Abarth 595 VS Hyundai Veloster
- Good engine/chassis combo
- Surprising grip levels
- Terrible driving position
- Ride not great around town
- No reversing camera
- Unique looks
- Grunty 1.6-turbo engine
- Great dynamics
- Small boot
- Only three doors
- 2.0-litre engine lacks grunt
Since 1949, Abarth has been giving the venerable Italian brand, Fiat, a patina of performance, based largely on giant-killing feats in small modified cars like the Fiat 600 of the 1960s.
More recently, the brand has been revived to boost the fortunes of the smallest Fiat on sale in Australia. Known formally as the Abarth 595, the tiny hatch packs a bit of a surprise under its distinctive snout.
|Engine Type||1.4L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Promise me something. Don’t judge a Hyundai Veloster just by its looks, especially this new generation which has just arrived.
So, what is it, then? If anything it could be the perfect compromise car: a coupe with easier access to the back seats than a two-door, a choice of engines, an affordable entry-point, plus good dynamics and a comfortable ride.
I went to the Australian launch of the new Veloster and here’s what I found out about this much improved second-generation model.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
It’s tough to be kind to the Abarth 595. Based on a platform that’s more than a decade old, the car has been left behind by its rivals in many ways, including basic ergonomics and its value equation.
The larger engine does work well in this smaller package, and its road-holding ability belies its size. However, only die-hard fans of the Abarth brand will be able to cope with the uncomfortable seating position and a complete lack of even the most perfunctory features that cars costing $10,000 less are able to offer.
Could you look past the Abarth 595's foibles? Let us know in the comments below.
The Veloster might not be the perfect family car with its small boot and three doors, but if you are looking for something different and sporty then the Veloster with its great driving dynamics could be the funnest reason not to buy an SUV like everybody else.
The Turbo is the sweet spot in the Veloster range for value - the most bang for you buck, plus plenty of great features.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
Despite being based on a design that’s a decade old, the Abarths still stand out. Based on the classic Fiat 500 shape of the 1950 and '60s, it’s more cute than cut-throat, with a narrow track and tall roof giving it a toy-like presence.
The Abarth attempts to beef things up with deep front and rear bumper splitters, go-fast stripes, new headlights and alternate-colour wing mirrors.
The 595 rides on 16-inch rims, while the Competizione runs 17s.
Inside, it’s definitely different to most mainstream cars, with colour-coded plastic panels on the dash and a very upright seating position, along with a dual-tone steering wheel.
It’s a love-it-or-hate-it proposition. There’s no middle ground here.
Nobody had seen anything quite like the Veloster before the first one arrived in 2012. This ugly-pretty hatch with cranky frog looks made Australia rubber neck.
It arrived just after Hyundai had finished winning over Aussies with small affordable cars with outstanding five-star ANCAP safety scores and it was a case of 'now for something completely different.'
I’m going to put it out there and say the styling was about half-a-decade ahead of the trend because by the time 2017 rolled around brands like Toyota were coming up with pretty similar designs in the form of its C-HR and even more recently Lamborghini’s Urus bears more than a passing resemblance to the Hyundai. Where have you ever seen that written before?
This second-generation Veloster has arrived looking a bit more grown up and serious than the pioneering first-gen, with its longer nose and sleeker head and tail-lights, the latter of which now extend through into the tailgate.
And while it’s not quite as toy-like in its design as the original it’s still fun looking and different with the pumped up wheelarches, central exhaust, a roofline which slopes dramatically down to the oversized rear spoiler and the three-door design – one for the driver, the front passenger and a single entrance to the second row.
Yep, if you didn’t realise it then you should know that from the right-hand side the Veloster looks like a two-door coupe, but from the left it appears to be a four-door. Not even Hyundai can give me a reason why, other than it offers the practicality that a two-door coupe can’t.
All Velosters come with 18-inch alloy wheels but each grade’s rims come in a different design, while the Turbo and Turbo Premium have blacked-out side skirts and a sporty grille with a red-painted lower air-intake.
Each grade of Veloster comes with a different interior package with a black and blue colour scheme with cloth material in the entry-level car; while the Turbo’s cabin is black with red highlights using cloth and leather; and the Turbo premium is similar but with leather upholstery.
That said, there’s way too much hard plastic used on all grades, from the dash to the door sills and that brings the feeling of quality down even if the fit and finish of the cabin is excellent.
At 4240mm long, 1800mm across, and 1399mm tall the Veloster is about 100mm shorter in length than an i30, a little bit wider and not quite as tall, giving it a low and planted stance.
Colours include 'Red Ignite', 'Yellow Thunder Bolt', 'Chalk White', 'Dark Knight', 'Tangerine Comet', 'Phantom Black' and 'Lake Silver'. Frankly a frog-looking car should come in green, but that isn’t offered, neither is blue, grey or purple.
This is another area where the Abarth falls down. First and foremost, the seating position for the driver in both cars is utterly compromised.
The seat itself is mounted far, far, too high, and has little adjustment in any direction, and there is no reach adjustment in the steering wheel column to allow a taller (or even an average height) driver to get comfortable.
The more expensive Competizione we tested was fitted with a set of optional sports bucket seats from racing company Sabelt, but even they are mounted literally 10cm too high. They are also ultra firm, and even though they look supportive, lack decent side bolster support.
The tiny multimedia screen is okay to use, but the buttons are miniscule, while there’s a complete lack of storage places in the front.
There are two cupholders under the centre console, with two more in between the front seats for rear seat passengers. There are no bottle holders in the doors and no storage for rear seaters.
Speaking of the rear seats, they are the very definition of cramped, with little headroom for moderately sized adults and precious little knee or toe room. There are two sets of ISOFIX baby seat mounting points, though, should you fancy wrestling your wriggling toddlers through the narrow aperture.
The seats flip forward to reveal more cargo space (185 litres with the seats up, and 550 litres when the seats are down), but the seat backs don’t fold flat into the floor. Under the boot floor is a can of sealant and a pump, but no space saver spare.
In truth, it was a long day testing this car… at 187cm, I simply could not get comfortable in it at all.
It’s not. Well not very practical anyway, not in the same way a Hyundai i30 is or even a Kona SUV is.
Let’s go straight to the obvious one – the three doors. A door for the driver, one for the front passenger and another on the kerb-side of the car for entry into the two seats in the second row.
Yes, it’s quirky and different, but it’s frustrating for the those who need to climb in from the left-hand side and scoot across a hard plastic tray and cupholders in the centre to sit behind the driver.
To be fair, the aperture of the entry has been widened by 58mm, improving entry and egress and headroom in the second row has been increased, too.
At 191cm tall I can just sit behind my driving position while my hair is brushing the ceiling. Not a place I’d like to be a on a long trip, that’s for sure.
Hyundai argues that the third door provides practicality that a two door doesn’t have, which is true, but that’s like making a T-shirt with one long sleeve and a short one just in case it’s colder than you thought outside. No, it isn’t… but I can’t think of a better analogy right now.
Did you notice that the front doors are different lengths? The driver’s door is long because the B-Pillar on that side is positioned further rearwards than the other side while the passenger door is short. This causes a few issues – the driver’s door is heavy and if you park next to somebody you might have trouble opening it far enough for you to clamber out.
But if you don’t have kids and will only occasionally ferry people around in the back, then the Veloster is far more suitable.
Cabin storage is good with two cupholders in the back, and two up front, along with slim door pockets up front, a large centre console storage bin under the centre armrest and a big hidey hole in front of the shifter.
As for power outlets you’ll find a 12-volt along with two USB ports up front – a media connection and charging-only one.
Price and features
The range has been stripped back to just two cars, and costs has come down slightly, with the 595 now starting at $26,990, plus on-road costs.
A new 5.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system (with digital radio), a leather wrapped steering wheel, TFT dash display, rear parking sensors, alloy pedals, 16-inch alloy rims, and (front-only) adaptive dampers are standard on the base 595.
A convertible, or more accurately, a rag-top (cabriolet) version of the 595 is also available for $29,990.
The 595 Competizione is now a whopping $8010 cheaper at $31,990 with a manual gearbox, leather seats (Sabelt-branded sports buckets are optional), 17-inch alloys, a louder Monza exhaust, as well as front and rear adaptive Koni shocks, and Eibach springs.
Unfortunately, what stands out more on the Abarths is what they don’t come with. Auto lights and wipers, cruise control of any sort, driver aids including AEB and adaptive cruise… even a rear view camera is missing.
What’s more puzzling is that the Abarth’s architecture, though a decade old, has provision to accept at least a rear view camera.
Abarth’s explanation that the car’s home market doesn’t see these inclusions as important doesn’t really hold water, either.
There are three grades in the Veloster range with the entry-point simply called Veloster, which lists for $29,490 with a manual gearbox and $31,790 for the automatic transmission.
Above this is the Turbo, which lists for $35,490 for the manual (add $3K for a dual-clutch auto) and at the top of the range is the Turbo Premium for $38,990 in manual guise and, that’s right, three grand extra for the dual-clutch.
The standard equipment list is impressive. Well, it is for the Turbo and Premium, but the entry-grade Veloster still comes with a good safety suite (read about that below) and features such as LED daytime running lights, a 7.0-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, single-zone climate control, sports front seats, leather-clad steering wheel, 18-inch alloy wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport 3 tyres and switchable drive modes if you go for the auto transmission.
The Turbo is the sweet spot in the Veloster range for value coming standard with an 8.0-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, eight-speaker Infinity sound system, proximity unlocking, LED headlights, sat nav, digital performance gauges, digital radio and Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres.
The Turbo Premium has all of the Turbo’s features but adds leather upholstery, heated and ventilated seats, power adjustable driver’s seat, head-up display, heated steering wheel, sunroof, and wireless charging for your smartphone. Plus, this grade gives you the option of the two-tone effect with the black roof for $1000. Premium paint on all grades costs $595.
Engine & trans
The Abarth 595 pair use the same 1.4-litre 'MultiJet' four-cylinder turbo engine in differing states of tune. The base car makes 107kW/206Nm, while the Competizione makes 132kW/250Nm, thanks to a freer-flowing exhaust, a larger Garrett-branded turbocharger and an ECU re-tune.
The base car can do 0-100km/h in 7.8 seconds, while the Competizione is 1.2 seconds quicker; the optional 'Dualogic' automatic is 0.2sec slower to the mark in both cars.
A five-speed manual gearbox is standard, and neither car is fitted with a limited slip diff.
There are two engines in the Veloster range: a 110kW/180Nm 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol four cylinder in the entry-grade car; and the 150kW/265Nm 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four in the Turbo and Turbo Premium.
Both engines can be had with a six-speed manual, while the 2.0-litre is also available with a six-speed automatic and the 1.6-litre is offered with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto.
For me, the best combination is the turbo engine with the manual gearbox. For more on what the Veloster is like to drive, skip on down to that section below.
Over 150km of testing, the Competizione consumed a dash-indicated 8.7 litres per 100km, against a claimed combined fuel economy figure of 6.0L/100km. Our brief test of the 595 revealed a similar number, against the same claimed figure.
The Abarth will only accept 95 octane fuel or better, and its small 35-litre tank is good for a theoretical 583km between fills.
Hyundai says that after a combination of open and urban road driving the 2.0-litre petrol engine with the six-speed manual will use 7.0L/100km, while the six-speed auto will need 7.1L/100km.
In my test drive of the automatic the trip computer was telling me it was using an average of 7.1L/100km but that was mainly country roads.
As for the turbo engine Hyundai says consumption will be 7.3L/100km with the manual gearbox and 6.9L/100km with the dual-clutch. My testing of the DCT car saw the trip computer report 6.8L/100km after motorways and then getting lost in Brisbane’s CBD during peak hour. Not bad at all.
Ergonomics aside, the combination of torquey engine and lightweight car is always a good one, and the 1.4-litre turbocharged four is a good match with the front-drive Abarth.
There’s always enough mid-range urge to give the Abarth the hurry-up, and the longer-legged five-speed gearbox is a good match for the engine.
It also grips and turns surprisingly well, despite the Sport button adding too much artificial weight to the Abarth’s steering feel.
That same button also firms up the front dampers on the 595 and all four on the Competizione, which works well on smoother terrain, but stiffens it too much over more undulating surfaces.
Around town it can be hard to strike a good balance between ride and comfort. The difference between soft and firm is much more pronounced in the Competizione, but it will still get tiring if your commute is a bumpy one.
The turning circle, by the by, is ridiculously large for such a small car, making u-turns - already compromised by the lower front bumper - unnecessarily fraught.
The Monza exhaust on the Competizione gives it a bit more presence, but it could easily be louder (or at least more crackly) again; you’re not buying this car to be a wallflower, after all.
I kicked things off in the base grade Veloster with its 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic, then upgraded to the Turbo Premium with the 1.6-turbo and dual-clutch auto, before piloting the mid-range Turbo with the six-speed manual gearbox. It was enough for me to see straight away which I’d want in my driveway.
And ‘yeah-nah’, it wasn’t the base grade Veloster. Not for me, anyway. The frankly superb (for the money) suspension is let down by an engine which can’t offer the performance a car this well set-up deserves.
Still, you get the look, great handling, outstanding steering and a comfortable and composed ride for less money than the rest. So, if ‘extra sporty’ driving doesn’t matter to you, then you will still love the way the entry Veloster feels to pilot.
If you have a little more to spend my recommendation is the middle-of-the-range Turbo with the six-speed manual. This is the bang for your buck winner with that 1.6-litre turbo making 150kW/265Nm at a pretty darn good price.
You’ll find the same engine in the Hyundai i30 N-Line, but the Veloster Turbo with a manual gearbox is 1270kg - 45kg lighter than the i30, giving it a better power-to-weight ratio.
The lightness and all that torque rushing in from 1500rpm, combined with quick and natural steering makes the Veloster Turbo feel so pointable, changing direction almost as quickly as you can think it.
The manual gearbox just ups the engagement factor, with a light clutch pedal and easy ‘flick of the wrist’ shifts.
If you’re going to be commuting in traffic daily then you’d probably be happier with the dual-clutch auto, which reduces the driver-car connection but has its own benefits over the manual.
First, the DCT can shift faster than any human, and second when it moves to a higher gear the burbling exhaust note lets out satisfying deep burps.
The official 0-100km/h acceleration time for the Turbo cars is 7.1sec for the DCT auto, and 7.7sec for the manual.
All Velosters have the same suspension tune and it’s much improved over the previous model. MacPherson struts underpin the front while suspension in the back has been swapped from a torsion beam to multi-link set-up which has improved high-speed and cornering stability, while giving the Veloster a comfortable and composed ride.
Hyundai has done a top job in designing the driving position, too, with a low hip point, supportive seats and plenty of elbow room.
You might be wondering what visibility is like in a car with a mini-tank turret and it’s nowhere near as bad as you might think.
Hyundai has moved the A-pillars back to improve the view, but they are still a bit in the way while looking rearward, your sight obstructed by the chunky C-Pillar and small windows. But use your mirrors and the reversing camera when parking and you’ll be fine.
That brings us to looking at how practical something like the Veloster is…
Despite a lack of electronic safety aids – and, somewhat amazingly in the current age, a rear-view camera – the Fiat 500 that forms the Abarth's basis still carries the maximum five-star rating from ANCAP it was awarded in 2008, by dint of its seven airbags and bodyshell strength.
It wouldn’t have the same luck if it were judged under new ANCAP regs coming into force in 2018, though.
This new-gen Hyundai Veloster hasn’t been given an ANCAP assessment yet, but it’s likely the rating could be split between a four-star score for the entry grade and a five-star for the Turbo and Turbo premium.
This is because the entry car has AEB but it’s not the pedestrian detecting type which is found on the top two grades and is necessary for a five-star score.
All Velosters have rear parking sensors, but none have front ones.
The LED headlights on the Turbo and Turbo premium are excellent. Keep this in mind if you’re thinking of the base grade and you live in a country area – its full beam headlights are nowhere near as good.
For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX mounts and two top tether anchor points in the second row.
A three-year/150,000km warranty is offered as standard on the Abarth 595 range, with a suggested service interval of 12 months or 15,000km.
Abarth importer Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Australia offers three fixed-priced services for the 595 range at 15,000, 30,000 and 45,000km, with the first costing $275.06, the second $721.03 and the third $275.06.
The new Veloster is covered by Hyundai’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 15,000km or 12 months for the base grade Veloster and costs $279 for the first two visits followed by $365 for the next then $459 and $279 for the fifth.
The Turbo and Turbo Premium need servicing every 10,000km or 12 months and you’ll pay $299 for the first three visits then $375 and then $299 for the fifth.