Sadly, the Americas will not be getting the redesigned 2019 Ford Focus ST. For those looking to buy an affordable hot hatchback, picking up a Focus ST on the used market seemed like it was going to be the best way to go. But Hyundai’s new Veloster N has transformed their “warm hatch” Veloster Turbo into a true contender. In many ways, the Hyundai Veloster N truly is the closest thing that the United States has as a spiritual successor to the Ford Focus ST. With prices starting under $30,000, there doesn’t seem to be a more affordable, higher-performing competitor on the new car market, apart from the long-running VW Golf GTI.
Those looking for a fun, affordable car in this segment can also add the Honda Civic Type R to their shortlist, though it isn’t a hatchback and starts at nearly $10,000 more than the Veloster N. The Civic Si can be configured as a two-box, but it’s really a warm hatch, not quite at the same performance level. Sadly, the Subaru WRX doesn’t come as a hatchback at all anymore.
And so we are left with the newcomer from Korea, which has received rave reviews from almost everyone who’s driven it. Compared to the outgoing 2013-2018 Focus ST, it comes startlingly close in terms of a lot of the specs and dimensions. The “N” in Hyundai’s N group of performance vehicles stands for both “Nurburgring” (the famous German race track) and “Namyang” (the South Korean location of Hyundai’s R&D testing). Is the Veloster N the first car to combine European performance and handling with Korean reliability and affordability?
Ford Focus ST vs Hyundai Veloster N Exterior
For those accustomed to the more traditional five-door hatchback style, the Veloster’s odd symmetry might be the toughest thing to acclimate to. In addition to the rear hatch, you have one door on the driver’s side and two on the passenger side.
The third door allows for a little more convenience while adding increased structural rigidity to the body, which is never a bad thing. Plus, having the door on the passenger side encourages backseat riders to enter from the safer side if you’re parallel-parked, and this configuration doesn’t require the driver to move their seat. There’s no denying that the Focus ST offers the overall more practical configuration for rear seat passengers, but the Veloster gives you unique styling with slightly more everyday usability than a regular 2-door coupe. Plus, as you’ll see in the specs comparison below, the two vehicles are actually very close when it comes to overall rear seat and cargo space.
Looking at the exterior as a whole, the red trim pieces on the front, side, and rear of the Veloster N make it unmistakable for any other vehicle on the road, especially when they’re contrasted against the Performance Blue body paint. While the white, black, and red exterior colors are also solid choices, the Veloster N seems born for that light sky blue shade. There’s also a really cool third brake light, which is a Formula1-style triangle that’s integrated into the rear wing. LED headlights are standard on the Veloster N, as they were on the ST2 and ST3 trims of the Focus.
While the Veloster N is quite bold in its uniqueness, the Focus ST opts for a slightly more understated look. The styling of the most recent model was refreshed for the 2015 model year and has aged very well. If you’re not paying close attention, the ST can look very similar to any other run-of-the-mill Focus on the road. The Veloster N, on the other hand, stands out from its commuter car cousins. That’s especially true with the blue paint and red accents. Opting for black will give you a little bit more stealth out on the road, if you don’t want as much attention.
2018 Ford Focus ST Colors
- Hot Pepper Red Metallic Tinted Clearcoat
- Oxford White
- Shadow Black
- Triple Yellow Tri-Coat
2020 Hyundai Veloster N Colors
- Chalk White
- Performance Blue
- Racing Red
- Phantom Black
Ford Focus ST vs Hyundai Veloster N Interior
In all honesty, the interior is one area where the older Focus ST can actually compete against the new Veloster N. That’s not to say that the Hyundai’s cabin is bad; it’s completely acceptable for a sub-$30k car and gets the job done. It just doesn’t get all of the luxurious finishes and creature comforts of something like Hyundai’s new Palisade or even the Sonata.
In fact, unlike the lower-performance Veloster Turbo and even the non-turbo Veloster Premium, you can’t get leather seats, much less seats that are heated or cooled. Cloth seats are the only option, and most of the Veloster N’s interior is pretty run-of-the-mill. That suits the car’s personality just fine though, as everything is tailored towards fun and performance.
Speaking of which, since Performance Blue is the signature color of Hyundai’s N line, you’ll get light blue seatbelts, seat stitching, and steering wheel sport buttons regardless of which exterior color you select. This might not be a premium cabin, but that would come with a much higher price. And for what the car’s philosophy is, it’s practical, functional, and has just enough flair to separate it from the base models.
Ford Focus ST vs Hyundai Veloster N Performance
Like so many modern cars, both the Focus ST and Veloster N use a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The Veloster N puts out very similar horsepower and torque compared to the Focus ST, but adding the Performance Package bumps output to 275 hp. By almost all accounts, the Veloster N is an absolute blast to drive, a perfect car for weekend autocrossers. It’s just a little bit quicker, and a little bit more dialed-in than the Focus ST in stock form, with superb suspension and handling. But as the enthusiast community knows, the Focus ST only needs a few aftermarket upgrades to really unleash its true potential. We’ll have to see how strong the aftermarket support is for the Veloster N, considering that Hyundai has never been known as a performance brand. So while we will give the edge to the Veloster N when it comes to overall performance, the older Focus ST can certainly hold its own when stacked up in terms of power and handling.
That’s not to say that the Veloster N doesn’t add any novel features compared to the Focus ST. In fact, it offers things like downshift rev-matching and active exhaust modes; these are features that were just recently added to the Mustang GT and were previously unheard of on affordable hot hatches. Plus, you get an electronic limited-slip differential for the Hyundai if you select the Performance Package, versus just torque vectoring control in the Focus ST, a long-complained about weak spot.
The Veloster N’s exhaust system is one of the most talked-about features of the car. You can enjoy a daily driver level of noise when you want it, and then put things in “N” mode when you want to crank up the volume and hear a few pops and crackles. The overrun that causes those pops is actually an intentional part of the anti-lag for the turbo, so it’s not just for show.
On the whole, we’re really impressed with what Hyundai’s done for their first hot hatchback entry. If someone were to hand me the keys for a brand new Veloster N Performance Package to swap for my Focus ST, I’d be hard-pressed to say “no,” as much as I love my FoST. But when it comes to used car values, the Focus ST offers a lot of bang for the buck for well under $20,000. The value proposition is the real deciding factor at the end of the day, and that’s up to the buyer!
2019 Ford Focus ST vs Hyundai Veloster N Comparison
For those in international markets, the newly-redesigned 2019 Focus ST would make a better competitor for the Veloster N. Although the Americas stopped receiving the Focus ST after the 2018 model year, Europe and Oceania (and maybe others to come) have received the newly redesigned 2019 model. This new model adds features that Hyundai is now offering, like downshift rev-matching and drive modes with different exhaust, steering, and suspension configurations.
This doesn’t seem to be a comparison that any real-world shoppers will make, however, as Europe doesn’t actually have the Veloster N. Instead, they have the slightly larger i30 N, a hot version of the car that America knows as the Hyundai Elantra. Will Hyundai bring this car to the States as an Elantra N? Only time will tell, but we’d never say “no” to another hot hatchback on the market.
Ford Focus ST vs Hyundai Veloster N Comparison: Quick Stats
|2018 Ford Focus ST||2020 Hyundai Veloster N
||$27,400/$29,500 (w/ Performance Package)
||2.0 liter turbocharged I-4
||2.0 liter turbocharged I-4
||6-speed manual (with rev-matching)
|Cargo Volume Behind Rear Seats
||23.3 cubic feet
||19.9 cubic feet
|Cargo Volume Behind Front Seats (with Rear Seats Folded)
||43.9 cubic feet
||44.5 cubic feet
|Rear Seat Leg Room
|Rear Head Room
||87 octane required, 93 octane recommended
||87 octane required, 93 octane recommended
||25 comb, 30 hwy, 22 city
||25 comb, 29 hwy, 22 city
|0-60 Mph Time
Image Credit: Ford | Hyundai
Sources: Ford | Hyundai | Road and Track | Motoring Research | Car and Driver