- WHAT’S GOOD: Strong performance; excellent road manners, paired with excellent track manners; thousands cheaper than anything remotely close.
- WHAT’S BAD: Exterior styling may be challenging for some; single rear door will take some explaining to your neighbours; given what it purports to be, not much else to complain about.
WILLOWS, CALIF.—Hyundai has been pretty successful recently racing their i30, which is the European designation for the Elantra station wagon.
Now, Hyundai Canada calls that car the “GT,” but if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…
This particular duck came one-two in this year’s Pirelli World Challenge series in the TCR class in North America, helmed by Michael Lewis and Toronto’s own Mark Wilkins.
But the corporate memory seems to have forgotten that Hyundai’s first racing team anywhere in the world was back home in Canada in the late 1990s. Jeff Lorriman and yours truly raced first an Accent (slow, but tough), then an Elantra sedan (very fast; second place in the championship), and finally the Tiburon sports coupe as part of a two-car team that came one-two in our class for a few years.
Now comes an “N” version of the Veloster sport coupe that shares some of oily bits with Elantra, and is sort-of the spiritual successor to the Tiburon, which means it holds special interest for me personally.
Nobody could tell us what the “N” stands for, but it is to Hyundai what “M” is to BMW — their motorsport division. Given that Hyundai’s chief engineer Albert Biermann used to run BMW’s M division — hm-mm; maybe N is one better than M?
Whatever, the Veloster N is on sale now for late-this-year delivery, starting (and pretty much ending) at $34,999. Pearl paint for $150 is your only option. Pick one of three available colours — white, black or a pastel blue which is the N sub-brand’s signature colour — and off you go.
The Americans also get a red one. Red, white and blue — geddit??
The base second-generation Veloster was launched in early January this year at the Detroit Auto Show, officially if somewhat early as a 2019 model.
The N variant ups the ante considerably, with a 275 horsepower turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, a six-speed manual transmission — no slushbox is even offered, thank you very much — and suspension and brakes that are as-near-as-damn-it-is-to-swearing race-track-ready.
On the off-chance you might stumble upon some American reviews of this car, don’t be fooled into thinking that there are two versions of it. The Americans do also get a watered-down edition with just 250 ponies and without some of the track-ready goodies. Canada only gets the full-zoot model.
Either Canadians can’t be fooled so easily (by politicians or carmakers) or our market can only support so many examples of a high-end model, and Hyundai figures they might as well go whole-hog.
Or possibly both — only 100 to 200 examples will be available for the rest of this calendar year, and presale demand has already been strong.
For starters, the Veloster N looks the part. To the already quirky-looking three-door (two fronts, one passenger-side rear) body, the N adds a unique grille, front-end ducts to direct cooling air to the brakes, rocker panel extensions for aerodynamic and frankly styling purposes, a roof-mounted rear spoiler, and a big diffuser for the twin-tailpipe exhaust system which strongly announces your arrival.
Massive-for-the-size-of-the-car 235/35 R19 Pirelli P Zero summer tires on lovely machine-finished dual-spoke alloy wheels complete the visual picture.
Additional chassis reinforcement means a 7 per cent improvement to the already stiff structure.
Inside, unique cloth seats provide the sort of grip and lateral support you’d expect in a car like this. N-Design logos and touches are everywhere, such as seatbelts in the sub-brand’s signature blue colour.
Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, heated seats and steering wheel, a nice stereo system — all are standard equipment.
In addition to the bright, clear analogue gauges, Veloster N has a set of sequential shift lights front-and-centre on the dash, giving you ample visual warning that you are nearing the red line.
In the go-faster department we’ve already mentioned the powertrain. One additional point — the compression ratio of 9.5:1 is high for a turbo engine, promising better throttle response than is typical for turbo engines.
Temporary overboost is also available when you need a bit of extra urge to stay ahead of that guy you just out-braked going into Turn Five.
To make sure all these ponies get their hooves into the pavement, Veloster N gets retuned MacStrut front and multi-link rear suspension, quicker-ratio electric power steering, a tuneable torque vectoring system, and an electronically-controlled limited slip differential for optimum cornering.
If a car can go, it better be able to stop; to this most desirable end, Veloster N gets big brakes with 345 mm diameter rotors front, 314 mm rear.
The performance-oriented dampers (”shock absorbers” to the non-cognoscenti) deserve special mention. Many sporty/pseudo-sporty cars have adjustable dampers, but in many of them the main difference is that a different-coloured light shows up on the dashboard; you’d need the sensitivity of a safecracker to tell the difference in the settings.
He Said/She Said: 2018 Volkswagen Golf R
With the Veloster N, when you select the so-called “N” (i.e., “race”) setting, you bloody well know it.
You can select from a variety of other modes: ECO (as if), Normal, or Sport, each of which selects relevant settings for those dampers, and for exhaust note, differential tuning, and steering feel.
Or, you can make up your own combination by choosing from the various settings for the various attributes to your own personal preferences. You’ll need a good long day at a race track to figure it all out. Longer than even we had, Hyundai please note, not that there is ever enough time at a race track in somebody else’s car…
Consistent with Hyundai’s racing successes and the nature of this particular car, they brought us to Thunderhill Raceway Park about 160 km north-west of Sacramento to shake it down.
To Hyundai’s credit, the track cars were just like you’d be able to buy, except for harder brake pads — race tracks are really hard on brakes.
A public-road drive route was also on offer.
It was interesting when comparing notes with other scribes on this event, that those who drove the car on the track first thought it felt a bit too soft on the road, even in the “race” setting.
Those of us who figured it made more sense to get some exposure to the car before taking it on the track had just the opposite impression. It felt fine on the road in one of the slightly less race-oriented modes — decidedly firm but not unduly hard. But the “race” setting gave us just that extra degree of control on the track.
Not that we were racing each other, oh no no…
The car is a treat on the track, with strong linear power, smooth-shifting gearbox, and predictable handling aided by the torque vectoring to help correct some of your mistakes.
I didn’t get a chance to test the launch control which allows you to make perfect drag racing starts; this car doesn’t seem to invite that sort of competition — it’s more of a track car.
In race mode you can switch on the rev-matching feature which automatically blips the throttle to ensure perfect downshifts every time. You can try to match this if you want — good luck with that.
Uncivilized – A Southern Ontario Road Trip in the 2018 Civic Type R
Veloster N even has a mode built in to the ESC system called “Karussell’ detection, named for the famous corner at Germany’s legendary Nurburgring race track where the car was tested, to provide an optimum setting just for that one corner. So next time you’re driving your Veloster N in Germany, give it a try.
So the Veloster N is demonstrably a track-focussed car. And yet, properly set up, it is perfectly at home on the road. Comfortable, nicely finished, well-equipped.
Braden Chapin, Hyundai Canada’s senior product planner for the car, used the term “Jekyll and Hyde” to describe the car’s dual personality. For those of you who don’t read, you can look it up.
Hyundai has come up with some cute names for some of the features on this car. E.g., Chapin called it a “cornering rascal” and the limited slip unit a “Corner-Carving Differential.”
A rose by any other name…
And, it’s an affordable rose. Probably the car that comes closest to it in specs is Honda’s Civic Type R. True, it has more power, but it also costs over six grand more, and extracts more out of you when you’re not hair-assing around a race track.
Veloster N is not only a terrific all-purpose sports car, it looks like a bargain, too. Orders are already pouring in; by the time you read this you might already be too late.
You better hope they get more in by the time spring rolls around.