Hyundai’s hott-with-two-T’s hatchback melds youthful styling with an exceedingly dynamic driving experience. This example is painted Korean Air blue (the color is technically called Performance Blue, but I like my name better), a dusty hue that stands out from just about everything else out there. Given the dearth of hatchbacks available today, the Veloster N’s No. 1 rival is the Volkswagen Golf GTI and the redesigned Honda Civic Type R. To a lesser extent, this car also competes with vehicles like the Mazda3 five-door, Toyota GR 86 and Subaru BRZ twins, as well as the Subaru WRX and possibly even the EcoBoost-powered Ford Mustang.
Behind its mesh grille resides a mighty 2.0-liter turbo-four that delivers giant-slaying performance. This little engine cranks out 275 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, figures that aren’t all that impressive on paper, but in practice this car scoots. Bury the accelerator and the Veloster N leaps off the line with the enthusiasm of a Labrador puppy, squealing the front tires if the road is even the slightest bit dusty or damp. Keep the pedal pegged and this little rascal continues pulling with rare ferocity, even at extra-legal speeds. Additionally, this engine also provides plenty of theatrics. The standard variable exhaust system allows you to customize how raucous the car sounds. In the quietest setting, the Veloster N whispers like a Monday-to-Friday commuter car. Uncork this system, though, and it snaps, crackles and pops like a fire-breathing bowl of Rice Krispies.
Backing that engine up is a standard six-speed manual transmission (hooray!), but for $1,500 more you can get an eight-speed, dual-clutch automatic gearbox, which is what this example is fitted with. Yeah, the automatic is a little annoying at low speeds, where it can’t match the smoothness of a torque converter automatic, but once the car is rolling this unit shifts nearly instantaneously. With this optional gearbox, the Veloster N should be able to hit 60 mph in around 5 seconds.
Remarkably, this thundering performance does not come at the expense of efficiency. This Veloster stickers at 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. Combined, it’s rated at 22 mpg, though in mixed, relatively responsible driving I’m getting more than 28 mpg according to the trip computer, which is, frankly, fantastic.
The tuning of this car’s chassis and steering match its rowdy drivetrain just about perfectly. The Veloster N comes with adjustable dampers that provide a ride that’s either stiff or stiffer. Even in their softest setting these shocks read the road like Braille, though cranking up the starchiness can make things downright painful as this hatchback crashes over the slightest surface imperfections. Of course, the car’s stylish, two-tone 19-inch wheels wrapped in low-profile 235/35 Pirelli tires don’t help the ride quality, either.
The Veloster’s rubber does, however, provide sound handling. This car’s steering is super sharp, providing immediate turn-in response and a decent amount of road feel. Remarkably, despite this responsiveness, the steering is not at all nervous or jittery. That stiff ride also arrests body roll in corners, though the way things have been tuned, the Veloster does feel willing to rotate, like the back end will come around if you really push it, something that helps this car feel more alive.
Keeping speed in check, the Veloster N comes with some serious brakes. Up front are 13.6-inch discs, while the rear wheels are slowed by 12.4-inchers. All the rotors are ventilated for better performance, particularly in demanding situations. Despite their stopping power, the brakes are easy to modulate and have no trouble managing this car’s relatively svelte 3,247-pound weight (3,106 with the manual transmission).
The Veloster’s interior is a textbook example of a low-cost cabin that doesn’t make it feel like you’re sitting in a cheap plastic storage tote. Most of this interior’s furnishing are hard polymers, though interesting textures, solid construction and excellent assembly quality make this cabin feel like it costs far more than it probably does. Reinforcing the sense of quality, all the buttons and switches feel good, the perforated leather on the steering wheel is lovely, and even the air vents move with well-oiled slickness.
With a curt 104.3-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 167.9 inches, the Veloster N is not a large car, and consequently, its interior is pretty tight. The back seat will handle a pair of adults, though if they’re of average size or larger, they’ll probably start to complain after half an hour or so. Also, the rear-seat passenger sitting on the left side of the car does not have a door of their own. Instead, they have to wait for the driver to open the Veloster’s longer single door. There are two conventional portals on the right side of the car. Up front, the bucket seats are supportive and hug you in corners, though anyone larger than a malnourished preteen will find the upper portion of the backrest too restrictive. Unfortunately, these chairs are not heated, either.
Cargo space clocks in at 19.9 cubic feet behind the rear backrest. This space doesn’t look that large because of the car’s tiny hatch, though the area is deceptively deep. That small opening also increases the lift-over height, making it harder to load bulky or heavy cargo. Fold the Veloster’s split rear backrest down and the luggage compartment expands to 44.5 cubes, a whopping 10 cubic feet more than you get in the boxier and visually more capacious Golf GTI.
Talkin’ tech, this Veloster comes standard with an 8-inch touchscreen. Hyundai’s familiar infotainment system is as speedy and intuitive as ever, even if it feels a bit cramped on that relatively small canvas. Naturally, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both supported, though the ability to connect wirelessly is not. As for advanced driver aids, amenities like forward-collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-keeping assist are all standard, ditto for automatic high beams and even rain-sensing windshield wipers.
Available in four colors (black, red, white and that amazing blue), the 2022 Hyundai Veloster N starts around $33,545 including $1,045 in destination fees. That’s roughly $2,700 more than an entry-level Golf GTI. The example evaluated in this review is a mere $1,500 more expensive than the base Veloster N, checking out for a still-budget-friendly $35,045. The only item adding to the bottom line is that quick-draw automatic transmission.
The Veloster N is a delight to drive, though given its stiffness and small interior, it’s not a car I’d want to live with every day. Still, this hatchback, along with the similar Hyundai Elantra N sedan and Kona N crossover, is oodles of fun and has more personality than some vehicles costing twice as much. If you’re shopping for a hopped-up hatchback, or another entry-level performance car, the Veloster N should absolutely be on your radar.