At this year's Midwest Automotive Media Association's Fall Rally, we were offered up numerous new cars to test drive (and some with which to hit the track). Most cars these days are pretty good, but some are truly surprising. One that really surprised us was the 2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo. A replacement for the first-generation and rather long-in-the-tooth car that sold from 2011 to 2018.
The first-gen Veloster looked the part, but it never delivered the goods in terms of real driving thrills and on-road competence. The 1.6 turbo four engine hit peak torque at 6,000 rpm and fell off shortly after. It was sudden, noticeable but not nearly as potent as we would've liked. At least the chassis was decent, and the curb weight was kept under 3,000 lbs. But the car never really felt tight when it came to driving. It. The 2019 version, based on the European Hyundai i30 hatchback, is echelons better.
It Finally Drives Properly
First of all, there's that oh-so-willing engine that's neither underpowered nor overpowered when powering the front wheels. The motor is a happy16-valve 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder that offers up a right-sized 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque.
The $23,785 Veloster Turbo R-Spec comes only with a six-speed manual transmission. The $26,285 Turbo can be outfitted with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission instead of the basic 6-speed automatic, but you can order the Turbo Ultimate with a six-speed, too. Then the price jumps to $27,535. A Turbo Ultimate with the DCT tacks on $1,500. Our money would be on the R-Spec with a manual.
The chassis in the new Veloster and Veloster Turbo are what make it truly excellent. Hyundai claims it's the best chassis they've ever made. The old car's torsion beam rear axle and not-so-rigid body get replaced by a multi-link setup and a much stiffer structure. The result is tremendous composure and a solid understanding of what the car is doing. It feels balanced, finessed over bumps and undulations, and generally thrilling to experience in spirited driving. We were flummoxed by how much better it was than the old car. What a joy to drive.
We pushed the car hard through some esses, and it responded with alacrity. The transmission could shift quicker, but it will meet most driver's needs. What floored us the most was how put-together the new Veloster Turbo felt. Body roll was minimal, as was oversteer, and the whole package felt both thrilling and reassuring. It's not as composed or responsive as a VW GTI, but it's damned good for a sophomore effort by a much less established car company. The gains Hyundai is making is nothing short of astounding.
More Refined and Mature Styling
The styling is far better than the previous car. Whereas the old car looked weird and bulky, the new Veloster looks more like a lean MMA fighter than a brawler. It still has the unique three-door setup from the old car (the only one of its kind), but we're not sure it adds anything to the utility. Four doors would've been better. But the overall look is more mature and less juvenile thanks to a more subdued look.
The front end's mesh grille looks great, as do the wraparound signature headlights and the rear taillights that extend into the roof, almost like a Volvo's but with a bit more aggressiveness. The dual center exhausts remain, and they're perfect. We would've never considered the previous Veloster Turbo as a daily driver largely due to its teen-driver looks, but the new car changes all that.
The cabin is better than ever and takes cues from most recent Hyundais, especially the great Elantra GT Sport. The seats provide good bolstering and cushioning, and the layout of the controls is also top notch. We're huge fans of their easy-to-use infotainment system, the linear setup of the center stack buttons, and the superb functionality of the steering wheel controls. Some plastics feel on the cheap side, but that's expected in this segment. Tasteful and racy red trim shoes up on the steering wheel, shift knob, seats, and center stack.
Once we get to test it for a full week, we'll provide more detailed impressions, but just know that the brand is easily making the biggest strides in terms of driving excitement. Whereas once Hyundai used to be just an affordable alternative to the Japanese, they're producing some of the most competent and well-equipped vehicles made today. The South Koreans are the ones to watch out for, especially with powerful German influences in design and performance. The Veloster Turbo was the biggest surprise to us at the Fall Rally, and that's saying something.