Hyundai's N Division is out to prove it can build the most grin-inducing enthusiast cars on the market, and the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N is the latest example of such a car. The Elantra is the latest Hyundai model to be graced with the N treatment, following the success of the Veloster N in the United States and several N models in Europe. Like the Veloster N, the Elantra arrives sporting a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that sounds like it was ripped right from a TCR race car. It produces 276 horsepower in regular operation, all going out to the front wheels through either a six-speed manual or eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Though it only comes as a sedan, the Elantra N is thrust into a segment that typically includes the world's most popular hot hatchback, the Volkswagen Golf GTI. The Elantra N also loosely competes with the all-new Honda Civic Si, Volkswagen Jetta GLI, and Subaru WRX, but the Hyundai is more powerful than all of them. With legendary engineer Albert Biermann (formerly of BMW M fame) behind the project, the Elantra N looks ready to bust the hot sedan segment open, creating a new category for the burning hot sedan.
Hyundai has expanded its N high-performance family with the Elantra N, the first N-badged version of the sedan. It comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine producing up to 286 horsepower and 289 lb-ft of torque, paired with either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. Inside and out, it's a much more performance-oriented offering than the standard Elantra. Outside, the sedan comes with an N wing spoiler, an N-style grille, and 19-inch alloy wheels. Inside, there are add-ons like sport bucket seats and an N-branded steering wheel.
To make the sedan better to drive, Hyundai has thrown all its toys at the Elantra N. It comes with torque steer control, an integrated drive axle inspired by WRC rally cars, and an N Grin Shift function for the DCT gearbox that provides a boost of 10 hp for 20 seconds.
See trim levels and configurations:
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
Fire up the Elantra N, and it quickly becomes apparent this car was developed at the Nurburgring. It all starts with the best exhaust note available from any four-cylinder offered today. The cracks and pops emitted by this car are plucked straight from a race car. It's anyone's guess how Hyundai was able to sneak that past the regulators.
Once you get past the fabulous exhaust note, the rest of the driving experience doesn't disappoint. The steering is pinpoint accurate, offering a level of control and feedback that matches the Honda Civic Type R. Whether on the race track or the public road, the Elantra N rewards its driver with constant communication to the wheel. Yes, that sometimes involves a bit of torque steer, since this car sends all its power to the front wheels, but Dr. Biermann explains this is all in an effort to let the driver know what the car is up to at all times. Though the wheel will sometimes stray a bit under hard acceleration, the Elantra N's clever electronic limited-slip differential helps transmit the power to the ground better than almost any other front-driven car this side of a Golf GTI.
The Elantra N shows how good a FWD platform can be, exhibiting ideal nimbleness for autocross, enough power for the track, and hilarious lift-off oversteer on the road. If you aren't grinning ear-to-ear driving the Elantra N, that's your fault, not the car's.
Complaints? We have a few. The Elantra N is among the best-handling front-drive cars we've ever experienced, but we can't help but wonder how good an AWD model could be with modern tech creating drift modes that make a car feel rear-driven. Another complaint is that, although this car's motorsport credentials are unquestionable, buyers looking for a daily driver may object to the Elantra N's stiff suspension. Whether in normal mode or the back-breaking N mode, the electronically-controlled suspension never feels soft. The Civic Type R or Golf GTI both offer a more comfortable experience, if that's more of a priority.
If you're looking for an affordable performance car to put a huge grin on your face, the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N sedan is an impressive option. In a segment full of standout vehicles like the Honda Civic Si, Subaru WRX, and Volkswagen Jetta GLI, the Elantra N burns bright with an ear-popping exhaust, near-perfect chassis, outrageous styling, and a performance-oriented interior. Hyundai managed to create a track weapon without ruining the Elantra's practicality, though the aforementioned competitors offer more plush suspensions.
It's difficult to present a final verdict since Hyundai hasn't released 2022 Elantra N pricing as of this writing, but we'd find it hard not to recommend this car to an enthusiast buyer. The Elantra N is the most fun you can have with front-wheel drive, whether with the row-it-yourself manual or the quick-shifting DCT. This is a car we could easily imagine parked in our garage - it's that fun.
The Kia lineup is full of expressively styled SUVs and even snazzy sedans like the K5, but the Forte is a more conservative package. It's an attractive and capable sedan, though, but the Elantra is the one that'll catch your eye first. In GT form, the Kia utilizes a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine with 201 hp. That's not bad, but it can't match the Elantra N's output. Then again, the Forte GT is a high-value package at a starting price of under $24,000, and a manual model is on offer too. With some options, the Kia is even better-equipped. But the Hyundai is a more focused sedan under the skin. It's a proper N product, whereas the Forte GT is merely a more powerful version of a rather conservative sedan. The Hyundai excites us more and is our choice.
Like The Kia Forte GT, the Honda Civic Si is down on power alongside the Elantra N. The Si's 1.5-liter churns out 200 hp and 192 lb-ft, well down on the Elantra N's peaks of 286 hp and 289 lb-ft. There's plenty to admire about the Honda, though. It's got a beautifully balanced chassis, a wonderfully designed interior, and a compelling starting price of under $28,000. We are big fans of its manual gearbox too. But the Elantra N turns up the heat both in the way it looks and in the manner in which it performs. It doesn't try to hide its intentions and makes the Civic Si look quite docile by comparison. The Elantra also offers the option of that slick DCT gearbox, making it considerably quicker than the Civic. Both cars are similarly practical and specified. If you are able to spend more on the Hyundai, you won't regret it.
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