Learning To Love Understand You

2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

I will admit, I haven't had the nicest things to say about our long-term 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo since its arrival in our fleet earlier this year. I can't exactly say that I've bonded with our turbocharged Hyundai, despite the fact that I've driven it quite a bit since its arrival in the Autoblog Garage. Several of my friends will no doubt recall me saying things like, "I love everything about this car – except driving it," which is a shame, since the driving aspect is what's supposed to make this car so special. I'm a big fan of the base Veloster, and this one has the extra power bump that the naturally aspirated could really benefit from. So what gives?

Recently, I took a trip to the south of France, where I drove the brand-new Ford Fiesta ST along the lovely roads of the Alps. I adored that car – it's everything a hot hatch should be, and it's priced right, too. But when I came home and picked up the Veloster Turbo at the airport, I found myself disappointed. The Ford I drove in Europe was similar to the Hyundai in terms of size, function, equipment and price, but it was far better to drive. To be fair, that car wasn't even out to benchmark when the Veloster Turbo debuted, but my already sour feelings only got worse at that moment.

But this matte gray cloud does have a silver lining. And all it takes is a bit of rethinking.

As it turns out, I'm not the only one who's felt sort of let down by the Veloster Turbo. Just about everyone I've talked to from our staff isn't filled with warm fuzzies, and a lot of that comes down to the fact that while the car looks good on paper, it's a totally different story out on the road. The suspension hasn't changed from the base car (where it actually feels suitable and very well-sorted), the steering isn't great and the transmission is geared for economy rather than performance, not to mention the fact that the six cogs are accessed through a gearbox that's hardly engaging.

What we all need to do is stop focusing on pure performance.

What we need is a different point of view. What we all need to do is stop focusing on pure performance.

When you stop thinking of the Veloster Turbo as a proper hot hatch, your mindset shifts. The Veloster Turbo feels more like a good first attempt at a sporty compact car, and honestly, I think Kia got this formula right when it announced the new five-door Forte with the same 201-horsepower turbocharged engine. That car isn't being billed as a hot hatch, because it isn't. But since this Veloster wears red Turbo badges and has all those aggressive styling bits, people automatically assume it's a proper sports car, even though Hyundai itself says it isn't really to be considered in the same breath as cars like a Cooper S or even larger offerings like a Volkswagen GTI, despite the similar power numbers.

I think there are a lot of things that are appealing about the Veloster's package regardless of what engine you find underhood. For young folks looking for something unique, it checks all the right boxes: it looks different, it's packed full of useful technology, it's functional and it's affordable. Strip away the matte paint and summer tire option, and our car's $27,520 as-tested price drops to $25,320, yet it still includes things like heated leather seats, navigation with a full suite of infotainment options, 18-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof and more. Want something bigger, like a non-ST Ford Focus with the same levels of equipment? You're looking at $27,280. And our turbocharged Veloster, while not exactly amazing from behind the wheel, is far closer to Focus-levels of engagement, though the Ford is indeed more functional from an overall interior volume perspective.

My outlook on the next several months with our Hyundai will be a more optimistic one.

The bottom line is, if you want a hot hatch, don't buy a Veloster Turbo. Even trying to call this thing a value compared to things like a Fiesta ST isn't worth it, since the extra money you're spending for those cars is made up for with a more performance-oriented driving experience. But if you're shopping for a compact car with pizzaz and smart tech, the Veloster Turbo is a pretty nice package overall. It's more expensive than less powerful and more traditional B-segmenters like a Honda Fit or Chevrolet Sonic, but if you don't need all the room of larger offerings like a Cruze or Focus, this turbo Hyundai is worth considering.

This in mind, my outlook on the next several months with our Veloster will be a more optimistic one. I still don't love it (yet), but at least now, I understand it. Stay tuned to see if my coworkers follow my lead.