SAN FRANCISCO — So many questions. Why can we put a man on the moon back in 1969 yet can’t seem to begin to comprehend why some drivers camp the left lane. Or why any automaker would design a car that only has three passenger doors. That’s right, the Hyundai Veloster is a 3-door car that’s really come into its own. Recently hailed as the Road and Track performance car of the year, this “N” model of the Veloster is extremely fun to drive. If you’re a driving enthusiast.
Under the hood, we find a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that’s mated to a six-speed manual transmission. Yes, a manual transmission. Thank you, God. Short throws with an easy clutch help add to the fun-factor of driving this car.
Its 275 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque come only in the optional “performance package” that adds an extra $2100 dollars to the price. Well worth the money. Not only do you gain 15 more horsepower, you also get the 19-inch alloy wheels, Pirelli P-Zero summer tires, and its variable exhaust system. Not many performance cars give you the ability to adjust the exhaust sounds, outside the car, especially in this price bracket. Opening up the exhaust, exhibits cracks, and pops – and while it’s nowhere near the sublime sound of a V8, it is far and away, the best-sounding hatchback you can buy.
Inside you’ll find two front seats that are manually adjustable but offer very good bolster support for taking on those hard corners. Rear leg-room is laughable but that’s not why you’d by this car. The main reason is that it’s a hatchback and with the rear seats down, it offers quite a bit of cargo room.
The Infinity-powered infotainment system offers very good fidelity with excellent bass response, good mids and smooth highs. While the mapping system is looking a bit dated, the overall screen looks well-positioned, offering a nice flow as to how it’s placed in the center of the dash. Audio playback supports Mp3/CD/AM/FM/XM Satellite and Bluetooth audio as well. The screen is very responsive to touch and doesn’t exhibit much lag whatsoever.
On the road:
There are three different drive modes, normal, eco and “N” with a customizable mode thrown in for good measure. You’ll immediately tell the difference when going into the “N” mode. The steering gets a bit more weighted, the exhaust gets louder and the suspension gets so stiff that you may need to see a Chiropractor when done driving it.
I’ve driven hundreds of cars over the last 10 years and can honestly say that I haven’t driven one yet that has as stiff of a suspension as this car. Talk about an insanely flat steering response around corners. It’s as if body roll doesn’t exist. More importantly, there’s very little understeer – something quite common in front-wheel-drive autos.
The way it powers through hard corners at a very high rate of speed is something you must experience to fully appreciate. Virtually zero body roll. It’s as if the car beckons you, begs you to push it harder through the corners. There are few cars on the road today that can keep up with the Veloster N around corners. Slipping the car into either normal or eco mode instantly dampens things up quite a bit as you’ll notice a softer ride, quieter exhaust, and a more “tame” feel.
The primary issue with the “N” is all of its power going only to the front wheels. Meaning that it’s so easy to have them loose grip. On a hard-launch, the weight of the car shifts towards the rear and you lose some of the downward pressure the weight of the engine puts over the front wheels. We’d love to see an all-wheel-drive version come out in the future to help address this.
Finally, the rear visibility may be an issue for some drivers as the rear window and pillars back there don’t make for the best visibility.
There’s little doubt that the 2020 Veloster N has a great deal going for it and frankly is one of the best-performing cars you can buy for under $50,000. Of course, it doesn’t have the power of the Civic R or the VW Golf R, it does feature a fun-to-drive element that’s off the charts.
Price as tested: $30,430