Long-term 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

Although I went on the Portland launch of the regular-strength Veloster back in late 2011, my time in the Turbo model was previously limited to one very brief commuting experience, so I was glad to get some time in our long-term matte gray model this month. In a way, I lucked out, grabbing the key fob to our Hyundai just as the weather in mid-Michigan finally acknowledged spring's existence. The temperature change afforded us the chance to swap out the all-season Kumho Solus KH25 rubber that it arrived with in January for its optional ($1,200) Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires (215/40ZR18), an almost absurdly major-league, high-dollar set of shoes for what is actually only a hottish hatch.

You might have expected the Veloster Turbo to slide under the radar in such high-performance and shouty company, but the truth is it was a little magnet for attention.

With the new footwear freshly installed, I made a beeline for South Bend, Indiana for the start of this year's One Lap of America, an event I've been staffing for well over a decade. I rolled into the Tire Rack headquarters' expansive parking lot, parking the VT alongside the competitors, whose vehicles appeared "cunningly disguised as racecars," covered with all manner of sponsorship stickers and graphics. You might have expected the Veloster Turbo to slide under the radar in such high-performance and shouty company, but the truth is it was a little magnet for attention.

Most of the One Lappers I spoke with had seen standard Velosters before from a distance or at auto shows, but none of them had firsthand experience with them, let alone with the Turbo. While not everyone loved its looks, a good number truly did, and several asked if the car's matte finish was a wrap – all were impressed to learn that it wasn't. They were also pretty blown away by the inclusion of Michelin Pilots on a car of this price and mission, and everyone appreciated that it had a six-speed manual and a "real" third door. At least a couple of drivers pronounced it a "great kid's car" and vowed to have a look at it for their own progeny after the weeklong rally. As much as I enjoy the car, it was frankly a warmer reaction than I had anticipated amidst a crowd of hardcore car guys and gals.

Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires on the long-term Hyundai Veloster Turbo

The Michelins strike me as a major step in the right direction to further differentiate performance over the naturally aspirated car.

On the driving front, I enjoyed my time with the Turboster – the new tires are superbly grippy in the corners (Hyundai says adhesion skyrockets from a ho-hum 0.82g to a pretty heroic 0.94g), turn-in is quick, and braking distance is comfortingly short (to be fair, I don't have much to compare it to with the all-seasons since I didn't really drive the car when they were fitted – officials claim 60-0 stopping distances drop from 135 feet to 121). Given that Hyundai chose not to upgrade the Turbo's suspension over lesser Velosters, the Michelins strike me as a major step in the right direction to further differentiate performance over the naturally aspirated car, and the dynamic improvements stand as a testament to what a good set of tires will do for a car.

Yet they aren't without penalty. The sticky Michelins come with a pretty substantial amount of road noise, and worse, they introduce impact harshness that I don't recall experiencing on the standard Veloster. This is particularly true over freeway expansion joints, where the car's simple rear torsion beam suspension occasionally shuffles laterally in disconcerting fashion. I'm not sure if this unpleasant shimmy was present when the car had Kumhos underfoot, but my fellow editors never commented on it before, so I suspect it wasn't (it's likely attributable to the Michelins' harder sidewalls). Overall, tuner-happy youths and weekend autocrossers might not mind the extra noise and harshness tradeoffs, but I'd recommend those who don't fall into that camp test-drive models on both tires before buying. To be fair, on the whole, the Veloster Turbo isn't the most ideal weekend motorsports warrior in the subcompact segment (those laurels likely fall to the Ford Fiesta ST), but I still think there's a lot to like here – solid power, class-leading infotainment and iconoclastic design among them.