It’s funny, I just of waxed poetic about the Hyundai Veloster Turbo not too long ago. With the big “long live the hot hatch” tagline attached, I noted that it delivered a “best-of-both-worlds mix of spirited performance and day-to-day comfort” but also pointed out that the “biggest issue with the Veloster Turbo Ultimate for the average enthusiast is….the Veloster N”. At that point, and it’s hard to admit this as an enthusiast, I hadn’t driven a Veloster N. Several reviews of the N already grace the pages of Hooniverse for your perusal. And, I have spent time in the Civic Type R (CTR), Golf R, and the Focus RS, but Hyundai hadn’t dropped off an N for my evaluation. Until now.
Veloster N Overview
As I normally do, let’s start with a quick rundown of how we got here with the N. The first generation (FS) of the Veloster arrived for the 2012 model year and I recall saying “hmm, that’s different”, generally in a good way. The stubby hatchback Hyundai stood out in a world of sedans and crossovers. The fact that Hyundai sells a hatchback in the U.S., where they are about as popular as wagons (too soon?) is admirable. More on that in a bit. The first-gen Veloster was never really that hot of a hatch. The “Turbo” model was powered by Hyundai’s Inline-4 twin-scroll turbo G4FJ engine producing a max of 201 horsepower. If that sounds familiar, that’s basically what the 2nd gen Veloster Turbo I tested is running.
It wasn’t until the second generation (JS) that Hyundai got serious with the performance of the Veloster in the form of the “N“. I’m sure all of you already know, but “N” is Hyundai’s “AMG” or “M” line of performance vehicles. If you wondered where “N” came from (I did), it’s the first letter of Namyang, the global R&D center where our high-performance models are created. There is also an “N Line” much like Audi’s “S Line” or the BMW “M Sport” which isn’t quite as hardcore.
I’ll keep things simple with the trim levels for the Veloster N. There is only one. But you can choose from four exterior colors and one interior color.
Our test car came in Lunar White, but honestly, the Veloster N looks fantastic in every color. I’m partial to Performance Blue, it suits the car, much like the Focus RS looks the best in Nitrous Blue. A six-speed manual is included, or you can opt for the $1,500 8-Speed Wet Dual Clutch Transmission. And…that’s about it. There are a handful of accessories available if you wish.
All told (on the 2022 calculator) you won’t spend more than $34,560 on a Veloster N. That’s a raging deal. Brand new, the Type R starts at $37,895, the Golf R at almost $45,000, and the Ford Focus RS has held its value on the used market very well. If you do a nationwide cars.com search, the average price is…$37,000. Of course, that includes a few optimistic sellers hoping to get almost $48,000 for a three-year-old RS. So, if you are in the market for a relatively new sport compact, the Veloster N is an amazing deal. And we haven’t even really started the damn review yet!
Speaking of 2022, if you want a Veloster, any Veloster, the N is the only option now. The other Veloster models ended life in 2021. Long live the Veloster.
Not everyone will love the hatchback design, if you are at all cognizant of “image” the N will definitely skew/look a bit younger from a demographic perspective to most folks. At 40-something in age, that notion has crept into my brain at times, and candidly there were no compact hatchbacks in my recent car buying (and selling) antics.
All that said, it’s a good-looking car. The LED accents up front class up the joint a bit, and while the red trim is a little boy-racer, it’s way more subdued than the Civic Type R while being a bit cooler than the staid (and a bit bland looking) Golf R. I do still really like the look of the now-gone Focus RS.
I particularly like the integration of the rear spoiler. While it’s not quite as smooth looking as the one on the Focus RS, it looks good. And not to beat a (very) dead horse but it certainly is more subtle than the big wing on the Type R. The Golf R is less sporty looking than a GTI, sorry VW.
The N’s wheels are a little bit of a weak spot, while I like the split-spoke design, there are so many better wheel options out there. The RS, Golf, and CTR have more attractive thin-spoke designs.
What’s quirkier than a three-door layout in today’s market? Not much, but the Veloster rocks it. The interior is typical Hyundai, made from solid-feeling materials and great ergonomics. It’s pretty practical too. Although its squished rear means you’ll lose a few cubic feet compared to some other options. The 19.9 cu. ft. loses a step to the Focus RS’s 23.8 cu. ft. and the CTR’s 25.7 cu. ft.
But hey, it’s got three doors! Plus, the seats are fabulous.
You came here to see how this thing drives though, right? Short answer, rather flawlessly. I wasn’t able to test out the manual version, but the DCT is fantastic. All Veloster Ns come with a 275 horsepower from its turbo 2.0L engine. That’s a nice improvement from the 250 horsepower 2020 Veloster, the change coming from the previously optional Performance Package now being standard. Like the CTR, the N is FWD, but what Hyundai calls its “Corner Carving Differential” keeps things moving the right direction. I came up with no real scenario where the N was unsettled or gave in to understeer. Also, like the CTR the system controls front wheel hop and torque steer.
Plus, it’s very configurable. Check out the diagram below, you can just click on each section and make a custom setting just for you. That means I could dial in some pliancy to the suspension and steering while having most everything else in ludicrous mode.
And that exhaust sound is intoxicating. I’m a sucker for the ole pop-and-burble, which sounds like a dance move but isn’t. The N accelerates to 60 in around 4.8 seconds, ironically the same mark that the LS 500 I just tested hits 60. Completely different cars for sure, in completely different segments and price points, but an interesting comparison nevertheless. The N is incredibly easy to drive, although I would have to imagine the lightweight bucket seats would be rough on the back on a long trip.
Price aside, the Veloster N is hard to beat in the compact segment. Prior to 2021, the Type R was a tick quicker, but to get there needs some deft footwork on the clutch and gas. Plus it’s more expensive. And uglier. The Golf R is nearly $10,000 more and way too bland looking if you’re going for a hot hatch. The Focus RS will always have a special place in my heart, it’s powertrain magically dances through all surfaces with sure-footed AWD traction and its got just enough boy-racer to make things interesting, but not over-the-top.
Still, the RS is gone from showrooms, and for my money there is but one hot hatch king, the Hyundai Veloster N!