Veloster N

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2021 Hyundai Veloster N Test Drive Review

Hyundai’s Veloster is a charming hot hatchback that defies expectations.

8.2 /10
Overall Score

The 2021 Hyundai Veloster is a three-door sports coupe that is easily forgotten but shouldn’t be. The Veloster—especially the high-performance N variant—is fun to drive, offers comfortable seats, and has just enough safety and infotainment technology. First-time new-car buyers shouldn’t write it off just because it’s a coupe and shoppers looking for an auto that delivers a dynamic drive shouldn’t ignore it because of its badging.

Look and Feel

9/ 10

The three-door Veloster is a bit of a niche product in the United States, where car sales are slumping in favor of bigger SUVs and pickup trucks. And yet, despite its inherent impracticality for a family of more than two, the Veloster shines through as an example of the type of car that is both fun, and a reasonable daily driver.

The 2021 Veloster is designed to have a sportier look but it’s not as overtly sexy as the Mazda MX-5 Miata or a Porsche 911. Its hot-hatch body style is more intriguing than the rather dopey-looking Volkswagen Golf, however. Spec it right and you’ll get plenty of looks from passers-by, and not just because they’re trying to figure out what it is (Hyundai sold just 7,500 of them total last year in the U.S.; Toyota sold that many RAV4s every six days).

Hyundai sells the Veloster in five trim levels and an N grade for the 2021 model year. The Veloster N is the high-performance model and doesn’t come in its own set of trim levels. This is similar to how Volkswagen differentiates between its traditional Golf models and the sporty Golf GTI and Golf R. Overall, the styling isn’t menacing, but it is a touch “oh what do we have here”, similar to the way that modded Nissan 370Zs and Infiniti G35s speak to the enthusiast set.

The Veloster N comes in four paint colors: Performance Blue, Chalk White, Ultra Black, and Racing Red. Opting for any color other than red adds hot orange accents on key exterior trim pieces. The model wears a Veloster N-exclusive unique black grille, side sills, and rear spoiler. There are also black window belt moldings, body-color door handles, gloss black side mirrors, and a rear diffuser. Veloster N models all ride on black 19-inch wheels wrapped in Pirelli P Zero Summer Performance tires.

Hyundai equipped this line-topping model with standard automatic LED projector headlights, a rear high mount LED center stop lamp, LED taillights, LED daytime running lights, and automatic high beams.

The interior continues the trend with standard Performance Blue accents throughout the cabin, perhaps most notably on the steering-wheel controls and seatbelts. The black-plastic door trim is met by soft-wrapped surfaces at key touchpoints. A leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel are standard as well. Unlike some other Veloster models, however, you can't get a sunroof.

Performance

9/ 10

The 2021 Hyundai Veloster N is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that achieves 275 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. The car delivers an exceptional power-to-weight ratio, thanks to its slim (for a modern car) 3,106-pound curb weight. Its output isn’t too much to manage, but the Veloster is perfectly eager to get going.

The front-wheel-drive (FWD) car comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission with hill-start assist. The dry-clutch system is as smooth and easy to manage as one could want.

An available eight-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) is new for 2021. It was developed in-house by Hyundai. The addition also puts paddle shifters on the wheel. DCT-equipped versions of the Veloster N shift like a hot knife through butter—steady and easily. Paddle shifters allow drivers to pick their shift points to achieve their ideal torque at the right time.

The new Hyundai gets an EPA-estimated 22 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, and 25 mpg combined with its manual gearbox. Opting for the DCT will bump those numbers down to 20 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway, and 22 mpg combined.

Stopping power is provided by ventilated disc brakes front and rear, with 13.6-inch rotors up front and 12.4-rotors in back. Notably, the Veloster N is also one of the few vehicles remaining on the market with a hand brake. Driving enthusiasts will note that this makes J-turns possible. The brake lays relatively flat when disengaged, creating a feeling of spaciousness between the front seats.

Rack-and-pinion steering allows the car to deliver a connected drive experience while, a front MacPherson-strut suspension with coil springs, and electronic limited-slip differential work to make the Veloster N plenty agile.

Hyundai has packed a good amount of drive-enhancing technology into the Veloster N. There’s N Grin Shift, a feature that enhances horsepower and torque by seven percent for up to 20 seconds, giving the car a boost when passing; N Power Shift, which works when the car accelerates with more than 90 percent throttle demand to push appropriate power to the right wheels; and N Track Sense Shift, which senses road conditions are appropriate for the car’s most performance-focused capabilities and shifts gears for an optimal driving experience based on those conditions. Rev matching, launch control, and overboost also work to regulate the car’s behavior and can be individually configured in the Veloster N’s infotainment screen.

Normal, Eco, and Sport drive modes are standard, and switching between them immediately, noticeably, changes the dynamics of the vehicle. To save your back and bum from the bumps of the road while riding on the highway, opt for Normal mode. For a more spirited drive, Sport mode is where you want to be. Eco mode is great for in-town driving and higher fuel economy.

The turbo and transmission options, combined with the driving dynamics and drive-enhancement technology, make the Veloster N an absolute blast to drive. It’s a car that begs for an open road, especially one with a good number of winding turns. The things that make the Veloster N so good on rural roads and tracks don’t inhibit the daily-driver experience. Going to the grocery store is just as pleasurable, though not nearly as satisfying.

Form and Function

8/ 10

Hyundai appropriately uses cloth and leatherette throughout the cabin of the Veloster N. This includes the car’s front N Light Sport Seats, which are wrapped in both materials. The bucket seats, though lighter and thinner than traditional Veloster seats, are comfortable for extended periods of time and appropriately keep your posterior in place when hugging corners. Uniquely, the seats have an illuminated N logo on the upper side of the backrest that operates in conjunction with other interior lights.

The driver and front-seat passenger enjoy spacious accommodations and good outward visibility. The tilt-and-telescoping steering column makes it easy to find the best positioning.

Second-row seating is tight. This is a coupe after all. Like in the Ford Mustang, adult back-seat riders shouldn’t expect themselves to be riding in comfort. For kids, especially those in car seats, the rear seat is a fine place to be, though. Despite its small size, the Veloster N’s cabin is actually as spacious as many subcompact SUVs. The Toyota CH-R has less overall passenger space but the Hyundai Venue and Nissan Kicks have more.

With its rear seat up, the Veloster N has 19.9 cubic feet of cargo space. That’s more room than is afforded by the Venue and the larger Hyundai Kona. With the rear seats folded there are 44.5 cubic feet of room in the rear. That’s on par with the Kona, and far exceeds the Venue’s 31.9 cubic feet.

Though it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that you’d find in other sports cars, the Veloster N does have some thoughtful features that make life with it easier, including a standard rear coat hook, cargo cover, luggage net hooks, sunglass case, and cargo area light.

Tech Level

7/ 10

The Hyundai Veloster N is nowhere close to being the most technologically advanced sports car on the market today. However, for its price point, Hyundai delivers numerous tech features that make the Veloster N thoroughly modern. This starts with the 4.2-inch TFT instrument cluster, with analog tachometer and speedometer dials on either side of it.

The Veloster’s steering wheel features standard Bluetooth, audio, and cruise controls (adaptive cruise control is not available). Additional standard features include power windows with driver’s-side automatic up, power door locks, keyless entry, proximity key, push-button start, a 12-volt outlet, AUX outlet, and a USB outlet.

The car also comes standard with an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen that’s positioned near eye level on top of the dashboard. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. The infotainment system is easy to use, reasonably responsive, and identical to those you’ll find in other Hyundai and Kia products.

Safety

7/ 10

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) hasn’t specifically rated the Veloster N, but it has tested the standard Veloster, which features much of the same exterior and interior structure as the N model. The 2021 Hyundai Veloster was named a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS, earning the highest "Good" score in all crash tests, but its headlights were a sore spot, earning "Poor" and "Acceptable" ratings. Its LATCH child-seat connections, which are hard to find, were also rated as merely "Acceptable."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not rated the Veloster N, nor the traditional Veloster model. Their records indicate no recalls for the Veloster N.

Hyundai equips each model with a number of standard safety features including forward-collision warning with assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist, lane-following assist, and driver-attention warning. All work as advertised.

The automaker backs every Veloster with its standard five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Cost-Effectiveness

9/ 10

The Hyundai Veloster N has a base price of $32,250. Opting for the DCT drives the price tag up by $1,500. There are a few low-cost accessories to choose from—like a cargo net and wheel locks—but even when adding all those you can get a Veloster N in your driveway for around $35,000 before any negotiated discounts. That’s a really good price for a really good car.

Pricing for the two-seat Mazda MX-5 Miata RF starts at $33,045, and the Miata offers substantially less passenger and cargo space while delivering similar drive qualities. It does have some nicer cabin materials and tech but those drive the cost up to over the top-out point for the Veloster.

With the Ford Focus out of the market in the U.S., the Veloster’s other most logical competitor is the four-door Volkswagen Golf GTI. It starts at $28,645 and goes up well into the $37,000 range. It has some features the Veloster doesn’t, like a panoramic sunroof, adaptive front headlights, and a premium audio system. Like the Veloster N, the GTI is also available with a dual-clutch gearbox alongside the traditional manual.

The Honda Civic Type R is also a four-door competitor but it has a starting MSRP of $37,895 and has a much harsher ride quality than the Veloster N.

What it comes down to is this. You like the Veloster? You get the Veloster. Its comfort, spaciousness, extended warranty, and price point cannot be beaten.

Updated by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

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