- Feb 11, 2007
- Reaction score
What’s new? Hot hatches like the Veloster have been awesome funner-on-backroads, bangs-for-the-buck since the 80’s. Look at GTIs and Civics going back the last three decades. The real surprise is that the hot hatch in question is a Hyundai. Kudos.BMW is going to get pinned especially because what it used to be, regarding to the Hyundai, excerpt
Because the Veloster N is so cheap, anyone with a nine-to-five can sign a note and ride off with one of the sharpest cars on the market. But it was more than price. Pressing the “N” button on the steering wheel changed the car dramatically. We tend to turn up our noses at drive modes on fun cars: Why does a Lamborghini need a Sport setting? Didn’t you buy the expensive loud one? The button makes perfect sense here, switching the car from quiet and comfortable daily driver to snotty hot hatch, the exhaust popping and snapping with more authority than anything the Corvette could muster. It is so fantastically neutral, pivoting at your hips, the throttle and brake yaw rheostats.
No front-drive car should work this well, but the Veloster is eager, urging you to run up and stick a pin in some expensive supercar’s ego. To watch it deflate as you fill their mirrors.
“It doesn’t care how you treat it,” Kinard said. “You can drive it on its tippy toes, like someone who knows what they’re doing. Or you can drive it like me, a ham-fisted Colin McRae wannabe. The thing rewards you.”
“That’s what the Civic Type R should have made people say,” Smith agreed.
There are flaws. The engine has all the character of an ink-jet printer, and the gas and brake pedal occupy different zip codes. But after five minutes, it doesn’t matter. As we chased the new Corvette away from our lunch stop on the final day of testing, the Hyundai had that mid-engine thing’s number, dancing and playing but forever confident. Kinard called it a bucket of puppies, but that’s not quite right. I’ve never met a puppy that can run down a McLaren on a back road.
ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
For all their bluster and power, their lap times and displacement, most of the carmakers at this test made a deal with the devil—they traded what once made them great in the search for outright speed. Never has the disparity been greater between the capabilities of a modern fast car and what is legally possible. The new definition of performance isn’t what a car can do, but what it will do on a good road.
The Veloster N is what a great front-wheel-drive car should feel like. A delight that welds a smile to your face every time you drive it. It cheers you on, treating you like the hero. And it came from a company that had no reason to build it. Chevrolet has to make a Corvette; Porsche, a 911. Short of a giant meteorite or nuclear winter, those names will always exist. Cars like the Veloster N are more special, crafted not of obligation, but for the sheer joy of driving. That’s why the Hyundai Veloster N is Road & Track’s 2020 Performance Car of the Year.
We got your letter, Hyundai. We heart you, too.
However, coming from someone who grew up driving sporty little Japanese hatchbacks and coupes (all front wheel-drive), and loves those cars—it isn’t simply a matter of better or worse compared to a Corvette, 911, or MacLaren. As the article touches on, the Veloster engine is boring. Easily fifty-percent of the fun of a more pure/exotic sports car is in the tactility, noise, sense of occasion, etc. As much fun as my Prelude or RSX ever were on twisty roads, it was never exciting getting into them and starting them up the way it is with my GT3.
Where the market is going at the higher end is a bifurcation between straight-up performance versus purity/engagement. That’s why Porsche’s GT cars have become such hot items amongst enthusiasts who aren’t necessarily track rats, why Ferrari is experimenting with making cars like the Monza, why Ford’s GT350/500 garner so much adulation, etc. See BMW for an example of a company that doesn’t get it.
When electric cars can do 0-60 in no seconds, without any drama or sound, what it means to be a great sports car has shifted focus. Enthusiasts want to feel and hear more. There’s less of that to mine when the car is fundamentally an economy platform with a turbocharged economy engine.