November 19, 2012
Review by Peter Bleakney and Mike Schlee, photos by Dave Johannesson, Peter Bleakney, and Mike Schlee
These are good days for car enthusiasts who favour the front-drive turbocharged hot hatch experience. The go-to rides are the wonderfully well-rounded VW GTI, the AJAC class-winning Ford Focus ST, the perennially frisky Mini Cooper S and the raw and scrappy Mazdaspeed3. But what if you want something just a little odd, a bit weird, a car whose styling suggests the owner doesn’t run with the pack? You know, the kind of guy or gal who puts Red Bull on their Cap’n Crunch, has a hidden tattoo and whose iPod sports an equal mix of opera and thrash-metal.
Three turbos. Click image to enlarge
We’ve assembled three funky FWD funsters for this comparo – the 160-hp Fiat 500 Abarth, the 201-hp Hyundai Veloster Turbo and the 200-hp VW Beetle Turbo. Would have been nice to score a Mini Cooper S Coupe which arguably out-weirds them all, but the logistics just didn’t work out.
Also unavailable for this comparo was Senior Editor Jonathan Yarkony (away on paternity leave), so we conscripted my good friend, car nut and drummer/singer/guitarist/photographer Dave Johannesson.
While quite similar in layout and concept, this left-of-centre trio is markedly diverse once tires meet the road. The Fiat is considerably smaller than the others, bordering on micro-car dimensions – no matter how much we might moan about back seat room, hey, it is what it is, a clever and stylish remake of a tiny European icon.
The other redux here is Beetle version 3.0, introduced last year to replace the 1997-2011 New Beetle, and whose profile more closely apes that of the original Bug. It’s a much better car in every way.
The Veloster Turbo is not a remake of anything (at least from this planet) and finds some of its roots in the humble Accent. Fascinating and frustrating in equal measure, this Hyundai, not surprisingly, leads in the value-per-buck race.
Ah, yes… pricing: as might be expected, the VW Beetle Turbo Sportline was the most expensive with an as-tested price of $33,855 (includes freight and A/C tax) which was about 4 grand more than the Abarth and $6,711 over the Veloster Turbo. -PB