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January 2, 2013 1:00 AM

Auto review: Turbo kicks up appeal of Hyundai Veloster

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The turbo version of the Veloster packs a lot of fun into a small package. (Hyundai)

When we drove the new Hyundai Veloster last year, we immediately took to the little hatchback with the odd number of doors and even odder name. We liked its funky design, but were disappointed with the "sporty" coupe's obvious lack of power. Now comes a turbo model, and all is right in the Veloster's world.

Appearance: What makes this hot hatch different is an element not obvious at first glance: its asymmetry. The Veloster has a rear door only on the passenger side. Think of it as a coupe with a bonus door that makes it easier to access the backseat. Anyone with kids who has owned a two-door car will appreciate it. The wide-mouth grille on the Turbo is much larger than that of the normal Veloster, which also is fitted with an aggressive body kit. The car uses Hyundai's ''fluidic sculpture'' philosophy that some may find busy with design elements: pronounced fenders, beveled hood with scoops and large headlights with LED accents. It's certainly not boring. The look is set off by chrome-tipped dual exhausts and 18-inch alloy wheels.

2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo
  • Price: $21,950 turbo base, $26,520 as tested
  • Power train: 1.6-liter, GDI, DOHC, four-cylinder with twin-scroll D-CVVT turbocharger, six-speed manual transmission, FWD
  • Horsepower: 201 at 6,000 rpm
  • Torque: 195 pound-feet at 1,750-4,500 rpm
  • Curb weight: 2,800-2,917 pounds
  • Seats: four
  • Fuel economy: 24 miles per gallon city, 35 mpg highway (24/31 for an automatic)
  • Safety features: Electronic stability control, traction control, ABS, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, airbags and curtains, backup warning sensors rearview camera


Performance:
You'll feel a slight turbo lag, but overall, the performance fulfills the promise of the base Veloster. The twin-scroll turbo beefs up the anemic 1.6-liter four-cylinder by 63 horsepower to 201. That's a big difference for a car that weighs less than 3,000 pounds. Under hard acceleration, there's a bit of torque steer, but that's to be expected with front-wheel drive. The six-speed manual shifts easily. (A six-speed automatic with Shiftronic is an option.) We both found the ECO gear-shift indicator on the driver information screen annoying. We'll shift when we feel like it, thank you. The Veloster's sport-tuned suspension and low center of gravity give it a nimble ride, although Peter found it harsh on uneven road surfaces. (Our tester had a Z-speed rated tires — $1,200 extra.)

Interior: There's more room than you would expect. Only taller drivers will feel cramped in the front, especially because of the panorama sunroof. (Note: The 2012 Velosters were recalled after reports of the sunroof glass shattering.) In the rear seats, Peter's daughters didn't feel constricted. The heated leather seats — with "'Turbo" stitching — are comfortable with good bolstering and support. We did find the adjustment lever a bit of a reach at the bottom of the seat; be careful using it while in motion. Lyra found the seat belt height sits too high for shorter people. Our tester had a rear-view camera and rear sensors, which are part of the optional Ultimate Package ($2,500) and are needed because visibility in the car is compromised. The Veloster should please techies as Hyundai seems to be moving to the head of the class when it comes to its Blue Link system. The 7-inch display and Bluetooth connection are easy to use.

The bottom line:
It may not be a high-performance ''hot hatch,'' but the Veloster Turbo packs a lot of fun into a small package. The starting price ($21,950) is outstanding, but can quickly creep up with desirable option packages.