2019 Hyundai Veloster N
The first generation Hyundai Veloster was an odd duck. Radical styling turned heads and introduced new buyers to the Hyundai brand, but its driving dynamics left a lot to be desired. And while enthusiasts hoped the 201-horsepower Turbo model would perform as its bodywork suggested, power and handling weren’t deserving of the “hot hatch” title.
Built to compete with Volkswagen’s Golf GTI ($27,310), Ford’s Focus ST ($26,045), and Honda’s Civic Type R ($35,595), the Veloster N will start under $28K (official pricing is TBD) and offer two stages of tune. Our first drive of the South Korean sports car takes us to Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, California.
(ALMOST) ALL THE TECH YOU’LL NEED
The 2019 Veloster N’s list of standard convenience features is solid, but lacks the upgradable content of its competitors. An 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth connectivity. Navigating the crisp, responsive display is painless and aided by a set of physical buttons and knobs below the screen. A TFT display between the tach and speedo shows media, vehicle speed, and telemetry information.
Other highlights include an Infinity premium audio system, LED headlights and taillights, a backup camera, driver blind spot mirror, remote entry and push-button ignition, and automatic climate control. Those seeking leather seats, heated surfaces, a moonroof, and other niceties will have to check out the Veloster N’s rivals. Also missing are any active safety features; even common standards like automatic emergency braking and rear cross traffic alert are absent.
FUN-DAMENTALS OF PERFORMANCE
Hyundai calls the Veloster N its “reverse halo” car. Unlike a typical halo model, which pushes the limits of a brand’s performance, price, and styling, the Veloster N is made to be attainable. Based upon one of Hyundai’s more affordable models and engineered for inexpensive upkeep, the Veloster N is an enthusiast’s dream. That is, of course, if it can back up its value proposition with driving engagement.
Thunderhill Raceway Park is one of the most challenging road courses in America, with numerous blind curves, off-camber corners, and dramatic elevation changes. Albert Biermann, former head of BMW M, assures us the Veloster N is up to the task. Biermann has already left his mark on Hyundai’s sister brands, Kia and Genesis, having developed the Stinger GT and G70 sport sedans. To put the Veloster N on a level playing field with the Civic Type R, Biermann’s team left no critical performance piece untouched.
The Veloster N utilizes a tuned version of the Sonata Turbo’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, producing 250 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Peak torque checks in at just 1,450 rpm and holds on until near the fuel cut-off at 6,750 rpm. A six-speed manual gearbox is the only transmission option and features a reinforced clutch, shorter shift throws, and clearer gate separation and gear engagement than the unit found in the Veloster Turbo. The powertrain is mounted on improved bushings that are stiffer, but still offer good NVH.
Additional welding to the doors, side sills, roof, and hatch, stiffer front strut mounts, and better bracing increase torsional rigidity by 6.9% over the Veloster. By switching from a column to rack-mounted power steering system, N Performance improves feedback. 13-inch front and 11.8-inch rear rotors match with single-piston floating calipers for a significant brake upgrade. Hyundai says it chose not to add a Brembo brake package to keep up front and replacement costs down. Continuously variable suspension dampers with five G sensors optimize ride quality regardless of driving scenario. Three ESC modes and a brake-based torque-vectoring system stay one step ahead of understeer and wheel slip. Standard Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires provide consistent grip for all your track day exploits.
All that’s just the standard performance kit. An optional performance package adds an electronic limited-slip differential, 19-inch wheels wrapped in specially developed Pirello P Zero tires, larger brakes, a variable exhaust system, and, most importantly, 25 additional horses from a re-tuned ECU (totaling 275 hp). Our Thunderhill test mules are peak N Performance spec, including a set of dealer-option sport brake pads.
Of all modern era driving attributes, the toughest to get right is steering feel. Automakers add resistance to mimic the effort required for unassisted racks, but resistance doesn’t equate to feedback. Without a clear line of communication to the front tires, a driver can only rely on visual cues to sense a vehicle’s limits. Such guesswork isn’t necessary with the Veloster N. Though light, the N’s steering is perfectly weighted, communicative, and direct.
HOT HATCH RIVALS
Hyundai is disadvantaged in the hot hatch segment, both for its relative inexperience and the impression created by the first generation Veloster Turbo. Thankfully, a review of the Veloster N’s specs opposite rivals should usher enthusiasts to Hyundai dealers for a fresh perspective.