Pedro Arrais review: Veloster N a pocket rocket that really flies

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The 2020 Veloster N punches above its weight in the hot-hatch segment of the market.

The South Korean manufacturer has pulled out all the stops to show off its engineering prowess, with a vehicle capable of winning a high-stakes shootout with the best in the world.

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The Veloster N is a high-performance beast conceived with one goal — to knock off traditional hot hatches such as the Volkswagen Golf R and the Honda Civic Type R. Others include the Ford Focus RS and the (non-hatch) Subaru WRX.

I had the opportunity to take one for hot laps on a track as well as spirited runs on the highway.

The Veloster N clocks in at $34,999, which is $7,500 less than the Golf R and $6,690 less than the Civic Type R.

In Canada, there is no base or top-of-the-line model. (In the U.S., you can order a base or an upgraded engine).

All Canadian cars come with the more powerful powerplant, a turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine producing 275 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque.

Like the Civic, the Veloster is only available in front-wheel drive (the Golf R is all-wheel drive).

There is only one transmission, a slick-shifting six-speed manual.

You can change the powertrain’s throttle response, adaptive suspension and steering feel, rev matching and exhaust note via a drive selector. You can choose between the regular pre-set modes such as Eco, Normal or Sport. In the N custom mode, you can tailor-make your own blend of variables to suit your comfort and driving needs.

The Civic is more powerful and faster than the Veloster, but we are talking about just three-tenths of a second less than the 5.2 seconds it takes the Veloster to sprint to 100 kilometres an hour, according to Car and Driver.

The engine’s 260 pound-feet of torque comes on early, starting at a low 1,450 rpm. It keeps pulling (as long as there is pavement ahead of it) all the way up to its 6,750-rpm redline.

Spectators at a track will audibly know whenever a driver of an N takes their foot off the accelerator, by the barks and pops emanating from the exhaust.

It is equipped with a set of beefy, low-profile 235/35 R19 Pirelli P Zero PZ4s. The ample rubber footprint helps with getting all that power to the ground, as well as keeping the Veloster planted while cornering.

The cabin is both welcoming and intuitive. Controls are where they should be, falling easily to hand. The front seats are nicely bolstered to hold you snugly when cornering. The Civic’s front seats are more aggressive, but less comfortable for day-to-day driving.

All three cars have back seats, but the Veloster’s holds only two occupants. The Veloster is unique in the fact that it has three doors, the third located behind the front passenger-side door. (You have to look hard to see the back door the first time, as the handle is visually camouflaged.)

This means that at least one person has to scuttle over to get to their seat — not exactly occupant-friendly. Although it can carry adults in the back, you should only consider taking them on short trips.

There is a hatchback to load cargo, but the deep well requires you to lift objects from the trunk. It is not helped by a narrow opening.

The trunk swallows 566 litres of cargo, a bit less than its competitors — but not by much.

The angle of the rear window hatch also hinders rearward visibility when driving. I can’t imagine trying to parallel park without the backup camera.

The infotainment system centres around an eight-inch touchscreen perched on the top of the centre console. It powers a premium sound system that includes a subwoofer.

The system includes Hyundai’s Blue Link, which includes in-vehicle diagnostics and enhanced roadside assistance. It also allows you to pre-heat the interior or remotely lock and unlock the doors.

The Veloster is not Hyundai’s first foray into the coupe market — the company fielded the Tiburon and Genesis in past years.

But the game changer is the inclusion of Hyundai’s N performance division in its debut into the North American market.

The N on the Veloster has transformed an everyday transportation vehicle into a hot hatch — a car worthy of serious consideration, especially if you factor in the price difference against the competition.

THE SPEC SHEET

Type: Compact three-door hatchback, front engine, front-wheel-drive

Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder, 275 hp at 6,000 r.p.m., 260 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,450 to 4,700 r.p.m.

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Dimensions (mm): Length, 4,265; width, 1,811; height, 1,394; wheelbase, 2,649

Curb weight (kg): 1,409

Price (base/as tested): $34,999/ $36,809 (includes $1,710 freight and PDI and $100 AC tax)

Options: Nil

Tires: 235/35 R19 on alloy wheels

Fuel type: Premium

Fuel economy (L/100km): 10.6 city/ 9.6 highway

Warranty: Five years/100,000 km new car, powertrain and five years/ unlimited km roadside assistance

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