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Veloster Turbo offers show, go

| Saturday, March 9, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the Honda CRX, a funky little car that was lightweight and had a perfect balance of horsepower and fuel economy. It epitomized Honda in the 1980s.

Gazing at the 2013 Hyundai Veloster, it's hard not to be reminded of the old CRX.

They share the same short, hunchback shape, but the Veloster is aggressively sculpted within an inch of its life. It's the opposite of the CRX in terms of visual volume. Whereas the CRX looks sleek and classically modern, one gets the sense that the Veloster is more the equivalent of this week's hot fashion item.

Just as the CRX used parts from the subcompact Civic sedan, the Veloster uses bits and pieces from the subcompact Elantra sedan. So it's obvious that Hyundai knows the formula for producing a hot little tidbit. But they didn't quite master it.

That's because of the Veloster's base engine — it's the same one that's used in the Elantra. The 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine generates 138 horsepower, along with EPA estimates of 29 mpg city, 38 mpg highway.

The base Veloster is all show, no go.

Thankfully, Hyundai has addressed this with the introduction of the new Veloster Turbo, sporting a turbocharged version of the base car's 1.6-liter power plant. It's matched to a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. The dual clutch gearbox offered with the base engine is not offered on the Turbo.

Hyundai stiffened the suspension, refined the steering and fitted a freer-flowing exhaust. It's wrapped in a package with 18-inch summer tires and an aggressive body kit. The result is a Veloster that finally delivers on its looks.

The engine is powerful and willing, inviting you to use more of its juice. It's fun and raucous, although it's left some refinement behind as a result. The steering is quicker, which is more of what you'd expect out of this speedy little squirt. The firm suspension is now even firmer, bordering on unyielding. Given the Veloster Turbo's audience, that's not surprising, just painful. But is it a weakness or is it character? You could argue either way, for this is a car that's not just young, but young at heart.

Larry Printz is automotive editor at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk.

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