2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line first drive review: A sprightly sport compact

Hyundai has big plans for grow your N performance portfolio in the United States. The company will soon offer a little spicy Elantra N sedan, but in the meantime, this N Line softcore version should be more than enough to whet your appetite.

The N line effectively replaces the old one Elantra Sport, packing turbo power, upgraded suspension hardware, and plenty of active safety technology, all for around $ 25,000. The all-new 2021 Elantra is already a great foundation to build on, and these N Line improvements make Hyundai’s compact sedan more attractive.

Undoubtedly the most striking thing about this car is its design. The new Elantra stands out, all geometric and bizarre. The N Line builds on that character with a slightly more menacing front end, black side moldings, and 18-inch wheels. There is certainly a lot to do, but I think that new Elantra wears these sporty modifications well. It’s a little more direct than a Honda Civic Si, but I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.

The Elantra is definitely less polarizing on the inside, where N Line models have comfortable sports seats with leather upholstery, a thicker rimmed steering wheel, a wireless charging pad, alloy pedals, and some red stitching. Just like the standard Elantra, the N Line cabin is quiet and well appointed; everything you touch is clad in above average materials, with the unexceptional stuff reserved for less noticeable places like the transmission tunnel and steering column.

Oddly, you can’t get the N line with Elantra’s digital gauge cluster, nor can you opt for the 10.2-inch infotainment display, which means that built-in navigation isn’t possible either. That’s not to say the 8-inch multimedia system is bad or anything, it just looks a little cheap surrounded by big shortcut buttons and a bunch of black plastic. On the other hand, the 8-inch screen offers something the larger system doesn’t offer: wireless Apple CarPlay is Android Auto. Combined with the aforementioned charging pad, this is an A-OK setup.

Bad news: The N line only comes with Elantra’s smallest 8-inch screen. Good news: wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Drew Phillips

Of course, the main reason you buy an N line is for its lively performance. This warmer Elantra uses Hyundai’s 1.6-liter I4 turbocharged engine, which produces 201 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 195 lb-ft of torque from 1,500 to 4,500 rpm. That’s more than enough grunt for this 2,943-pound sedan, especially considering all that torque being delivered very low.

The Elantra N Line comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission, but you can get a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic for an extra $ 1,100. I usually deal with that life with toggle shifting, especially in bold little turbo cars like this Elantra N Line. The problem is that the manual gearbox … sucks. It reminds me a lot of the Genesis G70 – the transmission appears to actively remove power as you shift into each gear, meaning you feel the clutch grab but then the acceleration doesn’t match the movement as you dig deeper into the throttle. Combine that with long flips between gears and a generally vague clutch pedal, and this is one of the few times I think I’d rather have the DCT. (Yes I know…)

Once you’re off and running, the 1.6-liter engine is a catch. There is a lot of power in the mids in each gear, so thankfully you don’t have to do much to shift on winding roads. A small hoarse exhaust note accompanies the whole experience, largely fading into the background at higher speeds.

I deal with manual transmissions, only not This manual transmission.

Drew Phillips

Compared to a basic Elantra, the N Line has stiffer springs and engine mounts and larger front and rear stabilizer bars. If you get the manual transmission, the N line fits Goodyear Eagle F1 series 235/40 summer tires, but oddly enough, the DCT cars use Hankook Ventus all-season rubber. Summer tires aren’t an option even for models equipped with automatic equipment, so you’re on your own for non-slip shoes. (I’m sure your dealer could exchange them for a few dollars more.)

The Elantra N Line manual has no ride modes or adaptive settings; you enter and go. I like that refreshing simplicity in a budget sports car like this, and there’s not much to complain about with the standard N Line tune. The steering is light but precise and the frame strikes a great balance between comfort and agility. The Elantra N Line is very similar to the Civic Si – it’s a fun little sports sedan that you could actually drive every day. Unfortunately, the Elantra N Line lacks some of the active safety features offered by Honda, namely adaptive cruise control. At least you get other niceties like a driver attention monitor, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, and front collision warning.

Many angles.

Drew Phillips

At $ 25,095 including $ 995 for the destination, the Elantra N Line 2021 is a pretty compelling little package. It’s priced right above the Civic Si, and while the Honda offers a bit more tech and a better manual gearbox, I love the Elantra’s turbo power. The fact that it offers an automatic transmission also opens it up to a wider range of potential buyers.

I’m as excited as I am for the full-zoot Elantra N, I know that little high-voltage firecracker won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But this N Line version doesn’t look like a watered-down sports sedan by comparison. Especially with its super attractive price, it might be just the thing for people who want a little more energy in their stride.

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