Driven: The 2022 Hyundai Elantra N Is The Most Fun You Can Have For $35,000

Test Drive / 21 Comments

It's impossible to have more fun for less.

Miata is always the answer. Yeah, that seems like a funny way to start a review of the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N, but hear us out. We've heralded the MX-5 Miata as the ultimate affordable sports car, superior to all others in its price point. There's just one major problem: the Miata isn't always the answer for everyone. It's small, the cabin is tight, the trunk is abysmal, and good luck taking the kids to school in it.

A two-seat sports car isn't a practical everyday driver for most people, so where else do enthusiasts go to get their thrills without breaking the bank? You could get a Volkswagen Golf GTI, but the last one we tested was nearly $40,000. The Honda Civic Si is great, but we crave a bit more power. Honda will soon unleash the next-generation Type R, but by the time dealers add their markups, it won't be affordable either.

After spending a full week with the Elantra N, we are convinced that Hyundai, more than any other automaker, understands how to build an incredible car that doesn't break the bank.

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Boy-Racer Styling

The current seventh-generation Elantra is by far the most aggressively styled one yet, matching its N performance transformation. Hyundai's N Division added further aggression with a signature red lip running around the vehicle, intricate 19-inch wheels with red brake calipers, and a large rear spoiler amongst other details. Capping the design off with some bold colors like Intense Blue (pictured below) and Performance Blue (a $400 option), the Elantra N will attract plenty of attention from enthusiasts who can spot the changes over a standard Elantra.

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Race-Inspired Engine

Under the hood, the Elantra N shares the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine used in other N models. It's a firecracker of a power unit, delivering 276 horsepower and 289 lb-ft of torque. But if you get the optional eight-speed dual-clutch transmission for $1,500, the Elantra gets a red N Grin Shift shift button on the steering wheel that temporarily delivers a 10-horsepower boost. If you're more inclined to row your own gears, a six-speed manual comes standard, with both transmissions sending power to the front wheels through an N Corner Carving Differential.

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Zero to 60 mph takes around 5.1 seconds (with the DCT), and you will be grinning from ear to ear as you accelerate. This is the best-sounding four-cylinder engine on sale by far. The cracks and pops from the exhaust belong on a V8 AMG car, so it's astonishing how Hyundai's engineers got them to come out of a four-pot. Inside the cabin, the N Sound Equalizer adds a bit of synthetic sound to the mix, which can mimic a TCR race car or produce a lower frequency. The exhaust is loud enough on its own though, so you can feel free to turn off the "fake" noise if you don't like how its sounds.

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N Is The New M

The Hyundai Elantra N is one of the most dynamic and connected front-wheel-drive vehicles we've ever driven; it's right up there with the vaunted Honda Civic Type R. Hyundai's steering tuning is near-perfect, always communicating what the front wheels are up to. Torque steer is minimized with the clever front differential, and the DCT helps put down the power easily with minimal wheel slip. The chassis tuning is equally great, giving feedback to the driver and inspiring insane confidence.

This is a firm car, so we'd warn anyone looking to use is it as a family hauler. That being said, we can't believe how well Hyundai tuned the adaptive suspension in its softest setting, making the Elantra N livable as a daily driver. In its stiffest setting, the suspension can knock your teeth out, so it is best used on the smoothest of roads.

Fortunately, the N Division (like BMW's M Division) lets you tune every aspect of the car. You can save the steering, engine, suspension, transmission, traction control, and stability control settings to one of two custom N modes, which are quickly accessible on the steering wheel.

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It Only Costs HOW MUCH???

It's amazing how many features Hyundai was able to cram in the Elantra N, but it's more impressive when you hear the price. The 2022 Elantra N starts at just $32,150 (before destination) and there are basically only two options to select: two optional colors for $400, and the DCT for $1,500. All-in with freight, you'll only pay $35,145 for a loaded Elantra N. To put that in perspective, a less powerful loaded Volkswagen Golf GTI will cost at least $38,720 and we don't know how much the new Civic Type R will be. Once again, South Korea has produced a bargain.

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Available As A Crossover

If you want a fun sedan that you can drive every day and take on the occasional track day, the Elantra N is a perfect option. But what if your family has grown a bit and you need a crossover? Luckily, Hyundai still has you covered. The Hyundai Kona N offers all the benefits of the Elantra N, but in a crossover body. It's priced similarly as the Elantra with the DCT, making other crossovers in its price range seem silly by comparison. Sure, the Kona N sits a bit taller than its sedan sibling, but you lose almost nothing in the driving experience between the two. With these two on the roster, Hyundai's N Division is on a roll.

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