Hyundai Veloster N — Performance personified photo

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Last year Road and Track magazine named the Hyundai Veloster N one of the top 10 performance cars in its annual test. What? A Hyundai Veloster that started life in 2012 with a puny 138-horsepower 4-cylinder engine — hardly enough grunt to get out of its own way. We know that the Hyundai "N" designation signifies cutting-edge handling and performance — but not the kind of performance that puts the Veloster into the top 10 in a major auto magazine performance test.

In fairness to Hyundai, it corrected the power shortage in 2013 with a 201-horsepower turbocharged engine. It provided — and still does — adequate hot hatch thrills. But until the performance N treatment began at Hyundai in 2019, the Veloster couldn't travel in the company of such vaunted nameplates as the Honda Civic Type R or the Volkswagen Golf R — let alone the group of sports cars assembled by Road and Track. photo

The front-wheel driven Veloster was the first Hyundai sold in North America to get the N designation. And we discovered for ourselves that "N" turns the little three-door hatch into a raucous diving machine that provides outstanding bang for the buck and puts it squarely in the middle of the hot hatch conversation.

Originally developed at Hyundai’s research and development center in Namyang, South Korea, the N in the Veloster’s name is strongly linked to its true development site: Germany’s Nurburgring-Nordschleife. Considered to be the benchmark for high-performance driving and testing, the 13-mile circuit with 73 bends, and numerous elevation changes, has a reputation as the world’s most grueling and dangerous road course.

What N does for the 2021 Veloster is add a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 275 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque mated to an optional 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and a stiffened suspension for sharper handling. The automatic transmission is available for the first time with the 6-speed manual continuing as the standard shifter.

In 2019 and 2020, the $2,100 Performance Package raised horsepower from 250 to 275. For 2021 it's standard equipment — all the N trim levels now get the full 275 ponies. The Performance Package also brings  electronically controlled limited-slip differential, larger brake rotors, an active exhaust system, and 19-inch wheels with Pirelli P Zero PZ4 summer tires, which replace the standard 18-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sports.

The fast-shifting dual-clutch transmission has made the 2021 Veloster N faster than earlier editions, now measured from 0-to-60 in 4.8 seconds with a quarter mile time of 13.4 seconds @ 105 mph. Together with go-fast numbers, we found the Veloster N a cornering monster capable of taking the twists and turns of our favorite winding rural road "test track" in thrilling fashion.  

The Veloster N is highly customizable using a drive mode display on its 8.0-inch central touchscreen. With the Veloster N's many chassis, engine, exhaust, and drivetrain settings, there are a myriad of choices for the discerning owner. There are also preset selections — Eco, Normal, Sport, and N Mode. We stuck with the Sport mode for all of our go-fast driving, and to Normal for getting from point A to point B.

Notably quirky, the N offers some surface excitement including exclusive N-design front fascia with front air ducts for enhanced brake cooling, N-design rocker side sills with red accents, red brake calipers, available lightweight 19-inch alloy wheels, a tricked-out larger N-design rear spoiler, rear fascia design with integrated diffuser, and larger high-flow dual exhaust.

Inside, front seats with abundant legroom have extra bolstering for performance driving support. Rear seat leg and headroom are nearly non-existent, but with the Veloster's unique three-door design — there's a small rear door on the passenger side — entry and exit is relatively easy.

Inside, there are N-logo designs on the steering wheel, shift knob, instrument cluster, and doorsill plates. A black cloth interior with blue stitching is the only color offered. A nice touch is the light blue seat belt color. The eight-inch color touch-screen display controls both the standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto infotainment features. Wireless smartphone charging is now on the menu as well. All operational controls are well laid out and intuitive. And thankfully the Veloster has actual knobs and push buttons for most functions.

All this good N stuff starts at $33,245 and comes in at $34,745 with the optional 8-speed transmission, which adds $1,500. For those on a tighter budget, the Turbo R Spec starts at $24,585 and features the 1.6-liter 201-horsepower engine with performance tires and a sport-tuned suspension. The standard garden variety Veloster starts at $21,190 coming with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder making 147 horsepower.

As with all Hyundai vehicles there is a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile drivetrain warranty.

2021 Hyundai Veloster N


Base price: $33,245; as driven, $34,745
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4 cylinder
Horsepower: 275 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 278 pound-feet @ 1,750 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed dual clutch automatic
Drive: front-wheel
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 104.3 inches
Length: 167.9 inches
Curb weight: 3,186 pounds
Turning circle: 34.8 feet
Luggage capacity: 19.9 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 20 city, 27 highway, 22 combined
0-60: 4.8 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Volkswagen Golf R, Honda Civic Type R

The Good
• Outstanding performance
• Sporty driving demeanor
• Functional 3-door style

The Bad
• Elevated road noise

The Ugly
• High price of admission