Top-rung 'performance' coupe is a good reason to regret UK-market withdrawal of Hyundai's quirky asymmetrical three-door offering

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The concept of the 'world car' - once the holy grail of the motor industry - seems to be dying.

Manufacturers no longer seem obsessed by offsetting the huge cost of developing new models by selling them in as many different countries as possible. Either that, or we didn't ask nicely enough, because we're told there are no plans to bring the Hyundai Veloster N to Europe.

Once on boost it pulls convincingly, enthusiasm barely diminishing as the 6750rpm redline gets close

As its name suggests the range-topping version of Hyundai's quirky three-door coupe is closely related to the Hyundai i30 N, sharing the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine and ambition to disrupt the established order through the combination of accessible performance and attractive pricing. In the US the standard 247bhp version is only a couple of hundred dollars more than the less powerful VW Golf GTI.

The upgraded Performance version, which I drove, adds a power boost to 271bhp, a limited slip differential, bigger brakes and upgraded tyres, yet still slips under the $30,000 barrier.

Does the Veloster N deliver hot hatch thrills?

The Veloster N is amusing and raw, in pretty much equal measure. Like the i30N the Veloster N has been created to prioritise thrills over refinement, feeling markedly more primal than lesser versions. There's more than a hint of old-fashioned turbo lag, a couple of beats of pause as the engine fills its lungs when asked to pull hard at short notice.

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Once on boost it pulls convincingly, enthusiasm barely diminishing as the 6750rpm redline gets close, and with a hard-edged exhaust that sounds genuinely good rather than just loud. The switchable 'N' mode adds some pops and bangs on a lifted throttle, while also sharpening up various other dynamic functions.

But there's enthusiasm aplenty, as well. Like its i30 sister the Veloster N produces a fair amount of torque steer - it never feels wayward, but there's no doubting the work that front tyres and suspension have to put in to deliver the boosty motor's output over rougher surfaces. Grip levels are keen, the limited slip differential delivers plenty of front-end bite in slower, loaded turns and the Veloster proved willing to take an impressive amount of directional advice from the throttle pedal - the rear end neutralising cleanly or even being persuaded into some tidy oversteer.

The shift action for the six-speed manual gearbox is accurate, although a high-biting clutch in my test car made smooth low-speed progress difficult. The brake pedal felt a little rubbery at the top of its travel, as well - although there were no complaints about the retardation from the beefy discs.

Given its back-to-basics mission it would be churlish to complain about the N's firm ride. Even with the switchable dampers in their gentlest setting the chassis only just stayed on the right side of harsh when exposed to some of rural Michigan's rougher surfaces. Smooth Tarmac is necessary to engage the sportier modes without wincing. A fair amount of road noise reaches the cabin at cruising speeds and, as with the standard car, interior plastics feel low-rent and smell slightly cheap; less forgivable in a car that carries a 50% supplement over the base version in the States.

Is Hyundai right not to bring the Veloster N to the UK?

The Veloster's strange, asymmetric three-door layout still seems to be a response to an unasked question with little obvious practicality: the Veloster remains a slightly lumpy coupe on one side and a cramped-looking hatchback on the other.

It's hard to see the logic in Hyundai's decision not to bring the Veloster N here, or indeed the rationale behind denying the i30N to the US. Both cars seem different enough not to tread on each other's toes, and indeed both were developed together with the heavy involvement of Hyundai's Nurburgring testing facility.

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Although the Veloster N's appeal would likely be more limited than its hatchback sister, it still offers an appealing if less practical package. It's a fun, honest and quirky car that offers American buyers plenty of bang for their bucks; it's just a shame we can't buy those thrills for pounds as well.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace

Mike Duff

Mike Duff
Title: Contributing editor

Mike has been writing about cars for more than 25 years, having defected from radio journalism to follow his passion. He has been a contributor to Autocar since 2004, and is a former editor of the Autocar website. 

Mike joined Autocar full-time in 2007, first as features editor before taking the reins at autocar.co.uk. Being in charge of the video strategy at the time saw him create our long running “will it drift?” series. For which he apologies.

He specialises in adventurous drive stories, many in unlikely places. He once drove to Serbia to visit the Zastava factory, took a £1500 Mercedes W124 E-Class to Berlin to meet some of its taxi siblings and did Scotland’s North Coast 500 in a Porsche Boxster during a winter storm. He also seems to be a hypercar magnet, having driven such exotics as the Koenigsegg One:1, Lamborghini SCV12, Lotus Evija and Pagani Huayra R.