The Hyundai Veloster Turbo – Pacing up the velocity

Published on September 20th, 2015

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When I first began my career in Automotive Journalism a couple of years back, I bugged my then editor to give me my first test car. New on the job, I was hoping for something fun and rear driven, but realistically you’re going to have to set the bar much lower to something cheap and most likely uninteresting. But lucky enough, the first to reply was Hyundai and they dropped me the keys to the then new, Hyundai Veloster.

The car’s half-and-half concept dazzled my mind – because having two doors on one side, and one on another is just symmetrically displeasing. But much to my surprise, the car was way far off from boring. It was dynamically fun to drive, and quite a head turner. The deal breaker though? It was too underpowered.

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For such a looker, it was writing cheques that it couldn’t cash. The lack of torque meant it was defeated by even a medium-sized hill slope. We knew that the Turbo variant existed but because of our Malaysian fuel quality, the car was not quite ready yet for our market then.

Fast forward two years though, and here we are today with a much more promising Hyundai Veloster Series II. And in all greatness, it’s got a Turbo!

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The 1.6-litre turbocharged 4-potter promises a figure of 183bhp and 265nm which all sounds promising. Once you throw in forced induction, it brings any basic funky hatchback into the hothatch leagues. With my rather positive initial impression on the non-turbo variant, I clearly have high hopes for this Turbo movement.

In all despair however, I may have expected a little too much from this car. There were a couple of qualms and question mark on hand that I can’t help but to point out about the car. First, let’s talk about the gearbox. In the recent times, many manufacturers have inculcated into the dual-clutch box idea and fitted them into cars – and although none of them were as quick as VAG’s iteration, they still worked relatively well.

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Hyundai call’s their system, the Eco-Shift Dual Clutch Transmission which was developed by themselves and fitted to only a handful of their cars thus far. Unlike most DCTs, Hyundai’s iteration as tested seemed to prove that it is still far off from the benchmark. Though the shifts are seamless and smooth, it takes large time between shifts especially during hard acceleration. What this does is, it causes the car to feel sluggish and unresponsive to throttle feedback on the drive.

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Perhaps we’ve become accustomed to the relentless and responsive DSG transmission by VAG that the new transmission fitted on the Veloster Turbo seems to push the car back a little too much. The gearbox seems to have a mind of it’s own, shifting way too early when u need the car to accelerate out of sticky situations. It works fine when you intend on driving slow, but marketed as the Sporty variant, it doesn’t help the car’s case. It is by far the biggest elephant in the room with this car, and I dare to say that it is the most annoying DCT system I’ve driven thus far.

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Sadly in Malaysia, we don’t get a manual version on the Turbo this round. I reckon the manual would make the drive a more engaging experience as the DCT’s sluggishness disconnects the driver from the car.

Second to my evaluation was the lack of urgency from the engine. As a sporty car, you’d expect relentless performance and the kind of throttle response that pulls you back into the seats when you floor it. It claims to deliver a relative figure of 185ps at the crank, but what seems to be thrown to the wheels feels a lot like 30%-40% of that power figure.

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I think this is a big let down, looking back on how much I enjoyed the non-turbo variant. As expectations go – perhaps that ‘Turbo’ badge slapped on the back made it just that much more appealing, thinking that it could actually be a proper hot hatch to rival the likes of the Fiesta ST and Clio RS.

But there are plenty of things still to like about the Veloster Turbo, because in the end of it all, with or without that badge… it is still a Veloster. And in the span of time it has existed on our shores, it is still an absolute head turner! Especially in Yellow.

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The Koreans today are certainly triumphing over the Europeans in terms of aesthetics. There are multiple cues from various cars that suggest that it’s a very hot car like the GTR-like black A-pillar and bits and bobs from the Megané RS (especially in Yellow!). Those centre mounted exhausts are a YES!! Definitely!

So perhaps Hyundai should retain the aesthetics; but take the engine and gearbox back to the drawing boards. It’s an excellent car that could be a hothatch fighter if it performs. Like a fellow motoring journo (Kensomuse) told me – “For now, drive it sanely and it will be rewarding but drive it hard… be ready to be disappointed.”.

Words & Photos: Qhalis Najmi

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