Noise is a major part of the driving experience. Not a lot of people know that. And why would they? Noise is one of the three things that designers attempt to engineer out of vehicles. It’s part of the trinity of things that annoy people, which includes harshness and vibration — NVH. No one wants to hear a buzzy motor on the highway or feel every crack in the road on the way to pick up a venti Starbucks drink. But engine noise and cracks in the road are exactly what you want to hear and feel when you’re in something that’s made to be fun to drive. These things make a good car great and make the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
Put the 2022 Hyundai Veloster N into Sport Plus mode and you’re met with enough pops and bangs to make people question if it’s the Fourth of July. Upshifts produce a similarly hilarious bark. For the first year of ownership, these will make you grin maniacally. The noise is just one part of the hilarity and mania that is the Veloster N.
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That’s the whole point of a hot hatchback. It’s to make you feel like a kid again while being easy on the wallet and being somewhat usable for a daily driver. In the name of fun, the Veloster N trades the whole notion of usability in exchange for hooliganism. For adults, it’s annoying. For adults that are tired of being adults and hear the cry of their inner child, there’s the Veloster N.
The original Veloster stunned the world with its funky three-door design. Few vehicles these days have features that make them unique, but a three-door hatchback in the U.S. is just that. Of course, the sporty Veloster N also has Hot Wheels styling to make it look deranged, but it’s not overboard like the Honda Civic Type R. Still, with a hefty rear spoiler, a large rear diffuser, aggressive 19-inch alloy wheels, vents that could swallow squirrels, and exhaust pipes that look like the launch pads for high-flying fireworks that you cross state lines to buy, you know the hatchback means business.
Fundamentally, the Veloster is an affordable compact car. These vehicles are built to fit into a tight budget. Getting rid of the budget bones is nearly impossible for all automakers to do. So, you’re going to find a lot of hard plastics and materials that look like they’re from a Super 8 Motel in Virginia Beach. The things that really matter, though, the things that matter to people who buy this car because of the way it drives, are great.
The performance bucket seats with a backlit “N” logo are fantastic. They’ll hold you in when going around twisties but won’t break you back on a long drive. The steering wheel is meaty, the drive mode buttons are easily accessible on the wheel, and the paddles are easy to locate. Even the shifter, which often goes overlooked, has an “N” badge and some thought to the way it fits into your hand. There’s even a small line of shift lights at the top of the instrument cluster to let you know when to shift.
Sure, the materials aren’t that nice, but does it really matter when the car has a freaking set of lights to tell you to shift?
The Veloster N’s largest weakness is also what makes it so unique — the three-door design. There’s no way to get into the back from the driver’s side. That part of the hatchback has an elongated driver’s door, which makes it hard to get out of in tight parking spots, forcing you to go in through the tiny door from the passenger side. As if getting into the back wasn’t a chore, the rear seats are tiny, borderline claustrophobic because of the Veloster N’s roofline. The wonky lines also result in poor rearward visibility.
If anything, it’s better to think of the Veloster N as a strict two-seater with an emergency set of rear seats like a regular coupe. For daily use, the 19.9 cubic feet of cargo space in the Veloster N makes it sound larger than it is, because the opening is tiny and the way the rear end tapers into a pyramid makes it a nightmare for those of us that failed geometry to make things fit into the back. Again, this is secondary if you look at the Veloster N as a performance vehicle.
Those little hairs that are reserved for fight or flight purposes stand on end when you’re driving the Veloster N. Unlike the Civic Type R, which is a precise set of gardening snips, the Veloster N is a corded hedge trimmer. It feels portlier and cushier than the Type R, but that’s because it takes a different angle toward the same goal. The Honda focuses on being lightweight and agile, the Veloster N is more interested in being a crazed lunatic with an immensely powerful engine. One is more enjoyable than the other.
With things like sticky summer-only tires, an electronic limited-slip differential, and adaptive suspension, the Veloster N has an immense amount of grip around corners. It turns in sharply, and remains unwavering through a corner with only a hint of body roll. Around turns, the Veloster N is hilarious fun to chuck around and feel it stick. The adaptive suspension is soft and comfortable in its softest setting, while a few clicks through the different drive modes results in a teeth-chattering ride. Thankfully, there’s enough customization here for you to find the perfect setting for every stretch of road.
Getting to the corners is the tricky, but fun part of the equation. The turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder is an old-school turbo motor. Its 275 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque come higher up at the rev range, resulting in turbo lag off the line. You’d better hold on when the boost arrives, because the motor kicks hard. The four-banger really is the star of the hatchback. It feels angry, possessed, upset. It’s on a mission to kill you, popping, banging, shouting along the way. It’s theatrical, but more importantly, it’s full of character.
Even with the turbo lag, the power overwhelms the front tires. Wheelspin ensues before the Veloster N rockets off. The 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission brings a few goodies that you won’t find on the 6-speed manual. There’s an overboost function that raises torque to 278 pound-feet for a few seconds, launch control, and “N Grin Shift.” The latter puts the vehicle into its most hardcore setting, sharpens transmission response, and increases engine revs for a serious boost in performance. It’s fantastic for passing someone on the highway and scaring passengers.
Usually, choosing an automatic transmission over the manual gearbox brings a few penalties. That’s not the case with the Veloster N. The 8-speed gearbox brings snappy shifts, a zippy zero-to-60-mph time of roughly 5 seconds, and special modes. The Veloster N doesn’t lose any of its charm with the automatic transmission and doesn’t feel like a major sacrifice. Regardless of the transmission you get, the Veloster N remains a car that’s built for people who like driving.
Oh my god yes. Seriously. Stop reading this and go to a Hyundai dealership to test drive one. You’re either going to love it or hate it. It’s not as sharp, precise, quick around a track, or useful as the Civic Type R, but it’s more fun. The Veloster N doesn’t take itself seriously. It’ll be great on an autocross course and quick around a track, but the main thing is that you’ll be having fun. And you’ll be smiling.
You also have to love Hyundai’s lineup for the Veloster N. For 2022, the previously optional Performance Package is now standard. So, the only things you can choose from are exterior paint schemes and what transmission you want. That’s brilliantly simple.
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