The Hyundai Veloster N may be a relatively new player in the hot hatch game, but it's been doing an excellent job of showing that you don't need to own the most expensive German or Japanese offering to have a load of fun. Like its direct rivals, the Honda Civic Type R and Volkswagen Golf GTI, it makes use of a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine - that develops 275 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque since last year's series of updates to the car. But with the Honda Civic Type R being refreshed soon and an all-new Golf GTI on the way from Wolfsburg, its job is going to be more difficult than ever. Still, the South Korean brand has surprised us before, especially with this spicy hatch. So will the USA love the new Hyundai Veloster N or have its updates made it too expensive to consider over established giants of the sector? Hint: it's not too expensive.
Last year, the Veloster N received the Performance package and some other equipment and safety features as standard, as well as a power boost. This year, it's continuing essentially unchanged, with a standard six-speed manual transmission and the choice of an optional eight-speed dual-clutch auto. It also happens to be the only Veloster left now, as Hyundai has dropped all the other models in the Veloster lineup for the 2022 model year. The N brands is stronger than ever though, with even the Elantra and Kona getting N versions this year.
2021's Veloster N is almost five grand more expensive than the 2020 version, but you are getting a lot more for your money. With a base price of $32,500 - before a $1,025 freight charge - it's still cheaper than a Civic Type R. If you want the DCT transmission, that adds just $1,500 to the base MSRP. No other meaningful charged options are offered though - this car comes fully loaded as standard.
See trim levels and configurations:
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
Forget about those drag races you've seen where Hyundai demolishes Volkswagen in a straight line. With a new GTI on the way, these tests may soon be dated, but more importantly, this car is styled like a rally car and the driving experience evokes that same love of aggressive cornering. It handles remarkably well with flat cornering thanks to an electronically controlled suspension. Lift-off oversteer is possible and easy to control, but this is a car that maintains a great balance between playful fun and sharp focus. Concentrate on where you want to place the car, turn in, and let the electronic LSD handle all the details. This thing just grips and grips, with the grip limit well telegraphed and easy to anticipate. Once you eventually get there, tapping off the gas slightly tightens your line and allows you to exit with minimal wheelspin. Yet it's not a hardcore rally racer that you can't enjoy every day. Sure, it's a little stiff over corrugated bumps and large undulations, but not so harsh that you feel like your kidneys are bouncing in your ribcage. Overall, this is a great package for the enthusiast, but it is lacking the refinement and comfort that a GTI offers. For some, that's just another feather in the cap of this remarkably well-sorted boy racer.
Based on the simple facts, this review of the Veloster N may lead you to believe that this is a car with a single-minded focus on performance and little interest in anything else. The interior, although neatly laid out, is riddled with cheap materials and hard plastics. The infotainment screen is unfashionably average in size, the only choices you have relate to the color of the paint and the type of transmission, and there's not much in the way of second-row passenger space or cargo volume. It also lacks the refinement of some rivals. But if those are the details you're focusing on, then you've missed the point of this car. This isn't meant to be a one-size-fits-all generic product for the masses. This is a car built for the enthusiast. It accelerates and handles like a sports car and provides everything you need in such a machine and nothing you don't. Furthermore, it is affordable, and making it more a mix of luxury and performance would have compromised that. This is a great car, and the world needs more like it.
There's only one model on offer but you do have a choice of transmission. While the eight-speed DCT is certainly the quickest way to make progress down the road, we're still suckers for a manual gearbox, and that's the one we'd have. The fact that this choice saves you $1,500 is just a bonus, and we'd spend that money on some proper track tires so that you can fully exploit the abilities of this hot hatch. In terms of color choices, we'd go with red or black so that the red accents that are equipped as standard don't give off too much of an overt vibe. Beyond that, there's really not much you can change, so just enjoy the car and smile smugly at GTI buyers who spent too much on a slower car.
We're now between Honda Civic Type Rs, as the previous-generation Type R has been discontinued and we're waiting for the new version. You'll still find the old one second-hand though. The Honda is also powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-banger, but this one is far more powerful, with outputs of 306 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Like the Veloster N, power goes to the front axle only, and you also get fake engine noises in the cabin along with a questionable level of quality in terms of trims and materials used therein. However, you clearly have more power, and there's a better, notchier feel to this six-speed manual. The Civic Type R is faster in a straight line and around corners, and comes with a more luxurious assortment of features that includes dual-zone automatic climate control, a 12-speaker sound system, and Brembo brakes. You also get a lot more space, but the trade-off is that this space comes in a hideous package. Like the old one, the new one is also going to be far more expensive than the Veloster N. At least it seems likely it will retain the current mechanical package, manual transmission and all, only updated and refined. It's definitely the more capable, more spacious, and more focused machine, but two things count against it - the new one isn't here yet and it will be a lot more expensive than the Hyundai when it arrives at close to $40,000.
There's lots to love about the new 2022 Volkswagen Golf 8 GTI and lots to get excited about. A 2.0-liter turbo-four once again powers the front wheels via either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed DCT, but it falls short in terms of output when compared to the Hyundai. Volkswagen's engine only develops 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. While this may seem a little disappointing, it's worth remembering that the GTI has always been about accessible fun, and too much power takes that away. Furthermore, while the Veloster N is a car meant more for the boy racer, the Golf GTI was always destined to be an all-rounder. It's comfortable, spacious, relatively affordable, and built to an impeccable standard. Thus, the Veloster N is our hot hatch of choice if you want to go fast and be a hooligan all the time. But the Golf GTI is still the car to have if you want to ferry your family in comfort while still having the ability to give them whiplash around corners. And for those who love technology, the 2022 GTI has more electronic controls than some Apollo missions. It starts at $29,545 before dipping into its expensive options list.
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