I must start with an admission. I have been fairly outspoken about my dislike for matte paint calling it dull, unimpressive, and generally useless to the general public. While matte paint might not be the best option for every driver, the matte gray paint on our tester turned out to be the most endearing aspect about this tiny turboed torpedo. It certainly was the most talked-about. So I admit, after a prolonged exposure to matte paint, that it has its place in the automotive world. The Hyundai wears it well.
Beneath that beautifully muted metallic paint is, basically, a Hyundai Veloster. If you expected the Veloster Turbo to be a bespoke model like the Evolution is to the Lancer (as I did initially), you’ll be disappointed. The car comes into its own only when you view the Veloster Turbo as the $4,500 engine and body-kit upgrades that it really is. Sure, there’s more to it than that: additions such as projection headlights, LED tail lights, 18″ wheels, and heated seats get thrown in too. But its difficult to discern those minute differences without combing through the spec sheets.
The Veloster pulls off the same party trick as the Fiat 500 Abarth: it’s bigger on the inside. The tilt/telescoping wheel, center armrest, and pedal position all make for a comfortable and ergonomic driving position. There’s plenty of leg and shoulder room for 6-foot adults to sit comfortably up front, though anyone much taller will find themselves reclining to avoid the headliner. Rear seat occupants should be wary of the contorting required to get through the trapezoidal rear door. Further restriction comes from the falling roofline, turning the rear hatch window into a literal glass ceiling. Basically, children or cargo only. The roofline also inhibits rear visibility. This is mitigated somewhat by large side mirrors, park distance sensors, and the sharpest rear-facing camera I’ve ever seen. However, its still disconcerting to check your rear-view mirror and see nothing more than a few inches of SUV barreling down the highway behind you.
When your not worried about identifying the car behind you, the Veloster Turbo is a blast to drive. The 1.6L engine from the regular Veloster is fed by a twin-scroll turbocharger, making it good for 201hp and 195 ft-lbs torque. There’s enough there to chirp the Kuhmo all-season tires, but the real fun begins above 4,000RPM. Full boost stays on well into the 6,000s. If you time the shifts right, the engine stays in the boost through second gear and beyond. Sixty miles per hour will arrive in less than 7 seconds. The 6-speed manual transmission is a willing companion, even if the 3/5 and 4/6 gates are a bit too close together.
The Veloster Turbo is a lighthearted car. It’s willing to be a docile commuter or to bound its way down winding back roads. It nails 3 of the 4 key elements of a good driver’s car: engine, transmission, and steering. Unfortunately, it lacks a chassis to hold everything together. Be it at the limit or on uneven roads, the sense of handling is lost. I found more than once that the rear of the car did something unpredictable. It isn’t confidence inspiring. As mentioned earlier, our test car was fitted with the standard all-season tires rather than the optional ($1,000) performance rubber. This meant that the car also scrubbed speed as the front wheels lost grip in on/off ramp scenarios. It forces you to be smooth as you work to manage the changing grip, but it feels like there could just be a little more there. Its fun in a quirky, go-kart, sense.
What the Veloster Turbo lacks in driving precision, it makes up in features. The panoramic sunroof helps make the car feel bigger and brighter, and it has the quickest open/close time of any sunroof I’ve ever used. The touchscreen infotainment display is clear and easy to read in all lighting conditions. We didn’t drive it up any mountains, but the navigation’s POI list and turn-by-turn directions were spot-on when searching for a remote location for some day-hiking. There’s also a 115V plug in the center console for charging electronics, and it can be powered on/off with a switch on the driver’s left. It’s extraordinarily handy for devices that don’t normally have a car charger. All these come as part of the $2,500 Ultimate Package, and are well worth the price.
The matte paint surprised as being stylish, and easier to maintain than I had imagined. I washed the car twice by hand over the 7-day stint, and it really was no different than caring for a gloss finish. In the end, the Hyundai Veloster Turbo is great hatchback. It’s sharply styled and grabs extra attention in matte paint. Over our 420 miles of mixed driving, we averaged 28.9mph, just above its EPA average. Not bad for 201hp. It’s third door is a bit quirky, but then again, so is its driving dynamic. As long as you don’t take the whole package too seriously, it rewards you in its own unique way.
|Hyundai Veloster Turbo M/T||$21,950|
|Matte Gray Paint||$1,000|
|Carpeted Floor Mats||$95|
|As Tested MSRP||$26,320|
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