The Hyundai Veloster N is one of the best hot hatchbacks we've ever driven, period. It's punchy, stylish, agile, and an absolute bargain for the segment. And this year Hyundai has upped the ante by adding more standard features, which makes the already great Veloster N even better.
Joining the standard six-speed manual transmission is an optional eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox that shifts with the best of them. The updated Veloster N also gets bigger brakes, better seats, and the Performance package is now standard, which means more power. Even with a price hike that pushes the hot Hyundai just north of $30,000, our conclusion remains the same: The Veloster N is the best it’s ever been.
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Hyundai absolutely nailed the styling of the Veloster line as a whole, but the angular hatchback looks even better in N guise. A set of 19-inch wheels comes standard, sportier vents and creases adorn the front end, and a sharp spoiler sits on the rear, blending seamlessly into the tapered roof. And if you opt for Ultra Black, Performance Blue, or Chalk White paint (pictured here), there are red exterior accents on the body, while Racing Red paint features black accents.
The Veloster N’s interior layout looks simple and clean, but once you start laying hands on the individual parts, there’s way too much hard black plastic throughout. The dash and door panels are littered with the tough stuff. Compared to the Honda Civic Type R and Mini John Cooper Works GP, the Veloster’s interior looks and feels cheap – it’s near the bottom of the class in terms of overall quality. A tacked-on touchscreen sits atop the dash with a simple array of buttons just beneath that, and the steering wheel has simple controls with two big baby blue buttons: one for standard drive modes and the other for a special Race mode.
The one major interior upgrade that the 2021 Veloster N gets over the previous version is the seats. The new buckets wear a combo of cloth and faux leather, with a sporty blue stripe down the center and a glowing “N” badge just below the headrests. These are some of the best buckets available anywhere.
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Not only do the Veloster N’s new buckets look awesome, but they’re also extremely form-fitting. The seats are supportive and soft, with great bolstering for both the road and when you need it on the track. And although the Veloster does ride a bit harsh – blame those large 19-inch wheels – it’s not all that offensive thanks to the great support from those bucket seats. Our only knock against the seats is that they’re not heated in the US. The Korean Veloster N, though, does get heated seats for some reason.
The front of the Veloster is really the only place to be. The N model – like all Velosters – has a three-door layout, with one large door on the driver’s side, a traditional door on the front passenger, and a smaller third door on the rear passenger side that creates a tight entryway into the second row. Ingress and egress are difficult, and once inside, the back seat isn’t all that spacious.
The Veloster N’s 35.9 inches of rear headroom and 34.1 inches of rear legroom aren’t great figures for the class. The Honda Civic Type R has 37.4 inches of rear headroom and 35.9 of rear legroom, by comparison, the outgoing Volkswagen Golf R has 38.1 inches of headroom and 35.6 inches of legroom, and the Mini John Cooper Works Hardtop has 36.9 inches of rear headroom. Only the JCW is worse than the Veloster in legroom, offering a measly 30.8 inches.
The Veloster N has a relatively basic 8.0-inch touchscreen, which is fine, with a simple home layout and crisp graphics. It’s generally easy to use – although touch responsiveness can be a bit iffy. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, as does navigation and satellite radio. The gauges are analog, which is fine, and they house a modest 4.2-inch screen between them that offers readouts for things like fuel economy, average miles per hour, driving time, distance to empty, and more.
But the one thing that the Veloster N does have going for it in the tech department is the N-specific pages for performance readouts. Embedded within the infotainment system, the spider-web–like setup allows you to customize individual performance elements like steering, suspension, stability control, and more, to create a custom drive experience.
Driving the Hyundai Veloster N is the definition of fun. Powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, Hyundai now offers last year’s optional Performance Pack as standard, which gives the hot hatch an output of 275 horsepower – an improvement of 25 hp over the previous model year. Torque remains at 260 lb-ft, but there is an “N Grin Shift” (or NGS) button on the steering wheel that offers a 20-second torque boost, bumping that number to 278 lb-ft for quick passes.
Even though it takes a second for those turbos to spool up, the Veloster’s four-cylinder engine is still punchy as hell. Even better is the addition of launch control for 2021 with selectable RPMs, which helps rocket the Veloster N to hit 60 miles per hour in a brisk 5.6 seconds. Also new is an optional eight-speed dual-clutch transmission – a $1,500 extra equipped on our tester that Hyundai’s N division developed in-house. It joins the standard six-speed manual for 2021, and this may sound blasphemous but the DCT is actually our preferred transmission of the two.
Although the Veloster N’s stick is just fine, the dual-clutch transmission rips off lightning-quick, incredibly crisp gear changes, paired with a fun bark from the exhaust. In Sport and Race modes specifically, the DCT feels like a wound-up rubber band ready to snap at a moment’s notice. And even in Normal and Eco modes, the DCT’s response is quick but dulled appropriately to match the mood. Simply put, it’s a phenomenal gearbox.
On top of that, the Veloster N corners with the best of them. This hot hatch is flat and smooth, and it rotates flawlessly around turns. Even a simple task, like making a right at a stoplight, feels incredibly fun in this car. The Veloster N is the perfect vehicle to flog around town at moderate speeds.
Although performance is the Veloster N’s calling card, this little hatch actually has a solid collection of safety equipment. Automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring come standard, as do the lane-centering and lane-keep assist features that feel very advanced – nearly as good as some hands-off options. The Veloster N stays perfectly centered without ping-ponging, and the steering automatically adjusts as needed, and can even negotiate gentle turns in the road.
The only major ding against the Veloster N is that there is no adaptive cruise control – meaning it won’t adjust speed based on the vehicle in front of you. But there is a lane following assist feature that warns you when the car in front has started moving. That option is especially helpful at stoplights when you might be looking down at the infotainment screen.
Achieving 20 miles per gallon city, 27 highway, and 22 combined, the Veloster N is far from the most efficient hot hatchback in the class. The Honda Civic Type R gets a combined 25 mpg, the Volkswagen Golf R gets 26 combined, and the Mini Cooper JCW is the most efficient, returning 29 combined. And like the other three options in this segment, the Hyundai Veloster N requires premium fuel for the best performance.
The Hyundai Veloster N starts at $32,500 for 2021 for the base model with a six-speed manual and no options. The dual-clutch gearbox is a $1,500 option on top of that, bringing the cost of our tester to $34,745. Outside of that, there are no other available options. All four paint colors are no-cost and a black cloth interior is the lone color choice. The only way to make a Veloster N more expensive is to add dealer-installed accessories, which we don’t factor into pricing..
That $32,500 starting price is a noticeable hike compared to last year’s $27,600 base MRSP, but the Veloster N is still an absolute performance bargain – and the most affordable car in the segment. The new 2022 Mini Cooper JCW costs $32,900 to start, the Honda Civic Type R costs $37,895 out of the box, and the Volkswagen Golf R costs $38,595.
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Gallery: 2021 Hyundai Veloster N DCT: Review
2021 Hyundai Veloster N