The 2019 Hyundai Veloster N is one hell of a car.
That’s it, really. If you don’t have time to read anything else, you can stop here. For a more in-depth review of the 2019 Veloster N and how it compares to other hot hatchbacks, keep scrolling.
Hyundai wanted me to drive the 2019 Veloster N so badly that they dropped one off for a week with a full tank of gas, but told me to stay away from racetracks and autocrosses.
What Is It?
The first Veloster, introduced in 2011, was more or less a Hyundai Accent in a funny-shaped dress. I’ve been in older Accents – a high school friend owned a 2005 and a college friend a 2013 – and they were fine transportation, but “performance” was a laughable idea at the time. No, the Accent platform provided A-to-B wheels with a charming little door chime. Hyundai worked to erase those memories with the second-generation Veloster, offering a redesigned chassis and the hot-rodded “N” variant.
Every Veloster N comes with a 2.0 liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission. The 2.0 produces 250 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Electronic “torque vectoring control” helps keep the front wheels pointed straight when all the torque builds at just 1,450 rpm. Electronic power steering and adaptive shocks both react to the Veloster N’s Drive Mode button.
My Veloster N had the $2,100 Performance Package, which adds an electronically-controlled limited-slip differential, variable exhaust, 19″ wheels with Pirelli P Zero tires, and bigger brakes stuffed under those wheels. Additionally, Hyundai cranks up the boost, netting 275 horsepower and the same 260 lb-ft from the engine.
Inside, all Veloster Ns come with black cloth seats, light blue seatbelts (fun) and hard plastics on the doors and dashboard (less fun). The Infinity audio system sounded great, though I found myself turning the bass down significantly, as the cabin shape made it a bit boomy at times. Seat comfort for the driver and front passenger was excellent. Rear seats are accessed by the third door on the passenger side, the opening of which is compromised by the sloping roof. Once you’re in the back, space is adequate, although passengers above 6′ will prefer to sit up front.
Hyundai took a “less is more” approach to options on the Veloster N. The slower, less motorsport-oriented Veloster Turbo offers a sunroof, heated leather seats, a full suite of driver assistance technology, and a heads-up display. None of those items can be ordered on the N.
Back-Road Attack Mode
I asked Hyundai if I could take this Veloster N to a “trackcross” being hosted at Summit Point Raceway during my loan period. A trackcross is, essentially, an autocross-style event run over a section of road course, with drivers competing one-at-a-time for best time. Hyundai deemed that competitive (it is) and said no to my request.
So, three of us piled in the Veloster N on a Saturday and went for a hike in the Shenandoah Valley instead. This is notable because the route to Marys Rock involves Route 211, which is both scenic and full of tight curves at points. After a successful hike, I left my companions to pick blackberries while I probed the Veloster N’s chassis a bit more.
With everything dialed up to Sport or Sport+ in the “N Mode,” the Veloster N transformed a bit. The quiet, simple econo-hatch became a snorty, eager little thing. Everything I felt was “too much” in the middle of Washington, DC was suddenly perfect. Adaptive shocks on stiff, exhaust at full-brap, differential locking up as needed, I took advantage of an utter lack of traffic on Route 211.
Physics and desire to stay in one lane won’t allow turns to be taken at the posted 55 MPH limit, but the Veloster N was sure willing to try. The chassis is incredibly well-composed, with not a hint of understeer. The upsized brakes, part of the Performance Package, provided solid feedback – as did the electronic steering. Shifts came easy – the shifter is wonderfully direct – and rev matching can be accomplished with easy heel-toe or aided electronically with the “Rev” button on the steering wheel.
Some questions remain about the Veloster N’s performance on an actual racetrack. How will it handle a track day full of 30-minute HPDE sessions? Can it keep up with the Civic Si, Civic Type-R, VW GTI, and Ford’s ST twins at autocross? Regardless of those answers, Hyundai is currently campaigning the Veloster N in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge – and to great result.
BMW’s former M Engineering vice president, Albert Biermann, is the ringleader of Hyundai’s new N division. Biermann lead the development of chassis dynamics on the Veloster N, after first working on the Kia Stinger and Genesis G70. His hard work has paid off, and as one friend said, “you like your old BMW M cars, you’ll like the Veloster N.”
Fun Comes at a Price
Hyundai has the Veloster N priced competitively, starting at $26,900, with the only option being the $2,100 Performance Package that any buyer would be dumb to ignore. So, a “loaded” Veloster N stickers at $29,000. That’s not all bad for what you get. It’s even better when you add Hyundai’s 5 year, 60k mile warranty (10 year, 100k mile powertrain) to the mix.
Much is made of the Veloster N’s competition being the Honda Civic Type-R. I don’t quite see what folks are on about. Having driven the Type-R, it’s just as great dynamically as the Veloster N, but I find the two cars so different otherwise. The Veloster N sits between the Civic Si and Civic Type-R financially, but feels smaller and lighter on its feet.
The biggest challenge to the Veloster N is the Volkswagen GTI. Though the GTI may be a bit slower on paper, they are priced and equipped similarly and both excellent to drive. The GTI’s more buttoned-up styling may appeal more to folks who can only have one car to cover business lunches and track days.
That said, those who don’t feel the pressing need for their hot hatchback to wear a suit all the time will find plenty to love about the Veloster N. It’s goofy, non-traditional, a bit shouty. That charm, backed up by the athletic chassis and honest performance, makes the 2019 Veloster N worthy of praise.