Unlike the Volkswagen GTI and Jetta GLI, or even the Civic Si, the Elantra N is much more extroverted visually, at the risk of being undeniably more controversial. This positioning is crystallized, as is often the case, around its facies, which is placed in break with the rest of the work. It has a textured grille made up of multiple angular lines, the matte black of which somewhat loses the defined aspect, but ensures its intimidating face which seems to want to blend into the roadway. The headlights intertwine, describing an interesting right angle at right angles to the side. The 19-inch rims with their variegated shapes barely overshadow the larger calipers, braking power obliges. The rear adds the icing on the sweet cake with its large diffuser crossed by two prominent exhaust outlets. It plays a role in controlling airflow with the wing spoiler covering the trunk.
Inside, the differences between the Elantra N and its more common variant are a little less easy to flush out. Admittedly, there are the bucket seats with integrated headrests sculpted to limit the effects of centrifugal force, as is the redesigned steering wheel to integrate lavender N keys. Apart from the use of microsuede on the top of the doors, we remain on familiar ground with dark shades. The design emphasizing the horizontality of the dashboard remains, as does the grafting of the multimedia screen to the digital instrumentation block. We like the careful assembly, but the rigid plastics are a little too present in certain places, recalling the modest origins of the model. The grab handle placed on the center console does not really inspire confidence. We must nevertheless salute the great habitability of the space. However, some will complain when they see the strut bar in the rear trunk which obstructs the loading of long objects.
Under the hood
But what about mechanical paraphernalia? N Division engineers set their sights on a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder. Among other things, they increased the size of the turbocharger turbine and optimized the air intake manifold to promote responsiveness. It’s very technical, all that, but when starting, the oral virulence of the mechanics surprises us. The various driving modes can also vary the intensity. With 276 hp and 289 lb-ft available fairly quickly with the right foot (2100 to 4100 rpm), this Elantra N rushes by shaking the front axle brutally. Once the tires grip the tarmac properly, the impetus is amazing and rivals that of a previous-generation Civic Type R. The manual transmission, on the other hand, lacks the mechanical feel of the Honda, and the clutch can be a bit finicky near the friction point. That said, the lever is precise and its stroke is just concise enough.
Behind the wheel
But long before pure power, this Elantra N builds its offensive around its chassis. It is the sum of a multitude of details that seek to transform this phlegmatic sedan for the general public into a precision tool. The platform benefits from structural reinforcements in seven different places while the steering sees its assistance motor placed directly on the rack to increase the feeling and the nervousness of the behavior. Three-mode adaptive damping is also standard. These elements literally transform the vehicle, imbuing it with rare expressiveness and remarkable efficiency. On corner entry, the car takes its place naturally and lightly without flinching. We then press the accelerator to see the extraordinary work of the electronic differential which keeps the sedan on course, making it almost imperturbable. If N mode is selected, the next gear change is accompanied by a series of detonations that can both annoy or make the exercise very immersive. It’s rather extreme at times with its somewhat hectic ride, but never tiresome.
The Elantra N receives without having to check a group of additional options the manufacturer’s most complete infotainment system. All in all, quite fast in its command processing and having a good level of black to promote readability, it has no real weak point. Admittedly, the refresh rate of the instrumentation screen could be better, but its configurable aspect according to the driving modes enriches the presentation. Speaking of these modes, the settings are accessible both from the central console and from two buttons positioned on the steering wheel which allow you to pre-configure driving modes. It’s very well done and when you activate the sportiest mode (N), the amount of information offered is very complete. We also appreciate the presence of tangible keys under the touch screen, including one that allows you to pre-select a command. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also present, as is wireless charging. In short, it is complete and effective.
Not benefiting from a real pedigree to support its claims, despite what Hyundai wants us to believe, the Elantra N is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful surprises of this automotive year. Far from being reduced to a simple aesthetic exercise that could have fueled the cynicism of enthusiasts of this repertoire, it focuses on the fundamental characteristics that shape the best sports compacts on the planet. Its handling is exemplary and its emotiveness reminds us why this category is so loved by many driving enthusiasts. Certainly, on the other hand, this imposes a rather raw appearance in certain respects, in particular on soundproofing and bearing, making the sedan less accessible than a more polished Golf GTI. But that’s exactly why this Elantra stands out. Taking all that and the standard features into account, the asking $39,838 seems very reasonable. Very nice job.
If manual isn’t your cup of tea
Hyundai offers an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission as an option. To improve their resistance and thermal management, these clutches are lubricated. The engine map also makes it possible to increase engine power by 10 hp for 20 seconds with this transmission (N Grin Shift).
The right diet, all the time
On the manual version, you can activate the downshift speed synchronization system by simply pressing a red button on the steering wheel. This allows you to have the best possible speed when changing gear without having to play the accelerator.
To adhere and brake
Hyundai equips the model with excellent Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires to ensure grip. Stopping power is provided by large 14.2-inch discs up front cooled by fins that direct cool air.
The effect on fuel consumption
Admittedly, when pursuing an avowed goal of performance, fuel consumption suffers. At 9.4 L/100 km estimated by EnerGuide, but a fuel consumption of 7.9 L/100 km during the test, this Elantra N has a tendency to drink more than the standard livery (6.4 L/100km).
Founded in 2013, the N division alludes to both the Korean research and development center Namyang and the German Nürburgring circuit, where these models are tested. It was run until the end of last year by Albert Biermann, a former BMW employee.
- Model tested: Hyundai Elantra N
- Engine: 2.0L L4 DOHC Turbocharged
- Power: 276 hp from 5500 to 6000 rpm
- Torque: 289 lb-ft from 2100 to 4700 rpm
- Transmission: Six-speed manual (dual-clutch automatic available as an option)
- Engine architecture: front transverse engine, front-wheel drive
- Consumption (EnerGuide): 9.4 L/100 km (super)
- Price (with options, transport and preparation): $39,838
- Competitors: Acura Integra, Honda Civic Si (and Type R), Mazda3 Turbo, Subaru WRX and Volkswagen Golf GTI/Jetta GLI
- New in 2022? New version (N)