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Hyundai Veloster 1.6 T-GDI Turbo SE

Click to view picture galleryImagine a brand like Hyundai made
  a pukka sports car; a brand that
  offers no-frills value, plenty of kit, one
  of the best warranties in the industry
  and, increasingly, cars with genuine
  buyer appeal. Let
s not forget that,
  thanks to an outpouring of European
  design talent to Korea, Hyundai is
  starting to make cars that actually
  look good, too...


GOOD NEWS
you don't have to imagine any more. Hyundai's Veloster has made a real impact as a striking-looking and utterly unique addition to the world of sports machinery.

However, many have been disappointed by the Veloster's lack of performance, and that's precisely where the new Turbo comes in. The Veloster Turbo is the first car to receive Hyundai's new T-GDI engine with a high-compression, twin-scroll turbocharger, while it also benefits from sharper suspension and steering settings.

But let's get one issue out of the way right now —
this car's Achilles' heel is its engine. For starters, a capacity of just 1.6-litres doesn't feel manly enough. In the standard Veloster, it makes a modest 138bhp and feels oh-so-anaemic; and now, even with a turbocharger attached, the power output doesn't breach the 184bhp barrier.

“The Turbo has stiffer
suspension than
standard, and it shows. Damper rates front and
rear have been increased
so that it sits more
solidly through corners
without spoiling
what is a very decent ride
quality, especially by
sports car standards
...”
And these days, 184bhp is way short of most hot hatchbacks — the industry average is around 225bhp. The Turbo's raw performance figures tell their own story: 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds and 133mph v-max are beaten by virtually every rival.

And the way the power is delivered doesn't help:
it never feels particularly punchy; and the very ordinary sound of the powerplant doesn't encourage you to make full use of the rev band.

Ultimately, it does pull along with decent pace if you keep the engine in the peak torque zone of 1,500-4,500rpm, and the Turbo's six-speed manual gearbox works very well. But to deliver the kind of performance keen drivers expect, I think it really needs an engine of at least 2.0 litres.

The Turbo has stiffer suspension than standard, and it shows. Damper rates front and rear have been increased so that it sits more solidly through corners without spoiling what is a very decent ride quality, especially by sports car standards. But in no way could you call the Veloster Turbo the sharpest driving tool in the box.

Another area of significant improvement is the steering, which has been retuned and is now much better than the standard car's. Although it's still not the keenest system around (it's a little light for my taste) it's probably the best steering that Hyundai has ever engineered.

No review of the Veloster can ignore its door layout —
a single aperture on the driver's side but two doors on the near' side. This almost wilfully weird layout gives the Veloster a Jekyll and Hyde character: from one side, it has the look of a five-door hatchback; from the other, it's a racy coupe.

If you thought the Veloster looked distinctive, the Turbo version looks positively science-fiction. The front bumper, grille and front fog lights are unique to the Turbo, but it's the tail that looks most dramatic with its close-set twin exhausts, diffuser and round fog lights. The split-window tailgate is emphasised by a bigger rear spoiler, and following traffic is in no doubt about what you're driving, thanks to a big red 'Turbo' badge on the bootlid.

Also unique to the Turbo model are new chrome-tinged 18-inch alloy wheels and side skirts. Only three paint schemes are available to you: white, black or (unique to the Turbo) matt grey.

“The Veloster is unique
in the market —
It’s like a halfway house
between a hot hatch
and a coupe. It’s loads
more practical than
a regular coupe, yet so
much more dramatic
than a hatchback
...”
Inside, the heavily bolstered seats have 'Turbo' conspicuously embroidered into their backrests. Indeed, so prominent are they that my neighbour's eight-year-old son thought the car was called 'Turbo' when he sat in the driver's seat.

For the 22K asking price it is tremendously well-equipped: climate control, leather upholstery, electrically-adjustable driver's seat, electric windows front and rear, cruise control and a decent eight-speaker sound system. Most impressive of all, though, is Hyundai's very impressive seven-inch touchscreen SatNav system that also incorporates a parking camera.

The question for buyers is whether talented rivals like the VW Scirocco 2.0 TSI with 210bhp and the Toyota GT86 with 197bhp are worth the extra money (25,640 and 24,995 respectively). There's no question in my mind that they are.

Whether the more directly price-comparable Scirocco 1.4 TSI and Astra GTC 1.6 Turbo are as clear-cut is not so sure, and that's where Hyundai might score some sales. And, of course, only Toyota can match Hyundai's five-year warranty.

In truth, the Veloster is unique in the market. It's like a halfway house between a hot hatch and a coupe. It's loads more practical than a regular coupe, yet so much more dramatic than a hatchback. Now that there's a Turbo version on offer, the Veloster has gone at least some of the way towards becoming a true sports car. — Chris Rees

Hyundai Veloster 1.6 T-GDI Turbo SE | 21,995
Maximum speed: 133mph | 0-62mph: 8.4 seconds | Overall MPG: 40.9mpg
Power: 184bhp | Torque: 195lb ft | CO2 157g/km