2016 Hyundai Veloster Turbo: Sport Hatchback

By Frank A. Aukofer, February 5th, 2016

If you hanker after a sports car experience but want to minimize negative consequences, you might want to take a look at the 2016 Hyundai Veloster R-Spec.

Sports cars, for all of their driving enjoyment, have built-in downsides. Some, like various Porsche models, are way expensive. Others, like the Alfa Romeo 4C, are so racetrack-oriented that they're noisy and challenging to enter and exit. The new Mazda MX-5 Miata comes close to sports car perfection but comes with only two seats.

So what's a family person with a kid or two to do? A so-called "Plus Two" with a vestigial cramped back seat doesn't cut it, and even some sports coupes like the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S, which do have small back seats, require a good bit of effort to enter and exit.

Of course, you can always seek what enthusiasts call a "hot hatch" like a Volkswagen GTI or Mazdaspeed3, but for all of their performance, they're a bit boxy looking.

strong>Then there's the Veloster R-Spec: It looks like a sports coupe with racy, flowing lines. And it also delivers a real back seat and a third door on the right side that allows entry with little effort. That back seat can accommodate two medium-sized adults with little discomfort. Head and knee room are okay but not generous, though noggins are in danger on rough roads because they nearly touch the rear window.

Practicality doesn't end with the back seat, because the Veloster also has a hatchback with 60/40-split rear seatbacks so you can have a third passenger cuddle back there with a load of whatever.

Nearly 16 cubic feet of cargo can be stowed behind the rear seat. Flop both rear seatbacks down and the space expands to more than 34 cu.-ft., way more than you'd find in a two-seater with a trunk or hatch.

strong>Four versions are available: the base model with a 138-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and three models boasting a turbocharged 201-hp, 1.6-liter engine. They are the R-Spec, Rally Edition, and Turbo. The last can be ordered with a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission; the R-Spec and Rally Edition come only with a six-speed manual.

Though it has a sporty personality, the Veloster R-Spec qualifies also as an inexpensive economy car. The well-equipped model tested for this review had a sticker price $22,425. That includes an array of equipment, a standard practice with the South Korean manufacturers Hyundai and Kia, which deliver many features that cost extra in other cars. Moreover, like other Hyundai models, the Veloster comes with a five-year, 60,000-mile overall warranty and 10 years or 100,000 miles on the drivetrain.

The R-Spec's equipment list included 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, LED taillights, rearview camera, air conditioning, power windows, remote power locking, SiriusXM satellite and Pandora radio, Bluetooth connectivity, iPod and USB outlets, cruise control, and redundant steering wheel audio controls.

However, the test car lacked automatic climate control or a navigation system. Both are available as part of combined style and tech packages that also include a panoramic glass sunroof, automatic headlights, and backup warning sensors. Together, they cost $4,200, which makes the R-Spec a bit pricier.

The tester's upholstery was vibrant cloth trimmed with red vinyl. Front seats delivered solid support; the back seats also were relatively comfortable, though the tight space might not be suitable for long trips.

On the road, the Veloster R-Spec is mostly delightful. The turbo engine delivers good acceleration, with a 0-to-60 mph time of around 7 seconds and a governed top speed of more than 130 mph. Competent handling is aided by brake-induced torque vectoring.

Outstanding, as in other Hyundai models, is the six-speed manual's slick shift linkage. You can puddle around town like a European cab driver, effortlessly up- and down-shifting at low revs to save fuel. Or you can get your foot in it and slam the shift lever through the gears up to the tachometer's redline. City/highway/combined fuel economy is rated by the government at 25/33/28 mpg.

The Veloster R-Spec may not be the world's greatest sports car, but for the money and practicality, there's little competition.

Specifications

Base price $22,425 (as tested: $22,425)
Curb weight 2,932 lbs.
Displacement 1.6-liter
Engine type 16-valve turbocharged 4-cyl.
Epa mileage rating 25 mpg city, 33 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 13.2 gal.
Horsepower (net) 201 at 6000 rpm
Overall length 167.3 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 195 at 1750 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual
Vehicle type 4-passenger FWD compact sports hatch
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