New Car Reviews

First Drive: 2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo R-Spec and Ultimate

Sporty hatch offers value and driving joy

AUSTIN, Texas — When we reviewed the first generation Veloster Turbo, we said that it’s “not the car we were hoping for.” Our hopes were reignited when Hyundai announced the redesigned 2019 Veloster. But while the sheetmetal is revised, the lopsided door configuration with one on the driver’s side and two on the passenger side remains. We went to Austin, Texas to see if Hyundai’s second attempt to make a fun-to-drive hatch was a success.

The base model 2019 Veloster receives a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated inline-four that makes 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque. Rather than drive the entry-level car, Hyundai offered driving routes in variants of the 2019 Veloster Turbo, which is powered by a 1.6-liter turbo-four. It’s significantly more powerful than its naturally aspirated sibling, making 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. Peak twist occurs over a broad range, from 1,500 rpm to 4,500 rpm.

Hyundai also fits the Veloster Turbo with some pretty sweet technology as standard, no matter which trim level a buyer chooses. There’s an 8-inch display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a proximity key and button start, wireless charging, and funky combination leather and cloth seats.

We started off in the R-spec trim, the middle and sportiest entry in the Veloster lineup. Our tester stickered at $23,785 after delivery. This variant receives a sport-tuned suspension that neutralized body roll during our blast through Austin’s hill country. It feels better sorted for its purpose than any other Hyundai product I’ve driven, and feels taut without sacrificing comfort. The steering is also revised for the R-spec trim, and the wheel provides good road feel and communication to the driver, offering a confidence in the corners.

Hyundai also tuned the “exhaust character,” which sounds as good as a small turbocharged powerplant can sound. Both Veloster Turbo models we sampled are equipped with exhaust note enhancement via speakers, but the car sounds fine, if not better, with the system disabled. Turning this feature off also allows easier conversation inside the cabin.

The R-spec can only be had with a six-speed manual transmission. Throws of B&M Racing sport shifter find gearing with precision. Clutch engagement occurs in the bottom half of the pedal travel, and making smooth and accurate shifts is a breeze. There’s no need to wind the engine to redline for max power since peak torque is available from 1,500 to 4,500 rpm. A mode-select button allows the driver to pick between “Normal” and “Sport” drivetrain characters.

The Veloster Turbo also gets 225/40 R18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer tires, which offer so much grip that braking was hardly necessary in the winding corners of our drive. Putting the power down is no issue and stopping power from the four-way singer-piston calipers is strong. The quirky hatch is a capable driver’s car to the point that it’s chuckle inducing.

It’s a different story with the commuter oriented Veloster Turbo Ultimate, which comes out to $29,160 after destination costs. Gone are the grippy summer tires, replaced with instead with all-season rubber, since our tester used Hyundai’s dual-clutch transmission. There’s also an added torque vectoring system.

Some of the handling fun remains from the sport-oriented R-spec, but we noted braking performance and grip  reduced dramatically in light of the absence of summer tires after trying to rollick through the twisties with resumed enthusiasm. Shifts from the dual-clutch transmission are quick and accurate so it’s still easy to keep in the powerband. Hyundai includes paddle shifters as well for those who like to pick their own gears.

Overall, it’s a better choice for the average commuter who won’t care about what tires are on the car or whether or not they have a manual. There’s still a drive mode select button which allows the driver to choose between, “Normal” and “Sport” modes and a third “Smart” configuration that adapts to the driver’s inputs. Our tester used the optional heads-up display, which switches to a Star Wars-style tachometer and speedometer view when “Sport” is enabled.

There’s a bounty of safety technology over the R-Spec too. The battery of features includes blind-spot collision warning, automatic highbeam assist, blind-spot collision assist and pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control (only available with an equipped DCT). The sensors seemed to be hyper-sensitive during our testing, and would trigger warnings when they picked up cars over a body length behind our own vehicle. The parking assistance aided greatly with the Veloster’s odd angles and blind spots.

Between the two models we tested in Austin, our pick goes to the Veloster Turbo R-spec. At $23,785, it’s a stylish and well-equipped driver’s special with the only barrier to entry to a wider market being the manual transmission. This being said, the top-level Ultimate package still comes in under $30,000 and will satisfy commuters looking for a practical and unique ride with a modest dose of athleticism added to the mix.

With manufacturers like Ford pulling their sport-compact entries from showroom floors, we’re happy buyers still have the opportunity to put their cash toward a car that delivers on the original premise of the hot hatch. Now we just have to wait to get the keys to the even spicier Veloster Turbo N later this year.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo R-Spec Specifications

ON SALE Now
PRICE $19,385/$23,785  (base/as tested)
ENGINE 1.6L Turbocharged DOHC 16-valve inline-4/201 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 195 lb-ft @ 1,500-4,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD hatchback
EPA MILEAGE 26/33 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 166.9 x 70.9 x 55.1 in
WHEELBASE 104.3 in
WEIGHT 2,833 lb
0-60 MPH N/A
TOP SPEED N/A

 

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Ultimate Specifications

ON SALE Now
PRICE $19,385/$29,160 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 1.6L Turbocharged DOHC 16-valve inline-4/201 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 195 lb-ft @ 1,500-4,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 7-speeddual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD hatchback
EPA MILEAGE 28/34 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 166.9 x 70.9 x 55.1 in
WHEELBASE 104.3 in
WEIGHT 2,899 lb
0-60 MPH N/A
TOP SPEED N/A

Buying Guide
Powered by Motortrend

2019 Hyundai Veloster

MSRP $18,500 2.0 (Manual) Hatchback