Much has been made about the former head of BMW’s M division defecting to the Hyundai-Kia group. And while he had an immediate effect on Kia’s ride and handling as well as the introduction of their rear-drive stinger performance sedan; it’s only now that we get to see the full results, with the launch of Hyundai’s N performance division. Time for some fast laps in their first effort…the Veloster N.
No need here to recap Hyundai’s journey from cheap disposable transportation to where they are today; all of that is well-documented. We’re here to push some limits of our own, with their latest stride, the new 2019 Hyundai Veloster N.
While various aspects of recent Hyundai exterior and interior treatments are now among the most copied, no one as of yet is replicating the Veloster’s 3-door approach. While that’s probably a good thing, we think the updated design that arrived for ’19 works pretty well.
The N of course, comes with a higher aggression level. There’s a unique front fascia with larger air intakes, rocker extensions, bigger rear spoiler with triangle-shaped brake light, diffuser with integrated dual exhaust tips, lots of red trim, and either 18 or our test car’s 19-inch light alloy wheels.
As part of an optional Performance Package, those wheels come wrapped in Pirelli P Zero performance tires; you also get larger brakes and a variable exhaust valve system that pops and crackles up an additional 25-horsepower.
That makes for a total of 275, from this new 2.0-liter I4 turbo. Base N’s come with 250-horsepower, and both share the same torque output of 260 lb-ft. No automatic transmission is available, just a 6-speed manual that comes with rev-matching.
But, on to the important stuff. Albert Biermann is just one of the many German engineers that the Hyundai-Kia Group has poached over the years, and it looks like their mission plan has come to fruition. And yes, extensive time was put on the Nurburgring dialing this thing all in.
We hit our winter test grounds, Savannah, Georgia’s Roebling Road Raceway with an open mind; trying not to have too low or high expectations. Early impressions, the Veloster N is less of a fast and furious hatch, and more of a total package performance car; and way more fun that we thought it would be.
It’s extremely nimble, and has that way of feeling better and better the harder you push it. Remember, it’s still front-wheel-drive! But, it does get an N Power Sense Axle with an electronically controlled torque vectoring limited-slip differential.
Keeping the price low was a priority, so a lot of its upgrades actually come off of the Hyundai-Kia parts shelves from larger cars like the Optima. There’s additional structural bracing; as well as unique suspension tuning, which helps this little powerhouse carry quite a lot of corner speed.
The manual shifter itself, as well as the rev-matching feature, works great; and even the brakes did a fantastic job at this high speed track. About the only thing we could wish for is a little more feedback through the chassis.
But at the end of our track days, the Veloster N is just a fun car, with plenty of personality, and more importantly, capability; that makes it more than competitive with just about any other hot hatchback regardless of price.
As for the straight-line, the N is easy enough to launch, though you can spin up some always-fun front-wheel-drive burnouts if you want. Get off the line cleanly, and you can hit 60 in 5.2-seconds.
There’s plenty of power all over the tach; but stay alert, this little turbo-4 revs freely, and you’ll be working the short-throw shifter a lot. 13.9-seconds was our ¼-mile time at 102 miles-per-hour.
With all of that, the Veloster N is still plenty practical for a compact hatchback. And a good enough daily driver, as Hyundai didn’t just want to make it appealing to a wide audience, they wanted them to enjoy it as much as possible, not just on track days. So, while the ride is firm, it is nowhere near extreme; rather, well-composed and surprisingly refined. Again, think German more than Asian.
There are some special touches inside of course, unique well-bolstered cloth seats, blue accents, and lots of N logos throughout.
Plenty of ways to configure your own setup as well; whether we’re talking about comprehensive drive modes, or individual adjustments to exhaust, suspension, or traction settings.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 22-City, 28-Highway, and 25-Combined. With an Energy Impact Score of 13.2-barrels of annual oil consumption, with CO2 emissions at 6.0-tons.
Most impressive of all, pricing starts at just $27,820. And even with the Performance Package, it still comes in at under 30-grand.
Hyundai’s current challenge is making cars that are not just cheaper or even better than the competition, but making ones that are highly desirable. The 2019 Veloster N is a great step in that direction. And we know we can’t wait for the next N-brand offering to come from Hyundai!
Engine: 2.0 liter
Torque: 260 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 5.2 seconds
1/4 mile: 13.9 seconds @ 102 mph
EPA: 22 mpg city / 28 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 13.2 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 6.0 tons/yr