Flying the coupe
Veloster Turbo takes on rivals with slick pricing, greater practicality and impressive ride
COUPES can be tough when you have kids.
But not with the Hyundai Veloster, which manages to marry good looks and reasonable go with a practical back end.
It’s not as quick as a Renault Megane RS but it’s a lot cheaper. It’s not as sporty as a Toyota 86 but it’s more practical.
And it’s not as fast or practical as a Ford Focus ST but it looks a lot better.
So there is much to contemplate as I slide into the Veloster Turbo manual.
Once again I’m struck by the three-door body. It sounds oddball, with an extra door on the passenger side, but it’s not as oddball in the metal and definitely not as strange as it seems when you have to live with it.
An update earlier this year claimed to make the turbo variant more driver friendly, with better grip and control in the suspension, fresh colours and trim bits.
There is nothing extra from the engine room, although the starting price for the Veloster Turbo is down to $29,990 as a manual thanks to the deletion of the sunroof in the previous model, which just happens to match the showroom starting sticker of the Toyota 86.
“That’s no coincidence,” says Hyundai spokesman Bill Thomas.
For all the tweaking and repositioning, there is nothing Hyundai can do to make the Turbo more attractive against the latest Mazda MX-5, an iconic convertible.
But the Veloster is a tidy little package and, as I run through the early kilometres, I’m also pondering the previous twodoors from the South Korean company. There was the awful S-Coupe, based on the original Excel and totally dreadful to drive; the flabby and underdone Tiburon was not remotely sporty.
I’m happy to have the Veloster loaded with my youngster and his toys in the boot and equally happy that he can get himself into the back seat without fighting with recliners and limited access and the other coupe compromises.
The car also drives better than I remember. There is more composure in the suspension, slightly better grip in corners and less tugging on the steering wheel under acceleration.
Its 150kW output is not a lot for a sports coupe. The engine is only a 1.6-litre four and I’m
hoping there is potential for more power in the future.
The original Veloster felt crashy and short of suspension travel but that’s cured thanks to the impressive work of Hyundai’s local suspension team. Pity they can’t also remedy the awful gearshift, which is too long in the throw, vague and notchy.
The Veloster copes easily with a range of driving, from city jaunts to long-legged country runs, without making me feel tired or challenged. It just flows, the best thing I can say about any driver’s car.
I also like the refreshed gauges and the snappier new interior trim, although I can’t see any real difference despite the update to the nose.
Comparing the Veloster to its coupe rivals, I realise it is closer to the 86 than it was and a little more punchy as a turbo. It’s still not a “real” sports car with rear-wheel drive but the engine has more shove than the Toyota and the rest of the package is well balanced.
I definitely don’t miss the sunroof but I wonder how the Veloster Turbo would feel with a good twin-clutch gearbox in place of the six-speed manual. The ratios are well chosen but I don’t like fighting with the shift.
The seats are comfy and supportive, the audio is fine for the price and I really like the convenience of that extra back door.
The car is generally quiet, with some tyre roar on coarsechip bitumen, the fuel economy is good and the space-saver spare does not gobble much luggage space.
The only real disappointment, apart from the gearshift, is service intervals — just 7500km or six months. That’s not remotely good enough and it’s not as if the car is a highly strung thoroughbred that demands a lot of attention.
So the changes to the Veloster Turbo are relatively small but definitely worthwhile, particularly with a sub-$30,000 starting price and the impressively tweaked suspension.
I always liked the Veloster and now I like it a bit more, which is enough to give it The Tick.
But it needs some extra power.