Test Driving the Veloster N... Holy Wow!
This is the third part of a multi-part series. The links below will get you all caught up.
- Part 1: “Stick With Mazda or Go To Hyundai?"
- Part 2: “Mazda CX-30 GT Turbo AWD, a Sporty Crossover?"
As car enthusiasts, we need to accept that the type of cars that we fell in love with are being replaced by electric vehicles and SUVs and pickup trucks, at least here in North America anyway. Don’t get me wrong, all those vehicles have their place, but few of them will give me butterflies in my stomach before, during, or after the drive.
Yes electric vehicles can be blazingly fast off the line, but 0-60 times are not the be all and end all of car enjoyment. SUVs and pickup trucks can be very comfortable and spacious vehicles to get you from point A to point B, or to carry around “stuff”, but primarily their existence is based on functionality and an assumed, but not necessarily greater, sense of safety.
"But some manufacturers are listening. Some manufacturers are building vehicles for the main crowd, *and* building toys for the rest of us."
As enthusiast vehicles though? They lack the personality of a 2-seat roadster, a hot hatch, or even some sedans. All vehicles can get you from point A to point B, but only some can get you there with a smile from ear to ear.
Non-enthusiasts have different priorities than us. They want a vehicle that’s soft and comfortable. They enjoy driving in an environment that’s as quiet as possible. And they outnumber us greatly, so more and more car manufacturers are building vehicles for them; the ones that will sell, and one can’t really fault them for that.
But some manufacturers are listening. Some manufacturers are building vehicles for the main crowd, and building toys for the rest of us. And oh what fun toys they can be.
"Pressing this button will instantly put the car in "N mode", and the god of hellfire and chaos that Albert Biermann from BMW's M division captured and stuffed under the hood will be released."
I had the opportunity to test drive the 2022 Hyundai Veloster N DCT earlier this week; a car I’ve been itching to drive since the introduction of the Veloster N two years ago. I would say that words cannot describe my feelings about this car, but that wouldn’t be true since you’re reading these words right now.
It’s a total “me” car. It’s small, it’s cute (yes I called a Veloster N cute), and driving in “Eco” mode feels like a pretty refined, “normal” hatchback that will get an estimated 8.6L/100KM on the highway.
It’s relatively comfortable and somewhat spacious for a 3-door hatchback that’s slightly smaller than my existing 2016 Mazda3 Sport. With one door on the driver’s side and two doors on the passenger side, you get a 2-door car’s good looks while maintaining the functionality and ease of use of the back seats.
"I saw the car turn onto the road, and then I saw the biggest smile on her face as she passed me."
But on the steering wheel is a blue button with a checkered flag. Pressing this button will instantly put the car in “N mode”, and the god of hellfire and chaos that Albert Biermann from BMW’s M division captured and stuffed under the hood will be released. But this is chaos in a controlled way. You feel the car tensing up to put more power down, and the additional “N Grin Shift” button is aptly named as it gives you 20 seconds of additional overboost. There’s a feeling of “oh you’re going to enjoy this” as you head for a turn, with the car just sticking to the road surface.
Unbeknownst to me, my partner, who also loves cars, actually drove by me while I was out for my test drive. Her words, as I recall, were a little something like this: “I saw the car turn onto the road, and then I saw the biggest smile on her face as she passed me."
"Hyundai listened to the enthusiasts in what they wanted in a car, and then they actually built it and put it up for sale."
Is it practical? Not entirely. Like I said it’s a bit smaller than my 2016, and while the backseats are functional with the third door, it’s still a bit cumbersome getting into the backseat behind the driver. Gas mileage is also worse, and requires premium 91 octane or higher. The front lip also barely clears my steeper-than-it-looks driveway, which would make getting the car in/out during the winter a bit of a challenge.
The car itself is also the most expensive of the three vehicles I’m looking at, but rather surprisingly it’s the cheapest on an insurance quote. Getting new winter rims and tires would also cost a small fortune.
So more expensive to buy, less practical to use, and more expensive to run. Do I care about any of this? Of course I do, but none of them are dealbreakers.
I also feel like we’re seeing the last of a dying breed with this car, and that makes me sad in a way I can’t quite describe. To non-enthusiasts they’re just cars. Just appliances to get from point A to point B. But for us, cars, even those we don’t own, become a part of our family. A part of us is lost when a car reaches the point where it’s no longer made. We know that it’s unlikely we’ll see a car like it ever again in the future.
Hyundai listened to the enthusiasts in what they wanted in a car, and then they actually built it and put it up for sale. And they’re continuing to do so; launching “N” or “N Line” models of the Kona, Sonata, Tucson, and Elantra. In today’s world of quiet and comfort and SUVs that will sell well, you have to admire that.
Next in the series:
- Part 4: “Memories of Mazda”
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