The Korean brands continue to entertain performance and sporty-driving enthusiasts with cars like the Hyundai Veloster N. Not all is perfect however.
I was going to start my review on the 2019 Hyundai Veloster N with the next paragraphs but then revised my plan because the car is exceptional. It is also very far from perfect but for $34,999, it spanks the likes of the Volkswagen GTI, Subaru WRX, Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86 and Honda Civic Si. It also severely messes with the higher-powered VW Golf R, Honda Civic Type R and puts lots of hurt on the Subaru WRX STI.
Negative expectations met
I knew exactly what to expect when I stepped into the new Hyundai Veloster N. At least, I did at first. Hyundai cannot, for the life of it, design and engineer a clutch pedal that responds smoothly, that releases progressively and that sports a friction point longer than a half-inch of travel, an inch off the floor. I’ve never driven a manual transmission Hyundai that I liked. When I got behind the wheel, it was exactly that.
As well, they’ve not yet installed a shifter in one of their cars that was not rubbery, plagued by an inconsistent throw and with an uncertain feel once in gear. In the Veloster N’s case, they also confused “short throw” with short lever. Even in my up-close and personal driving position, the shifter is too short and forces my elbow into the armrest when shifting in an even gear.
And then there’s steering. Here too, Hyundai’s not yet perfected calibration and linear buildup of assistance. In a straight line, there’s an on-center void that needs to be overcome before resistance, and not assistance, kicks in. The adjustable Motor Driven Power Steering (MDPS) has three settings of which “normal” is the least offensive. “Sport” and “Sport+” resists driver inputs working hard to return the steering wheel to the void. It haunted me all week long.
Let me put it to you this way: if the new $34,999 2019 Hyundai Veloster N is on your shopping list only to cover points A to B and never escape to the country for a drive or better yet, head to your local track for some laps, get a regular Veloster Turbo which is $8k cheaper or possibly better yet, a base VW GTI for less than $31,000.
If however, you intend on exploiting Hyundai’s hottest-ever car (the Genesis was alright…) and tracking it then be our guest and sign on the dotted line.
The power is really good. The Veloster N feels as quick as the numbers suggest with plenty of generous torque and nearly lag-free acceleration. Like the Volkswagens, the Veloster suffers electronic throttle application lag (an issue that could so easily be programmed out) which can be overridden if you get on the throttle early.
Beyond that, the turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder is marvellous. All 275-horsepower come on tap at 6,000 rpm while 260 lb.-ft. of torque peak from 1,450 to 4,700 rpm. The rush is sustained and loads of fun. The standard electronically controlled limited-slip differential with included true torque vectoring means that getting on the throttle early will not be met with a wild front end – the front wheels will magically pull you out from the apex with controlled ease.
Speaking of magic, the suspension, the chassis’ tuning, it’s also magic. Hyundai engineers have pulled it off. Pulled what off? Only to match the Germans in providing handling, incredible handling, without sacrificing comfort. The electronic dampers make short work of nasty roads and even when set in “normal”, masterfully negate pitch, roll and yaw. So good is the car that there’s a sizeable disparity between what the car can handle and what you think it can handle. My favorite part are switchbacks where the dampers load up seamlessly and perfectly control weight transfers – feeling it is believing it.
There’s proof everywhere that Hyundai did their homework, most of it, with this car. The brakes, ventilated and large all around, are powerful and respond progressively. As well, the ole heel & toe manoeuvre is easy to accomplish thanks to well positioned pedals. Hyundai does provide a rev-matching function – it needs to be turned off immediately.
N Aero and body
The 2019 Hyundai Veloster N is a visual knockout. I’d have done without the red exterior accents but all the spoilers, diffusers, skirts et al are perfect for the application. The best angle is ¾ rear where the hatch-mounted spoiler frames nicely with the huge dual tail-pipes and wide rear haunches. Oh, and Performance Blue is the only way to go.
On the inside, the seats baffle somewhat as they are very soft with no more than sufficient support. They are generously padded but betray the car’s true “street” nature. The Veloster N is as loaded as ever with an 8-inch screen, countless menus and options, and a heated steering wheel complete with two drive-mode buttons. The important one is on the right and it’s the “custom” one that deserves your attention.
A Hyundai Veloster N in your driveway?
If you’re into it, yes, absolutely. As much as I love the car, I would not call one my own. And there are a number of reasons for this thinking.
Practicality is one, which would lead me to a base VW GTI and a subsequent trip to Unitronic for more power at the expense of my warranty. There’s this other beast that draws me away from the Veloster and it’s the more expensive Honda Civic Type R.
The extra $7,000 are huge and Honda doesn’t want to sell you the car (crazy interest rates, no deals) but as good as the Veloster is, the Civic is superior in every respect, all of them. It’s shockingly faster, more responsive, feels more special and it’s far uglier – one has to pay for all this. And no matter how much money is thrown at the Veloster, it will never steer or communicate with the driver like the Civic does.
If Hyundai can transmit the Civic’s steering to the Veloster, program out the lag and iron out the clutch, sign me up ‘cause it will be the best in its class.