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2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Ultimate Review: Hatching Fun

by Paul Strauss
2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Ultimate Review: Hatching Funzoom in

    2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Ultimate

  • Engine: 1.6L turbocharged 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower: 201
  • Torque (lb-ft.): 195
  • Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic or 6-speed manual
  • Drive Configuration: FWD
  • 0-to-60 Time (secs): 6.4
  • Top Speed (mph): 135
  • City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 28/34/30
  • Curb Weight (lb): 2,833 - 2,987
  • Wheelbase (in): 104.3
  • Total Length (in): 166.9
  • Width (in): 70.9
  • Base Price (USD): $28,150
  • Price as Tested (USD): $29,160

For as long as it has existed in the Hyundai lineup, the Veloster has been a fun little car to look at. I’ve always loved its low and lean hatchback styling, and its quirky, asymmetrical 3-door layout. But in its prior generation, the Veloster’s performance and driving dynamics didn’t quite live up to its looks. I’m happy to say that’s changed with the new 2019 Veloster – especially in the potent Turbo-powered variant I recently had the privilege of driving for a week.

For the 2019 model year, the Veloster has received a solid makeover, reducing some of the visual clutter of the outgoing model, and focusing on strong and smooth lines across the entire body. I really like the new mesh grille up front, and the sense of motion in the 18″ windmill style wheels. Other notable improvements are around back, with its more pointed, segmented taillamps, the reduction of odd bubbly bits, and replacement of the dated round parking lamps at the bottom with ones that appear much better integrated to the shape of the bumper.

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Basically, Hyundai took everything I liked about the old Veloster’s design and fixed all of the areas that could use a little more refinement. This carries across from the exterior styling, to the interior, to the way it rides. I didn’t get a chance to drive one with the entry-level 2.0-liter naturally-aspirated engine, but in the 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder variant, this Veloster has lots of get up and go. It has the same 201 horses as before, mated to either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox, but somehow it feels more zippy this time out. Off the line, its got plenty of punch, and feels more like a hot hatch than ever before. That said, I can’t imagine how great the upcoming 275 hp Veloster N will feel off the line.

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For 2019, there are major changes is the suspension and steering setup. Hyundai engineers clearly took the market feedback on this and poured resources and time into making it much better. The whole ride feels much better sorted, with more direct control and better feedback from the road. The new multi-link rear suspension helps offer a more dynamic ride without sacrificing ride quality on the bumps. And the soft, disconnected steering of old is markedly improved, with better weight, and an overall feeling of control. Torque vectoring tech is applied to the front axles to help minimize understeer, and as a result, the Veloster provides sharper cornering than typical front-wheel drive cars.

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I’ve heard from fellow journalists that the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires on the manual transmission models are spectacularly grippy, but I have to say that the stock Nexen N’Priz AH8 all-seasons were surprisingly capable in both dry and rainy summer conditions, and give you the added benefit of not needing to buy a set of winter tires unless you get particularly harsh conditions that time of year.

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While the base Veloster Turbo and Turbo R-Spec have cloth seats, the Turbo Ultimate has swanky leather seating surfaces, with a sweet racing stripe down the middle. The front seats offer excellent side bolstering, heat, as well as a power-adjustable driver’s side lumbar support. One of the best things about the layout of the Veloster is how spacious the front row is, offering exceptional legroom and headroom for drivers of any height.

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Of course, if you push the front seats all the way back, the back row becomes very cramped, but with the seats set to a reasonable position for a 6-footer, the back seat has enough leg and kneeroom for adults to sit. That said, the back seat is best suited for kids. Behind the back row, you’ll find an ample 19.9 cubic feet of storage, which jumps to 44.5 cubes when you fold the seats. A 60/40 split is standard for cargo and passenger flexibility as well.

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People often ask why the Veloster has three doors instead of four, but I think that’s the wrong way to look at its quirky door setup. Instead, think of it as a two door hatch that provides an easier way to access the back seat than having to flip a front seat forward. Then it makes all the sense in the world, and it’s a great feature.

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I also love how Hyundai embraced this asymmetry this year by making the left side of the passenger compartment have a different color treatment than the right. It’s really well executed, and way more subtle than it sounds.

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Speaking of sounds, Veloster Turbo models have an active engine sound system which pipes in an extra bit of grunt into the car via the 8-speaker Infinity premium audio system. While some purists may diss such exhaust note augmentation systems, I’ve come to appreciate them and the feedback they provide to the driver and occupants. Sure, I’d prefer a growlier stock exhaust system, but the electronically-enhanced sounds are actually quite satisfying in this implementation.

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Every 2019 Veloster, from the $18,500 Veloster 2.0 to the $29,000+ Veloster Turbo Ultimate reviewed here gets both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, along with a backup camera with dynamic guidelines, a touchscreen infotainment system, power windows, and a 6-way adjustable driver’s seat standard. The Turbo Ultimate packs upgrades like an 8″ screen with navigation, and a most-excellent smart cruise control system.

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Kudos to Hyundai for taking its offbeat little hatchback, embracing it, and investing in substantial improvements during a time when automakers are spending all their money on crossovers, SUVs and trucks.

In prior years, the Veloster was simply a fun looking car that fell a little short in the fun to drive department. For 2019, it’s exceeded all of my expectations, with a tightened up look outside and in, lots of great new features in the tech department, driven by a spritely engine, and offers very engaging ride dynamics. If you’re shopping for a hatchback, the Veloster definitely deserves strong consideration this time out.

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