The second brand-new car I reviewed on this website was a 2019 Hyundai Veloster N. I had such a fun week with the little pale-blue hatchback, and would hop on a soapbox about how great it was to drive for anyone who’d listen. I tried to be objective in that review, but in hindsight, worried that my excitement for kicking off a series of new-car reviews clouded my judgement. When Hyundai announced some changes to the Veloster N for 2021, I asked for another week with the car to see if my continued thoughts and Hyundai’s changes were both enthusiast-worthy.
Turns out, I was right and so was Hyundai.
What Is It?
This is a 2021 Hyundai Veloster N. It’s the third model year for Hyundai’s funky three-door hot hatch, and they’ve made some changes for 2021 that broaden the appeal to a much larger audience. Where the prior Veloster N only came with a three-pedal six-speed manual transmission, Hyundai’s added an all-new dual-clutch automatic to the options list. The manual is still the standard transmission – die-hard enthusiasts, do not fret – but for those who can’t or won’t drive a manual… your Veloster N DCT has arrived.
Hyundai also made the Performance Package from prior years standard, which has raised the starting price a bit. But, it’s worth it. The Performance Package added 25 horsepower, a limited-slip differential, bigger brakes, active exhaust, and bigger wheels to the party in years past, and I always recommended it to potential buyers. Why not have the best version of the hottest Veloster? So, it’s standard now. That means every 2021 Veloster N makes 275 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque. The only option is that DCT for $1,500.
Front seats have been revised, with more aggressive side bolsters and light-up “N” logos between your shoulders. They’re great seats, though not heated or leather-wrapped as that adds weight. And weight was a priority, as Hyundai cut 4.4 pounds per seat. Less than nine pounds may sound trivial, but it’s nice to see Hyundai take a page from Mazda’s playbook here, as every gram of weight savings does add up, and it does matter.
MSRP of my 2021 Veloster N DCT came in at $34,755.
Like it or not, it’s 2021 and offering a good two-pedal transmission opens the door to ownership for a vast number of folks who’d otherwise pass on the Veloster N. Of course, not every DCT is a good one. Remember Ford’s PowerShift DCT, installed in so many Focus and Fiesta models? Pepperidge Farm remembers.
Thankfully, Hyundai followed other long-time players in the DCT game and went with a “wet DCT” setup instead of Ford’s maligned “dry DCT” PowerShift. If you’ve driven a Volkswagen GTI with their DSG, or a Porsche Cayman with PDK, you’ve driven a wet DCT. The DCT in the Veloster N is a new design specifically for Hyundai’s N-cars, built in-house. With a wet DCT, the clutches are continuously bathed in gearbox oil, which helps with durability under “sustained thermal load,” according to Hyundai. That’s a fancy way to say “it’ll hold up for track days.”
Wet DCT setups are also able to handle more torque, important when Hyundai’s added a button labeled “NGS” on the steering wheel. Press NGS, leave the transmission in Drive (it’s faster than you are with the paddles), and enjoy 20 seconds of overboost combined with the most aggressive shift map the Veloster N can muster. That overboost takes the turbo four from 260 lb-ft of torque to 278 lb-ft, a street-car variant of F1’s “push to pass” button.
During my time with the Veloster N, I kept sliding the shifter to Manual mode and using the paddles behind the steering wheel, which defeats the quick-shifting purpose of a DCT. Thankfully, they’re responsive and the Veloster N listens to your inputs, only shifting when you ask. The fastest way to drive the DCT-equipped hatch is, of course, in Drive. Be sure to thumb the blue “N” button on the steering wheel to set everything on the car to Maximum Attack.
Fastest or Funnest? You Pick.
No, funnest isn’t a real word. But I don’t care, and neither does the Veloster N. It’s got a tremendous, stand-out personality that so many new cars seem to lack. The seatbelts are blue! The exhaust makes pops and crackles, which are annoying coming from other cars but seem so adorable and “right” emanating from the rear bumper of this one.
The 2021 Veloster N continues to be a fantastic chassis to push hard, with the limited-slip diff substantially reducing front-end plow and torque steer. Standard adjustable dampers feel substantially different from setting to setting – save the firmest one for track use, and enjoy the softest on crappy city streets.
Hyundai’s new 8-speed N-only DCT is a good one. It shifts quickly, it knows what you’re doing and responds immediately, and it won’t leave you frustrated. It’s technically going to be the fastest around a racetrack or autocross course. Hyundai even claims the transmission knows when you’re driving on a track and will change its shift logic to ensure maximum performance… somehow. They’re light on the details, but call it “N Track Sense Shift.” For street or track use, you can’t go wrong with the DCT from a drivability perspective.
However. What is technically the fastest and perhaps “best” is not always the most fun. Though I found the DCT to be a very good one, I do think the Veloster N is a car that seems to shine a bit brighter if you’re rowing your own. The funky personality stands out either way, it’s great to drive either way, but if it were my money I’d still choose the manual. And I’m not a “manual must go in every car or it’s trash” kind of driver, either.
The 2021 Hyundai Veloster N is a silly car. It’s a fun car. It’s more goofy than a GTI or Mazda3 Turbo, lighter on its feet than a Civic Type-R, and more refined (just) than the recently-departed Fiesta ST. It’s not for everyone, and it’s not trying to be. You can’t get heated leather seats or a heads-up display or a sunroof, because those would add weight. It’s well-equipped for many buyers, and the only choices you have are four paint colors and two transmissions.
And whether you choose the six-speed manual or eight-speed dual-clutch, it’s tough to go wrong. The Veloster N is a car with spunk and soul, which is very welcome as the idea of a hot hatchback continues to mutate and the market for such a thing shrinks a bit.
If you’re on the fence, go drive one.