First Drive: Hyundai Veloster N

by Michael Satterfield

I just spent the day at Thunderhill Raceway driving Hyundai's first high-performance car for the US market, the Veloster N. Aimed squarely at the Honda Civic Type-R, Focus ST, and Volkswagen Golf GTI, the was first unveiled at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show, but until now, no one has had the chance to get behind the wheel and see what the car is capable of. I drove the new 2019 Veloster a few months ago (read that story here) and felt that the R-Spec model was an impressive hot hatch, I wasn't expecting a big improvement from the R-Spec to the new N model, but I was pleasantly surprised. This new Veloster N is a completely different car, more focused, more nimble, and much more fun to drive.

The Veloster 'N' name is inspired by two places, Namyang, Hyundai’s performance R&D center, and  Nurburgring in Germany where the new Veloster N was tested. All that time on the ring has honed the N into a serious canyon carver and track day contender thanks to a host of improvements and new technology that has never been offered in any Hyundai model. Multi-mode electronically-controlled suspension, electronically-controlled torque-vectoring limited-slip differential, increased chassis bracing, and improved steering feel, paired with standard Pirelli P-Zero or (dealer installed) optional P-Zero Trofeo all make take the already very good 2019 Veloster and make it even better.

The N Performance's 2.0-liter Turbo four produces 275hp and 260lb-ft of torque, giving it more power than the Golf GT and Focus ST. Unlike its rivals, the N is only offered with a 6-speed manual transmission that features electronically controlled rev-matching for fast shifts making every driver a heel-toe hero without even trying. After a few laps, you quickly learn you can't out rev-match the computer, so I just let it do it's thing and focused more on my driving line.

Veloster N Performance offers a 13.6-inch front and 12.4-inch rear braking package that was developed in-house, the cars we were driving had upgraded "track day" pads, however, braking was confidence inspiring and pedal feedback was excellent. The standard N package includes 13.0-inch front and 11.8-inch rear rotors.

Exterior styling changes when compared to the standard Veloster include new front fascia that has functional brake cooling ducts, large rear spoiler, rear diffuser, and LED head and tail lamps. The N model is offered in four colors: Ultra Black, Chalk White, Racing Red, and the N signature Performance Blue, all (except Racing Red) have a red accent stripe along the lower front fascia and side skirts.

Inside the N is all business, much less opulent than the Veloster Turbo Ultimate I drove earlier this year. The cloth bucket seats are well bolstered and supportive even on the track, but not uncomfortable for street driving. The black is broken up by a few pops of performance blue, including the front seatbelts. The N has a unique shift knob and steering wheel which houses the N button which allows the driver to shift the car from one of the standard modes into the N track-focused performance mode.

While official pricing has not been released we were told by Hyundai that the new N model will start at less than $28,000 including destination and the N-Performance will start at less than $30,000 including destination. That pricing puts it well under the starting price of the Civic Type-R and on par with the base prices of many of its competitors, while still offering Hyundai's 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty.

After spending the day in the car on the track, autocross course, and street driving, I have to say that the car is seriously impressive and the hot hatch value buys for 2019. I like that Hyundai hasn't added endless options to the car, it is simple, clean, and driver-focused. You simply select which level of performance you want, and one of four colors. As with all Velosters, rear visibility is limited but liveable if you just "drive Italian" and the N doesn't sacrifice anything from the standard Veloster other than weight and the luxury options of the Ultimate. The interior could be a little more visually exciting, a performance blue insert in the seat would have been cool, but if you like clean no frills interiors you are going to love it.

Of all the hot hatches I have driven recently, I would say that the driving dynamic is most like the Golf GTI, which is saying a lot considering this is Hyundai's first crack at building a performance car, it is fun to drive on on the track doing 130mph on the straights, but also exciting and fun to drive on country roads and canyons. Plus the crackling and pops of the exhaust as you lift and downshift make driving at almost any speed more fun.

The 2019 Hyundai Veloster should be arriving at dealers in November, but you might want to get in early as the car exceeded demand in Korea on its release and the i30 N blew away Hyundai's sales projections in Europe. Check out my video from the track here.

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