2019 Hyundai Veloster N first drive review: Hot hatch, Korean style, Nürburgring bred


Act One: Track time

Four cars head out onto the east course at Thunderhill Raceway Park outside of Willows, California. The cars are Hyundais. Yes, Hyundais. This track can be terrifying, with a couple of blind crests, one of which leads to an off-camber right turn. I’m not too worried, though, because this car has all the right moves for the track.

The 2019 Hyundai Veloster N is a full-on hot hatch version of Hyundai’s odd-duck, three-door Veloster. Both cars are new for 2019, and the Veloster is the first car to get the track-ready N treatment here in the U.S. N stands for both Namyang, the South Korean home of Hyundai’s engineering center, and Nürburgring, where much of the chassis development was done. It helps that the N looks like a chicane, too.

Hyundai has made this generation of the Veloster a much sportier car. It likes to turn corners rather than plow through them.

2019 Hyundai Veloster N media drive, Thunderhill Raceway Park, October, 2018

2019 Hyundai Veloster N media drive, Thunderhill Raceway Park, October, 2018

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

2019 Hyundai Veloster N media drive, Thunderhill Raceway Park, October, 2018

2019 Hyundai Veloster N media drive, Thunderhill Raceway Park, October, 2018

Still, Albert Biermann, president and head of Performance Development and high performance vehicle division for Hyundai Motor Group, and his engineering team worked to make the N much sportier than even the Veloster R-Spec. Compared to that car, the Veloster N has 70-80 more welds and reinforced shock mounts, both of which increase body rigidity by 6.9 percent. It also has rack-mounted power steering with a 9-percent quicker steering ratio (a hasty 12.2:1) and a 26-percent higher motor capacity so it doesn’t fall behind when the turns keep coming. The dampers are still twin-tube units, but they are now electrically controlled and have three firmness settings.

Air curtains on either side of the unique grille and front fascia direct air onto the brakes to keep them cool. A two-tiered rear spoiler provides plenty of downforce to keep the rear end planted at speed. It won’t affect the car’s top speed, though, because it’s electronically limited to 155 mph.

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

Under the hood sits a 2.0-liter turbo-4 that puts out 250 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Power increases to 275 hp with the Performance Package, while torque remains unchanged. A change in ECU programming extends the torque peak from 4,000 to 4,750 rpm, which helps increase the horsepower.

These track cars have the Performance Package, which adds the final helping of performance bits. For about $2,000, buyers get the extra horsepower, an electrically controlled limited-slip differential, larger brakes with 13.6-inch front discs and 12.4-inch rear discs (versus 13.0 and 11.8 standard), 235/35 Pirelli P Zero tires on lightweight 19-inch alloy wheels (instead of 18s), and an active exhaust system.

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Those bigger brakes only have single-piston, floating calipers. To make sure the cars can handle track duty, Hyundai has outfitted these cars with high-performance brake pads that it will offer as a dealer accessory for a few hundred dollars. The point here is to keep costs down for the Veloster N’s anticipated young buyers, and performance pads are cheaper than more sophisticated multi-caliper brakes.

Biermann says Hyundai is not chasing performance numbers with the Veloster N. Instead, he and his team were aiming for driving feel.

Mission accomplished.


 
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