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    Two Sporty Coupes for Fun

    By Philip Ruth–

    Sporty coupes have survived the crossover-SUV onslaught better than sedans. While those trendy tall station wagons expand on the functionality of family cars, they can’t stand in for the low-slung swagger a coupe provides. 

    If you select a U.S. nameplate, you’d be choosing between muscle cars. Apart from them are many sizes and shapes—from the classic Audi TT to the burly Lexus RC and the lithe Jaguar F-Type and up into the exotics from there. 

    At the more affordable end are the two coupes we’ll examine here: the Hyundai Veloster N and Toyota 86 Hakone Edition. Both have base prices close to $28,000. The Veloster is based on the Elantra sedan, so it is front-wheel drive. The rear-drive 86 shares its dedication platform with the Subaru BRZ; it is a coupe from the ground up. 

    This difference in origin is apparent in the first walkarounds. Though they are the same length, the 86 is more than four inches shorter than the Veloster. It has about 1.5 inches less width and 250 pounds less weight, and the 86 more evenly distributes its weight front to rear. So, the 86 has a lightness of being that the Veloster N can’t match. 

    OK, but the Veloster N has its own talents. Start with 70 more horsepower from its turbocharged, 2.0-liter engine. The Toyota’s 205 horses—from a same-sized engine minus the turbocharger—are willing, but there are many more of them lassoed by the Hyundai. Torque reveals an even wider gap, where the Veloster N whomps the 86 with its 260 lb/ft peaking at a low 1,450 rpm. It’s a broad reserve of pulling power you can access just after launch. 

    Compare that to the 86’s 156 lb/ft measurement, and you can visualize the Veloster N accelerating away from the 86, especially since the Toyota’s much lower torque isn’t realized until the engine is revved up to 6,400 rpm. The 86’s lighter weight can’t prevent it from being caught flat-footed on occasion, when a stab at the throttle yields not much result, until it does. 

    But brute force was never a part of the 86’s mission. Instead, this coupe allows you to use a deft touch to precisely trace your path. The Veloster N—especially when you push the N button and shift the engine, suspension, and exhaust to extreme mode—is eager to deliver, but can become overwhelmed by the task at hand. No one ever said it would be easy throttling all that torque through the wheels that also steer the car, and so it pays to dial in your direction before the power comes on. 

    Inside, both are set up for enthusiastic driving, with bolstered sport seats (the Hyundai’s are softer) and enough room to work (the 86 is tighter). 

    Outside, the Veloster N’s Sunset Orange paint grabbed more eyes than the subtler Hakone Green on the tested special-edition 86. But both coupes succeed in providing their own unique kinds of fun. 

    Philip Ruth is a Castro-based automotive photojournalist and consultant ( ). Check out his automotive staging service at

    Published on February 13, 2020