When I reviewed the Hyundai Elantra N-Line
in April 2021, I mused at the end about the possibility of a “full-zoot” Elantra N: turbo engine, manual transmission, a clone of its Veloster N sibling, at least from chassis tuning and powertrain perspectives.
Fast-forward 15 months and Hyundai has granted the wishes of performance enthusiasts with the release of the 2022 Elantra N.
Like its Veloster N and Kona N siblings, the Elantra N is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged, direct-injected four-cylinder engine that produces 276 horsepower at 5,500 – 6,000 rpm and 289 lb-ft. of torque at 2,100 to 4,700 rpm. An overboost feature Hyundai calls N Grin Shift (NGS) increases boost pressure for 20 seconds which increases horsepower to 286. Of note, NGS is available with DCT-equipped models only.
Two gearboxes are available, a close-ratio six-speed manual (with rev-matching) and an eight-speed wet dual-clutch automatic. Both transmissions drive the front wheels – AWD is not offered.
In terms of chassis tuning, the Elantra N gets Hyundai’s best stuff. Among these is an electronic limited-slip differential (N Corner Carving Differential), and integrated drive axle (first for a N model), which is inspired by technology used in the World Rally Championship. The main benefit is the drive shaft, wheel hub, and bearing are integrated into one unit, which reduces driveline weight by 1.75 kg (3.81 pounds). This design aims to absorb extreme lateral G forces, like those experienced on track.
Suspension tuning includes a dual-compound insulator up front, combined with a dual-compound trailing-arm bushing, four-point strut rings, and a stiff bar located behind the rear seat. The steering system is a torque feedback rack-mounted set-up that provides a consistent feel, even when environmental changes occur (such as temperature), according to Hyundai.
Other chassis enhancements include 360 mm front ventilated and 314 mm rear ventilated brake rotors with high-friction pads, along with standard 19-inch alloy wheels that ride on wide 245 series Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires. Of note, the Elantra N is the first N car to ride on 245 tires.
From a styling standpoint, the Elantra N’s exterior is kitted out with a lot of black trim, including the front grille, mirrors, window surrounds, rear diffuser insert, and decklid spoiler.
Similarly, the cabin receives a lot of unique N model content including a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, suede, and leatherette-finished sport bucket seats (which include illuminated N badging in the headrests), aluminum scuff plates, and alloy pedals, among other items.
The steering wheel is also noteworthy for its two pale blue programmable buttons on either side of the hub which governs the car’s N modes. A bright red button on the right activates (and deactivates) rev matching, which syncs engine revs with gear selection.
Before I get to my impressions, I’ll mention that everything I’m about to say is drawn from driving on public roads only.
I said in my N-Line review that I’m a fan of Hyundai’s aggressive styling and I think it works to great effect here. The N’s bigger wheels, black trim and double-barreled exhaust synergize well with the Elantra’s creased, geometric styling, and gives the car the right amount of menace all performance cars need.
And its more aggressive looks bleeds into the Elantra N’s character. A low burble exhaust growl greets me at start-up, thanks to an exhaust fitted with a variable valve system. It continues at speed, especially off throttle, where a good amount of popping and crackling can be heard for those who want their dynamic drives to be accompanied by some backfiring.
Like the Veloster Ns I’ve driven (manual and DCT), the 2.0 turbo four provides plenty of zip off the line and at speed. Throttle response is sharpest in sport, but quite lively in normal and eco as well. Peak horsepower doesn’t come in until 5,500 rpm, but drivers likely won’t mind spinning it up that far, and with peak torque starting at just 2,100 rpm, it shouldn’t be too difficult to access those 276 ponies. And whether one is peak horsepower-hunting or not, the engine isn’t exceptionally loud but is buzzy enough to provide the sport compact performance experience most intenders are looking for.
As for the transmission, the Elantra N’s is like many I’ve tested in compact performance cars: light clutch, with a relatively short engagement point, and a shifter that provides just enough notchy feedback. Getting the most out of it isn’t difficult, in other words.
In terms of ride quality, it’s pretty punishing on all but the smoothest roads, and I noted little difference between drive modes. Low-profile tires combined with a very stiff chassis doesn’t leave much room for comfort, and while that might be ideal for track days, it’s not ideal for daily driving. It’s worth noting that this trade-off is common with cars in the Elantra N’s competitive set, however. A wheel and tire swap could improve comfort but would come at the cost of performance and appearance.
Despite its stiff ride, I’m impressed with the Elantra N’s cabin. The suede and leatherette buckets grip nicely, the wheel and shifter look and feel good, and the digital screens used in the instrument cluster and infotainment display look great and are easy to navigate. The animations in the cluster when dialing between drive modes are especially fun to watch. It has a VR feel that will likely appeal to younger buyers.
Overall, I come away impressed with the Elantra N. While its stiff ride might make it a less than optimal daily driver, its performance credentials put it on a short list for those who want a track-capable car that also has the practical benefits of a sedan (interior room, useable trunk, etc.).
While there’s no AWD and the interior doesn’t have the richest trim materials, the Elantra N is aggressively priced and delivers a good deal of value. While the arrival of the next-gen Honda Civic Type R and first-ever Toyota GR Corolla will present serious competition, they likely won’t diminish the Elantra N’s appeal.
2022 Hyundai Elantra N
compact high-performance sedan
Front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 6-speed manual transmission
2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder (276 hp / 289 lb-ft.)
(Premium 91+) 10.9 / 7.7 / 9.4 L / 100 km city / highway / combined
402 litres (14.2 cu ft.)
$37,399 base / $39,124, as tested, including freight, excl. taxes