Battle of the Mid-Priced Hot Hatches: VW Golf GTI vs. Hyundai Veloster N
It’s harder than ever these days to find a fun and affordable hot hatchback that lets you get out there and carve some mountain roads. What with the movement of manufacturers towards more trucks and SUVs and the oncoming electrification revolution, we’re a long way removed from the Group B days of yore.
If you want to feel the nostalgic fun of driving a low, short and fast car around, your options are slim, especially this year, with the Civic Si and Type R sitting things out until 2022.
Looking at the landscape, two of the best, and only, options available that won’t totally break the bank are the Hyundai Veloster N and Volkswagen Golf GTI. The Veloster N is a relative newcomer, entering a segment that other brands like Ford were more than happy to leave, while the Golf GTI is a hot hatch mainstay that’s had years to perfect the formula.
Can the newcomer knock off the veteran? We’ll break to down to see which one is the better buy—and which one is more fun.
Power matters for performance cars, and even though our two competitors both come with 2.0L turbos, this is one area where there’s a pretty big disparity between them. While the Golf puts out a respectable 228hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, the Veloster comes standard with 275hp and 260 lb-ft of torque.
The Veloster does a good job of translating that power to the wheels, too, with an optional 8-speed wet dual clutch transmission, to go along with the base 6-speed manual. The Golf’s transmission options are also good, with a 6-speed manual and 7-speed DSG automatic, but the power just simply isn’t the same. When it comes to power, the Veloster is the clear winner.
Of course, what does it matter how much power a hot hatch has if it isn’t light on its feet? Both cars are pretty good in this department, taking corners at speed with ease.
That said, this is where the years of refinement benefit the Golf. The Veloster isn’t bad, but VW has spent years dialing in exactly how to make this car feel, and it shows. For handling, we have to give the win to the VW by a nose.
Neither of these cars is a luxury vehicle, so you shouldn’t expect the most refined interior from either, but they both do the job and are decent enough. One nice touch on the Veloster, especially if you can get a Performance Blue one like we were able to drive, is the matching blue accents on the seat belt, dash and throughout the cabin.
The Golf’s interior is nice, as well, with the plaid seats adding a bit of a colorful and fun flair. Its gauges and dials are all laid out in an intuitive and clean way that again shows how much time they have had to perfect it. Also, the Golf has more space in the back, so any passengers in the back seat will have more leg room, and if you put the seats down you will have more room for hauling.
While both interiors are nice enough considering the price point, we give the edge to the Golf, with its refined touches and greater space for people and cargo.
This is the part of the comparison that most comes down to personal preference, without any horsepower or square footage numbers to rely on, but for our money, the Veloster is the one with the better styling.
It’s not that the Golf’s styling is bad, per se, but more that its years of refinement have made it blend in a bit too much. This is a performance car, after all, so it should look fun, too. We love how the exterior of the Veloster has performance themed-elements like the back wing, but it doesn’t take it as over the top as the last-generation Civic Type R. It really does strike a nice balance between practicality and standing out. Advantage Veloster.
Neither of these cars rise to the price of a Civic Type R, but the Golf is definitely the cheaper option. It starts out at $29,690 for the manual transmission and climbs to $30,490 if you opt for the automatic.
The Veloster, on the other hand, has seen its price creep up in recent years. If you’re looking for a new Veloster N in 2021, the base manual transmission edition will cost you $32,500, while opting for the DCT will cost $34,000.
This may not be the most scientific assessment, but we couldn’t help but notice how much fun it was to drive the Veloster N. From its quirky appearance to its powerful engine and snappy transmission, taking the Veloster for a spin was an absolute joy.
That’s not to say anything bad about the Golf, but more that while its years of refinement help in some areas, it’s almost a bit too predictable in others. The Veloster N is quite simply one of those enthusiast cars that’s designed to make you love to drive it.
Before we lay out an overall winner, we want to make it clear: Both of these cars are great, and we hope that lots of people buy them. The only way we’re going to get more fun, cheap enthusiast cars like these is if they sell well, so we hope lots of people go out and get both.
That said, for our money, the Veloster N is the better vehicle, and the better buy. It’s a bit more expensive than the Golf, especially if you get the automatic, but what you get for the money is well worth it. From the powerful engine to the great handling and fun exterior, we absolutely love the Veloster. It’s the best hot hatch out on the market right now, and we can’t wait to see how it stacks up against the likes of the Civic Si when it comes out next year.
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