This is the most fun I have had in a car in a long time. Bravo Hyundai!
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Pricing: 2020 Hyundai Veloster
Base price (N trim): $34,999
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $36,804
The first thing you may (or may not) notice is the strange 3-door configuration. There’s a huge driver’s door while the passenger side gets a front and rear door. It’s weird, and frankly, it’s unnecessary. To be honest, I was surprised at how many people didn’t notice this until I pointed it out to them.
OK let’s be honest, the first thing you’d notice about my review car is the colour. That red is hard to miss. The Veloster’s stance is, in my opinion, perfect. It sits deliciously low, looking somewhat angry and aggressive without ever looking stupid. This car absolutely does not need lowering springs.
LED lighting can be found all around – LED headlights, running lights and tail lights.
The N package has unique bodywork, looking significantly more aggressive than the regular Velosters with its special grille, an almost-gaudy rear spoiler (not nearly as gaudy as the one on the Civic Type R) and hilariously huge exhaust baffles. The whole thing is finished off with stunning 19-inch wheels shod with monstrous 235/35-sized rubber.
At first glance the Veloster interior comes across as a bit low-rent. Materials are decidedly entry-level, with hard plastics being the key ingredient. The only exceptions are the armrests on the doors and in the middle.
The styling is very driver-centric. As a matter of fact, there is a visual and physical division between the driver and passenger, and it pretty much cuts the passenger off from the centre stack. The car comes with all the goodies – keyless entry, push-button ignition, heated seats and steering wheel, an automatic climate control system. The seats deserve a shout-out – they provide a delightful combination of comfort and grippy well-bolstered support.
Front and centre is a touchscreen that works well with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and puts out your tunes to the excellent 8-speaker Infinity sound system. Thankfully Hyundai includes hard buttons and knobs for the major functions.
Here is one of the Veloster’s surprises. The rear seats are actually pretty good! There are two of them, separated by a storage bin and cupholders. I’m 5’10” and I had enough leg room to sit in the back comfortably. Head room is limited, my big ‘do hitting the roof, because of the Veloster’s sloping roofline. But anyone shorter than me would be perfectly fine.
There’s a large open rubberized bin under the centre stack, where you’ll also find USB, 12V and auxiliary plugs. An additional large bin is accessible under the armrest lid.
The trunk is quite sizeable at 565L although it has a high lip, which basically makes it feel like you’re dropping your stuff down into the trunk.
Under the Hood
Lurking under the long hood is a 2L turbocharged 4-cylinder, tuned to put out 275 HP at 6,000 RPM and 260 lb.ft of torque available from 1,450 RPM. It’s a front-wheel driver and the power is route through a 6-speed manual transmission (yes!).
The fuel economy is rated at 10.6/8.3/9.5 L/100 km (city/highway/combined). I’m not going to get into the particulars, but let’s just say I wasn’t driving this car like a slouch. So suffice it to say, my fuel economy numbers were slightly higher than the ratings. I have no problem with that.
This is the section that matters here. This car is a hoot to drive. It starts with the ignition – depress the button, and the car barks to life. The shifter falls perfectly into the hand, the clutch is easy to live with, but has a substantial enough feel to it that gives the impression this set-up could handle a full day at the track without fatiguing. Yet the car is just fine to putter around town, and even commute with.
Power is immediately there, and the responsiveness borders on insanity. The car is very fast, but because of the wave of low-end torque, it feels even faster than it is. And that says a lot. The power comes on so ferociously that you’re looking at illegal speeds before you know it.
As impressive as the Veloster N is in a straight line, it’s the handling that is truly its forte. The active suspension is one of the most variable I’ve ever experienced. It goes from downright comfortable (although it’s not mushy) to ferociously harsh and ready for track use. Regardless of the suspension mode, the car’s handling is fantastic. Turn-in is sharp, grip is tremendous, cornering is absolutely predictable, understeer is non-existent and the whole thing just begs you to play. Hard. The electronic limited slip differential and multi-link rear suspension are simply wonderful and Hyundai puts on a clinic here that raises the bar for sports car suspensions in my books.
All this power and handling is great, but without the ability to harness that speed and bring it back down, things get dicey. Not a problem for the Veloster – the massive brakes are more than up to the task, easily hauling down the speed at a rate that will bounce your forehead off the steering wheel if you’re not careful.
I loved how customizable the Veloster’s driving experience is. There are several driving modes – you can choose from Eco, Normal and Sport. Each mode is noticeably different, impacting the responsiveness and handling, as well as the exhaust note. And then there are the N modes, accessible with the N button on the steering wheel. The first one is done up for you, dialing everything up to an 11. But you can tap the N mode button again to access an individual N mode, where you can choose options for your Powertrain (where you can choose engine responsiveness, rev matching, electronic limited slip differential programming and exhaust sounds) as well as for your Chassis (where you can pick your suspension firmness, steering weight and electronic stability control levels). I’ve never driven a car that let me access so much of its “stuff”. I loved it, and played with it constantly until I had found the perfect N mode for my liking.
That active sport exhaust, by the way, goes from a lumpy burble in Normal mode all the way to downright obnoxious in N mode. It sounds amazing in every situation, but it can probably be a bit too much for quiet residential streets in N mode. It’s the real deal though – no synthetic exhaust tones piped into the car through the speakers. I love it!
Visibility out is just OK. Shoulder checks on the passenger side are a bit rough and looking out of the back is somewhat restricted.
Truly a sports car that offers a very balanced no-compromise approach to driving.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was extraordinarily low. She wasn’t too fond of the styling, didn’t like how small it was, couldn’t drive it because of the manual transmission and hated how noisy it was. Haha!
Now let me bring another perspective. The styling, while somewhat different, isn’t nearly as subjective as it may first seem. The most controversial thing is really that 3-door concept – otherwise, this is a slick little hatchback with some aggressive touches, none of which go overboard. The size is comparable to other small hatchbacks, and it even offers reasonable back-seat and trunk space. The manual transmission is wonderful and I love the fact that Hyundai even offers it, as this is becoming a lost art. And the noise? Well, I personally loved it.
Add it all together, consider the outstanding performance and you’re left with a fantastic hatchback that does everything well, remains affordable and made me smile every single time I drove it. What more can we ask of a sports car? Well done, Hyundai. Well done.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Hyundai Canada.
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