Solid handling and performance
More balanced design
Impressive value proposition
Tight rear seat
Funky three-door layout
2019 Hyundai Veloster
The Hyundai Veloster is no stranger to performance. The first turbo variation hit dealer showrooms a year after the original model was introduced. When Hyundai unveiled the second-generation Veloster at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show, it announced four models, along with the Veloster N TCR race car.
The first three include the base Veloster with a 147 horsepower, normally-aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder (replacing the 2017 model's normally-aspirated 132 horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder), the Veloster Turbo trim with a carry-over 201 horsepower, turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder, and the Veloster Ultimate with the same turbo four that replaces the 2017 Turbo R-Spec (no 2018 Velosters were produced).
2019 Hyundai Veloster N
The fourth trim is the all-new Veloster N, the Korean manufacturer's first US market N-Brand high-performance model (the i30 N has been gracing European roads since 2017). According to Hyundai, the N stands for two things: Namyang, Korea, the brand's global R&D center, and its Nürburgring-based test center in Germany. Only one engine and one transmission are offered, but Veloster N buyers are given a choice of four exterior colors plus a single option package.
The latest Veloster retains the first-gen model's unique door layout, despite the fact that it could be marketed as either a 3- or 5-door hatch, as the side panels are reversed in right -hand drive markets. The 3-door plus hatch sold in the US features a coupe-sized door on the left, and a pair of sedan-sized front and rear doors on the right – supposedly making ingress and egress easier for rear seat passengers (although this requires the left passenger to slide over the hard center console separating the two rear seats). At the same time, the rear door handle blends neatly into the C-pillar, rendering the odd third door nearly invisible, bolstering the two-door look.
While the basic concept remains, the execution of the second-gen Veloster is much improved, with an all-new look that begins front, blending slimmer high- and LED low-beam headlights and daytime running lights with a deeper fascia and more prominent cascading grille that, on N models, features a cross-hatch design. The faux lower outside cooling ducts of lesser models are replaced with a pair that actually direct air to the front rotors for improved cooling, while the lower edges of the grill and side pods feature pronounced sills trimmed in red on most models.
Along the sides, both the cowl point and A-pillars have been moved back, the roofline is lower, and the fender lines convey a more traditional coupe-like style. Further down, the lower side panels are deeply sculpted, with gloss black lower side sills trimmed in red (on all but racing red models) topping things off. Lightweight alloy wheels that expose red painted brake calipers are standard. Our tester, equipped with the optional Performance Package, came with 19-inchers wrapped in wider 235/35 R19 Pirelli P Zero summer tires.
The N's assertive good looks continue in back with a triangular-shaped LED center high-mounted stop light integrated into a massive upper spoiler, distinctive LED taillights, and an aggressive, protruding lower valance housing a pair of massive exhaust pipes
Stepping inside, a two-tier dashboard is dominated by a large 8-inch touchscreen and a deep-set, twin-dial, instrument cluster featuring a center 4.2-inch color TFT screen capable of displaying everything from oil temperature, torque, and turbo boost to user settings. Above that display is a shift indicator with light bars that indicate the optimum shift point.
The seats are covered in a grippy quilted black cloth with blue contrast stitching. The much-improved front set, sporting stitched N-logo seatbacks, are aggressively bolstered and, though not powered, offer the driver 6-way adjustability with plenty of leg, hip, and headroom (the N has no sunroof option). Alloy dead and sport pedals are standard, while N-specific cabin accoutrements include an N-design steering wheel and shift knob trimmed in black leather, and N-logo door sill plates. The blue accent color is also used for the seat belts, and trims the speedo, tach and start/stop button surrounds.
Like the rest of the Veloster range, overall fit and finish is excellent. The controls are logically laid out, operate smoothly, and are positioned within easy reach of the driver. The steering wheel offers redundant volume and up/down preset controls for the audio system, hands-free call, end, and voice prompt for the phone system, as well as primary buttons for drive mode, configurable N-mode, cruise control and driver information center menus. All are intuitive and back-lit. Although the seating position is low, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, along with the multi-adjustable driver’s seat, make finding a comfortable driving position easy.
Interior volume of 89.9 cu ft is at the lower end of the EPA subcompact class, with 19.9 cu ft of cargo space behind the 60/40 split back seats that expands to 44.5 cu ft when both are folded.
Nits are few and, for the most part, will hardly matter to the N's intended buyers. They include rear seats with legroom on the tight side (six-footers will have to slouch and splay their legs), and rear visibility hampered by a sloping roofline, massive C-pillars, and a small rear window partially obstructed by a pair of fixed rear headrests.
Our biggest gripe, however, is reserved for the overall look and feel of the cabin. It's here that you can see and feel why the Veloster is such a bargain, as it's swathed in hard plastics – from the dash to the upper door trim - with nary a soft touch surface to be found.
Aside from the features previously mentioned, standard fare includes the usual power bits along with 18-inch alloy wheels shod in 225/40 R18 Michelin Pilot Super Sport summer tires, an electronically-controlled variable suspension, rack-mounted power steering motor, automatic headlights, heated outside mirrors with turn signals, an Infinity sound system, automatic climate control, satellite radio, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, and keyless push-button start.
The only option package should appeal to enthusiasts. For a mere $2,100, the Performance Package offers a turbo overboost feature that bumps horsepower from 250 to 275 (and the redline from 4,000 to 4,700 rpm), the aforementioned wheel and tire upgrades, an electronic limited slip differential, a smaller front stabilizer bar (21 mm versus 23 mm), larger front (13.6 in vs. 13.1 in) and rear (12.4 in vs. 11.8 in) brake rotors, quicker steering, a 0.2 in lower ride height, and a variable exhaust valve system.
Hyundai's suite of advanced active safety systems are unavailable due to the Veloster N's manual transmission.
Under the hood
All Veloster Ns are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter Theta II DOHC direct-injection four-cylinder engine, shared with the Genesis G70 and Kia Stinger, and mated to a rev-matching, close-ratio, short-throw, 6-speed manual (the rev-matching feature can be switched off). With a twin scroll turbocharger, electronic waste gate, and electronic dual continuously variable valve timing, the engine produces maximum torque of 260 lb-ft between 1,450 and 4,000 (standard) or 4,700 (Performance Package) rpm. Engineered with fuel-saving features that include a low friction roller timing chain and a block water jacket spacer, it achieves an EPA-estimated 22 miles per gallon in the city, 28 on the highway, and 25 combined using regular gasoline. We managed a vehicle-measured 28.3 miles per gallon, with most of our 814 miles logged on the highway.
On the road
When we approached Hyundai about supplying a vehicle to drive to Road America in Elkart Lake, Wisconsin – a 900 mile 14 hour-plus (depending on the slog through Chicago) round trip - we were told that a Veloster N was available, but "It's a long drive, so we're not sure if this will appeal to you."
Given our past experience with first-gen Veloster turbos and their take-no-prisoners suspensions that transmitted even minor road imperfections to your backside, we could understand the caution. At the same time, the specter of a gratis 275 horsepower vehicle tipping the scales at a mere 3,106 pounds overrode any previous issues. "We'll take it."
It turned out to be the right decision. In addition to the hardware upgrades, Hyundai has massaged the Veloster N's chassis with additional body welds, lateral bracing across the center tunnel and beefed-up strut mounts for increased rigidity. With less chassis flex, an electronic suspension can be tuned more closely to the requirements of each of the five driving modes - Normal, Sport, N, Eco, and N Custom.
In addition to more suspension compliance, each mode – with the exception of N Custom where drivers can map their individual preferences – features a unique throttle response, engine speed rev-match points, exhaust note, active differential tune, suspension damping rate, steering feel, and yaw-control characteristics. Think about that for a moment - in a vehicle that sells for under 30K.
Switching between modes is easy with a pair of dedicated steering wheel-mounted buttons – Eco, Normal, and Sport on the left, and N and N Custom on the right. Normal, the mode we chose for freeway driving, features the smoothest ride while offering the greatest amount of suspension travel without sacrificing engine response.
Provided you're fluent in manual (a dual-clutch automatic is said to be in the works), accelerating from naught to a 60 mph highway merging speed can happen in less than 5.5 seconds. Once on the freeway, we found that the suspension, in Normal mode, was more than up to the task of handling most of the road imperfections found on the interstates in Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
And while eight hours of freeway driving in the Veloster N isn't as relaxing as cruising with the advanced driver-assist features engaged on the larger and more comfortable Genesis G70, the latest incarnation stands head and shoulders above the first-gen Veloster Turbo.
Once off the freeway and tackling the hilly, winding, back roads surrounding Road America, the Veloster N truly came into its own, carving its way over hills and off-camber corners with precision. Unlike past iterations, the N's rack-mounted power steering is direct and communicative, with plenty of feedback through the steering wheel. Handling is sharp, throttle response is nearly immediate with little turbo lag, while torque steer is nearly undetectable. The brakes, borrowed from the Korean Kia K5, are easy to modulate with plenty of feedback through the pedal and offer a nice initial bite.
But all is not perfect. While suspension compliance has been improved, even in Normal mode it's still on the firm side. In addition, a great deal of road noise enters the cabin when traveling over uneven pavement. Finally, while the transmission offers admirably short throws and the clutch pedal is light, engagement happens near the top and, more than once, we stalled the Veloster in heavy stop-and-go traffic (although a push-button re-start was easy).
2019 Veloster N pricing
The 2019 Veloster N is available in four colors (white, black, red, and the model's signature color, Performance Blue), and a single mono-spec configuration, with just one option package. The base price, including a $920 destination fee, is $27,820. Our black tester was also equipped with the $2,100 Performance Package, which brought its as-tested price to a manufacturer's suggested retail of $29,920.
The Bottom Line
Although hampered by a small cabin, tight rear seating, road noise over irregular pavement, and a funky three-door layout, the all-new Hyundai Veloster N impresses us with solid acceleration and handling, along with a strong value proposition, making it a strong contender in its class.
Looking at the competition, the Honda Civic Type R and Volkswagen GTI offer more interior room and cargo space. The Civic Type R also offers more horsepower – 306 versus the N's 275 – albeit at a $6,700 price premium.