2016 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Review: A Good Car for a Great Price

wheel-to-wheel copy

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

I really thought I would hate this car considering its strange styling, significant blind spots, minimal creature comforts, the lack of all-wheel drive, and that it doesn’t offer more power over the regular turbo Veloster. It also doesn’t have any adjustable drive modes or adaptive suspension settings, so things weren’t shaping up very well for the little Hyundai Veloster. But after looking at the sticker price and realizing that it costs just $23,950, I gave the little blue Smurf a break and reconsidered what Hyundai was going for with this one.

The Rally Edition Veloster is a quirky little rocket ship that’s more akin to something Spaceman Spiff or Invader Zim would drive instead of a young auto enthusiast who wants something flashy. It’s almost alien in certain ways, all while being completely down to earth in others. After a solid week of driving it around, I began to see where Hyundai was coming from by unloading it on the American market.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

This, my friends, is a test mule. A canary in the coal mine, trumpeting its exhaust as it offers itself up as a science project for its Korean overlords. Hyundai hasn’t built the Rally Edition you see here as a permanent fixture. Instead, it has a long-term performance plan in place for this little hellion, and we just gained access to the beta version.

Hyundai hasn’t had the time to build illustrious racing careers like Honda and Ford have, and because of this the Korean automaker is just now getting around to playing with the idea of a hot hatch. Sure, it’s by no means a Focus RS or Civic Type R fighter, but it certainly shows promise.

Many don’t know this, but Hyundai has made the Nürburgring race track in Germany its second home, all in the hopes of forging its own versions of what a racing pedigree should look like. This certainly isn’t an inexpensive undertaking, nor an overly safe one, so it makes sense why Hyundai has played it on the safe side with its first swing at making a more hardcore Veloster. So who knows, with a little luck it could one day morph into something so sinister that it gives both Honda and Ford nightmares. But for now we have to work with what we’ve got, so let’s go rallying in what the melting snow has left behind.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Exterior

If the funky external attributes of a Veloster haven’t caught your attention already, maybe this matte blue version will. I’ve heard this car get referred to as everything from a “design disaster” to a “cool custom,” and while it certainly isn’t an all-appealing platform, you have to give Hyundai kudos for having the balls to stand out from the herd.

The Rally Edition is a pretty in-your-face kind of car because if its paint job doesn’t grab your eye, the forged RAYS wheels, jutting aero, and center-cut dual exhaust will. It’s the kind of car that aesthetically grows on you over time or becomes completely repulsive, and as a fan of hatchbacks, I found myself enjoying the Rally Edition of the Veloster more than expected.

2016 Veloster Rally_18

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Exterior pros and cons

+ I dig the aerodynamic add-ons the Rally Edition rocks. While it does lose some cool points for going with a faux carbon look, the ground effects are proportionally balanced without being gaudy.

+ That centrally mounted dual exhaust and diffuser out back are damn near perfect. Aesthetically, this part may be the Rally Edition’s greatest strength outside of its LED taillights.

+ Those 18-inch forged multi-spoke RAYS wheels are a nice addition, as they offer just the right lightweight blend of durability and style.

– I am not the biggest fan of the front grille on the Veloster. From the blocky license plate mounting point to the Hyundai badge not being relocated, this grille looks odd with anything attached to it.

– If this is a bonafide Rally Edition, where are the functional hood vents and larger rear wing?

– While this is a stripped down vehicle, it would be nice to see some illuminated power-folding mirrors similar to what we found on the Kia Forte5 SX. I promise they don’t weigh much more.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Powertrain

This is where you would expect the green flag to fly, and the little Rally Edition Veloster to rocket off into the sunset, which it certainly does … to an extent. Hyundai has taken the stock turbo 1.6-liter motor and beefed it up with little more than a B&M Racing short shifter, but then called it a day.

While the slightly less spacious throws offer a more rewarding drive, I still found myself contemplating why Hyundai hadn’t at least opted to put a sportier exhaust or air intake on this thing. Sure, it gets around just fine since it weighs less than 3,000 pounds, and the twin-scroll turbo is peppy enough toward the middle of the powerband, but it still feels bottlenecked. Who knows, maybe Hyundai will one day turn up the dial by plopping a retuned 2.0-liter turbo from the Sonata Sport into one.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Powertrain pros and cons

+ The B&M Racing short shifter is a nice upgrade, and while gearing in the rally Edition still isn’t mind-blowing, it did make for a more enjoyable drive.

+ Having a twin-scroll turbo has its merits, even when untouched by tuning. Engine response times are snappy, turbo lag is apparent but not prevalent, and it makes a pretty nice noise at virtually any speed.

+ While all-wheel drive and some different tires would have been great considering the amount of snow, ice, mud, and gravel I encountered in this thing, the Veloster’s traction control and Torque Vectoring Control (TVC) systems worked well.

– It would be nice to see a bit more than just a short shifter on what’s purveyed as a performance model. It’s a fun little car to drive, but the Veloster would be more enjoyable with a more free-flowing exhaust, an ECU reflash, and a performance air intake.

– I expected to find some sort of Sport Mode switch in this thing, but nope, nothing.

– Since Hyundai played it safe with this first stab, the 2.0-liter turbo motor out of the Sonata never made it into the engine bay. Having driven and reviewed the 2.0T Sonata Sport, there would be a sizable bump in performance if space constraints, price, transmission gearing, or any combination of the three can be overcome.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Interior

The cockpit of the Rally Edition is just as carved, blue, and space-age as its exterior, and while all of the leather accents, “TURBO” stitching, and trim work aren’t exactly my cup of soju, I can see how it appeals to certain demographics.

Unfortunately, much like its exterior, the Rally Edition’s cabin left me a bit muddled over whether I liked it or not. It is without doubt a driver’s car. The shift knob is the perfect size, height, and weight, the pedals are aluminum and silicon-rich and super grippy, and the steering wheel is leather-bound and thicker than expected. It also has surprisingly vast head and leg room up front, and the large door windows offer a bump in visibility.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Interior pros and cons

+ In regards to sheer driving joy (which is why you buy these things anyways), the Rally Edition Veloster shines. It has a driver-focused feel to it that encourages confidence, and things like the shifter, pedals, and fat steering wheel add to the bottom line.

+ The Veloster sport seats are nicely proportioned, and are actually are pretty comfy. Also, having that third “hidden door” on the passenger’s side really makes a huge difference when getting in and out of the backseat.

+ I like the center stack on the Veloster. It’s this alien-like V-shaped control panel, and much like the trunk space in this car (which is full of cubbies and is nicely sized), the central dash area is simple yet entirely functional.

– While the pockets and cubbies in this car are abundant, many are awkwardly sized. I even ran into issues fitting a small water canteen into the driver door pocket.

– Squeaks, groans, and rattles galore. Certain parts of this interior seemed pretty loosely joined together, and even on smooth asphalt it tended to make noise.

– The shift knob spins freely (something that drives me nuts), and if you twist it too much you stand a good chance of binding the lock ring for entering reverse.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Tech and safety

When you first get in the Rally Edition Veloster, you’ll likely say, “Tech? What tech?”

You see, this is a very bare-bones kind of car, so you shouldn’t expect things like accident mitigation systems, heated seats, or blind spot monitoring. Nevertheless, there were a few neat tech features in this car that warrant mentioning, as does the surprising safety rating the government gave the Veloster.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Tech pros and cons

+ A five star overall rating and an IIHS rating prove that those race seats aren’t just for show and actually save lives.

+ While thrashing on the throttle certainly is a lot of fun, for daily driving purposes Hyundai has hooked the Veloster up with a standard 7-inch touchscreen that doubles as a back-up camera. It also comes with a 50-day SiriusXM trial and “Blue Max” driving challenges, where you have a timed gauge that registers your efficiency and awards points.

+ The 450-watt Dimension external amp, sub, and speaker combo in this car are pretty nice considering they come standard, as do things like remote keyless entry and Bluetooth.

– This car doesn’t have a lot of creature comforts, so don’t expect a push-button start, heated mirrors, or an adjustable Multi Information display (MID).

– While accident mitigation and adaptive cruise control are not very “rally,” it would be nice to at least see something like blind spot warnings or cross traffic alert on all versions of the Veloster.

– The car I got didn’t come with Hyundai’s tech package option, which would have given me a navi system, auto temp controls, auto headlights, rear parking sensors, and a panoramic sunroof. Some buyers don’t want or need all of these things, which means that the additional $2,700 might be a bit much.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

The drive

After driving the Rally Edition Veloster for several days, I realized that rolling around in one is like eating a gallon of fat-free ice cream. You’re getting a lot for the money and are saving weight, but it’s also not as full-flavored or fulfilling as you want it to be.

This car zips around powered by a ho-hum 1.6-liter turbo engine that dishes out small servings of turbo lag down low, and although the suspension is stiffer than any other model, the Rally Edition still manages to feel a bit too soft in the corners. The brakes are good but not great, the clutch and B&M short shifter are engaging but not ideal due to the gearing being so widespread, and even though side visibility is solid due to those large windows, blind spots in the Veloster are memorable.

Also, the Kumho Solus TA31 tires that came on it are geared more toward comfort, quiet, and longevity, so expect the factory rubber to help your case. Steering inputs felt a bit disconnected, and couple all that with a creaking interior and the aforementioned tech issues, and you have a car that certainly is fun to drive, but not on a daily basis when compared to its competition.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Wrap up and review

The Rally Edition Veloster is a guinea pig project for Hyundai, and one that certainly shows promise. Hyundai has a lot of the right ideas and designs in place, but unfortunately they are not all being executed to their full potential.

It will be interesting to see how the Korean automaker tweaks the Veloster in upcoming years, and whether the Rally Edition will one day live up to its true potential as a hot hatch. It would be fantastic to see this version get re-tuned at the Nürburgring and re-emerge sporting things like adaptive suspension, a tuned 2.0-liter turbo motor, bigger brakes, multiple drive modes, and maybe even all-wheel drive. Sure, corners will have to be cut in certain areas, and prices will surely rise, but if Hyundai genuinely wants to compete in this increasingly competitive segment it has to go all-in. Otherwise, it’s just spinning its wheels.

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