The Hyundai Veloster has always been a bit of an odd duck.
It’s slightly smaller than the traditional compact class of cars, but too weird to battle against the subcompacts (if the bizarre shape wasn’t enough, there’s also its unconventional three-plus-one door layout). In 2019, however, Hyundai introduced North America to its high-performance N badge by sticking it on the back of the Veloster. Car critics the world over suddenly stopped scratching their heads and have been raving about it ever since.
The 2022 Hyundai Veloster N is undeniably the Veloster you want and, as it happens, the only Veloster you can still get, with lesser versions removed from the lineup. All wheat, no chaff.
That wheat, as I’ve learned, remains as tasty as ever, but the current sport compact landscape is a bit different than the one the Veloster N was born into. As good as Hyundai’s three-door hot hatch is, I’m not sure it’s the hot Hyundai that’d get my money in 2022.
Before we get into all of that, let’s talk styling. It may have red chin straps and a shopping cart-style rear wing, but compared to the infamously polarizing Honda Civic Type R, the latest Golf R from Volkswagen, and the perennially-dowdy Subaru WRX, the Veloster N is one of the more agreeable-looking sport compacts out there. It’s still not exactly what I’d call beautiful, but there’s also nothing overtly offensive about it, either. The grille is appropriately big, the lower surrounds are appropriately scarlet, and the car looks particularly cool from the back. Its squat is wide and punchy, and features a pair of huge-yet-unfussy exhaust tips as well as LED taillight signatures that remind me of those of a Lamborghini.
Other than the cool bucket seats with light-up N logos and blue seat belts, the inside of the Veloster looks decidedly basic. It’s also made pretty much entirely of hard plastic, even at the tops of the dash and doors.
Driving Feel: 9/10
That plastic-fantastic interior is forgivable if the drive is good, because how a hot hatch like this behaves getting flung around corners is the main reason to buy one in the first place. Fortunately, the Veloster N can hang with the best of them.
Sporting one of the more satisfyingly hefty and responsive steering racks I’ve experienced regardless of price or segment, the front-drive Hyundai features an electronic limited-slip differential that lets the car corner at thrillingly high speeds without understeer. Honda’s more powerful Civic Type R pulls off a similar trick, albeit with a more aggressive demeanour. The chassis overall is tight, light, and well-balanced. This car’s brakes, meanwhile, quietly do their job admirably.
Other than a normal-mode steering rack that remains slightly too heavy at parking lot-speeds, the selectable drive settings here are well-judged. Leave it in normal for normal driving; stick it in the heavier-steering, stiffer-riding, burblier-sounding N mode for cheeky backroad exploits and you’ll find that the Veloster N is a satisfying vehicle that’s been well-calibrated for both situations.
Like pretty much every other car in its class, the Veloster N is powered by a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder. It makes 275 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, which makes it sufficiently exciting in a straight line.
A six-speed manual is the standard gearbox but as of last year, the Veloster N is available with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic – the transmission that’s been equipped to this tester. It shifts smoothly in normal, automatic driving, while paddle-operated manual gear changes happen appreciably quickly. Full-throttle, redline upshifts even come with a little supercar-esque kick in the backside. The shift paddles themselves are made of plastic but are perfectly shaped to the fingers. Bright, useful shift lights located at the top of the gauge cluster are easy to parse with just peripheral vision.
Similar to the handling, Hyundai’s powertrain doesn’t feel quite as manic or unhinged as the one in the competing Honda – mostly because there’s none of the Type R’s theatrical turbo lag and it is, when it comes down to it, less powerful – but the Veloster N is still fast and energetic in its own right. On the other hand, the Veloster sounds better. It sounds racy, scrappy, less Dyson-like, and the burbles and pops that appear in its sportier driving modes have yet to get old.
Looking at it from the driver’s side, you may be fooled into assuming this to be a fairly impractical three-door hatch; but it’s actually a four-door – just not in the traditional sedan sense. Yep, the Veloster N continues the quirky, asymmetrical Veloster tradition of putting two doors on the passenger side and just one door on the other.
Climbing inside through that little extra door, the rear seats aren’t actually as tight as you might expect. No, you’re not gonna fit many basketball pros back there all that comfortably, but an adult of average-to-below-average height should be able to sit “behind themselves” with an acceptable amount of legroom to spare. Rear-seat headroom is indeed a bit tight but not unusably so for non-tall people. The existence of that extra rear door may make climbing into the Veloster’s rear quarters easier, but one should still mind their head when doing so. (Ask me how I know.)
Keep the Veloster’s occupants up front, though, and it’s a perfectly practical car for singles or couples as far as outright space is concerned. The 565 L of cargo space isn’t bad considering this car’s total physical footprint, while the seats fold down in a 60/40 split.
It doesn’t take a lot of time behind the wheel of the Veloster N to tell that comfort probably wasn’t the highest of its engineers’ priorities. Even so, it’s fairly livable. Wind and road noise, for example, are quite noticeable even by hot hatch standards. The suspension, meanwhile, is only reasonably compliant in normal mode but gets significantly stiffer in any of this car’s more sporting modes.
Those very cool-looking front bucket seats are well-sculpted and not bad to sit in for long periods of time, but they aren’t quite as outstandingly comfy or aggressively bolstered as the ones in the rivaling Honda. The steering wheel is heated as are the front seats, the latter of which feature three levels.
All in all, the Veloster N is sufficiently comfortable for daily driver duties as long as you keep your expectations realistic (this ain’t a luxury car). But those looking for a truly comfy compact that can thrill as well may be better served in something like the new Golf R or aforementioned Civic. The former has, coincidentally, also seen its lesser, non-performance siblings cut from its automaker’s catalog this year, leaving the Golf GTI and R as the remaining Volkswagen hatchbacks.
When it comes to safety, Hyundai’s hot hatch comes standard with forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and a lane following assistance. Noticeable safety tech omissions include traffic sign recognition, Hyundai’s nifty lane-change cameras, and adaptive cruise control. Old-fashioned, static-speed cruise control is present.
In terms of crashworthiness, the 2022 Veloster scored “Good” marks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) across the board but left room for improvement in terms of headlights and child seat anchor ease-of-use, scoring “Acceptable” ratings. For what it’s worth, the virtually identical 2021 model was chosen as a Top Safety Pick by the organization.
With no real optional extras or packages to jack the price up, the creature comforts that come standard with the Veloster N are what every example gets. It’s got heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, LED lights all around, keyless entry with push-button start, automatic climate control, and an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system running wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The overall level of equipment here isn’t exactly stark, but there are quite a few key features missing that have become expected from most modern cars pushing $40,000. All of the seat controls are manual, for example, while the climate control is of the single-zone variety. The touchscreen is one iteration smaller and duller than Hyundai’s current, much wider setups. The wipers do not have an automatic rain-sensing setting, while most of the gauge cluster remains analog. Although to be fair to the Veloster N, those other, similarly priced vehicles usually don’t offer nearly as much driving fun.
User Friendliness: 7.5/10
Par for the Hyundai course, making sense of the Veloster’s relatively basic cabin is mostly straightforward. That slightly dated, eight-inch centre screen is logically laid out and quite easy to use. It’s placed high in the driver’s line of sight and just the right distance away from the hand. There’s a satisfyingly-rippy manual handbrake that comes in every Veloster N – yes, even with the automatic – and I’m also a fan of the two big, blue buttons Hyundai has placed on the steering wheel that let you quickly and intuitively toggle between drive modes.
Some usability complaints I have for this car, however, stem from its quirky three-door setup. Because there’s no rear door on the driver’s side, the driver’s door is huge, making opening it in tight parking spaces a bit of an exercise in not dinging somebody else’s ride. The interior door handle here is also about a hand’s length too far back, and this big entryway also means the seat belt is always either too high and chafing against my neck or down and hard-to-reach, depending on the position of its adjustable bracket. Hopping into the Veloster N’s front passenger seat, none of these issues were present. If you ask me, the Veloster N absolutely could’ve and should’ve been a five-door hatchback.
Fuel Economy: 9/10
The Veloster N might be all about fun but it is, at the end of the day, an objectively small car using a turbocharged four-cylinder and, hence, it’s decent on fuel. Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) says the automatic-equipped version is good for 12.0 L/100 km in the city, 8.6 on the highway, and 10.5 combined. After almost 800 km of mixed driving, the little dual-clutch Hyundai beat its own rating, showing 10.3 L/100 km on its trip computer.
Those who opt for the manual Veloster N can expect even more efficiency, particularly in the city, with that version getting an official NRCan rating of 10.6 L/100 km in the city, 8.3 on the highway, and 9.5 combined. Whichever transmission you choose, though, premium fuel is recommended.
When equipped with the automatic, the Veloster N starts at $39,499 (the manual, meanwhile, begins $1,600 less at $37,899). After a $1,000 charge for the matte paint, A/C tax, and non-negotiable destination, the grey car you see here rings in at $42,324.
That’s not a bad price at all compared to its more expensive Japanese and German competitors, but the Veloster N’s value proposition falls apart when you realize its brand new Elantra N sibling actually costs less. Making itself its own worst enemy, Hyundai has, for some reason, given its new compact N sedan a starting price $700 lower than that of the Veloster N. That deal becomes even sweeter when you learn that the inherently newer and bigger Elantra N is a simultaneously more fun and refined driving machine, has a notably nicer interior with better tech, and more rear seat space.
When confronted with this, a Hyundai spokesperson pointed to the fact that the hatchback Veloster does indeed pack more seats-up cargo room (565 L vs the Elantra’s 402 L) and that more choices, not less – especially when it comes to fun cars – is always a good thing. Different strokes for different folks, as they say. It’s fair, but it doesn’t change the fact that if it were my money, the Elantra N is undoubtedly the car I’d go with if I had $40,000 to spend on a fast Hyundai.
In a vacuum, the 2022 Hyundai Veloster N is a delightfully agile and entertainingly capable hot hatch. The DCT replaces the interactivity of the manual with admirably quick shifts and as much as I like to row my own gears, you can’t really go wrong with either gearbox choice. But the Veloster doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and the simple fact of the matter is that if an Olympics for Cars was held tomorrow, I’m doubtful Hyundai would send the Veloster N in to represent it in the sport compact events.
But if you’re really not a fan of the Elantra N’s slightly polarizing, angular styling or, for whatever reason, absolutely must have a hatchback, the Veloster N remains a more-than-fine alternative.
|Engine Cylinders||Turbo I4|
|Peak Horsepower||275 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Peak Torque||260 lb-ft @ 1,450–4,700 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||12.0 / 8.6 / 10.5 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||565 L|
|Model Tested||2022 Hyundai Veloster N DCT|
|Price as Tested||$42,324|
$1,000 – Shooting Star (Matte) paint, $1,000