In the traditionally boring world of economy hatchbacks, the 2013 Hyundai Veloster is a breath of fresh air. It has Hyundai's signature "fluidic sculpture" design language, which sets it apart from just about everything under $20,000 except Hyundai's own Elantra sedan. It boasts a single conventionally hinged backdoor on the passenger side that makes life easier for rear passengers. It's packed with technology, including a standard 7-inch touchscreen. And its fuel economy is among the best you'll find in anything outside of a hybrid.
Last year, we were enthralled with the Veloster except for one major problem: power shortage. The standard 1.6-liter engine has a pleasant character, but it's not what anyone would call strong. You may find the Veloster has plenty of sauce for your daily driving, but we expected more based on how cool this Hyundai looks.
Hyundai solved that problem for 2013. Now you can get a Veloster Turbo, which rivals some of the top hot hatches in the class for excitement, speed and handling. We're also pretty excited by the Turbo's styling revisions, which include a body kit and a more aggressive front end. With the Turbo available, it's hard to find much fault with the sporty Veloster.
What's New for 2013
The Veloster is unchanged from 2012 except for an all-new Turbo model. The Veloster Turbo offers a 201-horsepower turbocharged version of the standard Veloster's 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard, while a 6-speed automatic is optional.
What We Like
New Veloster Turbo; great fuel economy; packed with features; daring styling; unconventional third door eases back-seat access
What We Don't
Automated manual transmission is slow on the uptake; some drivers wish it had a fourth door
The base-level Veloster is a front-wheel-drive hatchback powered by a 1.6-liter inline 4-cylinder rated at 138 hp and 123 lb-ft of torque. The standard transmission is a 6-speed manual, but the Veloster also offers a novel dual-clutch automated manual transmission with paddle shifters. Fuel economy is an impressive 27 miles per gallon city/37 mpg hwy with the stick-shift, or 27 mpg city/35 mpg hwy with the dual-clutch automatic.
For shoppers who want more power, the 201-hp Veloster Turbo delivers. It also comes with a standard 6-speed manual that's rated at 27 mpg city/37 mpg hwy. Since the Turbo doesn't offer the same dual-clutch transmission as the nonturbo model, fuel economy falls to 25 mpg city/34 mpg hwy if you pick the automatic.
Options & Standard Features
The 2013 Hyundai Veloster is offered in two trim levels. Base models feature 17-in alloy wheels, LED exterior accent lights, air conditioning, cruise control, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, a trip computer, a height-adjustable driver seat and a 6-speaker audio system with a 7-in touchscreen, Pandora Internet-radio capability and iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity.
There are two options packages for the base-level Veloster. The Style package adds 18-in alloy wheels, fog lights, a panoramic sunroof, an 8-speaker audio system with a 450-watt amplifier, 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-in alloys with painted inserts, automatic headlights, keyless entry with push-button start and a navigation system with a rearview camera.
Choosing the Veloster Turbo gets you the larger, more powerful engine. It also adds a long list of comfort and convenience features, such as keyless starting, leather upholstery with heated front seats, sport suspension and more aggressive 18-in wheels. Turbos offer the Ultimate package that boasts a navigation system, a rearview camera, a panoramic sunroof and a rear obstacle detection system.
The 2013 Hyundai Veloster comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and six airbags (front, front side, full-length side curtain).
Neither the government nor the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash tested the Veloster as of this writing.
Behind the Wheel
The Veloster's steering may feel artificial, but it responds quickly to inputs, so the result is reasonably sporty. On winding roads, the Veloster can be entertaining -- it's a featherweight hatchback with a firm suspension, and that's usually a recipe for decent athleticism. Crumbling urban pavement presents more of a problem, as that firm suspension can get unsettled over bumps. But overall the Veloster's driving dynamics are just fine for this class. We'd recommend the precise-shifting conventional manual if you don't mind doing your own clutch work. The automated gearbox feels like it needs more factory testing, as dual-clutch units are usually more responsive.
In keeping with the Veloster's sporting theme, the front seats have more lateral bolstering than you'll find in a typical economy hatchback. What's most notable about the Veloster's cabin, though, is the stylishly futuristic dashboard, which more than makes up for the mediocre materials used to construct it. The tilt-telescopic steering wheel offers plenty of adjustability for most body types, and the clean, simple gauges behind it are treated to Hyundai's trademark deep hoods and blue trim. Despite the dashboard's edgy style, most controls are easily deciphered at a glance. We especially like the efficiently laid-out climate controls.
The Veloster's back seat is accessed via an unusual third door on the passenger side. Let us explain: We've seen third doors on compact hatchbacks and coupes before, but they've been of the reverse-opening "suicide" variety, requiring the front passenger door to be opened first. The Veloster's third door, however, opens conventionally using its own exterior handle, so rear passengers can come and go as they please. As for rear passenger space, it's quite good except for the headroom, which is inadequate for folks with longer torsos.
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.
If you don't want a Veloster Turbo, the sweet spot is a stick-shift Veloster with the Style package, since we like the look of the optional 18-in rims. But we vastly prefer the Veloster Turbo, which is as energetic as it looks, if not more. The Ultimate package is nice, though not totally necessary -- but it features so much enticing technology that we wouldn't fault you for choosing it.