Test Drive: 2016 Hyundai Veloster Rally Edition

On a cold night of November 2011, this just-turned-auto-journo girl walked up to a Hyundai dealership, looking more confident than she actually was. She was going to do some serious shopping and if the price was right, the sales guy would have an easy night. That night, I bought my very first – and perhaps last – brand new car, armed with a new job and with what little knowledge I had of the industry back then. I was getting a bright red, new and shiny 2012 Hyundai Veloster. The head turning, award-wining Veloster. Without a test drive or even getting to sit in it, I bought a car. My mind was set and I had the good words of a few journalist colleagues to support my theory that this was the right car for me.

In retrospective, the price wasn't really right, but that’s something I've come to understand with time. I had to wait about six weeks to take delivery of my Veloster at the time, they were selling like hot cakes and the dealer could not keep them in stock. Mine sure got a lot of attention; it was the first red one they had received. Back in the day, the Veloster was a pretty good deal, well priced and with the level of equipment that gave the Korean manufacturers the reputation they still enjoy today. What was back then the entry-level trim is now considered the middle ground, SE version. The new entry-level trim is now a little more basic, probably to keep costs low. Cue Nelson's laugh.

Hyundai had heard the discontent regarding certain aspects of the model and had done their homework to address it.

For 2016, Hyundai came up with a new and exciting variation of the Veloster that proves that Hyundai has heard the discontent regarding certain aspects of the model and has done their homework to address it. The result is the 2016 Hyundai Veloster Rally Edition. Exterior-wise, the Rally picks up after the Turbo Veloster with the round double exhaust pipes, the wide open hexagonal front grille and LED headlights. However, what makes the new Rally Edition stand out the most is the  gorgeous looking matte blue paint, paired with a set of black, 18-inch Rays alloy wheels and carbon fiber accents. What a sexier and slightly more masculine ensemble it creates! I also find the front portion design on the new Rally and on the turbo to be better looking than the base model, with the buck tooth-like grille insert.

 

Here's a little cautionary tale regarding matte paint: once you enter the realm of the matte coat, washing your car will turn into a sacred, religious experience. Car washes for the ones like me who like an easy fix are not an option anymore as they will damage the surface. Enjoy washing thou vehicle by hand thou shall, with the help of a specialized soap your dealer will gladly provide at the purchase of the car. They won’t be so nice when you need a refill though, and a Hyundai branded, matte coat specific soap retails for a few hundred dollars. On the bright side, I have been told by the owner of a matte grey Veloster turbo that the bottle of soap will last you a long time. Pick your poison.

The cockpit of the Rally is clad in black and blue leather with "Turbo" stitching and the usually silver plastic is now metallic blue. One of my passengers commented that it looked like a tacky 80s throwback. So before throwing him out the door, I admitted loud and proud that I kind of liked it. The instrument cluster has also been upgraded, nothing that made me lose my bearings. Beyond those more obvious aesthetic differences, the interior remains very similar between first and latest generation. You get the same "V" shaped console gravitating around the seven-inch touchscreen, the wheel-mounted controls and the air vents. The list of features is also the same and includes heated seats, cruise control, voice commands, full Bluetooth integration, rearview camera, satellite radio and such. Because the Rally uses a standard key ignition system, where the push start button is normally located in my car stands a simple round "Veloster" badge which doesn't help killing old habits. I did try to start the Rally a few times hitting the faux button.

The infotainment remains unchanged, if only for a few minor upgrades such as the time now displayed in yellow instead of white and the AM/FM radio stations showing the title of the song being played, like the satellite radio channels do. It felt like home. And though this isn't exactly the best system out there in terms of software and usability, the computer having bugged a few times in my 2012, it remains sufficiently user friendly and efficient.

When the model was first introduced, it got everyone commenting on that three-door layout. Four if you count the hatch. The third door really is more of a conversation piece than anything else considering how inconvenient it actually is. The plus side is that I don't regularly need to have access to the rear seats, if only to store a snow brush or an extra pair of shoes. As for the rear seats, they are more of a suggestion really, except if you have shorter passengers who won't complain too much about the lack of leg and headroom. But anybody who had the fantasy of making the Veloster their little family car is wrong. Behind the row of seats, the cargo area is actually much more convenient than it looks, the floor of the trunk being lower for a total volume of 440L. And once the second row of seats is lowered though, you have a perfectly usable cargo area. I did manage to pack a new queen-size Ikea bed in my car.

Where things really pick up is under the hood. The Rally Edition borrows the 1.6L four-cylinder turbo engine from the Veloster Turbo, rated at 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. Despite the increase in power, the turbo has left some people craving for more. However compared to the 138 hp I normally drive around with, the turbo is a clear improvement. The turbo engine is teamed with a six-speed manual transmission - the only available gearbox on the Rally Edition - with shorter gears, for a precise shift. I also found the clutch pedal to be smoother, compared to the one in my own car that can sometimes feel a little jerky. Changing gears in the Rally definitely felt like an upgrade.

The suspension tune up, with improved shock absorbers and torsion bar, also makes a considerable difference in the handling of the car. Where my little red Veloster tends to waltz out of potholes due to its awkward torsion bar setup, the Rally’s behavior felt better grounded and smoother. Unlike in my car, the impacts did not resonate in the whole chassis, which also gave an impression of overall better quality assembly.

Of course, something had to give and in this case, fuel economy was the victim. If in my Veloster I can normally get a 7.8L/100km in-city average in the winter, the Rally got me an average hovering around 9.8L/100km. My figure for the city was pretty close to the EPA figures of 9.4/7.0/8.3 L/100/km city/highway/combined.

And of course, no cheap fuel for this ride: the turbo likes its premium fuel for its higher octanes - though technically speaking, the engine will take regular, if you're not too picky.

I was told before getting the keys to the 2016 Hyundai Veloster Rally Edition that this special version was the Veloster the way it should have been from the start. The model did receive some criticism for its fake sportiness and for how little it actually delivered. And despite being the proud owner of one, I will have to agree with that statement and give the Rally Edition all the credit it deserves for simply being a better Veloster.

Warranty:
5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 5 years/unlimited roadside assistance
Competitors:
Ford Focus ST
Volkswagen Golf GTI
Mini Cooper S
2016 Hyundai Veloster Rally Edition
2016 Hyundai Veloster Rally Edition
Base Price
Optional Equipment $27,199
A/C Tax $126,75
Destination Fee 1,695
Price as Tested $29,020
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.0
7 Interior
6 Fuel Economy
9 Exterior Styling
7 Performance
6 Comfort