Cars

Why Pick A 2019 Hyundai Veloster N Over A Civic Type R, GTI or Mini Cooper S?

Photo: Andrew P Collins
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It’s an interesting era for high-performance hatchbacks. The Ford Fiesta ST, Focus ST and Focus RS have abandoned us. We have to wait a while for the next Volkswagen GTI and Golf R to drop. Small car sales are down across the board. But the remaining competitors are stronger than ever and the newest player in the mix, the 2019 Hyundai Veloster N, is coming out swinging hard.

Having driven its competitors, I decided to point out the reasons this new, hot Veloster—yes, that’s a thing now—belongs on your list of cars to check out.

(Full Disclosure: I asked Hyundai’s reps if I could borrow a Veloster N and they were kind enough to make it happen for me.)

The Veloster N is a small, light and powerful hatchback that lists at $26,900 and 250 horsepower, optioning up even higher. But the coolest thing about this car is that it’s managed to carve its own niché in a tight but longstanding sport compact market.

Right now the hatch scene is pretty much populated by Honda’s Civic Type R at the upper end of performance, the Golf GTI as the gold standard of car-for-your-money, and the Mini Cooper S as the whimsical design-focused choice.

Since almost every question I got asked about the Veloster N was some form of “how does it compare” to one of the above, we’ll go through the Hyundai’s strengths and weaknesses in the form of a lowkey side-by-side.

If you zoom out to see all the current sport compact cars, the Subaru WRX, Honda Civic Si and Toyota GT86/BRZ bring their own benefits, too. And if you want to talk all-fun-cars-under-$30,000 you’ve got to let the Mazda Mazda3 into the tent, along with the small-engined versions of the Ford Mustang, Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger… plus, like, half of Craigslist. It’s a good time to be here.

But for the sake of simplicity, we’ll stick to a hypothetical non-empirical current-era hot hatch showdown.

But First: Don’t Skip The Veloster N’s Performance Package

Photo: Andrew P Collins

The $2,100 Performance Package you can spec on a Veloster N is one of the best deals in car options–unlocking an extra 25 HP, a big brake upgrade (13.5-inch front; 12.3-inch rear ventilated rotors), 19-inch split five-spoke wheels, an electronically controlled limited-slip differential, and a multi-mode exhaust system.

That brings the Veloster N’s MSRP to just a hair under $30,000; its total claimed output to 275 HP and 260 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is a six-speed manual only; two-pedal options are completely off the menu. Curb weight is 3,106 pounds, the wheelbase is 104.3 inches and the whole car measures 167.9 inches front-to-back according to the brochure, which also says:

“N. It’s the first letter of Namyang–the location of our global R&D facility, where the models are created. And it’s also the first letter of Nürburgring, the epic track where they’re further tested and developed. The goal of N: to send a race-inspired thrill surging through you the moment you grab the wheel.”

My short takeaway is that the car lives in a lovely medium between fun, funky and fast. Now let’s look a little more closely at how it compares to your other options in 2019.

Versus Civic Type R

Photo: Andrew P Collins

The Honda Civic Type R is a beast; it almost transcends “hot hatchback” and trends toward “extreme performance car that happens to be front-drive.” The shifter makes every gearchange feel divinely definitive; turbo power swells and surges as you ride the gas pedal.

It’s mighty (306 HP, 295 lb-ft) it’s not heavy (3,117 pounds) but it’s also a little spendy ($36,300) and arguably exhausting to look at. More significantly, it’s pretty hardcore for daily driving duty.

If you’re buying new, I hypothesize that a Civic Type R will hold its value better than a Veloster N. Type Rs command high prices because people seem to have an elevated reverence for them, and I can’t say I’m not a little seduced by the “Type R legend” myself. After all, a lot of us car fans grew up reading about its heroism. But if you can afford either one, you should seriously consider the Hyundai because it’s a significant step up in practicality and step down in price without sacrificing all that much appreciable performance.

The N seemed quieter, more compliant on the highway and just generally more comfortable around town than the Type R on my commutes in and around Los Angeles. The Hyundai’s power’s not as explosive and its handling is a little softer, but man, as far as backroad driving fun goes it’s really pretty close.

The Hyundai is brutally stiff in its most-hardcore “N Mode,” but everything’s adjustable to the point where you can set its suspension to “Comfort,” everything else to “Sport +,” and get and experience I found very well-balanced for realistic driving.

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