By Nauman Farooq
When the Hyundai Veloster first showed up, circa 2011, it had a lot going for it, but didn’t quite deliver!
It looked very good, had a funky interior, and everyone thought that this would be Hyundai’s entry into the hot hatch market – but it wasn’t.
The main problem was performance. Being based largely on the Hyundai Accent – drivetrain included – meant it just looked faster than it was.
A year later, the Veloster Turbo came out, and on spec, it seemed like the Veloster can finally catch up on its looks with its performance, but even this was a let down. It had too much turbo lag, and the chassis felt about as rigid as a wet noodle!
So, the future might have looked bleak for the Veloster, but Hyundai didn’t give up!
For the 2018 model year, the second generation model of the Veloster was introduced. I tested the 2019 Veloster Turbo earlier this year, and was pleasantly surprised by it – it had finally become a car that a driving enthusiast would appreciate.
However, I knew that the “Turbo” was not the highest spec version of this model, and what I really craved to get a piece of was the model you’re seeing here this week – the Veloster N.
Tuned at the famous Nurburgring race track in Germany, under the watchful eye of Albert Biermann – a vehicle development specialist who came over to Hyundai from BMW’s M division – could this finally be the Veloster we’ve all been craving for?
Let’s find out!
Styling: Style was the main thing that drove interest in the Veloster from day one, and the Veloster N is by far the most aggressive version yet.
Keeping its quirky asymmetrical styling (it has one door on the driver’s side, and two doors on the passenger side), the “N” adds a deeper front spoiler, a larger rear spoiler, ground effects, and stunning 19-inch wheels wearing P235/35R19 summer performance tires – so yes, if you intend on using this car in the winter, you’ll have to really buy winter tires.
The Veloster N is a purpose built performance machine, to compete with the likes of the Honda Civic Type-R – and it shows.
Interior: Open the door, and it also shows that the Veloster N was built on a budget, with most of the money going to the chassis and drivetrain development.
Performance cars can often have minimalistic interiors, but this has really taken the minimalistic approach on a whole new level!
The most obvious cost cutting can be seen on the door cards and any plastic surface – if I were to say that this interior was built from melted Tupperware boxes, that’ll be an insult to Tupperware boxes! I think the last time I saw interior plastics this thin and cheaply made, they were in a Pontiac.
Thankfully, it still has an infotainment system – that does not have built-in navigation, you have to pair it through your phone and run the app – and while the seats don’t look luxurious, these sport cloth seats are comfortable and hold you well when you’re cornering quickly.
Let’s put it this way, the interior is definitely not the reason you’d buy a Veloster N – the next item on the agenda however, now that’s a different story!
Powertrain: One of the big selling points for the Veloster N is its engine. It’s a turbocharged 2.0L inline-four cylinder motor that features gasoline-direct fuel injection. It also features double over head cams, and electronically controlled variable valve timing. It has a bore and stroke of equal dimension (86.0 mm) and its block head is cast from aluminum.
End result is, that this engine produces 275 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque – that’s plenty for a car that is classified as a sub-compact.
All the power is fed to just the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox – no poser automatic on offer here.
This is where Hyundai spent their money on this model, and it shows.
Performance & Driving Dynamics: Out on the road, it’ll take you roughly 15 seconds to appreciate the Veloster N. This is a pure, hardcore, performance machine; and it makes no excuses for that.
The ride is firm – but that’s just on its full “N” mode. If you’re on a long commute, just activate its “comfort” mode and its electronically controlled suspension dampers take most of the harshness out. This cars MacPherson strut front, and multi-link independent rear suspension is among the best I’ve ever come across. It offers great stability at speed, and thanks to its adjustable dampers, it can really give you the best balance between soft and hard.
Speaking of hard, it accelerates down the straights like it’s been propelled by a jet engine! How quick? According to a test performed by MotorWeek, the Veloster N did the 0 to 96 km/h sprint in just 5.2 seconds – in other words, it’s quicker than the old Ferrari 348tb.
Not only is it fast off the line, it is fast through the corners, too. The only thing I’d like Hyundai to improve upon is the steering feel, it loads up quite a bit under cornering, and hence the car doesn’t feel as adjustable through the bends as the Civic Type-R.
So, the Veloster N might not be a perfect all-rounder, and for some, that’ll be part of the appeal – this car doesn’t serve you anything on a silver platter, it makes you work hard to get the best out of it, and that often is the joy a car enthusiast lusts after.
Anyone who likes performance cars will like the way this “N” sounds. Its dual exhaust in “Sport” or “N” mode just opens up the pipes, and as a result this vehicle sounds like a tuned hot rod! It’s these kinds of things that’ll make you forgive it for all its foibles, and plant a smile on your face.
Fuel Economy: As you’d expect from something that is tuned for fun, it isn’t very economical to drive. In my fuel economy cycle (170 km of highway driving + 130 km of city driving), I averaged 10.6 L/100 km – the cheaper and slower Veloster Turbo had averaged 8.1 L/100 km. Plus, you have to feed the “N” the most premium fuel you can find – it prefers to drink 94 octane, and you can’t run it on anything less than 91 octane. That makes running costs quite high, but the reward is worth it.
Pricing: The 2019 Hyundai Veloster N only comes in one trim, and prices start at $34,999 + freight/PDI + dealer fees + taxes. So, not a cheap vehicle to buy either, but performance cars are never cheap.
Verdict: Many had been waiting for a proper performance variant of the Veloster, and this “N” model surely delivers. It’s not perfect, but in terms of driving, it turned out to be much better than I was expecting. Kudos to Hyundai, for pulling off a performance car that truly satisfies. Can’t wait to see what the “N” division tackles next!