How does the Hyundai Elantra N Line stack up against its sporty rivals?
The new 2021 Hyundai Elantra arrived earlier this year, ready to take on mainstays like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Volkswagen Jetta. Now, a sportier N Line version replaces the outgoing Elantra Sport to fight other high-performance options in the segment like the Honda Civic Si and Volkswagen Jetta GLI. On paper, the Elantra N Line boasts impressive specifications that should make it a worthy competitor to the Si, GLI, and its corporate sibling, the Kia Forte GT.
No one has driven the Elantra N Line yet but we can draw some conclusions on how it will stack up against the Civic Si and Jetta GLI. Kia is excluded from this comparison because it shares too much in common with the new Hyundai.
Like most new Hyundai products, the designers put significant effort into the new Elantra. It features an exciting new look, with a unique front end and futuristic connected taillights in the rear. The N Line model steps up the aggression further with different wheels, new grille and rear diffuser, and a spoiler. The design may be polarizing for some buyers, much like the Civic Si, and is far less conservative than the Jetta GLI.
The 10th generation Honda Civic also has a polarizing design with its various creases, scoops, and aggressive lines. By comparison, the Jetta looks like a beige wall with a few red accents thrown in on the GLI version to add a hint off sporty flavor. Conservative shoppers will gravitate towards the GLI, while attention seekers should opt for the Si or N Line.
The new Elantra is a superb starting point for the N Line because of its high-quality interior. Hyundai has dialed up the sportiness of the cabin with red stitching, sport seats, and bespoke N Line touches such as the drive mode button and shifter design. The cabin doesn't just look good either; it boasts some impressive technology such as wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and a digital gauge cluster. Hyundai showed off a lower and upper trim level of the interior, which should straddle the line between the sporty Civic and the upscale GLI.
The Civic Si's interior is a cool place to sit with red accents a sporty bolstered sport seats. Honda makes great use of the space, with plenty of handy storage areas throughout the cabin, though the materials feel cheaper than the Jetta. By contrast, the GLI looks nearly premium enough to wear an Audi badge but is somewhat bland aside from some red stitching. Hyundai is hit and miss on cabin materials, so we will need to poke around the Elantra N Line in person before rendering a verdict on its quality.
The Elantra N Line uses a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine sending 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft torque to the front tires through either a six-speed manual transmission or seven-speed dual-clutch. The N Line is down four hp compared to the Civic Si's 1.5-liter engine and a whopping 27 hp down to the GLI and its larger 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which is also available mated to a choice of manual or dual-clutch transmission options. A drag race between the N Line and Si should be pretty tight, with both models hitting 60 mph in the mid-six-second range, but the GLI would easily pull ahead. But given how good Hyundai's crop of N models like the Veloster N feels like to drive, the Elantra N Line may feel more dynamic than its performance specs indicate.
With 14.2 cubic feet of cargo space, the Elantra N Line barely edges the Jetta GLI with its 14.1 cubic-foot boot but falls just shy of the Civic Si's 14.7 cubic-foot trunk. Where passenger space is concerned, the Elantra N Line shines with 38.0 inches of rear legroom. Both the Civic and Jetta are massive in this measurement with 37.4 inches but still fall short of the new Elantra.
The N Line's fuel economy should also fall right in line with Si and GLI. Hyundai has not released official mpg figures yet, but the mechanically similar Forte GT manages 27 mpg in the city and 35 mpg highway. These are impressive numbers, which compare closely to the Si (26/36 mpg city/highway) and favorably to the GLI (25/33 mpg city/highway).
All three cars offer impressive performance, strong technology, and sporty looks at an affordable price. Hyundai has not released official pricing for the 2021 Elantra N Line, but it should be close to the Forte GT's starting price of $22,490. If the Elantra N Line is that affordable, it will handily undercut the Civic Si ($25,200) and Jetta GLI ($26,245). For thousands less than the competition, the Elantra N Line could become the best sporty sedan on the market.