By on November 2, 2018

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

The hot hatch segment is about to lose two stalwarts in the Ford Focus ST and Fiesta ST. Who, oh who, now will compete with the class-leading Volkswagen Golf GTI and Honda Civic Type-R?

Will it be Subaru, bringing back a hatch version of the WRX? Chevy with an actual hopped-up Cruze hatchback? Perhaps Toyota with a performance version of the new Corolla hatch?

No. As you no doubt know by now, the newest player in the hot-hatch game is Hyundai, with the N version of its Veloster three-door entering the fray. Positioned above the sport-trimmed R-Spec Veloster and the top-trim Veloster Turbo (which blends luxury with sport), the N is meant to be an affordable track-ready toy that’s ready to go from the moment it leaves the showroom while still being usable a daily driver.

A peach in the streets and a freak off the streets, as it were.

(Full disclosure: Hyundai flew me to Sacramento, California, and put me in a nice hotel in which I shared the halls with C-list NBA players. They fed me several great meals with booze, and rented out Thunderhill Raceway for the day. They may have offered a hat; I didn’t take one.)

Most press events run on a similar schedule – dinner the night before, presentation with breakfast on the morning of the drive, drive for a few hours (getting two or three stints behind the wheel), dinner, sleep, fly home. Hyundai changed things up for this one, giving us time on track and street in the Veloster, as well as on an autocross.

In a bid to be economical, the brand sent us to the track not behind the wheel of Veloster Ns, but in either a refreshed Elantra or Tucson, with a swap on the way back. Since the drive was mostly freeway and the Elantra’s changes are cosmetic, I won’t be writing it up here. I’ll wait for a proper loan. Same for the Tucson – though I can tell you the updated 2.4-liter engine works well for relaxed freeway passing.

The focus here is on the N. It was the star of the day, the reason we were there. In order to keep things sane, Hyundai had a rotation going – some of us took to the street, others to the autocross, and others to the track. At certain points, we switched. Sort of like how we handled certain sports in gym class during my high school days.

My first taste of the up to 275-horsepower N came along California Highway 162, working west from the track. It’s a lovely road with gentle curves that don’t really require braking at highway speeds – the kind of country road that you can drive leisurely or with some pace. Thanks to bad timing and a lack of safe passing zones, I was forced into a relaxed pace for my entire turn behind the wheel by a box truck I couldn’t safely get around.

This turned out to be a blessing, in a way. Relieved of the burden to drive aggressively (not to mention knowing I’d be on track an hour or two later), I was able to futz with the drive modes and play commuter for a bit. In Normal and Eco modes, the Veloster N felt no more high-strung than the R-Spec, and perhaps even a tad more relaxed. If the N tickles your fancy but you’re never going to drive it anywhere but to the office, you won’t be punished for picking the highest-performance Veloster model.

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

Flick it into Sport, and you get a sense of the car’s boy-racer qualities. The steering gets firmer, the exhaust gets louder, the already-stiff suspension feels a little stiffer. All cars I drove had the optional Performance Package – more on that later.

The fun begins when you hit the other drive mode switch on the steering wheel, activating either N mode or Custom (which basically allows you to adjust settings within the N mode). The exhaust now sounds borderline obnoxious, the steering gets downright heavy, and the car stiffens more. If you want to drive like a Fast and Furious extra, just engage N each time you start the car.

On road, there was some initial tire noise, even in the softer modes, but it quickly became apparent that it was caused by the pavement – the road surface switched to fresh pavement a few miles in, and the car got appropriately quiet (in Normal and Eco, anyway) on the fresher surface. The clutch and shifter worked well in tandem in all modes – the clutch has a quick take-up that makes launches effortless and the shifter’s throws, while a tad loose, are generally satisfying.

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

The steering still feels a bit artificial, even when firmed up via drive mode – Hyundai’s come a long way when it comes to steering feel but it still doesn’t have it quite to what I’d call “natural.” Still, it’s engaging enough that you won’t be let down, and it’s not that far off what the GTI offers, but not as well dialed-in as the Type-R.

So, fine, the N is a livable daily driver. Big whoop – the GTI is still better at being a daily companion. Not to mention that Hyundai didn’t build this car to be a daily – it already has the R-Spec and Turbo if you want a sporty hatch that’s perfectly comfortable on the street. How does the N do when pushed harder?

Very well, as it turns out. One of the key pieces of tech on the car is the electronically-controlled limited-slip differential, which exists to reduce understeer and help you power out of a corner quicker. Typically, it’s hard to feel technology like this in action, but it was noticeable on the autocross. The car does understeer, which is unsurprising for a front-driver, but as you accelerate out of the corner, you can feel the inside wheel pulling you onto the straightaway.

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

It’s less noticeable on track, mainly because the higher speeds make it harder to sense. Speaking of the track – the Veloster N had plenty of power for the straights and stout brakes. Come in to a corner off-line or too hot, which I did several times, and the Veloster N understeers its way through. Get the line right, and the car moves with agility from turn-in to apex to track out.

I’ll admit I had a bit of a bad day – I was unusually ham-fisted, and nearly got an impromptu off-road test – but even so, I got the sense that for the young, relatively inexperienced track driver, the Veloster N would be a good starter vehicle. Understeer is less problematic than oversteer in many cases, and had I known the line and brake points better, I’d have had less of it. I also went into a few corners too fast. Drive the track correctly, and the N will be more rewarding.

It’s not just about the e-LSD. The rack-mounted power steering leads to a quicker ratio, and the rear axle is setup to increase yaw response while reducing roll-center height for better balance (the front axle increases roll-center height in a bid to improve traction).

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

You can get your Veloster N with 18- or 19-inch wheels, and Pirelli Trofeo R Streetable Competition tires are a dealer-installed option. It’s all about whether you select the Performance Package or not – if you don’t, you get 225/40R18 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. Select the Performance Package and you get 235/35R19 Pirelli P Zero summer rubber, or the option of the Trofeos. I got a lap or two in a car equipped with the Trofeo tires, and they are definitely stickier on track.

That Performance Package will add about $2K to the sticker – pricing is not yet finalized – and bumps the horsepower from 250 to 275 (torque is 260 lb-ft either way), adds the e-LSD and variable-valve exhaust, larger brake rotors (13.6 inches as opposed to 13 upfront, 12.4 instead of 11.8 out back), and the 19-inch wheels/tires.

The N is stick-shift only, and standard features include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Blue Link (Hyundai’s connected-car tech), uplevel audio, keyless entry and starting, cloth seats, LED head and taillights, shift indicator, electronically-controlled suspension, and automatic climate control.

Setting the N apart from other Velosters are the front and rear fascias, grille, exhaust outlets, and spoiler on the outside. The cabin gets different gauges, steering wheel, and shifter.

Dimensionally, the Veloster is shorter in height and length than most of the competition, while being in the middle in terms of width and weight.

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

It’s an attractive little car that gives off just enough of a boy-racer vibe, thanks to the spoiler, and manages to avoid being ugly despite the different styling cues.

Pricing will be around $28,000 to start and $30K for Ns with Performance Package. That puts it beneath the GTI and Type-R, but above the Civic Si (which is not available as a hatch). While the GTI is more refined and a better all-around car, the Veloster N is close enough in terms of on-street poise that with the value pricing, it will serve as a tempting alternative. And it’s almost certainly more track-ready as it sits on the showroom floor.

Then again, so is the Type-R – which is an even better track companion than the Veloster N. But good luck getting one at sticker, and the Type-R is a bit more high-strung on the street, not to mention more in your face with its styling.

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

It all comes down to personal preference. Want the best refinement? Save for the GTI. Want the best track car? Honda is the place to look. Hyundai has cooked up the happy medium here – a little less refined than the VW, a little (but only a little) less trackable than the Type-R, but cheaper than both and better at switching tasks.

Sure, you can get a Civic Si and pocket a few grand, but you lose the hatch utility.

The Veloster N is a new player in the game, and already it’s a contender. While some folks will always dismiss the Veloster for its looks and three-door weirdness, they’d be remiss to do so. Hyundai has something good on its hands.

It’s a peach of car, with just the right hint of freak.

[Images © 2018 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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28 Comments on “2019 Hyundai Veloster N Review – There’s a New Face in the Game...”


  • avatar
    Kenn

    As competition for the GTI, this would have made much more sense as an Elantra GT-N, which was chosen (“i30-N”) for Europe. The Veloster’s “face” is fine (now), but the freakish rest of it is incongruous with its $28k+ price.

    • 0 avatar
      Drew8MR

      Still puzzled by this,although I see very,very few Elantra Sports or GT Sports on the road compared to the base models,and Hyundais are a huge presence here in the OC. .

      • 0 avatar
        Kenn

        Same here in the Pacific Northwest; I’ve noticed only one Hyundai Elantra GT on the road. I’d bet an N version would increase enthusiast interest, but I would have thought even the GT Sport would have offered more than enough style and performance to be more popular. At any rate, I like the Elantra GT’s design, inside and out, and very much dislike the weird styling with relatively-poor utility of the Veloster.

  • avatar
    dwford

    The Veloster is a weird looking car, but downright beautiful compared to the Type R. The Veloster interior doesn’t look like it’s any better than a regular Veloster. I see the N badges on the steering wheel and shifter, but the rest of the dashes pretty plain.

  • avatar
    legacygt

    When I first saw the first Veloster at the NY Auto Show, I was pretty certain that Hyundai had a huge hit on its hands. I figured it would be filling high school parking lots nationwide. I’m not sure about how it did with the high school crowd but the car never caught on the way I thought it would. It turns out that there still are people who care about driving dynamics ahead of styling and the first Veloster was not a great drivers car. It seems they really fixed that with the second generation and the performance variants seems like the real deal. Maybe Hyundai will finally have the hit I expected the first time.

    • 0 avatar
      deanst

      If Hyundai was after the high school crowd, the styling was more of a miss. My kids thought it was one of the most hideous vehicles on the street.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “I figured it would be filling high school parking lots nationwide”

      My highschool parking lot was full of old Caravans, rusty Hondas, old Volvos and various 15 year old domestic sedans. Buying a new car for themselves is becoming a bigger and bigger financial stretch for most Americans, let alone for their kids.

  • avatar
    NG5

    Ford won’t sell me a redesigned Fiesta ST in North America so I will take a look at this when it’s time to switch cars. I can’t stomach the Type R exterior and the GTI was not fun to me when I drove it (though much nicer inside than my current car). The three doors thing seems silly, but I’d take that over the other two problems. This is likely the last “hot hatch” I would consider buying that will be sold in the next few years. I suppose I’ll just rent a truck when I need it and buy a RWD car with a much less useful trunk if I have to give up on hot hatches.

    Hopefully this car can keep the segment fun. What concerns me is that the review focuses mostly on its relation to competitors. Not a critique of the review, just a concern that maybe the car doesn’t have a surplus of that driving magic I am looking for.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      It’s very good. Maybe not “magic” but right there in the mix.

      • 0 avatar
        NG5

        Glad to hear it; thanks for the comment and the review!

        • 0 avatar
          Flipper35

          The problem with these is the middle finger sticking up out of the dash. As ugly as the Civic is I would take one over this because you most of the time you spend with your car is on the inside.

          • 0 avatar
            NG5

            If you’re referring to the “stuck on tablet” school of design, I agree. I hate it. That said, as long as climate control is by physical dials and the screen can be turned off (no light at all) I don’t really care enough to cross off a car. Almost all of them have this problem now unfortunately.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    The styling has grown on me compared to when it debuted.

    Good to see it finally has a motor to back up what I always felt were boy racer looks. I remember seeing one of the early turbo models in the parking lot of a Albuquerque hotel (in the employee section) and all the Hyundai “H” had been stripped in favor of Batman’s “Bat-symbol”

  • avatar
    NoID

    “Typically, it’s hard to feel technology like this in action”

    [rude] Bullcrap. I daily drive a non-sporty FWD vehicle and I can easily sense when a limited slip axle would assist me in powering out of low-speed turns or aggressively pulling into traffic. Now, give me 100 more horsepower and a lighter vehicle? You better believe it would not be hard to feel technology like this in action.

    Maybe there’s some truth buried in that line…the notion that in a FWD car you would only notice that kind of technology by its absence. But anyone who has spent any kind of time wheeling vehicles should be able to understand the conditions where limited slip would help, and based on the vehicle’s performance (or lack thereof) begin to suspect/determine that such technology is/isn’t present.

    I’m sorry, I’m grumpy. But I’m honestly tired of you going on reviews and pretending to know jack about cars. Who are you again? [/rude]

  • avatar
    John R

    I dunno why most a down on the looks of this car. This looks really sharp in black.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    I think it looks good, unlike the first gen. Really the only Hyundai I’d be interested in, by far.

    Is seeing “Is Ford Frustrating You?” on *every* article frustrating you?

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Yes. I’m not thrilled with what they’re doing either, but I understand it. I certainly don’t complain about it every chance I get.

      Having said that, I’d choose the type R over this thing in a heartbeat (if I were ever in the market for hot hatch).

      • 0 avatar
        NG5

        Agreed on the first thing, unless G70 is a Hyundai to you. That looks like a kind of nice car.

        Re the second, I’m guilty of this, so my apologies. I love the Ford I have, and it comes to mind often when I think about cars as it offers some difficult-to-replace qualities. Compared to the Hyundai N it’s probably much lighter and has a fourth door, for example. If Ford just brought over the next gen of my car which they have already made, I probably wouldn’t even be thinking about this car. Eventually I’lll have to move on from the car and probably the brand in North America, and that’s frustrating and sad to me when they already still make a vehicle I want.

        I understand why, however. Not many others sell cars even close to the subcompact hot hatchback segment in the US. In this case I think that thinking about Ford, who has had two models and three trims sold here which were critically adored in this segment, is justified. But since the segment is all but dead in the US, after the Hyundai N I will probably be shutting up about Ford comparisons. I know I probably sound like a broken record.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      That Ford thing … those links should update at some point. Be patient and thanks!

  • avatar
    scott25

    Really hating the obsession with the terrible and cheap looking red trim on anything vaguely “performance” oriented the last few years. You should at least be able to opt out of it. Where did it come from? The GTI’s grille? It’s not like that’s been around since the 70’s or anything. So why now?

  • avatar
    frank smith

    $30k is a bit much for this Hyundai. If you tried to trade it in after a few years, they’d offer you about $8500.

  • avatar
    heliotropic

    The GTI has a MSRP of $26,415 making it cheaper than this, so why would you have to save up for it?

  • avatar
    lon888

    Speaking as a GTI owner, I would think the reliability of this car would be much better than a GTI. I’m tired of all the crap that’s gone wrong on my GTI and VW won’t budge on out-of-warranty issues.

  • avatar
    spyked

    The Veloster would be a neat proposition if the MINI Cooper S didn’t already exist at that price point. Not much utility, small, and unique looking. But the MINI has at least a little bit of pedigree behind it, and the resale values reflect that. And aftermarket support is excellent for BMW/MINI. And since Gen 3 came out in 2014, they are reliable. Unless you just love the look of the Veloster, or that 3rd door impresses you, I don’t see why you don’t go with a MCS. The GTI is a big car compared to both of these. One thing is for sure, I am so glad that automakers still offer these small fun cars. I’d rather look at these on my commute than most of the other stuff out there.

  • avatar
    Tim Healey

    That Ford thing … those links should update at some point. Be patient and thanks!


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