LA JOLLA, CA – We should have known Hyundai had something up its sleeve when the original 138-hp Veloster 3-door coupe debuted last fall.

With such a stylish package, the 1.6L 4-cyl. was a head-scratcher. It’s a good engine – earning a 2012 Ward’s 10 Best Engines award in the Accent – but it didn’t contribute to the car’s athleticism.

Now, with this summer’s launch of a turbocharged variant, substance finally matches style in the Veloster.

The base 1.6L gasoline direct-injected I-4 is boosted to a maximum 201 hp and 195 lb.-ft. (264 Nm) of torque. That's up 46% and 59%, respectively, from the naturally aspirated Veloster.

The 3-door sport coupe now has plenty of pep, WardsAuto finds in a drive of the Veloster Turbo here, although a slightly stiffer suspension may make it even better.

The twin-scroll turbocharger is the same as in Hyundai's other turbo models, the Genesis and Sonata. Hyundai again touts the faster response and better low-end torque of the twin-scroll turbocharger.

Other elements of the powertrain include an exhaust manifold integrated into the turbine housing, reducing mass and improving heat transfer.

While it once had some of the porkiest models in the industry, Hyundai proudly notes its svelte lineup, including the Veloster Turbo, compared with rivals.

A Veloster Turbo, thanks to 65% high-tensile strength steel content , is 77 lbs. (35 kg) lighter than a '12 Honda Civic Si, and 200-plus lbs. (91 kg) lighter than a '12 VW GTI or Beetle Turbo, Hyundai says.

However, the Veloster turbo clocks in heftier than some others in the brand's defined competitive set, including two Minis, the '12 Clubman S and Cooper S. The extra poundage isn't noticeable, as the car is just as tossable – and flat, with little body roll – as the base Veloster.

No suspension modifications were made with the addition of the turbocharger, although 18-in. wheels replace the original 17s. Steering ratio is slightly quicker, at 13.9 instead of 14.2 for the base vehicle.

When tested last September, WardsAuto found the naturally aspirated Veloster's suspension well-tuned for sporty driving, with a good balance between hard and soft. But the Veloster Turbo proves almost too sedate after a full day of driving here.

Hyundai expects a percentage of Veloster Turbo owners to tune their suspensions to their own taste. For those who won't, the car could benefit from heavier spring rates to up its sporty quotient.

As in the base car, the Veloster Turbo uses ventilated disc brakes, although front rotors grow 0.8 ins. (2.0 cm).

Many media members here say the brake pedal feels too soft for a "sports car," which probably is true relative to some competitive models. But for most future Veloster Turbo owners who will use the car as a daily driver, not at the track, less touchy brakes are better.

There's nothing like rowing your own gears. And the Veloster Turbo 6-speed manual is an ideal fit, with linear clutch action and a smooth-feel, short-throw shifter.

The 6-speed automatic with paddles, experienced in a shorter jaunt, is sufficient and comes with a sport mode that lessens downshift delay.

Observed fuel economy slightly exceeds the 30-mpg (7.8-L/100 km) expected Environmental Protection Agency average in one leg with a manual transmission, and 31.5 mpg (7.5 L/100 km) returned over some hilly terrain at a mixture of speeds.

A second, stop-and-go route in another manual model clocks in at a lower 25.1 mpg (9.4 L/100 km). The Veloster Turbo compares favorably with the competition in fuel economy, although the manual Minis have a slight city advantage, as does the Fiat 500 Abarth with a manual.

Distinguishing the Veloster Turbo from the base car are a plethora of light-emitting diodes, notably as mirror turn signals; a changed fascia and grille design; a body-color spoiler; and round dual exhaust tips.

But perhaps no change is bigger or more talked about than the available matte gray paint. Bringing the no-gloss option out of the hinterlands of premium models, the matte paint is for those who love to "hand wash" their cars, Hyundai emphasizes.

Carrying a $1,000 extra charge, the paint also comes with a form buyers must sign to acknowledge the additional level of care required: microfiber-only, no waxes, no polishes – extreme babying.

Inside, the Veloster Turbo gets a cool new blue-trim interior option, and, for those not choosing the panoramic sunroof, an op-art dot pattern on the headliner. These features reinforce the edgy, fun exterior styling, not always the case in sports-car interiors.

Vehicles here have a good fit-and-finish, minus a mismatched headliner and sunshade, in two slightly different shades of “greige.” Other negatives are the lack of grab bars and nonadjustable shoulder belts.

As in the base Veloster, rear-seat headroom is tight, and taller occupants will need to slouch down to avoid hitting the roof. Front-seat comfort is excellent.

There are only four buildable combinations of the Veloster Turbo, with no true trim levels and just one "ultimate" package, which adds navigation, the panoramic sunroof and backup warning sensors on top of standard features such as push-button start, a 7-in. (18-cm) touchscreen and Hyundai's BlueLink telematics system.

The base Veloster Turbo with manual transmission starts at $21,950, and the ultimate package bumps up the price to $24,450. There is a $1,000 up-charge for an automatic.

With superior style, high horsepower, plentiful torque and lots of standard interior features, all at a reasonable price, Hyundai has another winner on its hands with the Veloster Turbo, assuming the auto maker can build and ship them fast enough from South Korea.

Already, the base Veloster is capacity-constrained. Finding this hot new variant with the unique paint job might prove even more difficult.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com

'13 Hyundai Veloster Turbo
Vehicle type 3-door, front-wheel-drive sport coupe
Engine 1.6L DOHC gasoline direct-injected and turbocharged 4-cyl., aluminum block, head
Power (SAE net) 201 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque 195 lb.-ft. (264 Nm) @ 1,750 rpm
Bore x stroke (mm) 77 x 85.4
Compression ratio 9.5:1
Transmission 6-speed manual with EcoShift indicator
Wheelbase 104.3 ins. (265 cm)
Overall length 167.3 ins. (425 cm)
Overall width 71.1 ins. (181 cm)
Overall height 55.1 ins. (140 cm)
Curb weight 2,800-2,917 lbs. (1,270-1,323 kg)
Base price $21,950, plus $775 destination and handling
Fuel economy 26/38 mpg (9.0-6.2 L/100 km) city/hwy
Competition Mini Cooper S, Mini Clubman S, Volkswagen GTI, Volkswagen Beetle Turbo, Honda Civic Si, Fiat 500 Abarth
Pros Cons
More power Basically unchanged suspension
Interior style enhanced Where’s passenger grab-handle?
Thousands less than comps Capacity constrained