Recent reports from South Korea claim that Hyundai will kill off the quirky Veloster hatchback this year. That means America will lose its only surviving version of it, the Hyundai Veloster N.
As an enthusiast, I should hew to car culture convention and lament the demise of yet one more fun manual transmission car (and rage at the world that can't appreciate it). But I can't, because the Veloster N is going away for a good reason: it doesn't serve a purpose.
Sure, the Veloster N is seriously fun to drive
I reviewed the Veloster N back in 2020. It was a hoot. The Veloster N is nimble and lightning quick; its exhaust note is maniacal and crackling. The engine delivers an ample amount of oomph — 275 horsepower — for the price point. It still feels visceral in a way many modern cars do not. From a car enthusiast's perspective, it's hard not to have a soft spot for the Veloster N.
But the Veloster N is also seriously flawed
The Veloster N looks weird, to the point it's hard to describe. It has an asymmetrical three-door layout that makes its tight back seat even less useful. You could call it a hatchback, but it's more of a kammback, where the car slopes into an abrupt cutoff at the rear. It looks goofy, and it isn't practical. Like a Mazda MX-5 Miata, it's hard to envision it working as your only car.
If you can get past the looks and the impracticality, the ride quality in the Veloster N is stagecoach-level stiff and uncomfortable. And there isn't a drive mode that modulates that enough. I'm not sure there are public roads that would make the Veloster N palatable to drive daily.
As a car person by sentiment and profession, I loved having the Hyundai Veloster N around for a week. But as a real-life person with responsibilities, I'm in an intermediate-term relationship with a Santa Fe Hybrid.
The Veloster N is a relic from Hyundai's past
The Veloster is a quirky, half-baked, 2000s-era design. The second-generation overhaul tried to make it suaver. But the Veloster harkens back to a weirder, wonkier Hyundai.
It doesn't mesh with the modern brand pumping out smooth, sophisticated, premium-feeling products like the Ioniq 5 and the Palisade SUV — well-executed cars that attack a specific market segment with a scalpel. Hyundai couldn't find the Veloster N buyer because that buyer doesn't really exist.
The Veloster N doesn't match up to the VW and Subaru alternatives
The benchmark for $30,000-ish sports cars is — even with the annoying digital cockpit that arrived in 2022 — the VW GTI. The Veloster N offers 34 more hp for about the same price. But it's hard to make a case for it beyond that. Driving dynamics are more refined with the GTI. The VW looks better, is more practical, and transitions to everyday driving far more naturally.
And even if you are the sort of lunatic who would eschew rationality with a Veloster N, there's also the Subaru WRX to contend with. It's just as raw and uncouth. It has a vibrant community of ne'er do well enthusiasts. And it's better in the snow and practical enough to cart around your snowboard and mountain bike.
And it's not like Hyundai is not abandoning the N cars
You'll still be able to buy the Veloster N — but in a slightly different shape. A major reason for the Veloster's demise is the Kona — the same idea, more conventional crossover body style buyers want. Hyundai offers a Kona N that is the same car as the Veloster N — minus the manual transmission — in a more compelling package. Can't stomach buying a crossover? Well, Hyundai also offers virtually the same car in Elantra N form, and that one does come with a stick shift.