This turbo hatchback has most of what I want in a car. But what does the Peanut Gallery think?
The Car:Price: $25,020 as tested (including destination charge)
Engine: 1.6-liter turbocharged DOHC 4-cylinder, 201 horsepower
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Fuel economy: 24 mpg city/35 mpg highway
My favorite standard feature: Seven-inch multimedia touchscreen
Option I can’t live without: Matte gray exterior paint ($1,000)
You might also be considering: Honda CR-Z, Mini Cooper, Scion tC
See more specs on the Veloster in our Car Guide.
What I Think:I’ve liked the Hyundai Veloster since first I laid eyes on it. It has most of the things I want in a car: interesting looks, a hatchback body style, good gas mileage, a reasonable price, and a silly name. But the sub-$20,000 base model is also sub-140 horsepower, and I’d heard it wasn’t particularly fun to drive. But wait! The advent of the 2013 model year brought with it a turbocharged version, which kicks the base Veloster’s 138 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque up to 201 hp and 195 pound-feet of torque. Problem solved? Only one way to find out. I drove the Hyundai Veloster Turbo for a weekend, and, to be fair, I was hoping to be impressed. But I was also ready for the Veloster to disappoint, whether by proving impractically small or by failing to live up to the promise of its beefy engine upgrade. The Veloster was far from perfect. But by the end of my weekend, I found myself wishing I had more time in it—always a good sign. Just by looking at it, you can tell that the Veloster is a little odd. It has an asymmetrical design, with two doors on the passenger's side and one on the driver’s side. The third door is unusual, but it’s undoubtedly helpful for passengers trying to climb in the back. The back seat is fairly roomy for a car this size, with enough head and leg room for my adult passengers. Our Turbo came with a blue-trimmed interior that drew criticism from passengers, who thought it looked tacky. A more sophisticated driver would do better to opt for the gray interior trim instead. The standard touchscreen infotainment system is quick to respond and easy to use, and the Dimension Premium audio system (standard in Turbo models) can blast out your eardrums—and those of anyone standing nearby—if you turn it to eleven. The Veloster Turbo’s exterior comes with a sporty body kit and a grille, both upgrades from the base model. It can also be had, as ours was, with Matte Gray paint. It’s a $1,000 option, and that matte finish requires a lot of special attention: you can’t run it through a car wash, and you must use special products when you hand wash it. But the Veloster looks great with a matte finish, and it turns heads everywhere you go. A 201-horsepower engine might seem like overkill in a compact hatchback, but I thought it provided the Veloster with just the right amount of pep. The car steers and handles well and can accelerate with enthusiasm when pushed, but it doesn’t go so far into the realm of a hot hatch that you can’t imagine driving it every day. And with an EPA rating of 35 mpg on the highway, you don’t have to feel too guilty about choosing the Turbo model instead of the base Veloster (rated at 37 mpg highway).
The Verdict:The Veloster is no family hauler, and rear visibility is limited. The trunk is surprisingly spacious but by no means large. The rear seat is adequate for occasional use, but it might not do if you’re driving kids around all day. But for the right type of person—young, unattached, and looking for a relatively affordable car that makes a statement—the Veloster could fit the bill. If you’re more concerned about cost than power, the base Veloster might be all you need. But with sixty-three extra horses just a few thousand dollars away, why not spring for the Turbo?
You say Veloster, I say Velociraptor. Like the wolf-size dinosaur, the Veloster will demand your attention. At just over $25,000, this is an economy sports car. The matte paint alone will sell this car to the demographic who would stand in line to buy a phone. The rear third door on the passenger's side, with its hidden handle, came as a complete surprise to me. I only discovered it, in fact, after my passenger had struggled through the front door to climb into the rear seat. We laughed so hard that we had missed it from the outside. Mystery lovers should buy this car for the hidden door alone. Laura: I have to get this out of the way first: I love, love, love the $1,000 matte paint on this 2013 Veloster Turbo. I am aware that it is hard to take care of and easy to ruin, which is why I drove down the road feeling as vulnerable to damage as a person who has just put on gold-leaf nail polish. I also think Hyundai should put some sort of camera in the cabin so you could admire that handsome matte paint job while you're actually driving the car. But as for driving: I found the Veloster surprisingly easy to drive well (or believe I was driving well). It doesn't feel unpleasantly small on the road, power is more than adequate, and visibility is good. I'd definitely suggest it to anybody looking for a nimble, fun, out-of-the-ordinary car, especially to anybody who is enough of a hobbyist to enjoy taking care of the matte paint job. Hey, I got $1,000 worth of second looks in the first mile.