Turbocharged engine puts an extra spring in the Veloster's step. Pictures: Jason Woosey.
Turbocharged engine puts an extra spring in the Veloster's step. Pictures: Jason Woosey.
At altitude the Veloster turbo posted a 0-100 time of 8.4 seconds, not enough to scare the rivals.
At altitude the Veloster turbo posted a 0-100 time of 8.4 seconds, not enough to scare the rivals.
The cabin is inviting and generous with gadgets.
The cabin is inviting and generous with gadgets.

Johannesburg - Hyundai’s first hot(ish) hatch was always going to be something of an underdog, so it’s actually quite fitting that the South Korean carmaker would choose to base it on the eccentric Veloster coupé-hatch-thingamabob.

With its asymmetrical design (one door on the driver’s side and two on the other), the Veloster will be a no-no for anyone with even the slightest form of OCD. Yet apart from that it’s hard to see the actual point of this design, unless you’re up for some crafty manoeuvring and you think the coupé side is good for impressing girls while the part with back doors will convince prospective in-laws that you’re possibly quite sensible.

Either way, it’s a brave, odd-ball design that you’re no doubt going to make up your own mind about, but I must at least pat Hyundai on the back for doing a proper right-hand-drive conversion so that the rear door exits onto the pavement.

SPICED UP

Until now the Veloster has only been available with a normally aspirated petrol engine delivering nothing more than so-so performance but the fitment of Hyundai’s turbo-charged T-GDI unit has it prowling the outskirts of hot hatch city.

The 1.6-litre direct injection motor is good for 150kW at 6000rpm and 265Nm from 1750 and Hyundai tweaked the suspension, steering and brakes to cope with the extra urge. To explain all of that to onlookers, the body has been spiced up with a set of 18-inch alloys, unique bumpers (including a bolder grille up front), LED headlight accents, a new rear spoiler and centrally-positioned exhaust pipes, among other garnishes.

The Veloster Turbo screeches off the mark lag-free and low-down grunt is abundant, giving it a flexible, easy-going feel in town and on the open road, where overtaking is effortless. As for consumption, it crept as low as seven litres per 100km on the highway and averaged between 10 and 11.5 litres per 100km in town, depending on how heavy the traffic was.

Yet if you’re comparing it to other hot hatches that you’ll find near to its price range - R379 900 for the six-speed manual as featured here and R399 900 for the dual-clutch auto - then you’ll find it is ultimately short of power and torque and its kerb weight of 1330kg hardly helps matters. Strapped to our V-box, at Gauteng altitude, it sprinted from 0-100km/h in 8.4 seconds, which will do little to scare hot hatches out there.

BASIC UNDERPINNINGS

The Veloster’s also found wanting in the chassis department, where Hyundai sticks to a low-budget torsion beam rear axle rather than the multi-link set-up we’ve come to expect at this level, and which would have given it a more settled ride. Nonetheless, Hyundai’s engineers did a reasonable job with what they had to work with and while the ride is a tad crashy on dodgy roads, you should find it comfortable enough on everyday urban surfaces.

It might lack the ultimate agility of the best hatches out there but it does at least dish up predictable understeer. On that note, the steering is accurate and, compared to other Hyundais I’ve driven, also better weighted and more communicative – although there is still room for improvement in this area. I was impressed by the lack of torque steer under hard acceleration.

Like the steering, the pedals and gear-lever feel more in tune with a comfortable commute than track day man-handling, which most buyers are sure to appreciate.

COOL CABIN

The cabin is brimming with youthful design touches that made their way from the design sketches unscathed and yet there’s an aura of good quality too. It’s not quite the bees knees of touch-feely plastic, yet certainly inviting enough in my book, and Hyundai has been generous with the gadgets, as usual. Included in the asking price is a panoramic glass sunroof, two-tone leather seats, cruise control and a 196-watt six-speaker sound system with Gracenote playlist-ordering functionality.

This, and the automatic climate control system, are linked to an 18cm touch-screen, as is a reverse camera. Though you can still adjust the climate parameters with buttons and a rotary dial it is annoying that you have to press something before the screen shows you how it’s currently set.

For the most part the Veloster is quite practical for a low and sporty ride and the 440-litre boot is surprisingly useful. There’s only seating for two in the back, though, and this part of the car is perfect for those with long legs and no head – there’s ample legroom but unless you’re vertically challenged you’re going to feel claustrophobic back there.

VERDICT

It’s easy to see where this car’s appeal lies if you’re looking for something altogether more quirky than your average hot hatch and if an easy-going driving experience with effortless performance is more up your alley than a hard-core dynamic package.

Yet it’s hard to ignore the fact that, with a price tag just shy of 400K, there are too many other cars out there that are either faster, better engineered or both.

FACTS

Hyundai Veloster Turbo Elite

Engine: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder turbopetrol

Gearbox: 6-speed manual

Power: 150kW @ 6000rpm

Torque: 265Nm @ 1750-4500rpm

0-100km/h (tested, Gauteng): 8.4 seconds

Top speed (claimed): 224km/h

Consumption (claimed): 7.2 litres per 100km

Price: R379 900

Warranty: 5-year/150 000km

Service plan: 5year/90 000km

VELOSTER TURBO VS THE RIVALS

Hyundai Veloster Turbo Elite: 150kW/265Nm – R379 900

Audi A3 1.8T SE: 132kW/250Nm – R371 500

Ford Focus ST1: 184kW/360Nm – R381 900

Kia Cerato Koup 1.6T: 152kW/265Nm - R353 995

Renault Megane RS: 195kW/360Nm – R389 900

VW Scirocco 2.0 TSI Highline: 132kW/280Nm – R369 900