The 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo's biggest gimmick -- aside from the eponymous turbo, which we'll get back to shortly -- is its asymmetrical design. Viewed from the driver's side, the Veloster appears to be a three-door hatchback. However, viewed from the passenger side, it looks like a five-door. The truth is somewhere in between: Hyundai's Veloster is an unconventional four-door hatchback with one door on the driver's side, two doors on the passenger's side, and the lifting hatch out back.
Aside from just looking weird and being a conversation piece, there are advantages to this uneven configuration. Firstly, the second, smaller door on the passenger side allows for easier access to the rear seat without having to tilt the front seat forward. Two doors are shorter than one long door and swing out a shorter distance from the side of the vehicle, so a Veloster driver cramming into a tiny parking space can get closer to a wall or other obstruction on the passenger side without inhibiting the swing of the doors. (By comparison, the driver's side door is almost ridiculously long.)
The Veloster's hatchback form factor with fold-flat rear seats also allows city dwellers to cram a lot of cargo room and stuff-carrying capacity into a relatively small parking space, which is a treat for city living. During my week with the Veloster, I purchased two road bikes and was able to fit the boxes of both of them into the cavernous rear hatch with plenty of room to spare.
But that's all form and function stuff, what about the design?
Well, the Veloster uses Hyundai's Fluidic Sculpture design language, which -- as seen in the Sonata, for example -- usually manifests itself in organic curves and flowing, windswept looks. The Veloster Turbo, however, is a good deal more aggressive.
Massive swept-back bug-eyed headlamps flow from the front end of the vehicle and up the fenders. They are joined to the housings of the circular fog lamps by deep creases that echo the hexagonal blacked-out grille that is both larger and more sinister-looking than the non-turbo Veloster's. On our Ultra Black test car, the scale of the grille is visually minimized, but on more brightly colored models, it looks downright massive.
The rear end is characterized by a huge center exhaust with dual round tips that are surrounded by a matte black plastic "diffuser" that generates more second glances than downforce and the same high rump and beetlelike taillamps as the non-turbo model. There's also the same gun-slit rear glass that offers very poor rearward visibility and makes a compelling case for the optional rearview camera.
Beneath the Veloster Turbo's sculpted hood spins a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine that is augmented with a twin-scroll turbo and gasoline direct-injection technology. This is, as I understand, the same 1.6-liter block that every Veloster is powered by, only with the addition of the turbocharger and upgrades to handle the increased air intake pressure.
Output is rated at 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque, up 63 ponies over the model that we tested last year and 72 pound-feet of torque. Almost all of that power lives in the upper ranges of the tachometer; thankfully the "twin-scroll" tech in the turbo helps to minimize lag (but not totally eliminate it), so you're not stuck waiting for the torque to pile on. We called the last Veloster to pass through the Car Tech garage out on its inability to back up its aggressive looks with performance. On paper, at least, that's no longer the case.
The engine is paired with a standard six-speed manual transmission that features gear ratios that are unique to the Turbo model. The shifter has nothing on the stick you'll find in a Honda Fit or Mini Cooper, but it feels nice enough in the hand and its gates are reasonably well-defined with one very heinous exception.
The Veloster's manual shifter is equipped with what's called a first-gear lockout mechanism, the purpose of which is to prevent careless drivers from shifting into first gear when they mean to go to third and potentially damaging the transmission. In theory, this is a good thing. In practice, the Veloster's first-gear lockout is a nightmare in itself, occasionally getting stuck shut or half shut and preventing me when it was time to get moving again from shifting into first gear without much jiggling and mangling of the shift lever -- that's if you haven't stalled because you've ended up in third gear. This made our Veloster Turbo tester almost maddeningly difficult to enjoy on the streets of San Francisco, where stops are frequent and often on an incline.
A quick dive into a few Veloster enthusiast forums revealed that, while this is a known issue, not every Veloster Turbo driver has experienced it. However, I feel this issue is something that potential owners should be aware of and beware of.