FIRST DRIVE

Aus­tralia’s favourite coupe gets just enough ex­tra go

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Car News - PAUL GOVER Chief Re­porter in Mu­nich paul.gover@cars­guide.com.au

A tur­bocharged engine adds the miss­ing in­gre­di­ent to Aus­tralia’s favourite coupe, the Hyundai Veloster

EX­TRA puff has put the punch into the good-look­ing Hyundai Veloster. The ar­rival of a tur­bocharged engine adds the miss­ing in­gre­di­ent to a car that set a new style di­rec­tion for baby coupes ear­lier this year.

The Veloster SR Turbo is still not a road rocket in the style of a SubaruWRXor Mit­subishi Evo but it has enough go to com­plete the show. It’s priced from an af­ford­able $31,990 and is a sweet pack­age that makes any driv­ing bet­ter than just a chore.

It’s a re­al­is­tic al­ter­na­tive for peo­ple who don’t want the hard edge, and 18-month wait­ing list, of the Toy­ota 86 or Subaru BRZ.

VALUE

More than 350 Aus­tralians have driven away in a shiny new Veloster each month since lo­cal sales be­gan. Hyundai is fore­cast­ing an ex­tra 150 Turbo de­liv­er­ies.

The price ob­vi­ously helps. Hyundai set a new stan­dard when it in­tro­duced the ba­sic 1.6-litre Veloster from $23,990 and the Veloster+ from $28,990. The walk-up to the SR Turbo is now a log­i­cal pro­gres­sion. Add $2000 for an auto and $1000 for the trendy matt grey (Young Gun or Petrol) paint choices.

It’s a nice price for a good deal, since $31,990 buys ev­ery­thing you re­ally need in a car that’s more about looks than all-out per­for­mance. Hyundai also has con­firmed de­tails of its new capped-price ser­vice pro­gram, in­clud­ing three years of free map up­dates for its sat­nav. It’s an ob­vi­ous sweet­ener but also pro­vides the es­sen­tial ‘‘ per­mis­sion to buy’’ that peo­ple need in a show­room.

The Turbo pack­age comes with a panoramic sun­roof in ad­di­tion to pre­dictable stuff in­clud­ing a seven-inch touch screen with sat­nav, leather­leatherette seat trim, rear park­ing cam­era, cruise con­trol, al­loys, Blue­tooth with stream­ing and au­to­matic air­con.

Hyundai puts the Veloster turbo against the Mini Cooper S, priced from about $43,000, and the Citroen DS3 from $26,990, but there are any num­ber of po­ten­tial ri­vals up to the stove-hot Re­nault Me­gane RS and the good-look­ing new Opel As­tra GTC coupe.

TECH­NOL­OGY

The go-faster Veloster is all about the engine but there are other changes.

Start­ing un­der the bon­net, the 1.6-litre four picks up di­rect fuel in­jec­tion, a twin-scroll turbo and in­ter­cooler to boost out­puts to 150kW/256Nm. That’s 46 per cent more power and 60 per cent more torque than the reg­u­lar Veloster.

Fuel econ­omy re­mains 6.8L/100km. There is still a sixspeed man­ual gear­box but the ex­tra pulling power means the twin-clutch manu-matic gear­box from the ba­sic Veloster is dropped in favour of a more durable— if less sporty— con­ven­tional six-speed auto.

The ba­sic sus­pen­sion stays the same, apart from dif­fer­ent damper rates. The steer­ing is quicker and the front brakes

WELL, it’s what you want.

About 18,000 of you bought a new com­pact SUV in July. Pre­cious few are other than ur­ban shop­ping ve­hi­cles— USVs as we here­abouts call them— yet they sat­isfy the un­de­mand­ing.

Es­sen­tially height­ened hatch­backs (an in­creas­ingly large per­cent­age are solely front-wheel drive) with that all-im­por­tant el­e­vated driv­ing po­si­tion, they are weep­ingly dull to drive— none more than the Mit­subishi ASX from which Peu­geot de­rives its 4008 and, now, Citroen its C4 Air­cross.

VALUE

The price seems a bit steep, with the front-driver kick­ing off at $31,990 and the one with on-de­mandAWD$2K more. The donor car starts un­der $26K (with a great war­ranty) and the 4008 un­der $29K. But there’s a bit more stan­dard kit in the new­est faux-Frog.

Less cer­tain is whether the sticker will long re­main. PSA, owner of both Pug and Citroen, is ra­tio­nal­is­ing its in­ter­na­tional dis­tri­bu­tion so it’s likely the lat­ter is leav­ing its cur­rent im­porter. Where that takes Citroen and what it means re­main to be seen.

DE­SIGN

It is what it is— an ASX in a classier suit. Citroen’s lat­est C4 hatch is lumpen-look­ing and all too generic com­pared with its dis­tinc­tively sleek pre­de­ces­sor yet the same body lan­guage trans­lates well in the slightly big­ger Air­cross. The off­spring seated in the rear get plenty of room and light. The chances of catch­ing vomit on the back of your head are thus re­duced. The in­te­rior, all dark plas­tic and cloth, looks and feels dis­tinctly be­low the Citroen norm.

TECH­NOL­OGY

It looks as if you’re step­ping into an auto (and ef­fec­tively you are) though a CVT has no set num­ber of gear ra­tios.

In­stead it can con­stantly change the re­la­tion­ship of engine speed to car speed.

There’s no re­as­sur­ing trans­mis­sion shift, just atonal moan­ing as it builds up revs un­der ac­cel­er­a­tion. No cogs then, rather a pair of vari­able­di­am­e­ter pul­leys, shaped like a pair of op­pos­ing cones, with a chain con­nect­ing, One pul­ley is con­nected to the engine (in­put shaft), the other to the drive wheels (out­put shaft).

It’s very much the driverly equiv­a­lent of be­ing mas­saged while wear­ing Kevlar. The CVT is de­void of sen­sa­tion but to mit­i­gate there are man­ual over­ride pad­dles. In any mode, it’s not at its hap­pi­est part­ner­ing so an­o­dyne an engine as the donor 2.0-litre four-cylin­der petrol. As with the 4008, there’s no auto to be had with any avail­able diesel engine.

The top model gets AWD, which can be en­gaged via a dial or locked in.

SAFETY

Five crash safety stars, as it needs to be, in a seg­ment where this has be­come the norm.

DRIV­ING

PSA has a some beaut small-ca­pac­ity en­gines, petrol and diesel. This isn’t one of them. It’s a Mit­subishi engine that also drives a com­mon or gar­den Lancer. This is but one re­spect in which the Air­cross is an un­con­vinc­ing badge engi­neer­ing gam­bit.

The French brand is mak­ing some of its best cars in all too long— the crack­ing DS3 and DS4 plus the ever-wor­thy C4 Pi­casso and C5— yet this is noth­ing but a Clay­ton’s Citroen.

If you can get past the hor­ri­ble noise the Air­cross makes try­ing to get its 1460kg, plus you, from zero to free­way speed, it’s hard to ig­nore the glacial rate (10.6 sec­onds) it takes to do so. No one’s get­ting into this for per­for­mance, but mid-range re­sponse is also some way from use­ful.

The ride, from mem­ory, is bet­ter re­solved than the ASX but dy­nam­ics are equally dopey. At 3.3 turns lock to lock and with a 10.5m turn­ing circle, you should prob­a­bly be grate­ful that the steer­ing is so overas­sisted.

VER­DICT

Wholly ad­e­quate but Citroen’s most mar­ke­trel­e­vant ve­hi­cle is its least im­pres­sive. Look at Skoda’s Yeti or Mazda’s CX-5.

Go-faster: The Turbo is no road rocket but still is fun

El­e­vated idea: The Air­cross is a taller hatch, built on a dull, shared plat­form

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