TT samples Hyundai’s updated Veloster Turbo on road and track, before deep-diving into a chat with the engineering team to learn just how they improved its dynamic repertoire.
The last few years have been very kind to sports car enthusiasts, with an increasingly affordable segment attracting most of the major players. Fortunately it doesn’t look like stopping any time soon, with Hyundai lowering the opening price on their Series II Veloster SR Turbo to $29,990 (excluding on-roads) for the entry-spec Veloster SR Turbo manual. That’s $3000 less than the previous Veloster Turbo, allowing the distinctively-styled ‘hatch’ to join the competitive sub-30k price bracket where the Toyota 86, Ford Fiesta ST and Kia Pro_cee’d GT are found.
Plump for the up-spec SR Turbo + manual and you’ll part with $33,990, but perhaps the biggest news for the range update is the new (and exclusive to SR Turbo range) seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission (7-speed DCT), which adds a further $2500 to either model.
Exterior appearance has remained near-identical, with only the addition of a new grey grille surround and different 18-inch alloys standard for either variant. The real aesthetic hero is the new Blue Sprinter matte-blue paint, which does plenty for the car’s shape compared to some of the bright glossy options.
Moving inside the Veloster SR Turbo, we’re greeted with a new electro-luminescent instrument cluster, providing easy peripheral notification of the vitals. Coloured seatbelts and a colour-stitched steering wheel complement the SR Turbo’s sporting intention, while blue leather trim highlights feature exclusively when opting for the $1000 Blue Sprinter matte-paint option.
Those spending extra on the SR Turbo + model gain heated and ventilated front seats, sat-nav on the 7.0-inch infotainment screen, panoramic sunroof, climate-control, heated-electric mirrors and ‘Flex Steer’ (more on that later).
Overall the interior is well appointed, and with leather seats as standard on the SR Turbo, Veloster provides competitive value in its class. The rear remains limited for both leg and head room, with my six-foot frame cramping after a short sit, however the additional third door on the passenger side makes it more practical to ferry guests than vehicles such as the Fiesta ST or 86.
Under the bonnet the engine remains identical, with a turbo-charged 1.6-litre four-cylinder producing 150kW at 6000rpm and 265Nm at 1750-4500rpm. Prior to our first drive, Director of Marketing, Oliver Mann, alluded to the potential of subtle changes that may have added a little more noise to the Veloster’s exhaust note, and although on-paper specs are identical, our test drive in the manual reveals a nippier feel than Series I we tested.
Turn-in has similar bite to the previous series, however it is through the corner, and in particular while negotiating esses at high speed, that the Veloster SR Turbo feels more predictable up-front. There is a friendly playfulness to the cars physics, especially when paired with the six-speed manual. Turning the traction control off allows for even greater freedom, and combined with a lightly dampened surface it is keen enough to lose rear-end traction so that a nice line can be controlled through corners without feeling unsettled.
One of the whiz features for the Series II Veloster is the upgrade from 16-bit to 32-bit MDPS (Motor Driven Power Steering), and ‘Flex Steer’ in the SR Turbo + model. Flex Steer allows switching between ‘comfort’, ‘normal’ and ‘sports’ mode. While a difference is felt between the modes, the SR Turbo without Flex Steer has an appropriate feel of weight and a sharp-enough steering-ratio (and uses 32-bit MDPS).
The new 7-speed dual clutch gearbox is a little underwhelming in comparison, failing to engage the right gear at certain times when left to its own devices, and even in manual mode with direction given through the paddle shifters, the gear is slow to engage or sometimes not at all. The best arrangement for the self-shifter is engaging manual mode with traction-control turned off.
However, it is clear from driving both cars that some of the handling problems effecting the Series I has been minimised.
Suspension tuning was performed by Hyundai Australia’s chassis development team in Sydney, the same team who disassembled and improved Veloster’s underpinnings with the VelosterRaptor concept. Smooth handling response, better turn-in and mid-corner bump recovery were key elements to the new suspension recipe.
Speaking to General Manager of Product Engineering, Hee Loong Wong, about what he felt the car needed to be improved over the previous series, he said: “There needs to be a little sway so grip is improved and there is mid-corner bump recovery. Mid-corner bump recovery was very important.”
Starting with on-road grip, the original 215/40/18 tyres have been replaced with a wider footprint, now Hankook Ventus Prime2 225/40/18 rubber. However the larger tyres caused a flow-on effect to other suspension units: “The bigger tyres on Veloster Series II meant we needed to address the subtle increase in the car’s unsprung weight” Hee Loong Wong told TT.
“We reduced the front stabiliser bar diameter across the Veloster Series II range to allow for more independent front-wheel movement… In Veloster SR Turbo and SR Turbo +, it was reduced from 24mm to 22mm.”
Up-front, the smaller stabiliser bar increases the initial roll-response, allowing for better turn-in, however mid-corner roll was compromised. To overcome this, the front spring rate was increased from 2.6kg/mm to 2.7kg/mm, while the dampers were adjusted all-round. At the rear, the spring rate remains at 2.4kg/mm and the torsion-beam remains the same.
In reality, the suspension tuning to mid-corner bump and turn-in is felt. Veloster responds well to sudden input mid-corner, there’s a subtle allowance of play from each wheel without being too soft or wobbly. The unnerving feel as the Series I Veloster lost its line has been minimised, and it’s evident that Hyundai are serious about creating something more than an average sports car.
The team evaluated 49 theoretical suspension set-ups in a computer simulated environment, before finalising and having the components sent to Australia from Hyundai manufacturing in Namyang.
On-road testing was evaluated by Senior Product and Planning Manager Andrew Tuitahi, while some track evaluation also took place with World Rally Championship driver Chris Aitkinson.
Asked whether there was a chance for an N Performance version of the Veloster, Andrew remained vague, although we’re hoping we can see something provided aftermarket: “I don’t think there’ll be an N version, I haven’t heard anything, but there is potential to add-on performance parts to make a quicker version,” he said, “like the Quaife differential that was used in the Raptor”.
In earlier years, Hee Loong Wong was an integral part of the STi Tuning program and casually cooked up the idea for the Subaru WRP 10 over a late breakfast conversation. It’s evident he’s mad about vehicle geometry, and after discussing other great front-wheelers such as Renault’s Megane RS, the penny dropped as to the direction Hyundai’s sports car might take, if we’re lucky. Being that both Veloster and Megane share a torsion bar suspension rear, there was a suggestive wink from ‘Wongy’ as to what the Veloster could be capable of, especially if something similar to what’s in the Raptor was available.
We’re hopeful that Hyundai Australia plunges a little further into the hot hatch segment that is highly popular in Australia, however for the moment, the Series II seems to be the update needed to address some of the handling we didn’t enjoy, while adding more value for less coin.
Stay tuned for our full on-road test and review soon.