The touch of a turbocharger has turned the Hyundai Veloster into more than just a pretty face. It's not a road-rocket Subaru WRX, but the star car in the Veloster range picks up enough extra go to ensure it's more than just a chic magnet.
Priced from $31,990 and available with the first affordable factory matt paint in Australia - for just $1000 extra - the Veloster SR Turbo sits nicely in among a range of go-faster hatches and is a realistic alternative for someone who doesn't want the hard edge or waiting list of a Toyota 86.
Hyundai set the standard when it introduced the basic 1.6-litre Veloster from $23,990, which makes the walk-up to the SR Turbo - past the Veloster+ from $28,990, a logical progression. It's a nice price for a good deal, since $31,990 buys everything you really need in a car that's more about looks than all-out performance.
Hyundai has also just confirmed details of its capped-price service program, including three years of free map updates for its satnav, to sweeten the deal and also give extra permission to sign on the line. The Turbo package comes with a panoramic sunroof in addition to the predictable equipment, from a 7-inch touch screen with satnav to leather-leatherette seat trim, a rear parking camera, cruise control, alloys, Bluetooth with streaming and automatic aircon.
Hyundai sees the Veloster turbo sitting against the Mini Cooper S priced from around $43,000 and the Citroen DS3 from $26,990, but there are any number of potential rivals up to the stove-hot Renault Megane RS and the good looking new Opel Astra GTC coupe.
The go-faster Veloster is all about the engine, but there are other changes. Starting in the engine room, the 1.6-litre four picks up direct fuel injection, a twin-scroll turbo and intercooler to boost power to 150 kiloWatts and torque to 256 Newton-metres.
For comparison, that's 46 per cent more power and 60 per cent more torque than the regular Veloster. Yet Hyundai says fuel economy is still as good as 6.8 litres/100km.
There is still a six-speed manual gearbox, but the torque output means the twin-clutch manumatic from the basic Veloster steps aside for a more durable - if less sporty - conventional six-speed auto, which at least gets flappy paddles for the extra $2000. The basic suspension stays the same, apart from different damper rates, but there is also quicker steering and slightly bigger front brakes.
Hyundai - which has copped a caning from Kia on the Australianisation of its cars - is now, finally, talking about its localisation work. It says the Veloster Turbo was extensively tested and tweaked to ensure it's right down under.
Nothing much changes on the SR Turbo, although there is a discreet rear spoiler and a far-less discreet pair of bazooka exhaust outlets. The car rolls on 18-inch alloys, there are projector-team headlamps and inside the seats pick up special identification.
A five-star ANCAP rating for the Veloster carries over, together with six airbags, ABS and ESP as usual.
The Veloster is a nice car, with enough extra urge to make driving enjoyment but not enough to turn the car into an untamed beast. So it's not a WRX rival, or something to consider against an RS Megane, but still quite swift and competent in a variety of road conditions.
The turbo shove comes on strong from 3500 revs but the car does its best work well before the redline, which means you can often lug along in a high gear for stress-free cornering with a pretty good pace. The brakes are not stressed by the extra go, neither is the suspension - although one of two press cars did crash through some sharp bumps on the test route - and generally the car just does the job without fuss.
There is still plenty of scope to extract more go from the turbo engine, but Hyundai says it has no plans and that means it will be up to the tuners. So lots to play for there. The Veloster became a Carsguide favourite when it first hit Australia and the Turbo lifts everything to the next level, ensuring more enjoyment without any noticeable shortcomings.
A nice package that delivers just enough go to balance the Veloster show.
Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo
Price: from $31,990
Warranty: 5 years/unlimited + roadside assist/capped service
Resale: not available
Service interval: 15,000km/12 months
Safety Rating: five-star
Spare: space saver
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four, 150kW/265Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual and auto; fwd
Citroen DS3 DSport
Price: from $29,990
Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder, 115kW/240Nm
Transmission: 5-speed manual, FWD
Thirst: 6.7L/100Km, CO2 155 g/km
Mini Cooper S
Price: from $40,700
Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder, 135kW/240Nm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic (6-speed manual)