It’s been six months or so since our little blue rocket arrived, and I’ve finally had the opportunity to take the Hyundai Veloster N on a road trip. A quick blast from Los Angeles to Las Vegas has taught me two things: First, everything I predicted about life with the Veloster N was 100 percent correct. Second, the Veloster has turned out to be a better off-roader than I expected.
I didn’t have time to take the scenic route to Vegas; instead it was the quick, boring four-or-so hour blast up I-15. Normally I’d take something cushy for a dull drive like this (our newly acquired Four Seasons LS 500 being the best candidate). A sporty car—not so much. I always avoided long road trips in our Four Seasons Civic Type R. Don’t get me wrong, I love the R in the curves, but a couple of hours of that buzzy engine with my dad-bod shoehorned into the deeply bolstered seats was about all I could stand. Road trips? I left that to young’uns like social media editor Billy Rehbock.
The Veloster N, I predicted, would be different, because it allows you to turn all the noisy, bumpy bits off. Again, please don’t think I’m suffering from acute death of the soul. When I drive the Veloster N—as often as I can, I might add—I usually have it in Custom N mode, with the noise at full volume and the powertrain in its raciest mode. (I vacillate on rev-matching mode—I like to do match-revved downshifts with my own two feet, but I only get it right 85 percent of the time, whereas the car never misses.)
But I’ve always said that the Veloster’s saving grace is the on-demand nature of its sportiness. Once I got on the I-15, I turned everything off: Exhaust to quiet, ride to soft, steering to gentle, powertrain to normal, and cruise control to 9 above the limit.
Turns out the Veloster N also makes a lovely econo-Veloster. It was quiet enough that I could listen to my favorite podcast at levels that wouldn’t make my ears ring, and the ride is smooth enough that I could have easily tripled my time in the saddle. The steering isn’t twitchy, so I didn’t have achy hands from constant corrections. The seats are wide enough that I can shuffle around a bit and stay comfortable. When I arrived in Vegas, I did not feel like I’d just spent half a day trapped in a performance car … and that’s exactly what I was hoping for.
It even got decent fuel economy—27 mpg. Not bad for a 275-hp turbocharged terror.
I had to drive to a few events in Vegas, and yet again spent most of my seat time not regretting my choice of car. The Veloster’s gentle clutch engagement and reasonably light pedal effort is a smackdown to all the people who say driving a stick-shift in traffic is too much trouble.
The drive back home turned out to be quite the adventure. I got a late-afternoon start, and were it not for the fact that I knew I could count on the Veloster for a low-fatigue drive home, I probably would have stayed in Sin City. Instead, I made a 280-mile beeline for my own bed.
All was going well until I got to Primm, right on the California border, to find that something—presumably a big crash—had caused a huge traffic tie-up. After an hour of sitting, they started turning traffic around on the median. I texted my boss, Mac Morrison, that I would probably have to spend the night in Vegas because the freeway was closed. (Mac’s reply: “They can do that???”)
Two miles down the road, Google Maps told me it had found an alternate route—23 miles or so on back roads that would get me around the closure. I decided to follow it.
18 miles or so into my detour, I passed a “Pavement Ends ½ Mile Ahead” sign. Well, OK—a dirt road. People drive regular cars on dirt roads all the time.
Only this wasn’t just a normal dirt road. Oh, it started off like one. Then it turned to washboard. Then it turned bumpy. Then into the surface of the moon, pitch-black skies and all.
The smart thing would have been to turn back, but I couldn’t. A couple dozen other cars had followed the same detour—not to mention a few tractor-trailers—and someone got it into their head that the left side of the road was smoother (it wasn’t). Because people are basically sheep, everyone followed. So now the majority of the traffic was driving on the wrong side of the road, effectively cutting off any retreat.
I did my best to steer around the worst of the craters, comforting myself in the notion that Hyundai sells many, many cars in third-world countries. Surely they can survive bad roads like this, but I still began to wonder how much a Hyundai dealer would charge to re-tighten every single nut and bolt on a late-model Veloster.
Eventually the road turned back to washboard, and with a little questionable driving—including passing a tractor-trailer on the right (hey, he was on the wrong side of the road!)—I was able to accelerate to a speed where the Veloster floated over the ridges, literally leaving my fellow travelers in the dust, stuck behind the crawling big-rigs.
Soon I was back on pavement and blissfully alone. After my 6-mile all-terrain adventure I was expecting the Veloster to be rattling like, er, a rattle, but the car felt as solid as it did before my misadventure. Since I returned, several folks have driven the Veloster, and as far as I know they are blissfully ignorant about my off-road adventure. At least they were until now.
Back at home, I remain more convinced than ever that the Hyundai Veloster N might well be one of the best cars in the world. It’s made all of us smile, it kept my grumpy self happy on a long road trip, and it even did a reasonable imitation of an SUV when the pavement went away. I was so right about this car!