2020 Hyundai Veloster N Review

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Oct 07, 2020

Introduction

At Hyundai, “N” stands for “Nurburgring” and “Namyang.” The former is a long and demanding German road racing course where car companies put performance vehicles to the test. The latter is Hyundai’s proving grounds in Korea, where it punishes new products during their development phase. And the first Hyundai to use N in its name was the redesigned Veloster.

It is essential to distinguish between the N and N-Line designations. Hyundai applies N-Line badges to sporty models with a more aggressive look and a bump in power and performance. Hyundai reserves the solo N designation for purpose-built performance vehicles like the Veloster N.

For its 2019 redesign, the Veloster migrated to a platform shared with the Elantra GT hatchback, which is a rebadged European-market Hyundai called the i30. Equipped with high-performance hardware and a distinctively different appearance, the Veloster N looks and drives like no other example of the car. The only option is a Performance Package with 25 extra horsepower, larger wheels wrapped in summer performance tires, upgraded brakes, an active exhaust system, and an electronic limited-slip differential that Hyundai calls an N Corner Carving Differential.

2020 Hyundai Veloster N Red Front View

For this review, J.D. Power evaluated a 2020 Veloster N equipped with the Performance Package. The price came to $30,695, including the $995 destination charge.

What Owners Say…

Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the 2020 Veloster, it is helpful to understand who buys this compact sporty car, and what they like most and least about their vehicles.

According to J.D. Power data, 70% of Veloster owners are male (vs. 72% for the segment), and the median age of a Veloster owner is 46 years (vs. 43).

Owners say their favorite things about the Veloster are (in descending order) the exterior styling, driving feel, powertrain, setting up and starting, and feeling of safety. Specifically, these five things about the vehicle rank highest in comparison to the compact sporty car segment:

  • Fuel economy/driving range
  • Audio system sound quality
  • Ability to hold personal items
  • Usefulness of other infotainment functions
  • Smoothness of engine/motor

Owners indicate their least favorite things about the Veloster are (in descending order) the infotainment system, interior, driving comfort, fuel economy, and getting in and out. Specifically, these five things about the vehicle rank lowest in comparison to the compact sporty car segment:

  • Quality of materials inside the vehicle
  • Vehicle protection
  • Steering/handling in slippery conditions
  • Interior styling
  • Getting in and out of the front seats

In the J.D Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, the Veloster ranked first out of three compact sporty cars.

What Our Expert Says… 

In the sections that follow, our independent expert provides his perceptions about how the 2020 Hyundai Veloster N measures up in each of the ten categories that comprise the APEAL Study.

Exterior

Exuberantly styled, the Hyundai Veloster is a fun and funky little shooting brake of a car.  What’s a shooting brake? In its purest form, a shooting brake what you get when you combine a low-slung 2-door coupe with a station wagon.

2020 Hyundai Veloster N Blue Rear Quarter View

Granted, the Veloster’s quirky asymmetrical 3-door configuration and rather rakish rear glass might be stretching the definition of a wagon. Still, the roof-mounted spoiler and small liftback-style hatch suggest the classification is appropriate.

In any case, with no more than a glance, the Veloster N conveys sportiness and performance. And it’s got plenty of it to back up the car’s boy-racer appearance.

Interior

Open the Veloster’s driver’s door (which is longer than the passenger’s door), and you’ll find sport-bolstered front seats and an exclusive interior design conveying the right amount of driver-centric sportiness. Performance blue seatbelts are standard.

2020 Hyundai Veloster N DashboardPhoto: Christian Wardlaw

Plus, Hyundai arranges everything with its typical thoughtfulness, with liberal use of well-marked buttons and knobs and a handy 8-inch infotainment screen nestled between the dashboard air vents. There are several places where you can stash small personal items, too, aside from the cupholders.

The problem with the Veloster’s interior is the amount of plastic in this car. The seats, armrests, and steering wheel are soft. Everything else is basic-grade, shiny plastic that reminds you Hyundai spent all of the money maximizing the Veloster N’s performance.

Getting In and Out

Drop into the Veloster N, and the car’s sport-bolstered seats give you a welcoming hug. Like any coupe, the longer driver’s door requires extra care in tight parking spaces, and since the car is relatively low to the ground, it can be hard to hoist yourself out. However, if you’re willing to raise the height-adjustable driver’s seat, you can reduce entry and exit effort levels.

A different situation awaits passengers. The right front door is shorter, and the roof pillar is located further forward, restricting space. The front seat doesn’t offer height adjustment, either, so anyone riding shotgun will get a good core workout as they get in and out of the car.

The back seat holds two people, and a plastic console with cupholders separates the individual seat cushions. The only entry door is on the right side. Using the handle located next to the window glass, you open it and, if you’re assigned to the space behind the driver, you slide across the console into the left rear seat. Surprisingly, there is enough room in the back for adults, though they’ll be willing to ride there only for shorter trips.

Often, performance cars demand compromise in terms of utility. That’s not the case with the Veloster N. Behind the rear seat, the car offers 19.9 cubic feet of cargo space. Fold it down, and you’ve got 44.5 cubic feet available to you. Do note, though, that the hatch opening is small, and the liftover is relatively high.

Setting Up and Starting

There isn’t much in the way of technology inside the Veloster N, so setting the car up is simple, easy, and takes no time at all.

An Active Engine Sound system is standard, and when equipped with the Performance Package, the Veloster N has an active exhaust system. Together, they produce varying degrees of loudness, depending on what settings you’ve chosen. Push the engine start button, and the soundtrack is absolutely appropriate to the car. If you don’t want it to be loud, you can adjust settings to quiet the Veloster N’s aural exuberance.

Infotainment System

Every Veloster N has a touchscreen infotainment system with an 8-inch display. It’s easy to use, in part because Hyundai provides stereo volume and tuning knobs, as well as buttons supplying quick access to main screen menus.

Beyond that, however, the system is uncomplicated. You get Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, and three free years of Blue Link connected services. You’ll need to run navigation through your smartphone and data plan.

An Infinity sound system is also standard. If you like muddy and booming bass, you’ll like this setup.

Keeping You Safe

Among the most notable things about the 2020 Hyundai Veloster N is the utter lack of driving assistance and collision avoidance technology. You get a driver’s side blind-spot mirror and automatic collision notification through Blue Link, and that’s pretty much it.

For 2021, this situation changes. Hyundai is adding a slew of safety equipment including forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assistance, lane-centering assistance, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic warning. A driver attention monitoring system will be on board, too. So, if you don’t want any of this stuff, shop now for a “tech-pure” example of the Veloster N.

As far as crash protection goes, the Veloster earns Good ratings in all collision-related assessments, as reported by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Powertrain

Hyundai equips the Veloster N with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and a short-throw 6-speed manual transmission with downshift rev-matching. The gearbox transfers power to the car’s front wheels.

In standard tune, the engine makes 250 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 260 lb.-ft. of torque from 1,400 rpm to 4,000 rpm. With the Performance Package, the Veloster N ups the power output to 275 hp, while torque remains the same. The Performance Package also includes an active performance exhaust system with an available engine over-run function that adds a snap, crackle, and pop soundtrack to enthusiastic driving.

As you might imagine, torque steer could be a problem in the Veloster N, so Hyundai bolts in what it calls an N Power Sense Axle to alleviate the potentially adverse effects of putting so much torque to the car’s front wheels. With the Performance Package, the Veloster N also has an N Corner Carving Differential, which is an electronic limited-slip differential.

Hyundai gives drivers control over vehicle calibration through a standard N Grin Control System. This describes the car’s different driving modes, which include Eco, Normal, Sport, N, and N Custom. An N-mode button on the steering wheel quickly configures the car for maximum performance at a moment’s notice.

I did not find Eco, Normal, or Sport modes satisfying, and N mode results in a pretty raw driving experience, perhaps best employed only when maximum dynamic capabilities are desirable. As such, my preference was to use the N Custom mode. That way, I could benefit from the transmission’s downshift rev-matching function while maximizing handling capability and minimizing exhaust racket. After all, why advertise your speed, especially given how giggle-worthy this car is?

Despite – or perhaps because of – its evident torque steer, the Veloster N a real blast to drive. The transmission shifter is a thing of beauty, from its appearance to its shift action. Hyundai employs useful shift indicator lights that help the driver focus on the road and understand the optimum time to change gears.

This 3,106-pound car is simultaneously sophisticated and unrefined, fast but not so powerful that you can’t enjoy its potential on public roads. Plus, it comes with free scheduled maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles, and Hyundai’s industry-leading warranty.

Fuel Economy

According to the EPA, the Hyundai Veloster N should return 25 mpg in combined driving. On the testing loop, the car averaged 24.8 mpg. That translates into 327 miles of driving range on the car’s 13.2-gallon fuel tank, but you’re likely to stop for gas every 280 miles or so.

Driving Comfort 

Comfort is not the Veloster N’s strength. While the driver’s seat includes a manual seat-height adjuster and offers lots of seat-track travel, I found that I needed a break from the car after two hours behind the wheel.

First, it is loud inside. From the engine and exhaust racket to the relentless rifle fire from cracks and tar strips on the pavement surface, you might find yourself needing a quiet, soothing respite at a favorite coffee shop. Too bad the car’s Infinity sound system adds to rather than squelches the din.

Second, the seat bolsters don’t do an excellent job of holding a driver in place. Given the Veloster N’s dynamic capabilities, you might find yourself working overtime to remain planted behind the steering wheel. 

Front passengers do not benefit from a height adjuster, and the seat is mounted relatively close to the car’s floor. Single-zone automatic climate control keeps the cabin cool, though. And I was able to successfully “sit behind myself” after sliding into the car from the right rear door opening.

Driving Feel

The long list of engineering upgrades to the Veloster N is impressive. In addition to the drivetrain, the car comes with a performance-tuned, electronically-controlled adaptive suspension with MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link design in the rear. Hyundai also uses a sport-calibrated, rack-mounted electric steering unit for optimum road feel and responsiveness.

The optional Performance Package upgrades the braking system with larger 13.6-inch front and 12.4-inch rear discs, ventilated at all four corners of the car. Veloster N models with the Performance Package also have larger 19-inch wheels and Pirelli P-Zero 235/35 summer performance tires.

As you might expect, given the Veloster N recipe, when you rip down a writhing mountain road, you’ll have a ton of fun. Unfortunately, the test car’s front tires were excessively worn when the vehicle arrived for testing, so I’ll chalk up their greasy feeling and tendency to understeer near the limit as symptomatic of the lack of tread on the outer edges of the rubber.

Drive a road you know well, one on which know exactly where to brake completely before turn-in, allow the car to take a set, and then smoothly add power as you scream past the apex, and the Veloster N is a delightful partner in crime – even with bald-edged tires. Fantastic steering, immediate braking response, and, in N Mode, elimination of all body motions make this Hyundai the very definition of a cheap thrill.

Final Impressions

The Hyundai Veloster N is a simple, basic, elemental sports car. Capable, composed, and confidence-inspiring, it is an undeniable performance bargain and a perfect all-arounder for any driving enthusiast on a budget.

At the same time, I merely like the Veloster N when I feel like I should adore it. Compared to a Mazda MX-5 Miata or Volkswagen Golf GTI, the Veloster is too loud and raucous, too boy-racer on the outside, and too cheap on the inside. Thirty years ago, it would’ve been precisely the type of vehicle I would’ve wanted.

Today, I prefer stealth with my speed.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with over 25 years of experience test-driving vehicles. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals. 

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2020 J.D. Power

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