By on October 19, 2016

2016 Hyundai Veloster Turbo white frontThe 2016 Hyundai Veloster Turbo I’m driving this week is not a great car. Ride quality is abysmal. The dual-clutch transmission chronically delays the actual act of transmitting. Present are a number of negative symptoms with which we associate “sportiness,” but few and far between are the dividends we expect to be paid in exchange for those negative symptoms.

Yet more than five years into its run, the Hyundai Veloster continues to produce healthy volume for Hyundai USA while also providing the market with something it lacks: unique, interesting, “sporty” proposals for the small car buyer who doesn’t want a ho-hum everyday sedan.

Remember when other automakers used to do the same? The Mazda MX-3, Nissan NX, Geo Storm/Isuzu Impulse and Toyota Paseo, for example — cars with humble foundations that reached higher with unique bodywork. We need more of that.

Again, the Hyundai Veloster Turbo isn’t a great car. It won’t go down in history beside performance bargains such as the Acura Integra GS-R and Volkswagen Corrado. It lacks the flexibility of a Hyundai Elantra GT, the affordability of a Hyundai Accent, the refinement of a Hyundai Sonata, and the performance of a Hyundai Genesis Coupe. To be frank, the 2016 Hyundai Veloster Turbo doesn’t excel at much at all.2016 Hyundai Veloster Turbo rearBut it’s not boring.

And the fact that Hyundai can make it work, selling 2,400 per month in the U.S. alone, suggests other automakers could, too.

It’s not that the memories of a Tercel-based coupe are littered with opposite lock splendor. The Mazda MX-3’s 1.8-liter V6 sounds nifty, but that V6 produced only 130 horsepower. The Storm and Impulse looked interesting but were hilariously unrefined. Nissan’s NX was a handling dream but looked more than a little silly.1996 Toyota Paseo redBut the Paseo wasn’t just a Tercel. The MX-3 wasn’t invariably linked to the humble Protege. The Storm resembled nothing else in Geo’s lineup. The NX2000 was more than a Sentra SE-R in new clothes.

Cars such as these are where custom coachworks came to the people. These are not Zagato versions of 1950s Jaguars or Pininfarina one-offs. These are the cars even you — yes, you — could buy for less than the average new car transaction price.

The Veloster isn’t a conventional beauty, but it doesn’t look like anything else on the road. Sure, the three-door execution makes you wonder why Hyundai didn’t add a fourth door, but at least they tried something. Rear headroom is paltry, but the Veloster buyer doesn’t need rear headroom, so why should we force him to drive the same Elantra as his mother? And while the optional turbocharged, 201-horsepower 1.6-liter powerplant doesn’t instantly turn the Veloster into a baiter of Mustangs (not at all), it’s a big upgrade from the standard 132-horsepower 1.6-liter from the Accent. And it would embarrass a Nissan NX2000 in a straight line.2016 Hyundai Veloster TurboMore than anything, however, the Veloster is different. It’s not merely a sedan with two rear doors lopped off à la Hyundai’s former Elantra Coupe. It’s imaginative, unlike the Fiat 500, Mini Cooper, and Volkswagen Beetle. It’s alive, unlike the discontinued Scion tC.

We need more cars like this. More Volkswagen Sciroccos in place of all the Golf GTIs, wonderful though they may be. A new Ford Puma, not just a Fiesta ST. A proper CRX replacement from Honda, not just a CR-Z.

But don’t hold your breath. It’s more likely that we’ll see a crossover squeezed between the Mazda CX-3 and CX-5 — it’s called the CX-4 — than a coupefied Mazda 2 offshoot. And Honda’s much happier to automatically achieve volume bliss with the HR-V than fight for individualistic consumers who believe nothing can live up to the CRX of yore.

Still, we can hope. And we can look at the Veloster Turbo, imperfect as it is, as evidence that it can be done.

Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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38 Comments on “Driving This 2016 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tells Me We Need More Small Car Coachwork...”

  • avatar

    maybe that’s “healthy volume” for a small-ish car, but it’s about the same as what the Flex sells every month. And the Flex is considered a “flop.”

    plus I did an inventory search, few of the Hyundai dealers around me have any Velosters in stock, and one that does (LaFontaine) has one turbo with $5,500 in cash on the hood.

  • avatar

    This car is an example of Hyundai wanting to try stuff, involving lots of work before its done. Why don’t they try putting their 2.0 turbo in an Elantra with the Sport suspension?

    • 0 avatar

      When they announced a turbo, that’s what I thought they were going to do, and became very excited. Then they announced that it was a 1.6l and I was less excited. I’d still like to drive one, but it doesn’t sound like it’s as fun as it should be. That’s really pretty disappointing because this should be a blast to drive.

  • avatar

    I’ll have to admit that the first time I saw a Veloster on the road, I was excited enough by the design that I had to look up the specs on my phone – right away! (my wife was driving).

    I was a bit disappointed by what I saw, but the design – for all its issues – does stand out in the current sea of CUV blah.

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      A coworker was looking for a fun sporty affordable car and asked me for some help.
      I gave her a list of cars that fit the spectrum. She looked through them and came away feeling blah. So I increased the list to include the Veloster and she fell in love with it.

      Its funky looks are what sold her. It’s small but still fairly usable with the 3rd door.
      And it wasn’t THAT long ago that 200hp was very respectable. Heck, that’s what the Civic Si has. And for her coming from a 15 year old Saturn SC, 200hp felt like 1,000.

  • avatar

    The case would be more compelling if — as with the Veloster — the “unique” coachwork didn’t actually worsen the vehicle. And the same is true with a lot of the other small coupes you mentioned. A Paseo was heavier and more cramped than a two-door Tercel for no significant benefit. The NX2000 was a fine handler, but so was the roomier Sentra SE-R on which it was based. I’ll take function over unique styling any day.

    • 0 avatar

      “if — as with the Veloster — the “unique” coachwork didn’t actually worsen the vehicle.”

      Bwa-ha moment! Elephant Man had unique coachwork, too.

      “Honda’s much happier to automatically achieve volume bliss with the HR-V than fight for individualistic consumers”

      The selfish swine!

    • 0 avatar

      I actually like the Tercel coupe, but I find the Paseo repulsive. Its not sportier than the Tercel, it just looks sportier. I prefer the Tercel’s humble look with its humble powertrain, not the same humble powertrain in a car that looks sportier but can’t even hang with a basic Saturn SL sedan 5 speed (ask me how I know).

      Never cared for the Probe for much the same reasons, although add flip-up headlights and its worse.

      The CRX was a fun little Honda, but it was still a Civic missing two rear seats and a fastback profile instead of the contemporary Civic hatch’s bread van appearance. I liked my CRXs, and I like the CR-Z for similar reasons, although it is loathed by most of the B&B. It still a fun little two seater Honda with great MPG and a true manual trans. It has more power than any CRX had, but not enough for the B&B. My CRX’s were miserably slow (“DX” and HF models) but I guess looking through nostalgic eyes, they were super fast compared to a CR-Z.

      • 0 avatar

        The Paseo actually was sportier than the Tercel. I had a ’91 Tercel 2-door around 15 years ago (4-speed manual, manual steering) and there was actually an online forum for those things. A few members had swapped in Paseo engines – though a more sought-after swap was a 1.2L turbo from some Japanese model. They not only had more power than the Tercel’s 82hp, but also lasted longer. Tercel engines were notorious for burning increasing amounts of oil and dying early deaths. The suspension was also better, though I’m not sure to what extent.

        The Tercel’s steering actually felt pretty good, so I think I would have enjoyed the Paseo’s improvements. Just getting better wheels might have helped; the Tercel’s 13″ wheels were very narrow and felt like they wanted to fold over in sharp turns.

    • 0 avatar

      @ Dal & John, wow, lots of hate for the Paseo. :-)

      The first-gens, at least, were fun cars. My parents bought one in a case of “buy the used car with a good history rather than picking a particular make and model.” They needed a small second car, and I knew someone who was a very OCD owner and needed to sell his Paseo prior to a move to Manhattan. Yes, Tercels obviously were more practical. Paseos looked better, had nicer interiors, and handled very well because of the low center of gravity. They didn’t accelerate fast, but they could carry speed through a turn much better than the typical car of their day. I kind of miss it, actually.

  • avatar

    Interesting that my best buddy and I were just looking over an advert locally for a NX2000 for sale. It was (sadly) saddled with an automatic. For what they were asking, had it been a manual, there’s a better than average chance one of us would have bought it. T-tops for the weekend back road driver score!

  • avatar

    What about the Juke? Sometimes, something “off” is so successful, it spawns a whole segment. Then you get all the “me too” models, and WHAM! Everyone’s building a CX-3, HR-V, Trax, etc etc etc.

    Remember, when one of those things turns out to actually be good, it spawns an army of clone wannabes, and all of a sudden, instead of praising its uniqueness, you’re lamenting its sameness.

    • 0 avatar

      “Sometimes, something “off” is so successful, it spawns a whole segment.”


      • 0 avatar

        The interesting thing about the Aztek is that it would be almost…normal today when you look at some of the overwrought vehicles that have been spawned by designers in the last 3 to 5 years.

        The Aztek suffered from extreme bean counting, being forced on the U-Body platform, design by committee, and being ahead of its time. In the hands of another automaker without the layers of political BS and bean counters, the implementation would have been different.

        There are a number of features that were found in the Aztek, that are now simply taken for granted in the CUV/SUV space. I think as the years go by, time will get a little kinder on the ugly little wart on Pontiac ass.

        • 0 avatar

          Completely agree. The design was brilliantly prescient, the execution shamefully penurious. But I love ’em! Especially the later Rendezvous incarnations.

        • 0 avatar

          Imagine if the Aztek was a minor sales success and they kept making it through the years ? They could have had a Heisenberg Edition with a commercial ending with the phrase SAY MY NAME !

        • 0 avatar

          Aztek clinic’d very well with the select group of GM consumers that were included. Bean counting wasn’t what damned it – it was overly selective, poor consumer research.

    • 0 avatar
      Car Guy

      I had the misfortune of a Juke rental for a week. It was horrible even by compact rental car standards. Terrible ergonomics, visability, CVT, and the worst NVH and drone I have ever experienced in a modern car. Not to mention a cartoonish looking design that’s just bizarre. A complete piece of crap.

  • avatar

    Look at the front. *What* is it trying so hard to suck in? Hydrogen ions?

    Look at the side. For when a Rio5 is just too cavernous.

  • avatar

    I had a 2012 Veloster (before the turbo was available) that I bought new shortly after they came out.

    It was the design that attracted me to it for sure. After 2.5 years of driving it though, I had enough and traded it in on a 2011 Taurus.

    Even without much power, it was a fun car to drive. I needed something small and efficient to use as a commuter vehicle and I thought why choose a boring appliance? It was low to the ground and cornered really well. The manual was smooth shifting and made it a bit more fun too.

    Unfortunately, it was cramped and my kids hated sitting in the back seat that reminded them of a bunker. The huge glass roof made it cold in the winter and hot in the summer. The backup camera would fog up on cold days because of the central exhaust exit and you REALLY needed that camera due to the poor visibility. It was as loud as hell on the highway too. Add in the fact that it wouldn’t start sometimes, and I had enough.

    The Taurus I traded it in costs a little more in fuel, but it is comfortable, basically silent, and very reliable. I don’t regret my decision.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      Always good to get this kind of insight.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 on the cramped part. A co-worker has one of these and it’s remarkably small inside: it’s like they chopped a good half-foot from the Accent’s headroom without adjusting anything else.

      This isn’t a small-car thing, either: a similarly-sized Mini is good for people well over six-foot.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam Hell Jr

      As a Scion tC (second gen) owner, I’ll echo some of these complaints about the form factor. Glass roofs are loud, uninsulated, and the rest of the car pays a structural penalty that really isn’t worth the benefit. But without the dual-pane roof for natural light, the back seat would be a cave. And rearward visibility … Isn’t. I’ve had more than my share of embarrassing Braille-method parking experiences in my car.

      It is paid off, which I love, and it is different, which I like, and the hatch is darned useful, and the 2AR-FE power train is a jabillionty times better than the comparable 1.8 and 2.0L I4s, but … There is no compelling case to be made for the car as a grown up over a Camry SE besides the hatch, and none over the more conventional iM besides the grunt, and Toyota could fix one or both of those shortcomings (5-door Camry or hi-po iM) in about 6 minutes if anybody cared to.

  • avatar

    Currently own an ’85 JR Impulse 5-speed that was a local area garage find. Owner had done a ton of work on it in 2010 (suspension, steering rack, brakes, full tune up, cap/rotor/distributor, fluids) and then basically parked the car for 6 years. I picked it up in February of this year, and from sitting it was hemorrhaging fluid from every seal possible. Three month mechanical restore and finally got to be able to drive it in June of this year.

    The sum is far better than the parts. The JR Impulse is RWD, live axle with limited slip differential. It benefits from almost 2X the HP with the NA engine over the humble Chevette it was based on, along with an extra cog in the manual transmission, SOHC fuel injection, and other tweaks.

    The car is stunningly solid, and sitting in the Impulse immediately reveals how much better Japanese build quality was over Americans in the era. The handling is outright surprising and despite the short wheel base the ride is…errr…acceptable. The greenhouse is spectacular, with a wide view of everything 360 degrees. The interior defies its tiny exterior dimensions, and for two people is shockingly roomy.

    The original paint still shines deeply, and the interior has minimal wear. No cracked dash, no fading, just a small oil stain on the back seat and an area in the drivers footwell were something that was a bleaching agent got on the prior owners left foot. I even have the original factory floor mats, and the odometer shows 124K miles.

    Of course by modern standards it is completely gutless (0 to 60 is equal to a Prius C), and it squeaks and rattles like any 31 year old car.

    Yet given the four vehicles in our motor pool, this is the one, even over the Holden converted G8 that puts a smile on my face. There is something so raw, so primal about it compared to a modern car. You are connected to a machine, the machine is connected to the road, and that connection is obvious in a good way. The G8 is a blast to drive, and throwing the hammer down and letting that L76 V8 scream is intoxicating, but nothing compares driving a slow car fast. The JR Impulse has 51/49 weight distribution and RWD, so it is nicely neutral, and you can get that rear end to wiggle a bit. I never push the old lady too hard, as I don’t want to break anything.

    The JR Impulse was the first production car with flush glass, which also made it the first car with no rain drip rails, and with the door integrating into the A-pillar. Features that became common on almost every vehicle in just a few short years after.

    This picture was taken by oldmotors while I was showing it for the first time at the Greenwood Car Show. Amazed at how much attention it drew. When people come across the JR at car shows as former owners, they always speak fondly of them.

    The world needs more small, fun to drive hatchbacks. This product of the 80’s would buy a modern interpretation of this vehicle in a heartbeat.

  • avatar

    I always liked the Veloster and I applaud Hyundai for doing something different. It is, however, an exercise in form-over-function.

  • avatar

    The Veloster is one of those cars that seems like a good idea, until you try it. It is basically a useless car. Not great handling, not really that fast, small inside, can’t see out of it. At the $26k+ for a loaded Turbo, other options exist. As a 2 year old used car in the $13-15k range, however, the Turbo starts to make sense. Do they make aftermarket kits that will fix that ugly grill?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I like everything Hyundai offers except the Veloster, and I’m surprised they sell so well.

  • avatar

    “More Volkswagen Sciroccos in place of all the Golf GTIs”.

    Yes. And now that VW has decided no more 2-door GTIs will be forthcoming, this is a US-market void into which the Scirocco fits nicely. Do it, VW, do it!

    BTW, I sometimes mistake the Lexus 200cthybridsomethingorother for a Veloster at a quick glance. I think the Lexus has 4 doors, but the lines seem similar to me. (They probably would not, were I to see one parked beside the other.)

  • avatar

    I would personally rather have a car that drives well than looks good. I guess for people who aren’t huge fans of driving a good looking car means a lot, but for me as long as the car doesn’t make me dry heave I can deal

    A “boring” Elantra Sport with a good suspension and better refinement sounds a lot better than this Accent F&F Pep Boys wet dream. Plus with coilovers and aggressive wheel fitment pretty much anything can look good.

  • avatar

    I’ve been looking at these almost as long as they’ve been on the market; I really like the concept. However, its drawbacks such as those describe above have kept me from committing. The Veloster could potentially replace ONE of my three vehicles, but my wife loves her little Fiat 500 too much and it has none of the functional issues described by the author; the shifter is quick, the acceleration is surprising and it is remarkably agile. And when the back seats are folded down, it can even handle a Sams/Costco/BJ’s run for two.

  • avatar

    I own a 2013 Veloster Turbo, purchased new. Some insights I can offer from 3 years of ownership:

    – As you noted the ride quality is crap. It doesn’t get better over time. It’s not *brutal* but kind of walks the line between jittery and flat out unacceptable. Part of the cause is the cheap Kumho tires. Many owners switch to Continental DWS06 tires and see a big improvement in ride/noise/steeering feel.

    – The car being noisy on the highway is mostly due to aforementioned Kumho tires. The wind noise is actually quite good for a car this price, it’s all road noise generated by the tread from the tires.

    – The older Turbos with the traditional torque converter automatics drive better than the new dual clutch AT cars. The 6AT in my Veloster is actually very nicely calibrated. It doesn’t hesitate at all when you get aggressive with the throttle and snaps off clean, smooth upshifts and downshifts. If you drive the car calmy it shifts so smoothly the transmission just disappears entirely from your perception. I hate automatics in general and am picky about them. This car has the best automatic I’ve ever personally driven.

    – Between the 2.0T and 1.6T many Hyundai owners feel the 1.6 is the better all around engine. The 2.0 is known to underperform, where as the 1.6 is known to overperform when given the right conditions. In particular the engine is fussy about engine oil temperatures. The turbo will not make full boost unless it thinks oil temp is completely stable. The difference between a well warmed up Veloster Turbo and one that’s only been running a few minutes is quite large. The little motor pulls hard, harder than the 1.6T engines from Ford and Nissan, when it’s ready to go. It’s also a pretty refined engine that doesn’t get thrashy near the redline and idles with impressive smoothness.

    – As long as you didn’t get an exploding sunroof the cars are pretty reliable. I’ve had no issues with mine. The car has many small design details that make it feel premium in unexpected ways. The lighting on the car is a good example. Light pipes are used for the side mirror turn signal indicators and tail light tracer curves. They light up very evenly and look expensive compared to much more expensive cars that just stick clear plastic lenses over their exposed LEDs.

    – For me, and I imagine most people, the 3-door design is a selling point. When you walk up to the car you get to see a coupe, but for those times more than one passenger is along (or you are heading out to do laundry), the passenger side has better access than the traditional “contort yourself into the 10″ opening between the door jam and the flipped up front seat” routine so common to real coupes.

    – The car is not overtly sporty or eager feeling, but it does have more personality than most cheap cars. It also feels well sorted for something that’s basically made of parts from other cars. The steering, brakes, and throttle are all well calibrated and don’t feel crude, abrupt or darty. If you drive the car slowly it plays along with that intention well, outside of the brittle ride. Put it in sport mode and corners well if not enthusiastically.

    I like my car and don’t regret buying it at all. When it eventually gets sold it will be for 2 reasons: the lesser one will be wanting to get away from the hammering ride quality but the major reason is because the car does NOT like snow/ice roads at all and feels unsettled on them. It’s stressful to drive in those conditions. Sadly some soulless compact SUV with AWD will probably replace my Veloster, but I will miss my car when it’s gone. I can’t say that about most other vehicles I have owned.

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