(Pocket-lint) - The Hyundai Veloster is a strange beast. The Korean company pushes it as two cars in one: from the driver's side, it's a coupe; from the passenger side, ia hatchback. Some might argue that, rather than being a coupe, it’s a simply a strange four-door hatchback.
Whatever your take on this conundrum, you can't question the quirky design. It may only have one rear door, but if backseat use is occasional rather than daily, then you might see the appeal, not that there's much room on the backseat, as this car isn't the size of something like a VW Golf.
We reviewed the Veloster 1.6GDi Sport previously and one of our criticisms was the gearbox. That model came fitted with Hyundai's DCT auto gearbox which we didn't particularly like: it lacked the punch to really get the car moving and was a little unpredictable in power delivery; the Turbo, however, is a 6-speed manual and, as the name dictates, plops a twin-scroll turbocharger into mix as well.
This raises the power from 140PS of the Veloster Sport to 186PS in the Turbo and pushes the top speed to 133mph. It will now hit 62mph in 8.4 seconds, nearly 2 seconds faster than the DCT model, abating some of our earlier concerns about power and transmission.
The manual gearbox feels pretty good too. It's tight and precise with a short action making it easy to slip between gears. It's surprisingly easy to find yourself up in sixth in normal driving, the driver information display giving you cues as to when you should be changing up. The pedal action is nice and distinct, with a light clutch, making this an easy car to drive.
To improve the driving dynamics and handle the power there are firmer dampers in place and the front brakes have been upgraded, as well as improvements made to the steering. The result is a car that feels sporty and exciting, but perhaps not as exciting as some of the larger-engined turbos on the road. The ride is firm, but that's to be expected from the sporty positioning of this car and we can't say it was ever uncomfortable.
Rolling out at £21,995, it looks like good value for money, undercutting some of the larger models, especially as most of the technology comes as standard, rather than adding to the cost. Whilst it might beat the price of something like the VW Scirocco, a coupe, it's challengers from the hot hatches that might cause more of a problem, like the Clio Renaultsport.
Some design quirks
When it comes to design, however, there's no doubt that the Veloster is something of a head turner. It challenges many conventions, coming up with a design that looks aggressive with the added bodykits. The wheel arches have bulk, the nose has been redesigned for a more sporty look, the rear detailing looks like it means business.
The Veloster Turbo SE also comes with the option for matte paint, pictured here. It's a nice effect and for only £525, is an affordable option, one of the few optional extras you'd have to pay for.
The rear of the car leaves us scratching our heads. We like the looks, it's dramatic and futuristic, but it leads to an unusual arrangement. The dropped rear line means the boot opens with half the roof. So you get a panoramic glass roof at the rear as standard, but you really need it, as the rear window is tiny.
Add in a spoiler and the visibility is rather poor out the back, as the spoiler transects your line of vision. Perhaps as compensation, the power-folding wing mirrors are large and give good visibility, so we can't complain too much.
The other oddity is that the rear door, remember there's only one, is rather small, so slipping into the back is something of an art. Again, if you're going to be using the backseats a lot, then a 5-door car is definitely what you want, especially if you need access to buckle-up children and so on.
Toys for tech heads
But sitting in the drivers seat, not much of that matters. There is a load of tech crammed into the Veloster Turbo SE to keep you entertained and safely on your route. The rear visibility problem is compensated for with a rear-view camera, displayed on the central 7-inch touchscreen display, which also handles your satnav and media.
It's not up there with the best systems when it comes to intuitive control, for example that which we saw in the Audi A3, however we didn't struggle to find our way around. The satnav comes as standard, however it doesn't yet support full seven-digit postcodes. This is coming and will be available as an easy upgrade to the system in the car fairly soon.
The media and navigation system is supported by an eight-speaker sound system which, with a little tweaking, can be made to pump out your tunes with plenty of oomph. The volumes of audio or satnav directions can be tweaked, but the system works by giving the front speakers over to the satnav when a command is needed. It's a little aggressive and on busy routes, we found the music dipping so often it became a touch annoying.
Bluetooth is included, with controls for making and taking calls on the steering wheel, as well as through the touchscreen. There is also a USB connection which will accommodate your iPod or other media player. We connected the Motorola RAZR i via Bluetooth with no problems and soon had our tunes streaming to the Veloster as we raced through country roads.
The seats have been upgraded too, with leather as standard and the driver benefiting from powered adjustment. As mentioned you get power mirrors at the press of a button, as well as keyless ignition. There's a lot packed into this car at this price, which is always one of the attractions of a company like Hyundai.
It's affordable fun
However, on the road there's the odd creak from the interior as you drive and the feel of the plastic handles used to close the doors serve as a reminder that value for money is of a prime concern in the Veloster Turbo SE. The interior is finished mostly in plastics, but we can't say it was out of place.
Hyundai have hit the important spec points with the Veloster Turbo SE. It's a fun car to drive, there is power on tap that you'll notice when you dab the accelerator and plenty of toys for gadget fans too. But you're still left with a car that will divide option: is the door configuration clever or impractical? Because that's a huge part of the Veloster's personality and at this price, there's competition from the small hatches, like a Polo GTI or the Clio, and larger hatches, like the Audi A3 TDI Sport or VW Scirocco.
But we like it. We like styling and the finish of that matte paint, as well as the 5-year triple car warranty. If a sporty hatch-cum-small-coupe is what you are looking for in this price range, it's certainly worth taking for a spin.