When the funky Hyundai Veloster hatchback first debuted, it had practically everything going for it except speed. But these are power-hungry times, so scribes like us were quick to jump on Hyundai for not offering more horses under the hood. That's no longer an issue, however, because the 2014 Hyundai Veloster boasts not one but two turbocharged variants: the regular Turbo and the sporty new R-Spec. Not surprisingly, we're struggling to find anything amiss these days with Hyundai's hot hatch.

The Veloster Turbo is a big deal because it's both fun to drive and remarkably affordable. It undercuts the price of comparably equipped rivals like the MINI Cooper S and Volkswagen GTI by thousands. Like every Hyundai, it's backed by a stout 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, so if you're skeptical about turbo reliability, Hyundai's got your back.

Don't sleep on 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 extra fuel economy. Either way, it's harder than ever to pick nits with the 2014 Hyundai Veloster.

What's New for 2014?

The headline news is the turbocharged R-Spec, which debuts with cheeky styling and performance at a lower price than the regular Turbo. All Velosters get a standard rearview camera, while the Turbo is outfitted with amplified engine noises, an electronic limited-slip differential and available automatic climate control. Note that fuel economy estimates are lower across the board this year.

What We Like

Energetic optional turbocharged motor; solid fuel economy; fun to drive; lots of technology; innovative rear door; great warranty

What We Don't

Base engine lacks punch; automated manual transmission could use refinement; firm ride

How Much?

$18,610-$23,110

Fuel Economy

The base Veloster is powered by a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 138 horsepower and 123 lb-ft of torque -- with the 6-speed manual transmission, that is. If you specify the optional 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual, output drops to 132 hp and 120 lb-ft. Fuel economy drops sharply for 2014 due to an Environmental Protection Agency revision, but it's still pretty good, checking in at 26 miles per gallon city/35 mpg hwy with the stick shift and 28 mpg city/36 mpg hwy with the automated manual.

Opt for the Turbo or R-Spec and you'll get a spunky turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder rated at 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual is standard, while a 6-speed conventional automatic is optional. (The automated manual is only offered on the base model.) Fuel economy is down for the turbocharged Veloster, as well: The manual returns 24 mpg city/33 mpg hwy, while the automatic gets 24 mpg city/31 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2014 Hyundai Veloster is offered in base, Turbo or R-Spec trim.

The base Veloster ($18,610) comes with 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 6-speaker audio system with a 7-in touchscreen (including a rearview camera), Pandora Internet radio capability, and iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity.

The Turbo ($23,110) steps up to the plate with a turbocharged engine, an electronic limited-slip differential, unique 18-in 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 8-speaker, 450-watt Dimension audio system.

The new R-Spec ($22,110) is an edgier, slightly less luxurious Veloster Turbo with some aggressive touches, including exclusive design cues, a sport-tuned suspension, red-trimmed leatherette upholstery and a sport shifter.

The base model is eligible for two packages. The Style package adds 18-in alloys, a chrome grille surround, fog lights, a panoramic sunroof, the Turbo's 8-speaker audio system, piano-black interior accents, leatherette seat and door trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and alloy pedals. The Tech package (which requires the Style 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.

Meanwhile, the Turbo's Technology package combines elements of the regular Veloster's Style and Tech packages, highlighted by the rear parking sensors, panoramic sunroof and navigation system. It also throws in automatic climate control for 2014.

Cargo space in the hatchback Veloster measures 15.5 cu ft by default and 34.7 cu ft with the rear seat backs folded down.

Safety

The 2014 Hyundai Veloster comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and six airbags (front, front-side, full-length side curtain). A driver-side blind spot mirror joins the fun for 2014.

Neither the government nor the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash-tested the Veloster.

Behind the Wheel

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 turbocharged model's sport front seats are grippier still. Common to all trims 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 4-door hatchback without the driver-side rear door. That means the rear door opens independently, unlike the so-called suicide door that some other 3-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.

The Veloster's standard 7-in touchscreen really sets it apart when compared to other affordable hatchbacks. Hyundai knows its 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 one notable disappointment is that the optional navigation system isn't hard-drive-based, so you can't store your music on it.

Under the hood, the Veloster's base engine needs all the horses it can get, so our preference is for the satisfying stick shift with its added output. Also, the automated gearbox could use some more development to sharpen its sometimes clumsy shifts. Cost being no object, the pick of this litter is undoubtedly the turbo, which provides most of its ample torque under 2,000 rpm thanks to twin-scroll technology. The Veloster Turbo pulls like a train on the highway, even in sixth gear. It's got motor.

On the road, the Veloster's steering feels a bit artificial, even in quicker-ratio Turbo form, but it's responsive enough to be entertaining. The Veloster's wide front track is palpable, keeping the car mostly planted to its handling limits. On the highway, meanwhile, the Veloster is unexpectedly an absolute champ, tracking straight and true at speeds we're not allowed to mention. 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 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 6-speed shifter and futuristic interior.

AutoTrader's Advice

The Veloster Turbo is our kind of car -- quick, stylish and packed with value. The R-Spec's styling is a bit of an acquired taste, but give us a bone-stock Turbo and we'd be laughing all the way to the bank.

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