All my daughter wanted for her 10th birthday was to take a trip to Phoenix to visit her baby cousin. Because I’m a pushover, I booked the plane tickets and secured what I hoped would be a fun car to drive while we were away – the 2019 Hyundai Veloster N.
The Hyundai Veloster has been around for more than seven years now and has earned a following as a delightfully quirky-looking hatchback. The new Veloster N is all that, but with a whole lot more power, performance, and style. I was excited to drive it.
After a long day of air travel with multiple delays, we picked up the car, which was dressed in stunning baby blue paint with red accents that made it very easy to find in the parking lot. My daughter was visibly excited to go for a drive. I daresay she was proud of me for managing to get such a cool car for our father-daughter road trip. That sense of pride, unfortunately, would be short-lived.
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Starting up the engine yielded a much throatier growl than I expected and I was amped to take it for a rip. Sadly, my excitement turned to confusion when I tried to back out of the parking spot. The Veloster N comes exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission and try as I might, I could not figure out how to put the car into reverse. For a good five minutes, I tried everything I could think of as I muttered a litany of curse words not quite under my breath. Defeated, I ended up calling my boss feeling all but neutered.
Part of me was hoping he would struggle at least a little to come up with a solution, but no. There is a circle/disk that goes around the stick shift below the knob and he told me to simply lift that up and push the shifter into reverse. With a mix of gratitude and embarrassment, I did just that and was on my way…sort of.
As I made my way to the parking attendant, I ended up stalling the engine. My experience with a manual transmission in a car is largely restricted to an ancient Acura EL. That car has proven basically impossible to stall and I assumed that meant I was good with stick shift. Clearly, I was mistaken. The Veloster N demands much more throttle to keep the engine happy than the trusty old Acura and I learned that lesson more times than I care to mention during this road trip.
Though it might have been out of pity, the parking attendant let me know how much she liked the car as I paid the fee. This turned out to be the first of many positive comments I received about the Veloster N.
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With my shame behind me (though still clearly visible on my daughter’s face), we finally hit the road. I’m happy to report that the car drives just as well as it looks. The engine is responsive and eager to roar to life. Even in evening rush hour traffic, the speedy bursts between stops was enough to keep a smile on my face – despite never getting out of fourth gear.
The following morning, we installed my young nephew’s car seat to see how the N worked as a family car. There are only two rear seats, so things are a bit tight. With the car seat installed, it’s a fairly cramped in the front passenger seat. My 5’ 9” sister was able to get comfortable, though her 6’ 3” husband was not thrilled with the accommodations. But these are the sacrifices you have to make if you want a cool compact car with children in tow.
We stopped for lunch at the best BBQ place in Phoenix to load up on brisket (shout out to Little Miss BBQ). There were definitely a few “oohs” from the folks in line directed at the Veloster N. The guy in charge of parking was particularly fond of it and had lots of comments and questions. I’ve always been uncomfortable when people tell me how much they like a car I’m driving. For some reason, I feel the need to tell them that it’s not mine. This need to yell “I don’t have nice things!” is probably something I should talk to a therapist about. It certainly came up a lot on this trip, as quite a few people wanted to talk about the N.
We mostly puttered around Phoenix that afternoon, but I finally got to let the car stretch its legs the next day on a road trip to Sedona. With my sister stuck at work, my brother-in-law squeezed into the passenger seat as the two kids sat in the back for the two-hour drive north.
Getting up to highway speed happens quickly in the N. The test car came outfitted with the Performance Package, which sees the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine churn out 275 horsepower; all of those ponies come to life on the highway. Dropping to fifth gear to make a pass elicits a nasty roar and cruising in sixth gear north of 80 feels like you are barely scratching the surface of the car’s capabilities.
The only downside for extended highway driving is that it isn’t the quietest or smoothest ride. With a price tag of $29,920, Hyundai keeps the interior fairly simple (though it does feature matching blue seatbelts) and you can hear a good bit of road noise. You can also “feel” the road more than you might like during a long drive.
Though we didn’t run into anything really tight and twisty, the Veloster N feels supremely surefooted in the corners. This would make for a great track day car and you can even monitor lap times, G-force and more on the info display if you use the sport-focused “N Mode.” I had no real use for that during my testing, but it’s a fun feature to play with from time to time.
While trunk space is likely not a huge concern if you are buying this car, there is enough room for a couple of large suitcases. In fact, there was even enough room to change the diaper of a cranky 13-month old who was none too pleased to be placed there in the first place. I assure you nobody involved liked this experience and I will never bring it up again.
After a few days driving the 2019 Hyundai Veloster N around Arizona, I was legitimately sad to see it go. Though I haven’t driven a lot of particularly sporty cars, this was probably the most fun I’ve ever had behind the wheel of one – edging out the MINI Clubman JCW ALL4 I tested a while back. For less than $30,000, that is tough to argue with.
If you have a limited budget and need a car that can be an everyday driver without giving up on fun, the Veloster N is certainly worth considering. If you get one dressed in baby blue, I promise you’ll get lots of comments from strangers. You might even get to be the “cool” dad when you drop your kids off at school…so long as you don’t stall out in front of their friends.