Friday, January 27, 2023
First Reviews 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line First Drive Review: The New Midsize Hot...

2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line First Drive Review: The New Midsize Hot Sedan

Hyundai is injecting some very real spice in a niche segment with the new 2021 Sonata N Line, and we thank them for it.

  • There’s only one way to get the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line in Canada and it’s priced at $37,999.

  • There will not be a full N version of the Sonata.

  • The Sonata N Line is plenty entertaining.

The new Hyundai Sonata is another example that proves that the midsize sedan is far from dead. Hyundai’s new product momentum is huge at the moment, with new SUVs, hybrids, and a number of performance-enhanced N vehicles. One such model will be the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line which will help shine a light on a little-known segment.

Or perhaps I should say forgotten. Medium-performance midsize sedans have existed for a long time. Some of my favorites go back to the first turbocharged Subaru Legacy, Ford Taurus SHO, and the Nissan Maxima from the late 1980s. This sub-segment never really went mainstream however, once in a while, a manufacturer would introduce something special. So far this Century, the real entries have been the Mazdaspeed6 and the Subaru Legacy Spec B, and most recently, the one no one ever noticed, the Ford Fusion Sport (325 horsepower and AWD fit the bill).

The heart of the Sonata N Line

2021 Hyundai Sonata N-Line | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The Hyundai Group is bringing the category back with the cool new 2021 Kia K5 GT and now, the new 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line. The important specs, the ones that will earn the car respect, are present and accounted for. The sedan is powered by a turbocharged 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine that delivers 290 horsepower and 311 lb.-ft. of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via a new 8-speed “wet” dual-clutch transmission. It could be said here that the company’s AWD system, available with the K5, would have increased the car’s appeal but probably not sales.

Fact is this engine is quite potent. The torque is on tap from 1,650 rpm all the way to 4,000 rpm. With eight forward gears, pull and push are strong throughout the rev-band. The N transmission is tuned to respond at the drop of a hat and it does. When not under duress, it effortlessly glides from one cog to another, delivering smooth uninterrupted power.

The Sonata N Line also features a Launch Mode which is very effective thanks to the built-in N Power Shift mode (more or less short-shifts to keep the engine in the powerband). What impressed me despite only an attempt or two is that I failed to notice any torque steer. I may have even attempted near WOT accelerations with the steering turned a few degrees.

The slight cost of controlling power

2021 Hyundai Sonata N-Line | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Now, in order to match the powertrain’s capabilities, Hyundai tweaked much of the Sonata’s chassis to follow suit. Many component mounting points, including engine and transmission, along with springs and dampers, were upgraded to increase the car’s ability to keep the power in check. The unfortunate downside is that the once civilized ride has now turned quite “stiff.”

Unless the road’s surface is nearly without flaws, the sport-tuned dampers provide only a minute amount of comfort dampening. Other upgrades include large brakes which are comfortingly responsive and powerful and quicker steering ratio. Unfortunately, Hyundai was also compelled to fit a synthesized sport exhaust note. At the very least, the Sonata N Line does sound convincingly good on the outside.

How to tell if it’s an N Line if you can’t drive it

2021 Hyundai Sonata N-Line | Photo: Olivier Delorme

It also looks the part. A Sonata N would require more prevalent visual cues which would probably be out of place on a Sonata. The N Line featured elements include unique N 19-inch alloy wheels, N front and rear fascias, a tastefully integrated rear spoiler, and N real dual exhaust with quad tips, and more.

The cabin is also spruced up with proper upgrades. For $37,999, the Sonata N Line throws in exceptionally supportive N sport front seats covered in Nappa leather and suede, a 12.3-inch LCD cluster display, a 10.25-inch touchscreen display, wireless device charging, Bose audio, and much more including a full battery of active safety features.

Fancy a hot midsize sedan?

2021 Hyundai Sonata N-Line | Photo: Olivier Delorme

As stated, there are few players in the category beyond the Kia K5 GT, and the new Toyota Camry with the TRD package. Mazda does offer the turbocharged Mazda6 while the turbocharged Subaru Legacy has returned as well. These latter two cars have no true “performance” aspiration as do the Camry (I know) and the Koreans.

Unfortunately, I have not driven the Camry TRD however everything I’ve read and seen about the car lead me to believe that it’s actually a seriously competent car. Interestingly, all of the above-mentioned cars are priced somewhere between $36,000 and $39,000 depending on trims. Could it be that we are entering a new era of sporty sedans?

Whether we are or not, the new 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line certainly is a hot number.

2021 Hyundai Sonata N-Line | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2021 Hyundai Sonata N-Line | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2021 Hyundai Sonata N-Line | Photo: Olivier Delorme

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Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai


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