Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing
Yet another tight uphill hairpin looms as we storm up our favorite mountain road in a 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo with a full head of steam. Upon arrival we breathe off the throttle, turn in toward the apex and roll back on the gas without ever once thinking of dropping a gear in search of the grunt necessary to continue our uphill charge.
The same corner in last year's normally aspirated machine would have demanded that downshift, and after complying we'd still have cursed the grade and gravity for conspiring to hold the Veloster's well-sorted chassis by the tail as we attempted to claw back our lost momentum.
That was last year. The 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo has a ready answer in the form of 63 additional horses and 72 extra pound-feet of torque. The funky and unique three-door Hyundai hatchback known for having more chassis than motor now has equal shares of each.
Yo Gamma Gamma
Hyundai's new Gamma engine is the key, and it hides several increasingly familiar tricks up its 1.6-liter sleeves. Intake and exhaust cam timing is independently variable, and gasoline enters the picture via direct injection, which allows a 9.5:1 compression ratio despite a force feeding in the form of 18 psi of turbo boost.
The turbocharger in question is a twin-scroll unit, and the hot side of the turbine housing is fully integrated into the stainless-steel exhaust manifold — it's all one casting. An air-to-air intercooler brings down the temperature of the freshly pressurized intake charge before it gets sent off to meet the fuel.
Taken together, the resulting choreographed explosions produce 201 horsepower and an impressive specific output of 125.6 horsepower per liter. Peak torque of 195 lb-ft comes on strong at 1,750 and stays there out toward 4,500 rpm.
It does all this on 87-octane unleaded regular, and the consumption rate of that fuel slips by just 2 mpg relative to the standard Veloster engine. The manual-equipped turbo we drove is expected to earn 26 city and 38 highway mpg, or 30 mpg in combined driving. Estimates for the six-speed automatic are still pending.
A Rush and a Push
Once under way, the rush of torque is self-evident, even if the exhaust note does sound more like a coin-operated pressure washer than a power-dense turbo-4. Noises aside, Hyundai's new Veloster Turbo comes across as impressively stout, whether connecting the dots on a twisty road or pulling out to pass a semi-truck on the highway.
Helping in this regard is the Turbo's relatively low curb weight of 2,800 pounds, which bests the rival Honda Civic Si, VW GTI and Mini Cooper Clubman S. The smaller Mini Cooper S and Fiat 500 Abarth undercut it some, but the Hyundai's power-to-weight ratio of 14 pounds-per-horsepower trumps them all.
All of this suggests a beat-down of the 6.9-second 0-60 time recorded by the last 2010 Volkswagen GTI and 2012 Honda Civic Si coupe we measured, but Hyundai is claiming nothing. We think we know why: The Veloster Turbo may fall short because of lackluster acceleration through the 1-2 upshift. Our butt-o-meter suggests the low-to-mid 7-second range is more likely.
We're basing this estimate on the palpable chasm between 1st and 2nd gears, where a full 46 percent of the revs drop away during the 1-2 upchange. A look at the transmission and final-drive ratios reveals a shorter effective 1st gear than the standard Veloster — this despite more available power and torque. On paper it seems the 3.615:1 1st gear could and should be 10 percent taller, maybe more.
The available six-speed autobox is a true automatic that promises to get out of the hole with far more punch than the last EcoShift DCT-equipped normally aspirated Veloster we tested. This one has a sport mode and paddle shifters but lacks the smarts to execute rev-matched downshifts.
Hyundai engineers tell us that the suspension tuning of the 2013 Veloster Turbo is identical to the regular Veloster. Springs, shocks, stabilizer bars, the rear twist beam — even the standard 215/40R18 Kumho Solus KH25 all-season tires have been carried over. This is good news because the original Hyundai Veloster didn't have many problems that horsepower couldn't solve.
But crucial changes have nevertheless been made to the steering and brakes. Our 2012 Veloster suspension walkaround revealed a unique (OK, weird) front brake placement behind the axle centerline on the same side as the steering arms. This idea is history, replaced here with conventional front suspension knuckles that locate the brakes up front, opposite the steering arms.
This frees up space needed to optimize the steering geometry — the bump-steer curve is now more favorable and the overall steering ratio is a tad quicker at 13.9:1 instead of 14.2. There's also room for bigger brakes, and our Veloster Turbo stops via 11.8-inch ventilated front rotors instead of 11-inch ones. But the key point here is that even more massive Brembo-style aftermarket calipers are now possible. With the old knuckle design there was no room for anything bigger.
And so the pressurized Veloster works even better on our favorite back road. Push it hard and the well-balanced chassis remains reassuringly neutral, with minimal body roll. The revised steering carves through the relentless corners accurately and loads up predictably as the lateral g's rise — until, that is, you creep up to the comparatively modest limits of the Kumho all-season treads, the new weak link in this chain.
But this more potent Veloster isn't just for going fast. It works in cruise mode, too, where the recalibrated steering provides a confident dose of self-aligning torque and on-center feel. Meanwhile, the well-equipped Turbo's extra mass (100-200 pounds relative to the base car) settles the ride somewhat by filing the hard edges off rough sections of pavement.
Let's Get Visual
Outside, a prominent gaping grille with extra cooling capacity distinguishes the front fascia of the Turbo from standard Velosters, and it's flanked by foglights and unique projector headlights with LED accents. The lower side sills feature ground effect styling and the unique Turbo alloy wheels contain subtle chrome accents.
Farther back, more exaggerated diffuser styling makes the car look lower, wider and tougher, even though such dimensions remain unchanged. You'll find LED taillights back here, and the rear fender flares appear more smoothly integrated into the bumper. The signature central exhaust ports are now round instead of trapezoidal.
Inside there are standard leather sport seats with contrasting accents, power lumbar support and front seat heaters. Also present are electroluminescent gauges, push-button start and a distinctive headliner.
The engine premium for the 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo works out to $1,600, but it's not a stand-alone option. The Veloster Turbo comes nearly loaded, so you'll pay $22,725 for one, including the required destination charge. The automatic transmission costs $1,000 more, and the only other option is the unfortunate pairing of a navigation system, much-needed back-up camera and back-up sensors with the panoramic sunroof for $2,500.
Available Matte Gray paint is a Hyundai first, but you'll pay dearly ($1,000) for that. And we never realized how tricky it is to care for matte paint until we saw the 13-page Matte Finish Paint Owner's Guide/warning.
But Wait, There's Probably More
A significant performance boost has elevated the 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo from mostly funky to absolutely fun. We can safely say that the major horsepower and torque infusion brought about by Hyundai's new Gamma 1.6-liter turbocharged engine has failed to expose any deal-breaking flaws.
Instead, the Veloster Turbo begs for stickier summer tires and a rortier exhaust, and those revised knuckles open the door to track-friendly Brembo brakes. Whether you bolt that stuff on yourself or wait for Hyundai to announce the inevitable R-spec in-house example is up to you, but we know where we're going with ours when we eventually lay our meat hooks on one.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
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