With a unique 3-door layout featuring a pair of doors on the passenger side and a single one for the driver, the plucky, low-slung, adventurously styled 2021 Hyundai Veloster is an affordable small car with a unique personality.
At the top of the lineup, the Veloster N was the first Hyundai model to wear the Korean brand’s nascent N performance division badge. For 2021, the Veloster N gets some long-overdue driver-assistive technology and critical performance updates to make it more competitive with hot-hatch rivals such as the Honda Civic Type R, Mazda Mazda3 2.5 Turbo, Mini Cooper S, and Volkswagen Golf GTI.
Because of the added and updated standard equipment, the 2021 Hyundai Veloster N carries a higher base price of $33,255, including a $1,005 destination charge. That’s nearly $5,000 more expensive than the 2020 model’s base price, but there is a good reason for the increase.
Changes to the 2021 Hyundai Veloster N include the following:
2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 70% of Hyundai Veloster owners are male (vs. 72% for the segment), and the median age of a Veloster owner is 46 years (vs. 43).
Owners say their favorite things about the Veloster are (in descending order) the:
Owners indicate their least favorite things about the Veloster are (in descending order) the:
In the sections that follow, our independent expert provides an analysis of a Veloster N equipped with just one option: an 8-speed wet dual-clutch automatic transmission. The price of the test vehicle came to $34,755, including the $1,005 destination charge.
The elixir of performance cars is more power. For 2021, Hyundai makes the N’s previously optional Performance package standard. Now, the Veloster N dances to the tune of 275 horsepower on unleaded premium fuel (up from 250 last year without the optional Performance package). Maximum torque remains the same at 260 pound-feet this year, but it is available over a wider engine speed range, now on a broad plateau from 1,450 rpm to 4,700 rpm.
For driving enthusiasts looking for a small sports car, the addition of a new automatic transmission is not usually a cause for celebration. Modern automatic-equipped cars may accelerate faster but typically lack the human/machine involvement that makes driving a sports car so fundamentally rewarding. That’s the reason you don’t see many automatic-transmission Mazda Miatas, which is a true sports car with one of the best manual-transmission shifters in the business.
Since its 2019 introduction, the Hyundai Veloster N has been equipped exclusively with a 6-speed manual transmission that works well enough but doesn’t quite have the precision feel, short throws, and well-defined gates of the manual gearboxes in two of its primary competitors, the Honda Civic Type R and Volkswagen Golf GTI.
For 2021, the Veloster N adds the option of an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT). The 8-speed DCT gives the Veloster N’s lively 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder two more ratios to work with and executes gearshifts quickly and cleanly with little or no shift shock.
In addition to steering-wheel paddle shifters, the Veloster N’s new 8-speed DCT can be manually shifted with the center console-mounted shift lever. It will hold gears all the way up to the N’s 6,750-rpm fuel cutoff. The leather-wrapped shifter uses race-car logic with downshifts activated by pushing forward and upshifts with a rearward pull. This ergonomic refinement means the driver is downshifting while braking and resisting forward g-forces, and upshifting while experiencing the natural rearward g-forces of acceleration.
There are more shifting scenarios to unpack with the new 8-speed DCT. Tapping the innocuous-looking NGS button on the right steering wheel spoke activates N Grin Shift, which enables 20 seconds of turbocharger overboost, bumping maximum torque by 7% and unleashing the sportiest (you might say, grin-inducing) shifts the new DCT can muster.
Selecting Custom from the drive mode selector button on the left steering-wheel spoke opens more shifting possibilities. Using menu selections in the 8-inch infotainment display, choosing N Power Shift lessens torque mitigation during heavy throttle applications to deliver maximum driveline torque to the wheels. Selecting N Track Sense Shift lets the DCT-equipped Veloster N automatically pick the best gear and shift timing for sporty driving.
And if that wasn’t enough, the DCT-equipped Veloster N has launch control for quick acceleration from rest. Once selected from the center-screen N Performance menu, choose a launch rpm, floor both pedals, and then side-step the brake while keeping the accelerator matted.
The addition of an optional 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission opens doors for buyers who don’t want to bother with or perhaps even know how to operate a clutch and a manual gearbox. In turn, this should make the Veloster N more attractive to a broader enthusiast audience.
Addressing one of the weaknesses in last year’s Veloster N, Hyundai equips the 2021 model with new sport bucket front seats. Dubbed N Light seats due to their thinner, lightweight construction, the pair shave eight pounds from the Veloster N.
The big improvement is in the significant increase in lateral support. Covered in cloth and synthetic leather, the new sport seats really hug the driver and front passenger. The highly contoured seats offer generous lateral support for the thighs, lower torso, and even the shoulders, increasing comfort levels, especially during long stints behind the wheel. The bolsters now fit a wider range of physiques and, combined with the grippy cloth center inserts, give a sense of feeling planted when you sit down.
The new seats have no power adjustments, save for a power lumbar adjustment for the driver. Only the driver’s seat has a height adjustment. Drivers in northern climes also should know that heated front seats and a heated version of the Veloster N’s grippy leather steering wheel are not available.
And lest you think that the N Light moniker refers solely to the lightweight seat design, each of Veloster N’s front seatbacks has an N-shaped badge that lights up at night.
Aside from six airbags and a backup camera, the previous version of the Veloster N was light on safety and advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS). Following Hyundai’s push to expand these features on all of its models, the company has added a modest collection of SmartSense ADAS for the 2021 Veloster. These include:
Although basic (speed setting only) cruise control is standard, the Veloster N is not available with adaptive cruise control that allows the driver to set the following distance behind vehicles traveling ahead. Also, the forward-collision warning system is a simple technology that does not offer pedestrian detection.
Due to the Veloster N’s tall front seatbacks, tiny rear window, and large rear-quarter blind spots, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning is a welcome addition. However, the Veloster N’s versions of these systems are not active. In other words, they use older technology that will warn the driver of approaching vehicles but not take proactive measures to minimize or avoid a collision as found on many other new Hyundai products.
With the 2021 updates, the Veloster N makes a more convincing case as the fastest and most expressive iteration of the unique 3-door Hyundai hatchback. The added ADAS helps make it a more compelling candidate for an everyday driver, albeit one with 275 standard horsepower on tap and the power to zip through holes in traffic. And the new dual-clutch automatic transmission brings some sophistication while expanding the car’s appeal.
Even at the higher 2021 price, the fun-to-drive Veloster N remains a performance bargain that can tackle curvy back roads with confidence and an affordable small car to take four passengers of modest size and their luggage to the airport.