button, stat. We also take issue with the twin exhaust cannons that are center mounted in the rear fascia. If you look inside, the actual exhaust pipes turn out to be a fraction of the cannons' size, which explains why there's basically no exhaust note whatsoever. Real cannons make noise, and we hope the Veloster Turbo's will get real before too long.
But hey, let's be real: right out of the gate, the 2013 Veloster Turbo gives you world-class turbocharged power, inimitable style, a stacked equipment roster and, oh yeah, athletic handling and room for four adults in a pinch, all for an astoundingly affordable price. That's a tough package to top. With velocity now firmly on its side, Hyundai's sport compact has become a seriously formidable foe.