Over the past decade, we have seen many of our childhood heroes sacrifice to make way for crossovers and SUVs that are practical but sinfully boring. As we had alluded to in our Subaru WRX STI story, we are going to miss these flawed, finicky, and imperfect beast(s) as they go off into the sunset one after the other. Thankfully Hyundai is helping to push that expiry date back with their N-trifecta and this right here – the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N – might just be the perfect reimagination of these cult icons.
Hyundai now has three dedicated high-performance N models – the Veloster N hatchback, Kona N crossover, and Elantra N sedan. All of them share the same fiery 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with the same 276-horsepower output, but the Elantra N and the Kona N have a higher torque rating of 289 lb-ft. compared to the Veloster N’s 270.
The Elantra N’s acceleration force is quite ferocious; the turbocharger is quick to spool up to give us plenty of low-end power so we hardly have to wait for power unlike the turbocharged heroes of yore. Power does dip off towards the top end so you have to be ready to shift, and you can do so using either an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) or the close-ratio six-speed manual equipped on our tester.
The light clutch and automatic rev matching ability makes driving in the city an effortless task, but we found a bit of imprecision between the gears which marred our experience a little bit. The DCT model also gains a N Grin Shift (NGS) feature that temporarily ups its horsepower to 286 for 20 seconds for even better performance.
Regardless of your transmission choice, the Elantra N rewards you with a sound experience that is frankly not found in many other cars these days. The engine emits a deep growl at a moment’s notice, and that exhaust is definitely pushing our province’s legal limit with the loud bangs and pops in between shifts. The Elantra N is also equipped with a N Sound Equalizer (NSE) feature that pipes various engine notes into the cabin, and drivers have the option of finetuning the sounds or turn them off completely.
The Elantra N received a series of chassis and body upgrades including electronic limited slip differential (eLSD), N Electronic Stability Control, strengthened bushings, reinforced underbody, and the red rear stiff bar that is visible from inside the trunk. These changes transformed the regular Elantra sedan into a precise handling machine that felt balanced and accurate even as the G-forces get high.
Torque steer is always a concern with any front wheel drive sports car, but the Elantra N has managed to keep that to a minimum. It’s not to the level that the Honda Civic Type R is, but the Elantra N has done a good job minimizing any negative effects of its innate disadvantage and we are able to accurately predict and prepare for any understeer during corner exits. Of course, the excellent Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires also helped a ton and the standard big brake kit is there to quickly halt the Elantra N if it does get out of control.
One of the Elantra N’s strong suit is in its customizability to get a unique setup to your own preferences. Two N buttons are found on the steering wheel, which can be customized to engage one of the two custom drive modes, or can be used a shortcut for other features. There are up to seven individually customizable attributes including steering weight, engine mapping, suspension stiffness, rev-match response and exhaust loudness, e-LSD, and ESC, all of which has noticeable differences between settings.
Fuel consumption is rated at 10.9L/100km in the city and 7.7L/100km on the highway for a combined rating of 9.4L/100km. These are impressive figures for a sports sedan that brings this much joy, similar to that of the Volkswagen Jetta GLI, and just a little shy of the Honda Civic Si’s 7.7L/100km combined estimate. We observed 10.2L/100km with a generous right foot, and the Elantra N requires 91-octane premium fuel to satisfy its punchy powerplant.
While our team unanimous approved of the way the Elantra N drives, our opinion was split when it comes to the way it looks. The main culprit for the divide is the blackened front end that looked unfinished to some. If you look past that, the Elantra N is actually quite attractive with its low-slung appearance and aggressive body sculpture. Furthermore, N-exclusive details such as red stripes, wing spoiler, badging, and dual exhaust tips along with the signature Performance Blue colour instantly differentiates the hotter N from the standard version and attracted more attention than any cars in its segment.
Of the three dedicated N models, the Elantra N has the best interior design. The digital cluster and the 10.25-inch touchscreen are joined to look like one giant widescreen that wraps around the driver, and the overall layout is the most sophisticated and least econobox-like. This modern interior design is a welcomed departure from the usual basic layout we normally see in cult cars like the WRX STI, Civic Type R, and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution that has much of the same interior as the standard car in base form.
The Elantra N has also incorporated many dedicated details inside – you will see N-branding on the steering wheel, shifter, and door scuff panels, and an illuminated logo on the suede sport bucket front seats. These heavily bolstered seats are mounted lower and weigh less than the standard Elantra seats, and they are heated along with the N leather-wrapped steering wheel to accommodate all-weather driving.
Infotainment is delivered through the aforementioned touchscreen atop the centre console. It is a user-friendly system with above-average graphics design, and there are handy shortcut buttons below the screen for quick system navigation. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration is supported and the Elantra N comes with an eight-speaker Bose premium audio system.
Hyundai SmartSense driver assistance features are on board the Elantra N, which includes features such as Lane Following Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist, Safe Exit Warning, Driver Attention Warning, Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection, and High Beam Assist systems.
The 2022 Hyundai Elantra N has a sticker price of $37,199, which includes every feature available. The DCT model is $1,600 more and is definitely no consolation in a segment that usually includes the automatic transmission as an afterthought. The Elantra N competes against other hot-compact-sedans such as the new Subaru WRX, the Honda Civic Si, and the Volkswagen Jetta GLI, with the fiery Korean getting the edge for offering higher performance and crazy theater.
At the end of the day, we know that the days of these unapologetic high-performance compact sedans are numbered, and we are glad the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N is helping to keep that fire from going out. It is by no means a perfect car, but rather a pretty good attempt at replacing those perfectly imperfect beasts that has always captured our heart and soul and reminded us why we enjoy driving at the first place.