What is it?
The Hyundai Veloster we should have had at the start. Hyundai's novel coupe-cum-hatchback does what no other right-hand-drive car does, which is to have two side doors on the nearside and just one, longer door on the driver's side. It looks like quite a racy coupe but its rear seats are rather more accessible than a coupe's usually are.
But as launched, with 138 skinny-feeling bhp from its 1.6-litre engine, the Veloster did not feel very thrilling. A turbo version was promised, and has been offered in the US for a while, but Europe now gets its own specifically-calibrated version. Meet the Hyundai Veloster Turbo.
Power drops from the US-spec 204 to 184bhp, but the same 195lb ft of torque arrives at a lower speed. Real-world driveability is the aim, helped by longer gearing in the six-speed gearbox which benefits economy and cruising refinement. Direct injection means the compression ratio can stay efficiently high at 9.5:1, and the turbocharger is a twin-scroll unit better able to make use of exhaust pulses.
Firmer dampers, bigger front brakes, 18in wheels and revised settings for the electric power steering, intended to make it feel more naturally weighted, complete the mechanical changes. Deeper valances, an extended rear spoiler, round front foglights and a central pair of exhaust pipes identify the Turbo, along with the option (£525) of matt metallic grey paint.
What's it like to drive?
A regular Veloster feels a bit flat at low revs and frantic at high revs. Not this one. The turbo engine transforms the whole car, with a keen, precise and practically lag-free pull from low revs right up to 6500rpm. It's a strong, even torque delivery, smooth and solid and a complete contrast to a standard Veloster's busy thrashings.
Ultimate acceleration isn't very special – the claim is 8.4sec to 62mph – but you can cover ground very quickly in this car thanks to its strong mid-range energy and confident overtaking ability. No sporting Hyundai (not a broad canon, it must be said) has felt as rapid and capable as this one.
The gear ratios suit it well, the shift is neat and slick, and the brakes have an unusually solid, progressive action. There's a touch of steering tug if you accelerate hard out of a tight bend, a bit of dynamic spirit too easily quelled by an intrusive traction and ESP system, but you can switch it off. The steering itself is no transparent window onto the road but the weighting is natural, as promised, and the action is properly precise.
Flick through some esses or hare along some undulations and you'll discover excellent body control, but short, sharp bumps are greeted with quite a thud – as they are in the standard Veloster. The handling balance has the fluidity and throttle-interactivity usual in a Hyundai; the Korean company has always understood that side of things.
How does it compare?
Obvious rivals are a VW Scirocco in 1.4 TSI 160 or 2.0 TSI forms and the Vauxhall Astra GTC 1.6T. The Astra is unnecessarily corpulent, the Scirocco dearer to buy. The fact is that the Veloster Turbo acquits itself very capably in this company, and at £21,995 with lashings of equipment it's good value as well as useful in its architecture. A sub-£20K one, minus satnav but retaining leather upholstery, arrives soon.
Anything else I need to know?
We haven't talked about the cabin, which is roomy enough for four, very well made and contains an excellent new stereo system And, unlike some rivals, it doesn't make you suffer an electric parking brake. This is a very enjoyable compact coupe/hatchback which this particular writer would be happy to own.