Don't like the funky three-door hatchback? Try it in sedan form.
Hyundai has developed the Elantra into a standout compact sedan. NACTOY jurors named the Elantra the North American Car of the Year in 2021. And it was not the first time the Elantra has claimed that honor. The standard sedan offers great value. The hybrid is super efficient. But the lineup was missing something sport-tuned and raucous that would get the neighbors talking (and grumbling about the noise if you have an early commute). That’s the niche Hyundai is filling with the 2022 Elantra N.
N is Hyundai’s burgeoning high-performance sub-brand. And the Elantra N brings it — by Elantra standards — with 276 horsepower and 289 lb-ft of torque on tap and an available manual transmission. Sad Hyundai is killing off the zesty Veloster N? The Elantra N is that same car in a more usable format. You can can even get it in that fetching Perfromance Blue paint.
Hyundai loaned me a Veloster N to drive around at home for a week. And while I didn’t push the absolute limits on public roads. I did get a great feel for a compelling and fun performance option that can also be your practical everyday family car.
Is the Hyundai Elantra N new?
Yes and no. The Elantra N debuted for the 2022 model year. Packing 75 more horsepower than the previous-gen sporty version, the Elantra N is unlike any Elantra we’ve seen before. That said, Hyundai has offered almost this exact N package before with the Veloster N and offers it in small crossover form with the Kona N.
Should you get a manual or automatic Elantra N?
That’s not the first question you answer when ordering an Elantra N; that’s choosing the paint color. But it is the second and the most important. The Elantra N comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission. Typically, getting the stick would be the enthusiast’s choice. Driving engagement outweighs a slightly quicker lap time in a car most buyers will drive daily. But the decision with the Elantra N is not so easy.
The Elantra N’s automatic — which my loaner had — is excellent. It’s an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission that is smooth, intuitive and quick-shifting. It delivers a marked performance upgrade over the six-speed manual, which some have found to be not-so-great. Other outlets have found the manual to be around a second slower accelerating from 0-60 mph.
It rankles as a car person to recommend paying a premium for an automatic transmission. But here it may be the right call.
How does the Elantra N drive?
Like the Veloster N, the Elantra N is about performance and fun. Its exhaust system sounds resonant and feisty. It feels lightning quick in actual driving and particularly precise in corners with a limited-slip differential that can shift torque to the outside wheel. The dual-clutch version I drove also comes with an N Grin Shift button that provides 20 seconds of boost. Whether you’re carving on curvy roads or heading to the store to pick up cheese sticks for your kids, it’s a riot.
But the Elantra N only partially resolves the Veloster N’s main downside — a brutal ride quality. It feels more stable than the Veloster with a longer wheelbase. But you still have a stiff suspension, large rims and low-profile tires. Bumps on the pavement hit hard. And where I tested in the Detroit area, there’s seldom pavement without bumps.
That’s not abnormal in this segment — the Subaru WRX and Honda Civic Si will jostle you as well. You can’t get everything for less than $35,000 (even if Hyundai does an excellent job making it seem like you can).
What is this Hyundai like inside?
The Elantra N’s main interior attribute — perhaps surprisingly for a compact sedan — is space. The rear seating area accommodates both front and rear-facing car seats (not to mention the children who sit in them) with ease. The trunk was equally practical, whether I was piling in the family’s pool gear or shopping for a week’s worth of groceries. It works as a family sedan, if you can tolerate the ride quality,
The interior does not differ dramatically from the base Elantra N — yes, it still has the mystery circle to the left of the steering wheel. That’s not such a bad thing. Like many a Hyundai, the Elantra’s clever design makes it feel more premium than the materials suggest. The most significant difference is the lightweight sport seats in the front. They provide the support intended when you’re cornering. But my back began to ache in them after a three-hour shift.
How much does the Elantra N cost?
Starting MSRP for the Elantra N is $32,150, which actually equals $33,245 when you add the $1,095 destination charge. The automatic transmission costs an extra $1,500, and Hyundai charges $1,500 for the Performance Blue paint.
The Elantra N will be slightly more expensive than your typical entry-level sports car. But it comes fully loaded, has four doors and delivers much more power.
What are some alternatives to the Hyundai Elantra N?
The Elantra N falls into the practical, four-door realm of the cheap sports car category. The biggest sedan rivals are the Subaru WRX (which comes with similar power and excellent AWD, though you need the CVT to get the sportiest features) and the Honda Civic Si (cheaper, but much less powerful). The Elantra N buyer may also be looking at the Volkswagen GTI hatchback, which is less powerful but comes with more pedigree and — at least in my opinion — a higher level of driving refinement.
Should you buy an Elantra N?
I enjoyed driving the Veloster N hatch — in small doses. The Elantra N sedan transfers that fun into a more reasonable daily-driving package, one that works with children. It also offers compelling pop and track-focused features for the price point.
The Elantra N may not be quite enough to supplant the VW GTI as the benchmark $30,000 four-door sports car. But credit Hyundai for trying.
2022 Hyundai Elantra N
Powertrain: Turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder; eight-speed automatic or six-speed manual; front-wheel-drive
Torque: 289 lb-ft
EPA Fuel Economy: 20 mpg city, 30 mpg highway
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