Korea’s contribution to the Hot Hatch Hall of Fame is a little on the short side. With the exception of the not-terribly-successful Hyundai Accent WRC there have been precious few cars from Korea that could be described as ‘hot’ or even ‘slightly tepid’. In fact I’m struggling to think of one but then I’ve not drunk enough coffee today so it might just be a brain glitch.*
So it came as a surprise when I was given the chance to drive not one but two fast Korean motors. A pleasant surprise, as it happens, because one thing stood out – they’re both very good.
Hyundai Veloster Turbo
The first was the Hyundai Veloster Turbo, although you probably know it as ‘that car with the funny doors’. There’s one large door on the driver’s side and two doors on the passenger side. It’s as if the designers penned designs for both a three and five-door version and then got the drawings mixed up before sending them off to the factory.
Not that the door layout makes much difference to the Veloster’s visual appeal. From either side it looks great, particularly from the rear 3/4. It looks sleek, racy, and above all fast. The pair of large exhaust tips protruding from the deep bumper, the big red ‘Turbo’ badge on the boot lid, 18-inch wheels and round fog lights are all clues that this is the fastest of the Veloster range.
The interior isn’t so racy but it’s pleasant enough and the Turbo comes loaded with all the kit you need. The blue-backlit dials are easy to read and all of the controls are laid out in a sensible fashion.
The 1.6-litre engine is largely the same as that found in lesser Velosters, only now it has a turbocharger bolted onto it. It gives the Veloster plenty of mid-range punch and yet it remains quiet and unassuming. 184 bhp and a 0-62mph time of 8.4 seconds are not quite enough to make it a contender in the crowded hot hatch market but there’s plenty of fun to be had.
The weighting of the electric steering seems to be well judged and it actually offers some level of feedback too. The chassis is setup more for comfort than outright handling ability. There’s a softness to the ride that absorbed most of the punishment from the crumbling back roads on my test route while keeping the body in check.
Kia pro_cee’d GT
The second surprise came in the form of the Kia pro_cee’d GT. This is Kia’s first attempt at a hot hatch and you can tell they’ve been paying close attention to what the punters want. Big wheels, deep bumpers, bright red brake calipers and distinctive 2×2 LED driving lights adorn the outside. On the inside you find bucket seats with GT logos, leather trim with red stitching and a LCD display that shows an ultimately pointless but fascinating readout of engine power and torque.
The Kia actually shares the same T-GDi engine as the Veloster Turbo but is tuned for more power (now 201bhp). It sounds much gruffer as it surges up the rev range but with the same peak torque (195lb/ft) the delivery is very similar to the Veloster, but the extra power gives the GT a clear advantage in the run up to 62mph (7.4 seconds).
The big difference is in the chassis setup. The GT is noticeably stiffer and much more lively, although on one particular stretch of bad tarmac that led to some jiggling about in the cabin. It’s a good job those seats have good side bolsters! The payback is more grip and better control through the bendy bits.
You can throw the GT around with more enthusiasm than the Veloster and in that respect it’s much more fun. The performance figures might not cut it with the established leaders in the market but that’s not Kia’s aim – the GT is more of a warm hatch for those who want a quick Golf or Focus-sized hatchback but for less money.
Both of these cars prove that Hyundai and Kia are waking up to the hot hatch market. Kia have taken a more traditional approach to their first attempt at a quick hatchback while Hyundai are coming from left-field with their quirky door layout, but as far as first impressions go both of these cars did very well.
Add fantastic warranties (5 years for the Hyundai, 7 years for the Kia) and you have two performance cars that make great sense to private buyers. Bring price into the equation and things look better still – both the Veloster Turbo and GT Tech are generously equipped and can be yours for around £22k, making the competition look either very spartan or decidedly expensive.
Let’s not forget that Hyundai are returning to the WRC next year with their new i20 and if we keep our fingers crossed that might lead to a fast road-going version of the little hatchback. Meanwhile, Kia are rumoured to be looking at what other models they could work their GT magic on. How about a cheeky little Rio GT to shake up the small hatch sector?
*Having said this, I’m sure I’ll be inundated by suggestions for spicy Korean hatchbacks.
Kia Pro_cee'd GT versus Hyundai Veloster Turbo
|Performance & Economy||Kia Pro_cee'd GT||Hyundai Veloster Turbo|
|Engine||1,591cc 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol||1,591cc 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol|
|Transmission||6-speed manual, front-wheel drive||6-speed manual, front-wheel drive|
|Power (PS / bhp)||204 / 201||186 / 184|
|Torque (Nm / lb.ft)||265 / 195||265 / 195|
|0 - 62 mph (seconds)||7.4||8.4|
|Top Speed (mph)||143||133|
|CO2 Emissions (g/km)||171||149|
|Combined Economy (mpg)||38.2||40.9|
|Kerb Weight (kg)||1,359||1,313|
|Price (OTR)||£19,995 (£22,495 with Tech pack)||£22,000|