Many believe that you need a ton of horsepower to have fun. It began with supercars making 600, 700, or even more than 1,000 hp. Now mainstream brands offer cars with over 700 hp and it is ridiculous. If you want to have some real fun, it is not about a ton of unusable horsepower. It is about precise handling and great feel. The new Hyundai Veloster N tries to bring a great balance of performance to the table — and, boy, it is a ton of fun to drive.

The N is Hyundai’s new performance brand and it promises to be as good as those from Europe. To head the project, Hyundai stole Albert Biermann from BMW’s M division to head the project. Mr. Biermann knows a thing or two about high-performance cars. His greatest hits include the original BMW E30 M3 race car and the 1M Coupe.

Hyundai took the basic hot-rodding recipe and stuffed the larger turbocharged engine from the Sonata into the Veloster. Veloster N offers a 2.0-liter, direct-injected turbocharged powerplant over the Veloster Turbo’s 1.6-liter unit. The base Veloster N produces 250 horsepower, but you need to order the optional performance package which ups the power. When equipped with the optional performance package, the engine puts out 275 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 260 lb.-ft. of torque from 1,450-4,700 rpm.

The turbo intercooler is isolated from the condenser and radiator for even more efficient cooling of the intake charge, and the system also benefits from a two-stage induction system for maximum output at all rpm ranges. The engine runs a high-compression ratio of 9.5:1. The high-performance engine is backed up by a close-ratio, short-throw six-speed manual transmission with downshift rev-matching capability. The transmission uses carbon-coated synchro rings and gear material reinforcement for smoother operation and has much closer ratios over the standard Veloster. The Veloster N clutch also utilizes a double-layer facing clutch disc design for increased burst strength and torque capability.

Hyundai developed a unique differential for the N with what it calls Power Sense Axle design. Veloster N’s Power Sense Axle geometry features a zero-scrub radius for more precise steering, quicker response, and a direct on-center feel, with increased steering linearity. The geometry is further optimized for linear torque buildup and corner-exit precision. Roll angle is also decreased due to a shorter roll-moment arm, resulting in enhanced grip. The motor-driven power steering system is rack-mounted and secured at three locations for reduced flex and more direct handling, especially during high-performance driving.

Unique suspension tuning is derived from a multi-mode electronically-controlled suspension, with a track-focused N mode available. The suspension uses a load-transfer control system that reduces dive during braking, enhances roll control during cornering and reduces rear suspension compression under hard acceleration. The electronically-controlled torque-vectoring limited-slip differential plays a big part in making the Veloster put its power down. The differential improves launch performance, reduces understeer and increases maximum cornering speed via precise torque-vectoring. The brakes also were upgraded with 13.6-inch performance rotors on the front axle and 12.4-inch rotors on the rear.

The result of all of these upgrades is a car that is a blast to drive. Hyundai allows the driver to select different modes for throttle response, exhaust note, suspension, steering assist, and stability control. Also standard is rev matching, which can be turned off. We selected the most aggressive settings and turned off the rev matching, and there was not a corner in sight that the Veloster could not eat up. The stiff suspension mode is too aggressive for most roads because it is very stiff, but otherwise the N handles superbly and it is one of the few front-wheel-drive cars that can be rotated with the throttle. The best part of the handling is the level of confidence that the driver receives from the chassis and the Pirelli P Zero tires. Unlike many higher-powered cars, the Veloster is easy to drive at the limit and never bites you.

Hyundai has done an excellent job with its first N car and it is a bargain at under $30,000. The N is a very limited edition model, so chances are that you will not see many on the road. Hyundai has not set any sales goal numbers, but it has said that sales in Korea have exceeded expectations. Let’s hope that means that more N models are headed our way.


Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC VVT turbo inline four
Horsepower: 275 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 260 @ 1,450 – 4,700 rpm
Front Suspension: McPherson strut, electronically controlled
Rear Suspension: Multilink, electronically controlled
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Axle Ratio: 4.154:1
Curb Weight: 3,117 lbs.
Base MSRP: $29,000
Image courtesy of Hyundai

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