“It’s about bringing more power and more emotion to the Hyundai brand and making fun-to-drive cars,” said Albert Biermann when presenting the 2019 Hyundai Veloster N. And he would know. Biermann was the boss of BMW’s M division and is now president of the performance-oriented sub-brand at the Korean manufacturer. After introducing the N sub-brand at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, Hyundai now has two N models in its global lineup and is working on more. The first model to reach U.S. shores will be the Veloster N, and we drove it on one of the most challenging circuits on the planet: the Nurburgring Nordschleife.
Launching a car like the Veloster N at such a legendary racetrack makes sense. The brand has been testing at the Nurburgring since 2011, and in 2013 it opened a technical center next to the track. That same year it quietly began testing for its N division, first with the i30 N and later with the Veloster N. It has also benefited greatly from its success in motorsports, particularly WRC and TCR series, and just like editor-in-chief Ed Loh noted in a recent column, the Korean brand tapped former BMW bosses to head the development and design teams..
The Veloster N will have only one trim when it arrives in the U.S. in the fourth quarter of this year, with the Performance package as the only available option. The most important upgrade is the additional power, which increases from 250 to 275 hp (torque stays the same) and the limited-slip differential. Instead of getting 18-inch wheels with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, you get 19-inch wheels with the stickier Pirelli P Zero tires. Another nice upgrade is bigger brakes in the front and rear—both ventilated. The package also includes a modular exhaust system, a slightly different final ratio for the transmission, a shorter front stabilizer bar (21mm instead of 23mm), and a shorter overall height (54.9 versus 55.1 inches).
In the two laps I drove at the ’Ring, the Veloster N equipped with the Performance Package felt at home. Powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder twin-scroll turbo engine, the hot hatch feels potent and agile. Its 275 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque are more than enough to get it moving quickly. Hyundai estimates a 0–62 mph time of 6.1 seconds, but given our experience at the track and on the road, that number seems conservative. A six-speed manual gearbox with rev matching sends all that power to the front wheels.
Either spec will come with five driving modes: Eco, Normal, Sport, N, and N Custom. The latter will personalize the suspension and steering settings as well as the sound of the exhaust to the driver’s likes. Although two laps at the Nurburgring gave me only a taste of what the Veloster N is capable of, I got a good feeling for the car. In N mode, the steering and suspension felt stiffer, but I wish the steering felt a bit more rigid. The hot hatch feels planted and stable on the corners, showing minimal body roll. Equipped with cornering acceleration control, torque steer control, and an electronically controlled differential, you can enter the corners at high speeds with little understeer, and get a linear power delivery when coming out of the curve. The Nordschleife’s bumps were pretty noticeable inside the Veloster N, but never to the point where I felt uncomfortable. If I could improve anything, it would be the sound of the engine, which didn’t seem to be as strong inside the cabin as outside.
Located above the 4.2-inch instrument cluster display, the shift lights were a helpful feature when driving on the ’Ring. They light up and change color from white to yellow to red, indicating to the driver when it’s time to shift. The six-speed shifter has short throws and the clutch pedal feels firm, giving good feedback for the bite. Even the brake pedal has good communication, with short travel and firmness. The ventilated discs (13.6-inch in the front, 12.4-inch in the rear) do a good job slowing down the car. The air duct on the side of the front fascia helps bring cool air to the brakes, and even after a dozen laps at the ’Ring, they didn’t seem to suffer.
The following day I drove the Veloster N on the streets around Nurburg. The route was pretty diverse, from twisty, narrow roads to the autobahn’s straights to low-speed drives through quaint villages. This time I drove in Sport mode most of the time and I noticed the suspension was a bit less stiff than in N mode, though the steering felt pretty much the same. The excellent quality of the German roads made it hard to notice any bumps or vibrations inside the cabin, making it a very comfortable drive.
Step on the gas, and you’ll feel your back push against the seatback as you listen to the snaps and pops from the exhaust. The Veloster N is easy to drive and handles great on twisty roads; the additional welding and increased torsional stiffness (6.9 percent) over the regular Veloster make the N car behave better.
The Veloster N is fun and confidence-inspiring in corners, and my excitement grew to a different level when I hit the autobahn. The light traffic on a Saturday morning in the countryside made it the perfect day to go fast. How fast? The speedo’s needle moved past an indicated 160 mph, though Hyundai pegs the car’s top speed at 155 mph. At those high speeds the car felt quiet and controlled, though the autobahn’s exceptional conditions take lots of credit for that.
We look forward to driving the Veloster N more once it gets to U.S. shores, likely sometime in late October or early November. We’d like to try the launch control and drive a regular trim without the Performance package.
Quite a few exterior details make the Veloster N stand out. A mesh grille flanked by a red front splitter with air vents gives the front a unique look. The side sills and red calipers differentiate it from the regular Veloster, and one of my favorite features is the triangular brake light located on the spoiler. And yes, the weird 2+1 door configuration stays in the N car. All of that looks good until you see it side by side with the more polished and handsome i30 N. Unfortunately, so far there are no plans to bring the i30 N (known as the Elantra in our market) to the U.S.
Inside, a few touches tell you this is an N car. The steering wheel has two light blue buttons: One selects the Eco, Normal, or Sport drive mode, and the other, marked with a checkered flag, selects N or N Custom. The seat belts are a Performance Blue color, and the cloth seats, steering wheel, and shifter have light blue stitching. Compared to the regular Veloster, you’ll find the seats have more lateral support, though they’re nothing extra special. The infotainment system has cool performance graphics, including G force, turbo boost, torque, and power readings, suspension settings, and a built-in timer.
Pricing has not been announced yet, but Hyundai says we can expect the same good value the rest of its lineup is known for. We think the Veloster N will start somewhere in the high $20,000s, with the Performance package adding about $3,000 more. That’s in the same ballpark as the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST, but cheaper than the Honda Civic Type R.
Hyundai hopes to succeed with the Veloster N in the United States the way the N sub-brand already has in Korea and in Europe. If Hyundai’s performance arm can win the hearts of U.S. customers—and given our experience with the Veloster N, there’s a good chance it will—the N sub-brand will have a bright future in the U.S. Considering the talent inside Hyundai, we think N is here to stay.
The post 2019 Hyundai Veloster N First Drive: N for Nurburgring appeared first on Motor Trend.