We compare two disparate approaches to affordable performance

On paper, these two are not direct rivals.

The Toyota 86 was created purely to be a driver’s champion; its naturally aspirated engine, coupe styling and rear-drive dynamics a nod to the purity of driving.

Hyundai’s Veloster SR Turbo, on the other hand, follows traditional hot-hatch lines, taking an existing model and adding power and precision to the mix. So, why are we bringing them together? The answer is simple: we wanted to compare two disparate methods to achieving performance; and the fact they are popular performance cars which can be purchased for under $35,000 adds further comparative weight. But which one delivers the more rounded performance?

With 150kW, a 265Nm torque plateau from 1750-4500rpm and 1307kg to haul, the Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo should have a real-world edge over the higher-strung Toyota 86 GT (147kW, only 205Nm at 6600rpm, 1257kg). Although the Korean is behind on power-to-weight ratio, its torque-to-weight is significantly superior.

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“86 is forever egging you on to push harder”

Fact is, out on twisty Victorian country roads, an uphill gradient sees the 86 swarming all over the Hyundai’s distinctively-styled rear end. Of course, the 86 driver has to try harder to extract that performance, but that’s no hardship – the 2.0-litre ‘boxer’ does its best work north of 5000rpm. Conversely the turbocharged 1.6-litre Hyundai feels strained at the top end of its rev-range, preferring to mine its torque seam between 2000-4000rpm. It also never feels quite as strong as the 150kW peak suggests.

As a daily-driver, the Veloster is therefore the more relaxed; it’s smoother, quieter and more refined than the comparatively hyperactive Toyota, which lets a lot of engine noise into the cabin and is forever egging you on to push harder. It’s great on open roads; less so in the stop-start city traffic where its relative lack of torque makes these situations even more frustrating.

Both sport six-speed manual gearboxes, the 86’s typically mechanical in feel, smoothing out as revs rise. The Veloster’s action feels more distant, the lever damped from the actual process of changing gear. It’s accurate and quick enough, but doesn’t truly engage the driver.

Both cars sport electrically-assisted power steering, but once more their respective raisons d’être are revealed. Again, the Veloster’s helm is fast and accurate, but you can feel there is an added layer smothering interaction between driver and road, the feedback damped in the interest of smoothing out the driving experience for the everyday. In the 86, there is a granularity to its steering that is quite unlike any other electric system. Its responses aren’t as alert as the Veloster’s are, but what it delivers is far more genuine… and it lies beyond the bald fact that the Toyota’s front wheels aren’t double tasked by driving and turning.

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“On these bumpy, cambered roads surefootedness is vital”

The tables turn when it comes to attacking a braking zone. Here, the Hyundai’s 300mm front discs offer superior retardation and feel than the 86 GT’s 277mm examples. It’s that, combined with grippier 215/40/18 tyres on the Korean hatch which bring more confidence to an apex approach.

In contrast, the rear end of the 86 feels edgy. It’s a feeling exacerbated by the spindly 205/55/16 ‘economy’ tyres on the GT model. If you have the skill to exploit this nervousness, it’s all well and good (particularly on-track), but on these bumpy, cambered roads around Macedon surefootedness is vital.

Once into a corner the inherent stability found in the Veloster’s front-drive, fat-tyre layout makes itself known, and thanks to bespoke local tuning by Hyundai engineers, the SR Turbo copes well with bumps. It can however push wide at the front-end on corner approach when asking for that final degree of chassis response.

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“In this sense, the relatively disappointing tyre grip is welcomed because it enables you to steer with the throttle”

 

Lacking a limited-slip diff, the Veloster has the ability to break inside wheel traction on tighter corners, but a smoother approach reveals the Hyundai’s impressive ‘natural’ grip, exiting corners without DSC intervention. All in all, the Veloster is competent in the corners, but lacks any real adjustability and feels more like an appliance as a result.

Things couldn’t be more different at the helm of the Toyota, using that delicious steering and low-slung driving position to marry driver to machine. Following on from that lively turn-in, there is always an opportunity to adjust the 86’s approach to the apex. In this sense, the relatively disappointing tyre grip is welcomed because it enables you to steer with the throttle. It’s never excessive – there simply isn’t enough torque for that- but it can be used to tuck the 86’s nose in and fire through a corner, a little squirm under power easily caught with a flick of the wrists.

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The Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo is competent, well-built and well equipped, but fails to be truly engaging when assessed as a pure driving tool. The Toyota 86 GT on the other hand has changed the game by offering affordable real-world thrills with approachable limits. It remains truly exceptional.

 

2014 Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo 2014 Toyota 86 GT
Price $32,990 (plus on-road costs) $29,990 (plus on-road costs)
Engine 1591cc turbocharged four-cylinder petrol 1998cc flat-four petrol
Gearbox Six-speed manual Six-speed manual
Power 150kW at 6000rpm 147kW at 7000rpm
Torque 265Nm at 1750-4500rpm 205Nm at 6400-6600rpm
Weight 1265kg 1257kg
Power to weight 8.43kg/kW 8.55kg/kW
Wheels 18-inch alloy 16-inch alloy
Tyres 215/40/R18 205/55/R16

About The Author

Editor

From childhood stories of my Dad's Phase 2 XW GT-HO, I have always loved cars. That passion was nurtured via epic road trip stories read in magazines, undertaken in wonderfully evocative machinery. It was inspirational, and there was no longer a choice: I was going to make a career in motoring journalism. At Trailing Throttle, we want to recreate that feeling of behind-the-wheel immersion. We hope you enjoy the ride.