2019 Hyundai Veloster N
This hot hatch kicks butt
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- 15 Jul 2019
By James Park
Okay, let’s get this one thing quickly out of the way – No other Hyundai automobile puts smile on the driver’s face as this newly unleashed Veloster N does.
After decades of producing progressively better family sedans and utility vehicles, Hyundai has gained enough confidence to finally present to us its own version of a hot hatch.
Yes, there had been relatively desirable Hyundai sporty cars like the Genesis Coupe and some might even remember the Tiburon, but none of them stirs the soul and gets the juices flowing like the much anticipated uber Veloster.
One should point out that Hyundai, hitherto, had lacked the tradition of making sports cars. But in order to catch up, the Korean company is willing to recruit and to learn from the best.
One such expert happens to be Herr Albert Biermann. Former director of BMW’s much respected ‘M’ division he now runs Hyundai’s R&D center – the ‘N’ division. (As for N, the centre is located at Namyang, Korea, and much testing is done at the Germany’s internationally renowned Nurburgring circuit.)
All this is to say that the person who knows a thing or two about what a sports car should be had guided the development of the Veloster N from the start.
Of course, a car with sporting potential should possess a powerful enough engine. So, instead of the barely adequate 1.6 litre turbo four fitted to the lesser sibling, the Veloster N gets the two-litre turbo four capable of pushing maximum 275 horses and 260 lb-ft of twist. These are delivered to the front wheels via smooth shifting six-speed manual transmission.
Further differentiating the N from the base car are stiffer chassis, limited slip differential that distributes power to the wheel that needs it, more carefully tuned suspension and stronger brakes.
The N not only accelerates with gusto, but it also goes around corners with poise and confidence. The body-roll is kept to minimum and for a front-wheel-drive car, the N shows no discernible torque steer. The brakes bite down hard and stop the car without drama.
When it comes to exterior styling, the N does add specific cues of its own, including sharper aero kit, blacked out grill with small ‘N’ logo, larger dual exhaust tips and bigger spoiler. Unlike the Civic Type R, however, the N does not veer too radically from the base car, making it stylish without appearing overly cartoonish.
Buyers can choose from several color options, but the ‘Performance Blue’ of this writer’s test-vehicle really seems to catch the onlookers’ attention.
On the other hand, some may be disappointed by the car’s interior, which is no real improvement over the base model. However, this is no deal-breaker by any means. The comfortable cloth seats support the lower back quite nicely and the thick leather-wrapped steering wheel feels just right.
The infotainment system with touch-screen interface does not overwhelm with latest technology, but it remains simple to use. There’s no navigation but it supports both Apple Carplay and Android Auto.
One thing for certain is this: the Veloster N aims to delight those people who get pleasure from driving. It also assumes the driver will concentrate on the task at hand. There are no blindside-monitoring, lane-keep assist, cross-traffic alert and other such electronic nannies to remind you what you already have figured out well beforehand.
Another caveat: the driver should know how to row his or her own gears. And far as the stick-shifts go, the one in the N is joy to operate. One can easily modulate the light clutch and the throws are short and accurate. One also appreciates the proper handbrake. Sad news for the beginners is the lack of hill-holding feature. No problem for those who know how to use the said handbrake.
The drive mode selectors are located right on the steering wheel. With the left-hand selector, one can toggle through Eco, Normal and Sport. The right-hand selector, which is indicated by the checkered-flag, turns on the ‘N’ mode. Best utilized at a track, the N mode just about maximizes everything, including the engine sound. It also provides rev-matching during downshifts.
And all these goodness comes with the price tag of only $34,999, almost six grand less than the Civic Type R. If you can find a better bargain, go get it.
Personally, this writer would still give higher marks to the Type R, as well as the Ford Focus RS, but the Veloster N deserves high praise for coming well above expectation. This happens to be a proper sports car. (James Park is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.)
2018 Hyundai Veloster N
Engine: 2.0 litre turbo four
Power: 275 hp/260 lb-ft
Transmission: 6 spd manual
Fuel: 10.6 litres per 100km (city), 8.3 litres (highway)
Best: power, handling, exterior styling
Worst: interior is no better than that of base model
Competition: Civic Type R, VW Golf R, Subaru STI
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