First drive: 2016 Hyundai Veloster Turbo in the UAE
We’ve been hyped about this car from way back in 2012, when we heard it hit the American market. A turbo hot-hatch from Hyundai? That’s a recipe for some cheap fun! Here we were, expecting it to give the brilliant Ford Focus ST a run for its money. But then, the Hyundai Veloster Turbo actually came here, three years late to the party, and we drove it.
The original Hyundai Veloster was a controversial ground-breaking design, and we applauded Hyundai for doing something out-of-the-box and having fun with it. Having a rear-side door on only one side makes no sense whatsoever, but it was a party trick that created a buzz.
The Veloster Turbo looks pretty much the same as the original, save for more aggressive bumpers, a full-face grille and unique 18-inch wheels. Inside, it’s a very pretty cabin design, although done on the cheap, with flimsy-feeling door handles and exclusive use of hard plastics almost everywhere. However, it’s well-equipped, with nav, panoramic roof, smart key, cooled seats and all the gimmicks that kids like these days.
While space up front is fine, the one-sided door gimmick becomes annoying when you actually need to carry more people. Rear passengers are treated to just-about-adequate legroom, but their heads will be just under the rear glass and the small side-windows feel claustrophobic. The boot is a decent size for a car of its class.
So about that turbo engine — a direct-injected 201 hp as well as 264 Nm that peaks at just 1750 and carries on till 4500 rpm — sounds like a good deal on paper. But what we actually felt was obvious turbo lag, followed by not a whole lot of kick even when the turbo kicked in. It’s not helped by the lazy 7-speed automatic transmission either, which seemingly loves to sit in the wrong gear most of the time.
In fact, to get the most out of this car, you have to drive it like an old-school turbo car, which basically means take manual control of the gears and keep the revs high all the time. It won’t help your fuel consumption, but what the hey.
The handling is good up to a point. While body roll is limited, and grip limits are decent, it is not too hard to reach its moderate limits, at which point it understeers. We found out the Turbo actually has mostly the same suspension as the base Veloster. Which explains why there’s no chance of rear-rotating shenanigans like you could with real hot hatches.
The steering is decently weighted and responsive though, with a bit of feedback. And what Hyundai did well is make the ride fairly comfortable, better than a GTI in fact, with decent cabin quietness to go with it.
But the fact remains that what we thought was a hot hatch is actually just an engine upgrade for the regular Veloster. And it was originally conceived back when Hyundai still couldn’t get the dynamics right on their cars (and we have to say that this year’s redesigned offerings, such as the Tucson, are pretty good). The Veloster Turbo is therefore an odd mix of a car, but not the right mix.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury.
For UAE prices and specs, visit the Hyundai buyer guide.