2022 Volkswagen Golf R vs 2022 Hyundai Veloster N

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  • 2022 Volkswagen Golf R

    A black 2022 Volkswagen Golf R is angled left.

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    2022 Hyundai Veloster N

    A blue 2022 Hyundai Veloster N is angled left.

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    315Horsepower (hp)275
    All-wheel driveDrivetrainFront-wheel drive
    5Seating (qty)4

    At first glance, there's not much separating the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R vs 2022 Hyundai Veloster N - aside from the distinctive letter tacked on to the end to signal the hatchback's performance credentials. Both hot hatches offer high-powered fun and sporty handling in a compact package, both offer a high-performance dual-clutch transmission that combines the best aspects of automatic and manual setups, and both represent the pinnacle of performance for their respective models. However, these two models both offer something very different. While they stack up pretty well in a number of ways, they differ in terms of styling, performance, and available technology.

    We should also mention that these two hatchbacks seem to be moving in decidedly different directions. The Golf R makes its triumphant return this year after being absent from the American market since 2019, while the Veloster N could be winding down its run. Debuting in 2011, the Veloster has carved out a following in a decade on the market, but apparently not enough of one as Hyundai has discontinued all but the high-performance N model going into 2022. The Golf R, on the other hand, has long been a fan-favorite, and after a couple of years out of the limelight, there's sure to be a demand for the sporty, refined hatchback.

  • Styling

    A blue 2022 Volkswagen Golf R is shown from the side parked in an open desert lot.

    Once the exclusive domain of younger drivers, the humble hatchback has matured along with its target audience. Performance and styling have long been the hatchback's bread and butter, but while the goods under the hoods remain as important as ever, they've thankfully grown up a little on the design side. That's not to say these contemporary hatchbacks aren't as fun to drive as ever - drift mode, anyone? - but the understated approach of the new Golf R is a welcome change from the hatchbacks of our youth, which often traded more on spoiler and rim size than performance and handling. The Golf R does well in striking a balance between performance and practicality, giving drivers a fun ride that they won't be embarrassed to pull into the company parking lot.

    The Golf R Styling

    The Golf R's clean body lines suggest speed without being too heavy-handed, with a single clean accent line bisecting the front and rear door handles. The LED headlights - one of our favorite upgrades in the new mark 8 generation - feature automatic, swiveling high beams, allowing drivers to focus their attention on the road ahead. Rain-sensitive windshield wipers accomplish the same feat, and full LED tail lights with sequential turn signals give the hatchback a future-friendly look.

    A large rear diffuser improves the Golf R's aerodynamics and handling while giving the backend a serious, solid appearance. The interior's Nappa leather seats, blue and carbon accents, and the distinct "R" logo give an immediate impression of luxury that's made the Golf R so popular with discerning drivers. Stainless steel pedals enhance the performance feel and, because it wouldn't be a VW without some fun creature features, the Golf R features a customizable ambient lighting function with 30 colors to choose from.

    The Veloster N Styling

    The Veloster N, on the other hand, is... a little difficult to describe. Aggressive (and seemingly superfluous) body lines are nothing new in the high-performance hatchback segment, but Hyundai went all-in on the Veloster N. Maybe it's not as jarring as it might appear at first glance but when examined side-by-side next to the Golf R, the difference is striking. A large grille dominates the fascia, with red accent lines running from beneath the headlights to the rear wheels. The undulating topography of the vehicle's chassis isn't a huge distraction, but it goes a little far at times, with the elevated panel above the rear wheels giving the Veloster a silhouette that's a bit heavy on the back end.

    The hatchback also features a very small rear window, even for the segment, but the Veloster's asymmetrical design is the biggest head-scratcher. It's important to set yourself apart in a crowded marketplace, but a lopsided configuration might not be the best approach. The Veloster N is a four-door hatchback... technically, though the hatch itself apparently counts as one of the doors in question as the driver's side only features one entrance to the passenger side's two. While some drivers might appreciate the convenience of never being expected to step out of the car so a passenger can crawl into the backseat, the asymmetrical approach is just a little confusing. One door on either side? Sure, that's par for the course in the performance market, but there's an aesthetic reason this 2/1 design hasn't taken hold, and the Veloster N is a great example of why that is.

  • Performance

    A blue 2022 Volkswagen Golf R is shown form the rear driving on a track after winning a 2022 Volkswagen Golf R vs 2022 Hyundai Veloster N comparison.

    In nearly every category related to performance, the Golf R leaves the Veloster N in its dust. Given VW's history on the racing circuit, this comes as little surprise and, while the German brand has been out of the racing scene for a couple of years, the Golf R makes it clear that checkered-flag heritage lives on to this day. The VW gets the nod for horsepower, with 315 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque under the hood to the Veloster's 275 horses and 260 lb-ft, even though both cars use a turbocharged 2.0L engine. Drivers are sure to notice this discrepancy in power. The Golf R is simply more enjoyable on the road, delivering the type of muscle that makes these performance-minded hot hatches so enjoyable in the first place.

    Drivetrain Options

    In addition to their six-speed manual offerings, both the Golf R and Veloster N offer automatic dual-clutch transmissions, providing drivers with the convenience of an automatic transmission and the engagement of a manual setup. Combining the best of both worlds, these unique transmissions gives drivers the ease of an automatic with the option to exert greater control by switching into a type of manual mode. While this system might not make sense in every vehicle, it's a much-appreciated feature on these hatchbacks where it allows the driver to take advantage of the vehicles' power and enjoy the ride on their own terms.

    Using two computer-controlled clutches, the Volkswagen's DSG transmission will operate in automatic mode until the driver moves the shifter into a second position, where it functions much like the shifter on a manual transmission. This versatility makes the Golf R an ideal vehicle for everyday driving, allowing drivers to choose between stepping into a high-performance street racer or a stolid commuter every time they pull out of the driveway. Of course, the Golf R is also available as a six-speed manual for those who like to be a little more hands-on in their driving.

    For its part, the Veloster N's 8-speed DCT provides a similar experience, using electronic actuators to operate a wet double clutch. One intriguing feature to note here: with N Grin Shift (NGS), drivers can activate a turbocharger overboost which will increase torque and transmission response for up to 20 seconds. Hyundai hopes his real-life boost button will inject some excitement into the ride and hopefully elicit a smile in the process. However, even with NGS mode engaged, the Veloster is less powerful than the Golf R.

    The Winner Is…

    While the Veloster N represents a good value in the category, it simply doesn't have the performance credentials to keep up with the Golf R. The Veloster is also lacking some of the innovative features that make the Golf R so much fun to drive. The Golf R might cost a little more upfront, but it offers exactly the type of racecar-like performance drivers have come to expect from this segment of the market.

  • Technology

    The black interior of a 2022 Volkswagen Golf R shows the steering wheel and infotainment screen.

    While the Veloster N might almost be able to hold its own against the Golf R from a performance perspective, the Volkswagen's well-appointed interior and high-tech features set a high bar. The hatchback's marquee feature would have to be the Golf R's Drift mode. Outfitted with VW's new all-wheel drive system, each half of the Golf R's rear axle is connected to its own clutchpack, allowing the vehicle dynamics computer to adjust torque to each individual wheel. This approach not only provides better grip in adverse driving conditions but can also be exploited to enable a little rubber-burning fun. Activated through the Golf R's Race mode, Drift mode reduces the vehicle's stability controls to their lowest threshold, circumventing the tech that meters out torque to allow for easier drifting.

    Cabin Tech

    The Golf R's standard 10-inch infotainment touchscreen easily bests the Veloster N's 7-inch and 8-inch options and includes futuristic touch-sensitive sliders in place of traditional buttons. A high-end Harman-Kardon sound system provides exceptional fidelity in the cabin, and a Wi-Fi hotspot will allow passengers to stream their own tunes should the driver's choice prove disagreeable.

    The Veloster N also offers wireless charging and a suite of the expected high-tech features such as voice recognition, satellite radio, an eight-speaker audio system, and navigation. One highlight worth mentioning is the inclusion of Hyundai's BlueLink telematics system. BlueLink allows drivers to connect to their vehicle through a proprietary smartphone app, giving Veloster N owners the ability to do everything from remote starting and vehicle location to emergency assistance, local recommendations, reminders, and diagnostics. While not exclusive to the Veloster N, the smartphone-based app is a nice inclusion from an accessibility standpoint, seamlessly integrating one's vehicle into their most-used device.

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