Review: The 2022 Hyundai Veloster N Is the Cream of the Current Hot-Hatch Crop
This goofy three-door hot hatch is also the most inspired enthusiast choice in its class
If you’re in the market for a top-tier hot hatch, there are three poles currently exerting their influence on the sport compact market.
At one end of the spectrum sits the Honda Civic Type R, which is on the verge of a current model year redesign that should double down on its surgical, computer-assisted approach to setting the front-wheel drive “fast time of the day” at your local lapping club. In the middle is the also-new Volkswagen Golf R, an all-wheel drive outlier that focuses more on blending superb speed with a smooth daily drive than it does all-out performance.
Representing the most raucous take on the topic: the Hyundai Veloster N. At this point the elder statesperson of the segment (despite being a mere three years of age), the N model carries over for 2022 as the only representative of the Veloster lineage, with its lesser trim levels having been banished by rising crossover sales at the entry level. A rip-snorting riposte to the buttoned-down mores that had overtaken its overboosted cohort when it appeared as a 2019 model, the Veloster N has more recently been given a sheen of civilization by way of an optional dual-clutch automated manual transmission, which joins its original six-speed manual on the order sheet.
Fortunately, the switch to self-shifting has done little to squelch the flame of flagrant disregard for decorum that permeates the entire Veloster N experience, helping instead to push the car to the front of the pack in terms of straight-line speed while preserving much of its mojo. If you like your pocket rockets brash, but still tolerable in the daily commute — and you’re willing to forgive a few foibles — Hyundai’s hooligan is hard to pass up.
How Many Doors?
Let’s get this out of the way: the Hyundai Veloster N’s styling is more than a little weird. Featuring a pair of doors on the passenger side versus a single long door on the driver’s, the world has largely shrugged when presented with the Veloster’s paean to mixing style and better access to the rear of its compact cabin (or, in some cases, backed out of the showroom while smiling and nodding).
If you can ignore the three-door asymmetry, the rest of the Veloster N’s design provides a pleasingly aggressive take on what a fun-to-drive turbo sled should look like. There’s a big box wing extending the roofline over the hatch deck, a set of diffusers molded into the back bumper, and plenty of gloss-black skirts and splitters that frame the rest of the Hyundai like it’s hanging on the wall at a go-fast gallery.
The next item to stomach is the N’s decidedly down-market cabin. Not as elegantly finished as the Civic Type R, and missing much of the gee-whiz tech loaded into the redesigned Golf R, the Veloster N presents a plain plastic interpretation of the modern compact concept. There’s decent room for front passengers, to be sure, and the cargo area is surprisingly deep once you pop the lid at the rear, but there’s little to attract the eye within the Hyundai’s interior other than a splash of blue on the steering wheel (its pair of drive mode buttons) and the equally color-cued seatbelts. A functional, albeit smallish infotainment screen is perched at the top of the dashboard, and although switchgear is easy to use there’s never any doubt that you’re riding inside a warmed-over econobox when it comes to creature comforts.
Blast and Furious
Of course, when driven to its full potential the 2022 Veloster N leaves little time for pondering the cost-conscious philosophy guiding its passenger compartment design. The vehicle’s 2.0-liter, turbocharged engine staccatos 275 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque out of its twin tailpipes, a gloriously garrulous narrative made possible by an overboost feature that pours on the pound-feet at full throttle.
What was once a handful off the line when managed by your clutch foot, the new DCT arrangement features a trouble-free launch control system that catapults the car to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds — faster than any other front-wheel drive hot hatch, and making the Veloster N the cheapest ticket on the market to a sub-5 second sprint. That’s an absurd spec that’s knocking on the door of much more potent fare from BMW et al. at twice the price.
More importantly, the dual-clutch setup insulates drivers only a little from the tumult of sensation delivered by the Veloster N when poured through a judiciously selected back road blender. Featuring a number of off-the-shelf drive modes (or the option of selecting your own chassis and drivetrain parameters via the Custom setting), this Veloster transforms from relatively buttoned-down, traffic-friendly commuter to full-on dervish at the touch of a button.
In “N Mode,” with its suspension and front differential settings at their most aggressive (and its exhaust burble amped up to a roaring torrent of combustion byproducts), there’s much joy to be had in haranguing the Veloster through unreasonably twisted squiggles on the nav screen. The DCT reacts instantaneously to finger taps up and down, but even in auto mode the transmission’s programming remains cognizant that fun is its primary mission, holding ratios as long as necessary to make it out of a corner at full steam.
Through it all, the Veloster N communicates the occasionally chaotic goings-on underneath its wheels with enough vocabulary to take home top marks at the bee. Lacking the sanitized, digital sheen of the Honda Civic Type R’s chassis tune, the lightweight Hyundai instead keeps drivers in the moment at every moment, sacrificing a little precision for a lot more involvement at the limit. It’s a trade-off that elevates the N into the top tier of both front-puller and four-wheel liftoff oversteer champs, and it’s an attitude that is sorely lacking when evaluating the current field of more refined, less rapturous driving experiences at its price point.
Get One Before They’re Gone
About that window sticker: the 2022 Hyundai Veloster N starts at $32,500, with a $1,500 surcharge for the dual-clutch gearbox. That’s almost $7K less than the potential $40K or so asked by the upcoming Civic Type R, and nearly $10K under the Golf R’s $43K price. In fact, only the Volkswagen Golf GTI comes close to the Veloster N’s value proposition, but the less-focused German is blown to the weeds by the Hyundai’s power and handling.
Time is most likely running out on your chances to snag a ruffian like the Veloster N, as Hyundai’s move to N-branded crossovers like the Kona and the recent culling of the Veloster family telegraph a hot hatch-free future for the automaker. Until that sad day, if you care less about low-cost cabin confines than you do about the quality of conversation between pilot and performance car when courting calamity at full throttle, the Veloster N remains the most inspired enthusiast choice in its class.
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