2019 Hyundai Veloster N – Road Test Review + Performance Drive Video



What’s the purpose of owning a car besides just transportation? Sure, you need to be able to scoot around town, commute and take the occasional road trip.

But beyond that, the real joy of car ownership is the entertainment value. Having a car you love to drive, and one that makes you smile every time you tap the start button, is one of the true joys in this life for some of us.

Over the course of 2019 there is no car that has elicited more howling laughter in my hands than this Veloster N.

Here we have Hyundai’s first hardcore sports special — named for the Namyang R&D center (pictured below, left) and the Nurburgring Nordschleife racetrack/proving ground in Germany.

The car has been in development since at least 2013 and the hard work really shows.  There is so much upgraded on this car that it could fill two full window stickers.  Different steering, gearbox, engine, intercoolers, brakes, suspension, grip package, chassis rigidity, exterior and even cabin.  All upgraded to be tough enough to handle hours and hours of continuous track use/abuse.  The result on the road is a car that is shockingly good — bridging the gap between the Civic Si’s and Golf GTI’s of the world with the Golf R, Civic Type R and Focus RS crowd.

Yet the Veloster N does it for at least 10-grand cheaper.

Is it all roses and sunsets?  No, there are some quirks and things we wish were different.  But on the whole, this Veloster N is a master at making you love driving, love the open road, and crave corners!

Kick things off by hearing this wild 275HP pocket rocket’s firecracker exhaust on the drive video below.

Performance Drive Review Video

The Highs

There are so, so many awesome things the Veloster N brings to the table, but the most memorable is its upgraded 275HP engine that comes with the Performance Pack $2k option.  This boosts power by 25 ponies, brings active/switchable exhaust modes, 19-inch wheels with custom Pirelli “HN” code tires, an active front diff and bigger brakes all around.  No visual differences between the base Veloster that’s about $27,800 and this PP car that stickers at $29,885 — but the difference on the road is pretty dramatic.

Sheer pace is delightful, and the Veloster N really scoots. Its 0-60 is quoted as low as 5.2-seconds — a match for the Type R — and its in-gear power is expecially ferocious at all times.  Yet there is a purity to its delivery that makes you want to give the engineers a big bear hug. First off, the stick-shift (only transmission available) is one of the best in the world.  Reinforced-carbon synchros make up and downshifts smoother and quicker than any car in memory. A delight to shift with progressive, perfect engagement every shift, every time. Even with the low-ish 6500-RPM redline and shift lights flashing away, the Veloster N is a dream to launch and floor. Every. Single. Time.

Big-boost turbo power at any revs? Check. Smooth, rifle-bolt-fast shifts? Check. But what usually joins these two things in front-drive cars?

The dreaded torque steer.

Not happening in the N. The re-engineered front suspension and chassis bracing (rear strut brace and triple-braced steering box/front subframe) mean this Veloster can truly handle this power. And likely much more.  Without squirming around and wrestling the wheel from your arms, ever.  There are slight hints of pull every now and then but it’s nothing like most front-drivers with almost 300 ponies.

The front suspension and N Corner Carving Diff need mentions here too when discussing a front-drive performance car with perfect handling. It is some real wizardry how incredibly good the Veloster N hangs on in launch starts and around fast corners.  Yes, you can make it understeer if forced in wet, but even then a slight lift of gas snaps the whole machine back in line and lets you get back on throttle.

Purity of purpose here that is truly shocking. Yes, sport specials with more power are always popular.  And with red accents and racy red-accented body-kit//coffee-can exhausts/spoilers-all-over-the-place you sure do know this is a performance model. But Veloster N is in a different echelon of achievements when it comes to drive fun, giggles and satisfaction.

Oh, and how about the seven adjustable performance parameters and the rev-matching? Or the heavenly pops out back on overrun? Or the super-grippy seats (N-embossed) and blue N mode buttons and blue seatbelts? How about the 14 N badges insdie the car that we counted.  (There might be more!)

There is so much to love with the N that its hard to even cover it all.

Easily a Best of 2019 car here at CRD, and easily the quickest & most fun you can have under $30k.

The Lows

What lows could possibly dampen all that enthusiasm from above?  There are a few but they are overwhelmingly drowned out by the incredible excellence of this Veloster N’s chassis and performance. Most of the demerits come back to the theme of keeping the price down and swapping lux goodies for performance mods. More than a fair trade for knocking 1.50-seconds off the 0-60-mph time of the Veloster Turbo, and over 3 seconds versus the base Veloster.

LED DRLs

The first thing that comes to mind is subjective and only worth mentioning because the rest of the exterior design is so cool, expressive and upgraded from base cars. That thing is the LED DRLs. They are a low-rent execution that have visible dots of light and look vaguely similar to those on Chevy’s econo boxes — which as we note in video above “is not a good look for anybody…”

They could certainly be better, but let’s recall that the previous Veloster LEDs were not actually DRLs and still needed a dimmed highbeam DRL that was always on.

Here is the 2016 Veloster Rally for comparison.

Low Redline & Lack of DCT Automatic Option

Many turbos have lower redlines than atmospheric engines, and that is A-ok because they deliver so much torque down low and throughout the rev range.  The only time is becomes an issue with with super short gearing like we have in Veloster N (to rocket it off the line!). Hyundai’s shift lights really are useful at nailing well-timed shifts but you will probably hit the rev limiter fairly often anyway.  This makes one wonder how cool the Veloster N would be with a dual-clutch automatic like VW’s DSG, or the DCT available on cheaper Velosters.  It clearly could not handle the immense power of this 2.0-liter engine, and that is ok.  But in the future the N range will have broader appeal — and be slightly easier to drive fast — if those upshifts were snapped off in milliseconds auto-magically when you hit the redline.

Engine Note When Exhaust Modes Not in Sporty Settings

It is pretty rare that you will drive Veloster N in its Eco or even Normal settings. But when you do, and for those without the Performance Pack, you might miss the fun and engaging sounds from out back. Tha is because the actual engine note is fairly hum-drum and not special.

This engine aces its most critical test though, which is feeling massively powerful in a way that most Hyundai turbos to date have not.

Some Cabin Cheapness

Yes, this is based on an $18k vehicle, you tell yourself as you note some of the super-hard plastics in the lower dash and certain switchgear. The windows switches alone would never pass the VW quality standards department for how crummy and cheap they feel. And then you discover that there is no auto-down for the passenger window or rear passenger window. It feels very yestertech in that way.

Closing Thoughts

Don’t let these critiques hold you back for one second. We have to find something to gripe about in every review… and these things are so minor in the grand scheme of things.

You will be a very very happy person if you go test drive this car. But be careful — as noted in the video above — because once you drive it, your next trip will be home to get your checkbook.

Or, for the Veloster’s real target audience of forever-young boy- (and girl-) racers… you will head to the bank itself to get a check cut!

 

Some of the Veloster N’s adventures around Charleston SC, and beside the new Mazda3, which is gorgeous but looks very basic by comparison!

 

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