Hyundai Elantra N — An aggressive compact sedan

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(June 19, 2022) If you can't afford a BMW 3-Series, but want the ultimate driving machine experience, we have the answer for you. The 2022 Hyundai Elantra N offers BMW-like performance and handling at a smaller price starting under $34,000. And unlike the BMW, it comes with a 10-year, 100,000-mile drivetrain warranty. Is this a great country or what?

The Elantra sedan seems the perfect platform for Hyundai's relatively new performance car division. We've driven the N versions of the Veloster and Kona, and both times came away impressed at what under $35,000 can still purchase in terms of outstanding handling and overall performance. But the Elantra sporting a 275-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder — with an overboost feature Hyundai calls N Grin Shift upping horsepower to 286 for a short time — is just right for the modern styling of the Elantra — and its ability to haul four adults in comfort.

Comparing to a BMW 3-Series at a bargain price might be taking our admiration for the Elantra N a step too far, but we are willing to take that step.

The standard Elantra's dramatically restyled cabin has a cockpit-like look and feel which translates perfectly to the muscled up Elantra N. The sportier-looking ambiance is enhanced by sport seats with aggressive bolsters, metal-accented pedals, and a smattering of N badges. Rear seat passenger space is more generous here than in the Veloster N and the trunk offers more space for cargo.

The clean, well organized layout features a center stack angled towards the driver. Controls for climate and infotainment are all large and clearly marked, making them easy to use while driving. That's not to say there weren't some efforts to visually jazz things up. The 10.2-inch digital gauge cluster is attractive and can be programed for whatever driving mode is selected. The center navigation/infotainment screen can be used to call up to a special N screen that contains loads of driving and performance information including launch control and such things as a timer for 0-to-60 runs, which can be achieved in as low as 4.9 seconds.

Motivating the Elantra N is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine making 276 horsepower (286 hp in overboost mode) @ 6,000 rpm and 289 pound-feet of torque @ 2,100 rpm. Two transmissions are available — a 6-speed manual and an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic.

The N Line model gets a multilink rear suspension instead of the standard car's rear torsion beam. Other updates for the N include adaptive dampers and a stiffer rear anti-roll bar, reinforced front strut towers, and a chassis brace behind the rear seats that connects the suspension's uprights.

The brakes feature larger rotors—14.2 inches in front, 12.4 inches out back—and all Elantra Ns come with 19-inch wheels and 245/35R-19 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires. That's the widest rubber yet fitted to an N car.

The Elantra N has a lively character and we negotiated our usual winding rural paved road "test track" a couple times until we had determined just how fast we could safely handle the twists and turns. The N's direct steering and planted demeanor allowed us to enjoy a delightful afternoon romp through the countryside.

We found the interior spacious with 38 inches of legroom for rear-seat passengers, up slightly from the previous iteration of the Elantra — plenty of room for two normal-sized adults. Trunk space is above the segment average at 14.2 cubic feet.

Hyundai has placed a lot of emphasis on standard safety features. They include forward-collision avoidance, lane keep assist, lane following assist, automatic high beams, driver attention warning, rearview camera, blindspot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, and safe exit warning. Smart cruise control, however, is inexplicably not available on the N.

While we really love this car — great fun whenever you desire to have great fun on a curving road — there are drawbacks for us because we carry four adult passengers at least once every week. As noted, there is adequate adult legroom in back, but no center arm rest, no rear-seat cupholders, no rear air vents, and no rear-seat charge points. A bummer if carrying a couple of adults who are used to these basic amenities.

Also, while the rear setback folds down, it is not split like virtually every other compact sedan. So if you need to haul some cargo that requires extra space, it's not possible to also carry a passenger.

Would these things be a deal breaker for us? Year's ago we would have said "hell no." But these are different times and while we are amazed at the level of driving prowess in this car — and we applaud Hyundai for what it is doing with it's N brand — we might have to pass until the automaker includes some of these very basic rear-seat conveniences

The Elantra N comes as one package with no major options available for $33,245 including destination charge. Be prepared, however, to pay a couple of grand more than the MSRP — if you can find one.

And don't forget Hyundai's long-term warranties including a 5-year/60,000 mile basic warranty, and 10-year/100,000-mile drivetrain warranty.

Direct competitors to the Elantra N include the Honda Civic Type R and Volkswagen Golf R, both of which are outstanding performance compacts, but with a higher price tag and lesser warranty than the Elantra N. Another competitor is the Subaru WRX that comes with all-wheel drive and a price tag commensurate with the Elantra N.

2022 Hyundai Elantra N


Base price: $33,245; as driven, $33,245
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 276 (286 with overboost) @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 289 pound-feet @ 2,100 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch automatic
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 107.1 inches
Length: 184.1 inches
Curb weight: 3,300 pounds
Turning circle: 35.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 14.2 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 12.4 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 20 city, 30 highway, 23 combined
0-60: 4.9 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: VW Golf R, Honda Civic Type R, Subaru WRX

The Good
• Outstanding performance and handling
• Scads of N performance information
• Loaded with standard features
• Fresh styling inside and out

The Bad
• Interior contains a lot of hard plastic

The Ugly
• No rear seat amenities such as cupholders, air vents