Pros: Energetic optional turbocharged motor, impressive fuel economy, fun to drive, lots of technology, innovative rear door, great warranty.
Cons: Base engine lacks punch, automated manual transmission could use refinement, ride could be more composed.
What's New: The 2013 Hyundai Veloster is now available in a Turbo trim with a 201-horsepower engine and various other upgrades. As for the non-turbocharged regular Veloster, the automatic-transmission model trades a little power and torque for an extra 2 mpg on the highway.
When the funky Hyundai Veloster hatchback debuted last year, it had practically everything going for it except speed. But, for the intended buyer, these are power-hungry times, so we were quick to ask Hyundai why they were not offering more horses under the hood. Well, consider that problem solved, because the 2013 Hyundai Veloster packs an available 201-horsepower turbocharged engine. In other words, finding fault with this car just got a lot more difficult.
The Veloster Turbo is a big deal because it's both fun to drive and remarkably affordable. At roughly $22,000 to start, the Turbo undercuts comparably equipped rivals like the Mini Cooper S and Volkswagen GTI by thousands. Plus, like every Hyundai, it's backed by an industry-leading 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, so if you're skeptical about turbo reliability, Hyundai's got your back.
Don't forget the even more affordable base Veloster, though, because it's fundamentally the same car minus the turbocharger. That means you get the same sporty handling and surprisingly refined high-speed demeanor, plus the added bonus of 40 mpg on the highway versus the Turbo's 34-38 mpg. Of course, the regular Veloster is a considerably slower car, but it should suit many drivers just fine.
Overall, Hyundai has done what it often does with new models-listened to critical feedback and quickly addressed a major issue. With extra power now on tap for those who want it, we're running out of nits to pick with the 2013 Hyundai Veloster.
Comfort & Utility
The 2013 Hyundai Veloster is offered in base or Turbo trim. The base model features a robust roster of standard perks, including 17-inch alloy wheels, LED exterior accent lights, a center-mounted trapezoidal exhaust outlet, air-conditioning, cruise control, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, a trip computer, a height-adjustable driver seat, and a six-speaker audio system with a 7-inch touch screen, Pandora internet-radio capability, and iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity.
As for the Turbo, it steps up its game with the turbocharged engine, unique 18-inch alloys, fog lights, exclusive exterior styling elements, center-mounted twin circular exhaust outlets, heated leather sport seats with "Turbo" embroidery, a quicker steering ratio, two TFT driver-information screens, push-button ignition, alloy pedals and an eight-speaker, 450-watt audio system.
The base model is eligible for two packages. The Style package adds 18-inch alloys, fog lights, a panoramic sunroof, the Turbo's eight-speaker audio system, leatherette seat and door trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and alloy pedals. The Tech package tacks on rear parking sensors, different 18-inch alloys with painted inserts, automatic headlights, keyless entry with push-button start, and a navigation system with a rearview camera.
Meanwhile, the Turbo's Ultimate package combines elements of the Style and Tech packages, highlighted by the rear parking sensors, panoramic sunroof, and navigation system with rearview camera.
The Turbo can also be decked out in Matte Gray paint for a fee, but buyer beware-Hyundai has very specific requirements for care and maintenance if you want to keep your warranty coverage.
Our interior evaluation of the Veloster left us impressed with the base model's front seats, as they feature more lateral support than we're used to feeling at this price. The Turbo's special front chairs are grippier still. Common to both models is the spaceship-like dashboard, which looks so cool that we're inclined to forgive the mediocre materials employed. The tilt-telescopic steering wheel offers ample adjustability, while the clean, crisp gauges are complemented in the Turbo by a pair of graphically dazzling TFT information screens. Ergonomics are surprisingly good for such an adventurous design, particularly the foolproof climate controls.
Access to the Veloster's back seat is via a conventional forward-hinged third door on the passenger side. It's like a four-door hatchback without the driver-side rear door. That means the rear door opens independently, unlike the so-called "suicide" door that some other three-door cars have utilized, so rear passengers are free to enter and exit as they wish. Passenger space in back is mostly fine, but taller riders won't have enough headroom.
Trunk space in the Veloster measures 15.5 cubic feet by default and 34.7 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded down.
The Veloster's standard 7-inch touch screen really sets it apart when compared to other affordable hatchbacks. Hyundai knows its young target buyers want to be on the grid at all times, so virtually every imaginable connectivity feature comes standard. You can also crank tunes from Pandora if you've got an iPhone. The Turbo's high-resolution TFT information screens only add to the tech cachet. The one notable disappointment is that the optional navigation system isn't hard-drive-based, so you can't store your music on it.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The front-wheel-drive Veloster starts with a 1.6-liter inline-4 that makes 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque when paired with the six-speed manual transmission. We make that distinction because if you specify the optional dual-clutch automated manual, power drops to 132 hp and 120 lb-ft-an "improvement" for 2013 that does boost automatic fuel economy to 28 mpg city/37 highway. The manual remains at 27/3 mpg. Since the base Veloster needs all the horses it can get, our preference is for the fairly satisfying stick-shift. Also, the automated gearbox could use some more development to sharpen its sometimes clumsy shifts.
If cost is no object, the pick of this litter is undoubtedly the Turbo model's 1.6-liter turbocharged inline-4, which cranks out 201 hp and 195 lb-ft. Thanks to twin-scroll technology, most of that oomph is available under 2,000 rpm, so the Veloster Turbo pulls like a train on the highway, even in sixth gear. We'd only ask for more distinctive noises from the twin exhaust cannons out back. Fuel economy is a frankly incredible 24/35 mpg with the manual transmission. If you prefer to have your gears shifted for you, the Turbo also offers a six-speed conventional automatic that drops efficiency to 24/31 mpg.
The 2013 Hyundai Veloster comes with standard stability control, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, and six airbags (front, front-side, full-length side-curtain).
The Veloster's steering feels a bit artificial, even in quicker-ratio Turbo form, but it's responsive enough to be entertaining. On curvy roads, the Veloster's wide front track is palpable, keeping the car planted most of the way to its limits. Push too hard and the Veloster's humble economy-car roots become apparent, but most drivers will find a just-right level of sportiness here. On the highway, meanwhile, the Veloster is unexpectedly an absolute champ, tracking straight and true at all speeds. It's downright Germanic, really. We're less enamored of the way the chassis flexes over rough pavement, but hey, let's be honest, Hyundai did a darn good job tuning the Veloster's ride and handling.
Other Cars to Consider
FIAT 500 - The 500 has a power shortage of its own unless you pony up for the pricey turbocharged Abarth; nonetheless, it's got plenty of Italian style if you're looking for a little more sophistication.
Chevrolet Sonic LTZ - No motivation issues here, as the turbocharged Sonic LTZ has plenty of zest for squirting through traffic. It's a surprisingly comfortable car on the highway, too.
Honda CR-Z - Honda's odd hybrid-powered coupe only has two seats, but it gets better overall fuel economy than the Veloster, and we like its slick six-speed shifter and futuristic interior.
The Veloster Turbo is our kind of car-quick, stylish, and packed with value. We wouldn't need any of the fancy add-ons; just give us a bone-stock Turbo for $22k and we'd be laughing all the way to the bank.
In November 2012, Kia and Hyundai adjusted the fuel economy ratings on some 2011-2013 models. This article has been modified to reflect the accurate EPA ratings.