Remember when Hyundai challenged segment benchmarks like the Volkswagen Golf GTI to a duel on the track? If your recollection is a bit fuzzy we don’t blame you. When the Hyundai Veloster first made its appearance several years ago, it certainly was a bold departure for the brand. Once known for making cheap runabouts, the Veloster aimed to bring about a styling change with its three door layout, hatchback proportions, and a whole new perspective on design. But while the addition of a turbo variant later in its life cycle helped bring a pinch of sizzle to the party, it did little to frighten segment benchmarks. This forced Hyundai designers to drastically rethink their approach for the second generation Veloster, and that included the way they thought about performance. The 2019 Hyundai Veloster N can be considered the most potent result of this shift in thinking, but can it finally knock the mighty Volkswagen off of its pedestal? Or is it too little too late?
Trip To Reform School Creates Whole New Personality:
When the first generation Hyundai Veloster appeared, it was easy to dismiss it thanks to its overtly bubbly styling elements. The current generation model sought to eliminate any traces of cuteness left in the design, with Hyundai designers opting for a look that is more cohesive and aggressive than ever before. While the standard issue Veloster and its spicier Turbo variant help increase the swank up in increments, the range topping Veloster N is where the styling truly reaches its pinnacle. Yes, it is still a three door hatchback, but the numerous changes that Hyundai has made to help transform it into a potent weekend track offering cannot be ignored. The core design stays true to its Veloster heritage, with the N riding on the same wheelbase as the standard model. However, the N is 0.4 inches wider, and that extra width allows it to have slightly better handling behavior. Contrasting red accents are found on the front splitter and side sills, while a mesh front grille helps the N look more vibrant and youthful. The rear of the Veloster N though is arguably where the bulk of the changes are found, with a beefy roof mounted spoiler housing the triangular shaped center mounted stop light. The exhaust setup is also different, with N engineers being forced to ditch the standard Veloster’s centrally mounted exhaust tips, and instead embrace a more traditional dual exhaust setup to help accommodate the improved plumbing back there. A liberal splash of N badges and stylish N exclusive wheels round out the package nicely, and makes the Veloster N a very stylish piece of automotive jewelry.
This is especially true when compared to some of its rivals, with the conservative looking GTI failing to match some of its visual mojo. Volkswagen did unveil the next generation GTI prior to our tester’s arrival here in Metro Detroit, and while it appears that Volkswagen designers have made some attempts to help add some character to its flanks, we would need to see it in the flesh first before we issue final judgement. On the other hand, the Veloster N’s clothes are a welcome distraction from the Honda Civic Type R’s design which looks like a literal mishmash of various design principles as well as indications of the designers spending a bit too much time reading past issues of the Initial D manga series during design meetings. The aesthetic balance that Hyundai has managed to craft here should age better too, with the Veloster still retaining much of its magic even into the stage of its life where it will eventually hit the pre-owned market. But all is not perfect, with the three door layout impairing access to the rear seat for occupants, as well as the high lift over that exists when loading cargo into the back. Still these are minor flaws, and we suspect that they won’t stop eager buyers from buying a Veloster N for themselves.
Plastic Fantastic Interior Detracts From The Experience:
With the bold styling statement the exterior makes, as well as the below $30,000 price tag for a base N model, one might ask how Hyundai can manage to make a profit on each one sold? The answer reveals itself once you formally slip behind the wheel of the Veloster N. Hard scratchy plastics are typically a fact of life at this price point, but here in the N, they are everywhere, and material quality here is very inconsistent. The cheap stuff even makes its way to some key touch points, and the end result is a layout that does fall behind that of the Volkswagen, which uses softer touch materials throughout the bulk of its cabin, and even the Civic. The cabin also rattles when going over bumps, or if the stereo is pumped up. But look beyond the Fisher Price grade plastics and rattle trap ride, and there are some hidden gems that do make themselves apparent after repeated exposure.
The leather wrapped steering wheel for example fits seamlessly into your hands, and it feels great too. Unlike other models, the N’s tiller features blue hued buttons for both the drive mode selector, as well as the checkered flag emblem that denotes N mode. We will get more into the thick of things with those items later, but we do like how N designers made good use of the color blue in some of these minor details. The seat belts themselves are blue hued, and in the case of our tester, matched the blue paint that was on the outside of the car. The cloth sport seats in our tester delivered ample amounts of support, and while their pure manual operation is a throwback to classic hot hatch models, they are very lightweight, and easy to move up or down.
Like other Veloster models, the N is equipped with Hyundai’s latest iteration of its popular UVO infotainment system. Like other encounters with the system, operation here is smooth, and the idiot proof menu layout is easy to master and use. When buyers step up to the N, they gain access to a model exclusive sub menu that takes them to the “N Grin Control” system. Here, they can keep track of various performance related figures, as well as customize N mode to suit their tastes all within a very colorful backdrop. Many controls are also within easy reach of occupants, and the shifter is even positioned right where the driver can easily reach it. Hyundai did reveal before the release of this review that the 2020 Veloster N will receive some minor tweaks to go along with its all new DCT automatic, including tweaked sport seats, and we look forward to checking them out ourselves in the near future.
Performance Reigns Supreme In This Special Hyundai:
Performance for the 2019 Veloster N comes from a 2.0 liter twin-scroll turbocharged four cylinder engine that is good for 250 horsepower in its base tune, and also sees duty in the Hyundai Sonata. Buyers that opt for the highly recommended $2,100 Performance Package (the only option on the N) sees the horsepower figure shoot up to 275 horsepower, with torque still remaining at 260 lb-ft of torque. Our tester was bestowed with this desirable option, and in addition to the higher amounts of horsepower, the package also includes a variable exhaust system that greatly improves the N’s soundtrack at full song, as well as more aggressive gearing for the six speed manual gearbox, and even a limited slip differential.
These additions help make a big difference out on the road, where the N proved to be a very enjoyable dance partner when out and about. The spunky Hyundai arrived at the same time as the Mercedes-Benz GLC63 AMG, and while the big Benz has its own take on the performance genre (and the price tag to match it) the Hyundai manages to deliver a very solid bang for the buck. This is especially apparent in handling, with the Veloster delivering near slot car levels of performance when placed into N mode. The stiff suspension can be punishing when it runs into rougher sections of pavement, but out on the track or even smoother sections of tarmac, it really played a key role in enhancing the Veloster’s inner fun factor, especially when paired with the delightful sounds emanating from the engine. There is some manageable amounts of understeer, but it’s balanced out by tons of grip, and the Hyundai feels like it can hang on vigorously at much higher speeds if given the opportunity.
In addition to the default N mode, buyers also have access to a customized N mode via the touchscreen that allows them to tailor various aspects of the car to suit their own individual tastes. For example, they can set everything else to the max, but leave the suspension in its default comfort setting. To access this mode, you just need to hit the checkered flag button twice to tell the system to go to this particular mode. The clutch bite point is very solid, and the stick is a very forgiving instrument especially when the rev matching feature is turned on. However, while the stick one ups the Volkswagen’s box, it’s not quite as intuitive as the Civic’s, with the clutch lacking some of the definitive bite that we have come to experience on the Type R. As mentioned prior, an optional DCT automatic is coming to the Veloster N, and we look forward to seeing if the DCT becomes the volume leader for all N models sold moving forward. Braking from the ventilated four wheel disc brakes is very strong, and the pedal has a very linear feel with good amounts of feedback. This is roughly on par with the GTI, and it is a slight improvement over the Type R’s.
Pricing for the 2019 Hyundai Veloster N starts at $27,600 for the base model which serves to further enhance its value focused mission in life. Our tester was equipped with the $2,100 Performance package which caused the final sticker to reach $30,430. This is not a bad figure for a hot hatch, and it undercuts the vase Golf GTI which starts at $28,595 and easily surges past $32,000 with options. The more powerful Civic Type R starts at an even loftier $36,995 and while its certainly more aggressive looking than the Hyundai, it will eventually become the only stick exclusive hot hatch offering on the market when the DCT eventually makes its way to the Hyundai. When combined with its high initial cost of entry, the Type R is at a noticeable disadvantage, especially as more younger buyers gravitate towards automatic equipped offerings. Other contenders for the Hyundai include the Subaru WRX STI as well as the Mini Cooper JCW, but with the Subaru riding on an aging platform, and the JCW occupying the higher end of the pricing spectrum, we think that the Hyundai retains a distinct advantage both in price and base feature content.
When looked at by the sum of all of its parts, the 2019 Hyundai Veloster N is the real deal. Boasting an enviable combination of style, performance, and value this spunky three door aims to shake up the established hot hatch order, and with the segment here in the U.S. no longer being defined by the Ford Focus ST, the Hyundai has a golden opportunity to claw its way into the established elite one impressive track performance at a time.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.