Your Test Driver is supported by its readers. When you buy something from a link on our site, we may earn a commission.
There has been a resurgence in small, approachable sports cars in the last decade. Toyota, Subaru, Volkswagen, and Hyundai have all delivered sedans, coupes, and hatchbacks with solid performance for reasonable sums of money. Hyundai, in particular, has hit home run after home run with its N vehicles, including the Kona, Veloster, and Elantra variants.
View this post on Instagram
I recently spent a week driving the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N, the current range-topping model in the catalog. Hyundai makes a mid-level N-Line, which gets solid performance from its 200-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. The cars are otherwise very similar, and the N retains all the practicality that makes the Elantra so popular.
The Elantra N gets a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a massive 276 horsepower and 289 pound-feet of torque. The car is available with an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox, but my tester came equipped with a six-speed manual that paired excellently with the rowdy turbo engine.
Acceleration is strong, and the car’s sport exhaust system announces every stab of the throttle with an entertainingly obnoxious growl. The car is quicker with the DCT gearbox but manages a 0-60 mph time of around six seconds with the manual transmission. Hyundai equipped the car with a wonderfully functional rev-matching feature that activates with the push of a large steering wheel button. Throttle response is instant, and braking is firm. There’s a sense that the car wants to charge away at all times, so it takes effort to keep the rapidity at bay.
Of course, handling is just as important as power, and the Elantra N delivers on that front, too. It features an electronic limited-slip differential and extensive chassis bracing that helps it dominate corners, and the sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires keep the whole package on the road.
Though not upscale, the N’s cabin is a lovely, well-sorted place to spend time. Leather and microsuede upholstery comes standard, and the front seats are heated by default. Spend one moment in the driver’s seat of this car, and it becomes apparent that you’re not sitting in a normal Hyundai. Heavy bolstering and the grippy microsuede upholstery glue your body into the seat, though my backside is a bit too wide to be truly comfortable in the buckets.
The Elantra N’s back seat and trunk are reminders that you bought a practical performance car. Rear headroom and legroom measure 37.3 and 38 inches, respectively. That’s plenty for kids in booster seats, and even rear-facing car seats don’t require gymnastics to install and use. The trunk offers 14.2 cubic feet of cargo space, which bests the Toyota Corolla and just misses the Honda Civic’s 14.4.
You may hear criticism of Hyundai’s infotainment for being too simple and boring, but the truth is that simplicity breeds user-friendliness. Here, that means quick and easy menu navigation, legible text and information, and a solid set of features. The Elantra N comes standard with a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system and a 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard but aren’t wireless due to space restrictions behind the dash with the large screen. That’s the only knock against an otherwise stellar list of standard tech that includes HD radio, SiriusXM, Bluetooth, wireless smartphone charging, and an eight-speaker Bose audio system.
Extensive standard safety technology and advanced driver aids mean you can use the Elantra N as your everyday commuter or kid carrier with extra peace of mind. Hyundai includes:
- Forward collision warnings with pedestrian detection
- Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alerts
- Lane keep assist
- Lane following assist
- Driver attention warnings
- Automatic high beams
- Safe exit warning
- Reverse parking sensors
- Rearview camera
With my wife, two kids, and dog in tow, the Elantra N doesn’t make the cut. That said, it could fill the “only-car” niche for many people, especially those that want a fun car but can’t afford to have a spare vehicle in the driveway. It’s practical, mostly comfortable, and delivers on tech and safety. You give up very little to get the good stuff, too, and the downside certainly doesn’t come in the price tag.