2013 Hyundai Elantra and 2013 Hyundai Veloster
SAN DIEGO, CA. — Hyundai has introduced so many impressive new vehicles in the last two years, you’d think the Korean auto-maker might sit back and enjoy the rewards. Instead of resting on its laurels, Hyundai is adding to them.
Since the 2011 Sonata, which thrust the company into the spotlight, two of the more interesting vehicles from Hyundai are the compact Elantra, which resembles a downsized Sonata and is such a coordinated and polished car it won the 2012 North American Car of the Year award, plus the unique and sporty Veloster, a three-door hatchback with sporty coupe flair and an accessible rear seat through a second passenger-side door.
Both the Elantra and Veloster were introduced as 2012 models. The Elantra as a remake of a car that was never an ugly duckling but was transformed nonetheless into the automotive version of a stylish swan. The Veloster, on the other hand, is an all-new model. The Elantra more than delivered on its promise while rewriting the style and feature rules for compacts and also getting 40 miles per gallon. The Veloster was fun, but its appearance promises performance that its high-tech and rev-able 1.6-liter engine had trouble delivering.
With both cars in their introductory year, Hyundai gathered the North American auto media at Torrey Pines, the plush resort in La Jolla, Calif., right near Hyundai’s U.S. corporate offices and design center, to unveil three new versions of the two cars — a turbocharged Veloster, and both a Coupe and a GT, which is a five-door, wagon-like model of the Elantra.
The Veloster, Hyundai admitted, was a little shy on power. The 1.6 from the new Accent is a high-tech little jewel, with gas-direct-injection and variable valve-timing, and it is more than adequate for most consumers and most circumstances.
But if the Veloster is going to challenge such sporty icons as the GTI, Civic Si, Mini Cooper S, and Beetle Turbo, all of which slap a permanent smile onto the face of any enthusiast drivers, more punch was needed. Hyundai responds promptly when it decides public reaction warrants it, and a twin-scroll turbocharger was the remedy.
A normal, single-scroll turbo picks off some of the exhaust flow headed out the tailpipe and redirects it to spin a turbine-wheel that sends a greater charge of air-fuel mixture back into the engine’s intake for improved burning and power. The system works, generally overcoming the varying exhaust pulses from different cylinders, which can increase back-pressure, raise temperature levels, and produce uneven airflow back into the cylinders. A twin-scroll turbo has two inlets in the turbine housing, separating the varying exhaust flow, and minimizing back-pressure, to create a more pure and dense consistency to the forced-air feed going back into the cylinders.
Twin-scroll turbos usually are found on far more costlier and exotic cars, but Hyundai is undeterred when striving for the best, and the system works very well with a maximum boost of 18.0 psi. Combined with Hyundai’s proven gas-direct-injection system, which starts the engine off with a high-pressure, low-temperature fuel-air mixture for optimum burning — for more power and improved fuel economy. The Veloster Turbo 1.6 delivers 201 horsepower at 6,000 RPMs, and 195 foot-pounds of torque at only 1,750 RPMs. The 201 horsepower is a whopping 63 more than the normally-aspirated 1.6 in the garden-variety Veloster.
Getting the push of torque at such low RPMs gives the feeling that there is much more torque. The great asset of the normal Veloster is that it is fully capable of reaching 40 miles per gallon, and if you had to be patient for the power to come up at higher revs, it is worth the wait. With the Turbo Veloster, no waitilng is required. But also, no suffering at the gas pumps. The 6-speed stick Veloster Turbo delivers EPA estimates of 26 city and 38 highway, while the 6-speed automatic with Sportshift hits 25/34. The Sportshift includes fingertip paddles; upshift on the right and downshift on the left without taking your hands off the wheel. That feature is welcome, and hoists the Veloster above some competitors.
Those EPA figures aren’t quite at 40 mpg, but the Veloster Turbo burns regular fuel. If you don’t think that’s significant, last time I looked, the premium required by the GTI and Mini S and Beetle Turbo ranges 20 to 40 cents more expensive per gallon than regular.
Naturally, the turbo version costs a premium price, but typically of Hyundai, the regular Veloster is so inexpensive that the added price for the turbo is surprisingly reasonable. The Veloster Turbo with 6-speed stick is $22,725 and with 6-speed automatic $23,725, which leaves it generally a couple thousand less than high-performance competitors. Veloster sales have been so good that Hyundai says they are only limited by supply’s inability to keep up with demand.
For a couple decades now, we’ve been told that people don’t buy manual transmissions any more — usually by manufacturers that don’t offer a stick any more. Mazda has said that it sells a surprisingly large proportion of stick-shift cars and Hyundai is reinforcing that trend; Veloster sales have been 30 percent sticks so far, and the Turbo may increase that percentage.
Driving the Veloster Turbo shows the obvious increase in power, but also that it comes on smoothly. The in-house designed turbo — same as used in the larger Sonata Turbo’s 2.0-liter — does an excellent job of simply making you feel as though you have a larger engine doing the work under the hood. There is no stiffening of the suspension, but combining added power, a slightly quickened steering system, and 18-inch styled wheels that are an inch larger than standard, makes the Veloster Turbo feel as though it has been modified for sportier driving.
During our introductory ride, when I vacated the driver’s seat, I chose to sit in the rear, where climbing in through the rear door is tight, but once inside, the roominess for head and legs is surprisingly good.
Styling cues, such as fascias and LED lights front and rear, set off the Turbo. One in particular is a unique matte-grey paint job which is stunning, and which means that buying a car with that paint requires you to sign a form saying you understand you need to hand-wash the car because automated washes might scratch the surface.
The assembled auto writers put the Veloster Turbo through its paces on two demanding autocross circuits, laid out with cones in a large parking lot area. On the normal autocross, I did OK, although not with the leaders. On a secondary circuit, which started with the need to back up from one cul-de-sac to another, and then accelerate toward a ring, where we made a complete 360-degree turn clockwise, some more zig-zags and then a counter-clockwise 360, then some chicanes back to the finish. For some reason, I did much better on that course, clocking a swift 45.16 seconds on my second turn, although I hit one cone, which leaped out into my path, and earned a penalty. I did two other quick runs, and was given an award for the fastest time, at 46.72 seconds.
The Elantra uses a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder, which has proven to reach 40 mpg without the costly addition of gas-direct-injection. It is stylish and very popular, and 250,000 of the first-year models carved out a 10 percent market share in the compact segment, even against such stalwarts as Civic, Mazda3, Corolla, Focus, and Cruze. The new Coupe takes stylish to a new plateau, and should give Elantra another boost. Yet personally, I prefer the 5-door Elantra GT to its sedan and Coupe siblings.
The 1.8 engine in both Coupe and GT has dual variable valve-timing and delivers 148 horsepower at 6,500 RPMs and 131 foot-pounds of torque at 4,700 RPMs. The engine has evolved with several methods of making it more efficient. The CVVT timing leaves the valves open, for example, which allows the piston to move freely without the vacuum of closed valves. Lighter materials reduce weight with a plastic intake manifold.
The Coupe has great lines, similar to the proportions the new Genesis Coupe has to the standard Genesis sedan. It feels good to drive, but on our introductory run through the mountainous region east of San Diego, we only drove the Coupe with the automatic. It was good, but I need to drive the stick to compare. Great attention to quietness helps the Coupe’s demeanor on the road, with two suspension settings available. Improved dampers, a quicker steering rack, and a V-beam rear housing for the stabilizer bar all aid the handling.
Coupe prices run $3,000 less than a Civic Coupe, with the loaded GS model at $18,220.
The performance of the Coupe may be noteworthy, but the GT 5-door feels even sportier after brief driving on curving mountain roads, although we didn’t get the less-performance-oriented Elantras out for any autocrossing. We drove only the 6-speed manual in the GT, which felt really coordinated with the vehicle in all conditions. Like the turbocharger, and of course the engines, Hyuindai makes its own transmissions as well.
Hyundai stretched the sedan platform for the GT 9 inches, but shortened the body by 2 inches, and gave it and the Coupe unique suspension and steering for sportier feel. The GT with manual weighs only 2,746, and 2,734 with automatic, making it lighter than its competitors. The base GT starts at $19,170, and both Tech and Style packages are available, with such amenities as foglights, a panoramic sunroof, push-button start, underfloor storage compartment under the hatch, dual climate control and 60/40 fold-down rear seats. A push-button setting alters steering response from normal to comfort to sport.
After the drive, a fellow coordinating all the vehicles asked me how we had driven on our GT tour of the mountains. I told him my co-driver was pretty conservative, but I really pushed the GT around the cecause we were certainly not driving for optimum fuel economy on the handling part of our drive.
Rigidity of the GT body is improved 37 percent by increased use of high-grade steel, and it has a sleek 0.30 coefficient of drag. The GT was styled and originated for sale in Europe, where the car sells very well. It always was planned for the Korean-built version of the GT to be brought to the U.S.
Hyundai projects that the Elantra sedan will continue to sell as many as supply allows, and the same should hold with the stylish Coupe. The GT and Coupe each project to comprise 15 percent of the Elantra total, relieving some of the demand for the Elantra sedan, which will cover the remaining 70 percent.
Without question, Hyundai is continuing on a high-tech roll. Some companies are striving to build better cars; Hyundai is building exceptional cars, and then improving and diversifying them within months of their introduction.