The Hyundai Veloster N is an under-appreciated eccentric car in the automotive world. It is a three-door hot hatch sports car that some enthusiasts may not even give a second look, but they absolutely should. My first experience with the Veloster N was on the Road America race track at a Midwest Automotive Media Association Rally and after one lap I was sold on Hyundai's hot hatch and have bragged about it ever since. The Veloster first came to market in 2011 as a 2012 model with a 1.6L 4-cylinder engine netting 138 horsepower. It has since grown up and into an impressive performance car thanks to the addition of the letter "N." The 2021 Veloster N comes with a 2.0L Turbo GDI 4-cylinder that cranks out 275 horsepower and 260lb. ft. of torque. There are two transmission options including a 6-speed manual transmission or the N 8-speed wet dual-clutch transmission. The 6-speed manual comes with rev-matching while the dual clutch comes with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.
With automotive trends moving towards trucks and crossovers, I'm glad to see cars like the Veloster N carry on. Hyundai recently announced that the N version of the Veloster will be the only version it will offer beginning in 2022. Hyundai is further committed to the N performance line as it will also be offering an Elantra N and Kona N soon. Pricing for the 2022 Veloster N will start at $32,500 and if buyers want the 8-speed wet dual clutch, there is a $1,500 premium bringing the price to $34,000. Configuration is simple as there are no packages or options to mess with other than the powertrain and color choice. Colors include racing red, lunar white, ultra-black, or performance blue (a personal favorite). Competition is a mixed bag because there is nothing else that offers 3-doors and a hatch, but consumers will likely cross shop the Honda Civic Type R, Mazda3 Turbo, Subaru BRZ, Toyota GR 86, and Volkswagen GTI. After spending a week in the dual clutch Veloster N, there were a few things that stood out and couple that were up for debate.
Hands down this is a car built for an enthusiast type of driver. Handling is tight, aggressive and you feel just about every road imperfection in the right kind of way. It's still offered with a manual transmission, but even the paddle shifters on the dual clutch automatic are fun to drive. From the moment I hit the gas pedal, the Veloster N is engaging as its zips from 0-60 in about 5.6 seconds. Perhaps my favorite performance feature is the button known as the 'N Grin Shift' mode (NGS) which increases torque by 7 percent by allowing turbocharger overboost to maximize transmission response for 20 seconds... kind of like a safe "Fast & Furious boost" as my kids called it and provides a grin for everyone. After utilizing this mode, it won't allow activation again for a few minutes and even provides a countdown clock if you're anxiously awaiting an additional boost.
Outside of the NGS driving mode, there are also the standard sport, eco, and normal modes that will all change the overall driving dynamics significantly. All features such as rev matching, launch control, and overboost are optimized to sense driving style and road conditions to optimize shift points. Adding to the performance are 235/35/R19 Pirelli P Zero summer tires wrapped around sporty 19-inch alloy wheels that look and handle well on drive pavement, but a second set of tires will be necessary if you drive it in winter months.
Exhaust Tone (+)
What's a performance car without a nice exhaust note? While these types of tones are faltering as electric vehicles are emerging, I found it refreshing to hear that rumble when you start the car. It was even more fun to hear it crackle as you hit the gas and take off. The sounds are 100% appropriate for this car matching both the looks and performance. There's no sneaking in or out in car like this one.
Fuel Economy (-)
At the expense of the fun ride is the Veloster N's fuel economy. It's rated at 20/27/22 MPG city/highway/combined which is below average for a car of this size. After a week of suburban driving, I averaged just under 20 MPG so it's my speculation that these ratings assume driving in Eco mode which I would also speculate will not be the case for most Veloster N drivers. Premium fuel of 91 octane or higher is also recommended so plan to pay a bit more at the pump for all the fun you'll have. It has a 13.2-gallon tank that will offer around 290 miles of range on a full tank.
Exterior Details (+)
In general, the Veloster N has evolved to encompass the look of a rally car complete with a raised rear decklid spoiler, lower side sills, and a sleek profile. While the overall design turns heads, it's some of the details in the design that caught my attention. Up front, the open mouth grille features a simple "N" badging and is flanked by black air intakes that are further accented with an extended lower fascia that separates the body color of the car to create some dimension. Simple LED lights have a sporty flare as they light up as individual circular units versus a strip of lighting.
Along the side of the car are rocker side sills that complement the color of the car and have an embossed N in them just in front of the rear wheels. They come out from the body of the car about an inch or so which is enough to create that rally look without being over the top. The 19-inch alloy have a traditional five-star shape but blend both the brushed silver and black look while red brake calipers with the "N" on them are tucked in back. Around back, the spoiler is also home to a triangular LED brake light and the taillights feature an arrow-like lighting signature. The hatch opening is small as the car's bottom half flares out like a pear. Once again, the lower portion of the car is a contrasting color to the body and includes an integrated diffuser with a high-flow dual exhaust.
The wheelbase is stretched to create minimal overhangs with a good muscular, yet scrappy stance on the Veloster N. As a whole, all of these small details come together to create a head-turning hot hatch.
Three Doors (+)
Three doors were implemented on the first-generation Veloster and Hyundai has stuck with it. Adding a third door to the passenger side creates easy access to the otherwise tight rear seats, something that most sports cars don't ever consider. As a dad who enjoys driving a sports car, that extra door made carting around the kids much more enjoyable as they got in and out. Aesthetically, it's hardly noticeable. Looking at the driver's side profile there is the traditional single door, but walk around to the passenger side and you'll notice the second rear-door which Hyundai has cleverly designed to flow with the rear wheel arch. The door handle is embedded in the window surround which maintains the clean side profile. It's certainly a unique aspect of the Veloster that none of the competition offers.
Interior Design (-)
Hopping inside the Veloster, the interior doesn't seem to have the flare and quality that is both under the hood and outside. The layout is fairly basic and the materials feel cheaper than most competitors. Drivers will face a traditional analog cluster with an information screen in the middle. An 8-inch touchscreen sits atop the center stack that integrates with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The system is easy to use and everything is appropriately placed, it just doesn't give off the "cool" vibe that the rest of the car has. Having also driven the new Elantra, I'd like to see Hyundai give the Veloster N the same kind of interior treatment. In contrast the Veloster, the Elantra has a more driver-centric cockpit with an available digital cluster and very modern feel. It's likely a safe bet to assume those changes may be coming should the Veloster N get a mid-cycle refresh.
While the dash didn't impress me, the sport bucket seats definitely did. The unibody seats are wrapped in a soft, suede-like Alcantara upholstery that hug the occupants. The seats are thin and lighter but hold the driver in place around a track and were quite comfortable. Seating position was just right and they can be easily adjusted. As a modern touch, embedded in the seats just below the headrest portion is a brushed silver accent bar with a light-up N logo that illuminates when it's dark. This simple detail is very neat and something that gave life to the interior ambiance.
The Veloster N is a game changer for Hyundai and has spawned future "N" models from the brand. It's a vehicle that I initially wouldn't have thought of as competition to perennial leaders such as the GTI or Civic Type R, but the Veloster N is encroaching on their territory. I like the exterior looks, love the way it handled the road, and enjoyed the crackling exhaust. This is a big win for Hyundai and I hope it sticks around for years to come.
First Impression Summary:
Test Vehicle: 2021 Hyundai Veloster N
Exterior Color: Racing Red
Interior Color: Black
Notable Options: None
MSRP as tested: $34,745 (With Delivery/Destination)