Base price in Canada for the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N is $39,638 and $32,150 in the US.
The Elantra N Line is $9,400 cheaper in Canada – is the N that much better?
The full-fat Elantra N lines up against the likes of the VW Golf R for far less money.
No, it isn’t. It’s far more than that. The Hyundai Elantra N Line stunned me with its honest performance-oriented simplicity. From there, the Korean automaker gave the Elantra N more power, a few visual extras, and tons upon tons of personality.
It’s somewhat difficult to accept that Hyundai has taken a leadership role among sport compact car manufacturers as it essentially came out of the left field – the brand’s story for the last 40 years. Yes, they’ve been selling sporty cars for decades, but no one will ever remember the Scoupe, or even the Tiburon, as legitimate Volkswagen Golf GTI, Toyota Celica, and Honda Civic Si competitors. Things got serious when they launched the Genesis Coupe, however.
Hyundai doing its thing
Perhaps what I like most about the Elantra N, as with the Civic Si, is that it’s not for everyone. And like the Subaru WRX, layers of refinement were not added to the Elantra to increase its level of civility. Because of this, it will not be a common sight. But it will be a regular and worthy alternative to the Golf R, GR Corolla, and Civic Type R.
As always, the key with Hyundai Motor Group vehicles is value. For just shy of $40,000, the Elantra N packs real power, serious performance, loads of tech, and unique styling. Parametric design language aside, the N gets a deeper more aggressive front fascia, side skirts, a special rear spoiler, and rear diffuser. The car’s looks are enhanced by the wild 19-inch wheels and, in my opinion, when painted Fiery Red, has a mature-boy-racer aura that allows it to straddle the line between an over-the-top FK8 Type R and a subdued Golf R.
The cabin is an amalgam of all the Elantra’s best features with an added bonus in the form of ultra-supportive sexy-looking N lightweight sport bucket seats. Beyond them, the twin-10.25-inch displays, heated front seats and steering wheels, and plenty of connectivity present the Elantra N as a premium performance sedan.
Part of the required series of features in modern cars are countless drive modes and configurable functions. The Hyundai Elantra N does not disappoint with at least five different ways to program the driving experience. These exclude the rev-matching function (to be left off) and the active variable sport exhaust.
Premium is mildly too strong a word. In order to pack the Elantra N with all these goodies, Hyundai has had to cut some corners, as they always do. Some of the interior plastics are second-rate such as the central grab handle which makes cracking noise with a simple touch. Other elements, such as shifter feel, is somewhat at odds with the car’s projected status. It’s sloppy but far from unpleasant and, relatedly, pedal placement for heel & toe is not ideal.
But! Once moving, all slight flaws are forgiven. The turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder engine delivers a substantial 276 hp (5,500-6,000 rpm) and 289 lb.-ft. of torque, from 2,100-4,700 rpm. With the optional 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the driver is entitled to a temporary 10-hp boost. For the extra $1,600, the Elantra N becomes a 5.3-second car to 100 km/h. With the as-tested 6-speed manual transmission, tack on an extra 0.3 or 0.4 seconds.
The power is grin-inducing however there’s a problem with getting it online no matter the drive mode. I’ve experienced this in other Hyundai and Kia vehicles where there seems to be programmed-in lag in the throttle response under lower loads. This exists, in my opinion, as a method of self-preservation and to improve fuel efficiency. Getting around it is easy: get on the go-pedal sooner.
A word on the WRX
This is where I will say that the WRX, priced at $31,000, matches the Elantra N in speed. With its AWD, it’ll kill it (and the GTI, and Si, and other FWD cars) come winter. The Subaru’s wheels, seats, and displays aren’t as fancy as the Hyundai’s but, as a potential buyer, you must ask yourself what you truly want from your car.
Rough, rapid, and fun
I bring up the WRX because a number of comparisons to be drawn between the two cars, especially when it comes to their raw-ish driving experiences. Both cars are relatively noisy though the Elantra N’s active exhaust is much heavier on the pops and burbles. The Hyundai and Subaru are short on refinement, something that is built into the Volkswagens and Hondas.
Beyond this point, however, the Elantra N is “tighter” in many ways. The 2.0T is, under heavier loads, on the ball and extremely vibrant. Steering is excellent no matter the setting. I’d go so far as to say that it’s one of the best-calibrated electric power steering systems, up there with the FK8 Type R. Like the latter, the N’s brake pedal response is just as remarkable and satisfying.
The adjustable dampers are not quite as finely-tuned. When left in “Normal”, they can nearly manage all road surfaces, making this setting the best suited for everyday driving. Sport and N settings are far too unforgiving. As such, the dampers in Normal coupled with the standard Michelin Pilot Sport 4S give the Elantra N more grip than will lever be necessary on the road.
With its base $40,000 price tag, the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N sits smack in the middle of the sport compact car pack. The “lower” models, the Civic Si, GTI/GLI, N Lines, Kia Forte GT, Acura Integra, and Subaru WRX are all priced between the high-$20k to about $35k. At the other end, we have the Golf R, GR Corolla, and Civic Type R, which are all $45k and up.
Its position in the segment is incredibly accurate as it’s not the fastest or most powerful, but for the money, it is ultra-competent in every respect. Although I won’t say that it can’t measure to the super three hot hatches, it’s the “lesser” WRX that I continue to believe is the N’s true nemesis.