The real meat of the N-Line package lies beneath its skin.
It’s hard not to spot a Hyundai Elantra, in one form or another, at just about every intersection in the Greater Toronto Area. The car has become extremely popular with students, commuters, families and even Uber drivers who appreciate the Elantra’s sharp looks, pleasant driving dynamics, low cost and impressive feature list. The Elantra GT, the hatchback version, isn’t quite as popular as the sedan yet, but really takes all of the Elantra sedan’s positive qualities and adds the extra utility of a hatchback.
My biggest complaint the last time I drove an Elantra GT was the fact that it really was rather dull to drive, which is fine for the average buyer, but enthusiasts would likely pass it up in favor of a Civic Si (reviewed here) or Golf GTI for a sportier driving experience. Hyundai heard us loud and clear though and for 2019 the Elantra GT has been dialed up once again, now available in the all-new N-Line trim. The N-Line aims to address the issue directly, inspired by Hyundai’s N Motorsports division, promising enhanced performance and more aggressive styling. I jumped in a 2019 Hyundai Elantra GT N-Line to see if Hyundai has closed the gap.
The standard Elantra GT is a fairly handsome compact hatchback, and the N-Line only makes it that much better thanks to more aggressive front and rear fasciae, unique 18” wheels with low profile performance tires, LED head and taillights and a dual chrome tipped exhaust. Our tester came finished in Fiery Red which suits the car well. The styling overall is much more conservative than the Civic Hatchback (reviewed here), which is a good thing in my opinion, and serves as a nice balance between sportiness and maturity.
The interior of the N-Line is dominated by racing style perforated leather bucket seats up front with heavy bolstering, red piping and carbon fiber-like accents. They’re not only great looking seats, but do a great job of holding you in place under spirited driving. They also manage to be comfortable even after hours in them – a tough feat for sport seats. The N-Line also gets a nice thick perforated leather wrapped heated steering wheel, a large panoramic sunroof, and red stitching and other accents throughout the space.
Our tester came with the six-speed manual transmission, which offers a nice large shift knob and aluminum racing styling pedals. It all comes together to give the N-Line a genuine sports-car feel from inside. One interesting little quirk though is that the ventilated seats are only available on the DCT Automatic “Ultimate” trim, not in our manual tester, which can be frustrating for those wanting to row their own gears and keep their behinds cool in the summer.
What the N-Line kit doesn’t do is take away from any of the practicality or versatility of the Elantra GT’s very functional interior space. The standard eight-inch touchscreen, complete with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay takes over the dash and functions well with menus that are both visually pleasing and easy to navigate. Controls for the dual zone climate control are immediately below and extremely easy to understand, as are the steering wheel controls for audio and the LCD information display built into the gauge cluster.
The rear seating and cargo area are definitely more akin to a typical small crossover than a compact hatchback, with loads of head and leg room for adults, and an impressively large cargo area. Better yet, the 60/40 split rear bench folds flat for a huge loading area through the conveniently wide rear opening. Thanks to its lower ride height, loading and unloading is an absolute breeze. There’s also abundant storage up front for daily carry items – something not always the case in compacts.
The real meat of the N-Line package lies beneath its skin. Firstly, the N-Line comes equipped with the 1.6L turbocharged four cylinder good for 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft. of torque at 1,500RPM; a significant upgrade over the naturally aspirated 2.0L and its 162 hp that in the standard GT. More importantly, it has over 20 horsepower more than a 2019 Civic Hatchback Sport.
As noted earlier, the hot little 1.6L in our tester came mated to a true six-speed manual, but is also available with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Changing one’s own gears in a sporty little hatch like this is one of life’s little driving pleasures, and while I don’t always like rush-hour commuting in a manual, the Elantra’s light clutch, gradual engagement and smooth shifting gearbox really made it a pleasurable experience on the daily grind.
The turbocharged four puts out more than enough power to move the car around with pep, though it does tend to run out of steam up above 4,000 RPM. Fortunately it sounds pretty good getting up there thanks to the dual outlet exhaust. The car is certainly responsive, and makes fairly light work of passing both in the city and at highway speeds. The N-Line performance equipment doesn’t stop at the engine however, Hyundai boasts that the car has been tested and tuned at the famed Nürburgring track in Germany and as a result delivers exceptional high speed stability while maintaining refined ride quality.
In practice the car’s sport suspension and low profile tires do provide a powerful sense of control and composure at highway speeds, as well as sharp turn in, and minimal body roll through fast curves or corners. When pushed, the Elantra N-Line is a surprisingly competent driver’s car and can be a lot of fun to handle. The ride quality isn’t exactly outstanding, but it is better than I expected given the stiff handling and large wheels, but do expect to feel rough roads more than you would in a standard Elantra GT.
Where the N-Line falls short is both in its promise of performance and versus some competitors in tactile feel. Hyundai typically struggles in this area and the N-Line is no exception, with very little feedback or road feel through the steering wheel and a light clutch with a lack of very much sensation through your foot. If the steering could be firmed up to offer a more confident feeling of the road, and a little more weighting of the clutch, the Elantra GT N-Line would be a much more engaging car to drive. Of course, it would be to the detriment of its livability on the day-to-day grind, so choices have to be made.
After commuting for a week in the car I observed an average fuel consumption of 7.8L/100km, exactly the same number observed in a 2018 Elantra GT with the 2.0L and an automatic. In my personal experience there was no fuel penalty associated with the upgrade to the N-Line spec motor. Despite its increased performance, the N-Line remains happy on regular 87-octane fuel as well.
While you can get into an Elantra GT for as low as $20,599 for a base model, the N-Line starts at $27,199 for the manual like our test car. No option packages are available, so the only additional cost for our test car was $200 for the Fiery Red paintwork, bringing our as tested price to $27,199, an outstanding value at thousands less than a comparably equipped Civic Sport Touring. If you want the seven-speed automatic, you’ll need to step up to the DCT Ultimate trim package at $30,699. It’s a jump, but it does get you the ventilated seats, Infinity sound system, adaptive cruise control and forward collision avoidance.
The 2019 Hyundai Elantra GT N-Line isn’t quite as aggressive in its dose of sportiness as some of its competitors are, but it’s still a ton of fun to toss around, and a worthwhile upgrade over a standard GT. Where it does excel is with its daily livability; whether you’re carrying passengers, bulky cargo, or just battling traffic on the way to work, the Elantra GT N-Line is extremely versatile and fun in just about every situation. That’s not something that can be said for many cars today, especially in the compact segment.