The Hyundai Veloster N is officially dead; long live the Veloster N. Another traditional car sadly sees its end in the age of the ever-prominent crossover. The news hadn’t yet become public when the black car seen here was loaned to me for a week, but what takes place behind closed doors happens on a different wavelength, so we have to look at the quirky three-door hot hatchback through the lens of something like an obituary. This is a damn shame because the Hyundai Veloster N, especially with the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, is a perfect example of what the hot hatchback should be in 2022.
Part one of the hot hatchback formula is an engaging engine. Power in the Veloster N is plentiful. 275 horsepower (plus an additional 10 when the N Grin Shift button is pushed) and 260 lb-ft of torque are more than enough, especially when only sent to the front wheels. 0-60 happens in around 5.1 seconds, a number that not so long ago was unattainable in the class.
Physics can’t be ignored. There’s not so much in the way of torque steer as there is the barely-restrained wheelspin. Flashes of the Mazdaspeed3 models come to mind when getting on the gas hard. This characteristic is amplified when the roads are wet. Frankly, it’s a pleasant, refreshing surprise; in a world of restraining, Big Brother-like traction control systems, punching the go pedal in the Hyundai brings outright juvenile joy. And while a six-speed manual is standard, the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) is the better choice. It snaps off gears quicker than any car this side of PDK should, with hysterically violent upshifts and rapid downshifts.
Handling is quite good for a car with a chassis not designed for a dedicated, all-out sports car. It has the rigidity that something in this class needs, and chances are it has a higher level of maximum grip than anyone can safely explore on public roads. Hit the autocross or track, and the V/N will be right at home.
The thing is, power and handling competence are only two pieces of the much bigger puzzle. What really matters with the Veloster N is that it’s fun. A trait eerily missing from so many modern vehicles (I don’t need to wax poetic over this; the horse has already been beaten to death), the N is a hoot to rip around in, whether from stoplight to stoplight or on a long spirited drive. The equation is just right: Enough power to be fast but not irresponsibly so, cornering capabilities well above a traditional family vehicle, constant burbles and pops from the exhaust juxtaposed by turbo noises from under the hood, and a package that’s just the right size.
On a tight Connecticut back road, there aren’t many cars in which I could go faster from point to point. The combination of good visibility, quick transmission, and explosive mid-range power makes for the recipe a hot hatch was built on. The size is right, too; we complain on and on these days about how cars have gotten too big, but crushing corners on a two-lane road through the Connecticut woods exemplifies how something the size of a Veloster is a perfect compromise.
Of course, the Veloster N has some concessions. A variety of interior materials are hard, low-rent plastics, CarPlay repeatedly dropped connection with frustrating frequency, and the car needs an extra door. Truth is, none of these matter: When it comes to driving the Veloster N, fun is first and foremost. The V/N’s speed pales in comparison with today’s world of accessible speed, but more importantly, it feels fast; low-speed roads still feel like you’re hustling, and at higher speeds, it doesn’t mask velocity as some more-insulated vehicles do. It’s a welcome change.
If the Veloster N was all-wheel-drive and had an extra door, they’d appeal to a whole new audience— as the upcoming GR Corolla does. Over the last ten years, Hyundai has proven it has the guts to do great things and the chops to back them up. The Veloster N is just that. Soon, a hot hatch will be more akin to the Hyundai Ioniq 5, which is a rocket in its own right, yet as of this writing, costs multiples more than the Veloster N. Or did. Hyundai has decided to pull the plug and end production of the Veloster N as soon as next month. It must have been on death row for some time, something that doesn’t come as much of a surprise: Anybody with a half-understanding of business workings knows it was only a matter of time. The Veloster had to be sacrificed to help Hyundai’s future electric offerings.
The Veloster N is fantastic because while it will haul the family and groceries and commute with the most boring of them, it’s always on, always buzzing, always encouraging a sporting affair. If you ever sought to buy a Mini Cooper S that’s faster and stuck on sport mode, a Fiesta ST that’s quirkier and better built, or an oddball, easier-on-the-eyes Civic Type R with a killer warranty, this is your car. Those interested better hurry because once the flame dies out, the only Veloster N available will be one on the used market. And like any good hot hatch, chances are those examples will be quite beaten on, the way any car of its class deserves. Drive it hard, park it, rinse, repeat. The hot hatchback has been perfected, and it looks like the Veloster N.