BANNING, Calif. -- With only thin air occupying space beyond a guard rail until the desert floor appears thousands of feet below, we carefully guide a 2013 Veloster Turbo asymmetrical three-door coupe from the red-hot car company, Hyundai of South Korea, around each switchback curve on wiggly California 243, which runs through serpentine curves on the ridgeback descent from snow-clad slopes of Mt. San Jacinto at Idyllwild to pancakes flats of sand in Banning.
Naturally, we're pushing the turbo-enhanced throttle through infrequent straights yet nailing each apex on a whip-zip-whip fandango of a dance down the mountain.
And, although this run may seem dicey with all of that air pitched out there beyond flimsy guard rails, it's actually a no-sweat trick for the sporty Veloster Turbo.
This new lightweight vehicle -- outfitted with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers the stampeding power of 201 horses -- rolls on 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Kumho Solus KH25 215/40R18 85V tires.
Consider it a power-step up in muscle and torque from Hyundai's base Veloster hatchback that popped out in 2012 with a naturally aspirated 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine but seemed to lack the velocity of its namesake.
The new Veloster Turbo gets the velocity angle quite nicely. It also gains a load of functional equipment over the naturally aspirated Veloster, such as the massive front grille and distinctive front and rear bumpers, an aero-slick body kit, a spoiler on the tail, plus bigger disc brakes and the larger wheels and tires.
It's keen in shape with a sculptured body mounted on multi-spoke wheels and drawn in rectangular format but with a radically raked windshield and a low arching canopy over the cabin with low-slung windows and side pillars muted to forge the profile of a racy sportster.
Side panels are chiseled with ripples and bulges for exaggerated fenders plus a curvy character line which underscores windows and rises toward the tail.
The stubby rump looks clean with twin-lamp taillight assemblies mounted on back corners and a thick-lipped bumper swooping low with twin exhaust pipes centered beneath.
To create this vehicle, Hyundai's designers began with a modified version of the front-wheel-drive unibody platform used for Elantra, Hyundai's compact-class four-door sedan.
The wheelbase length stretches to 104.3 inches long while the width of the body extends to 71.1 inches and the distance from the prow up front to the back bumper tallies to 167.3 inches -- almost 14 feet. These spatial dimensions serve to crimp front and rear overhangs of the body and push the four wheels outward toward edges of the package, which sets up a long and broad and stable platform.
For suspension the Veloster Turbo employs independent MacPherson struts up front with gas-charged hydraulic twin-tube shocks and stabilizer bar, and in the rear a V-torsion beam axle with coil springs and gas-filled hydraulic monotube shock absorbers plus stabilizer bar.
For steering the rack and pinion device has motor driven power steering (MDPS) assistance.
Hyundai equips the 2013 Veloster Turbo with a long list of hardware for safety. Each issue stocks passive safety systems like frontal air bags and seat-mounted side-impact air bags up front plus curtain-style air bags above outboard seats on the two rows.
For active safety, every issue also posts a disc brake at each wheel (ventilated in front, solid in back), with electronic linkage to a four-channel anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD).
The Veloster Turbo also carries a vehicle stability management (VSM) device to manage the electronic stability control (ESC) system and MDPS steering.
For juicy motivation, the Veloster Turbo carries Hyundai's new dual-overhead-cam (DOHC) four-cylinder Gamma engine which displaces 1.6 liters and has turbocharged-gasoline direct injection (T-GDI) plus Hyundai's dual continuously variable valve timing (DCVVT) equipment to balance the power output with thrifty fuel economy.
The plant produces 201 hp at 6000 rpm and torque of 195 lb-ft at only 1750 rpm.
Shifter choices are a six-speed manual transmission or optional six-speed electronic automatic dual-clutch transmission (DCT) with Hyundai's Shiftronic mode with shifter paddles for manual gear control.
EPA fuel consumption numbers extend to 24 mpg for in-town driving and 35 mpg on the road with a manual shifter, or 24/31 mpg city/highway with the DCT automatic.
The passenger compartment seems surprisingly spacious encompassing 105.3 cubic feet, which is tops for the sport compact class. Headroom amounts to 39 inches up front and 35.3 inches in back, with front-seat legroom stretching to 43.9 inches, yet only 31.7 inches in the rear.
Layout of the cabin shows a pair of bucket seats up front flanking a floor-mounted console and two articulated seats in the rear. The rear seatback splits 60/40 in sections and both sides fold forward to expand room in the trunk, which amounts to 34.7 cubic feet for cargo.
Then there's the novelty of that right-side back door. It's hinged on the forward edge like the two front-seat doors and swings wide for easy access to rear seats.
The Veloster Turbo loads up on equipment: Leather upholstery plus a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, alloy pedals, 8-speaker audio kit with external amp and subwoofer, pushbutton starter, front foglamps, LED rear taillights and the sport-tuned suspension.
MSRP for Hyundai's 2013 Veloster Turbo begins at $21,950 for a manual transmission or $22,950 with the DCT.