Due to reasons beyond our individual control, it seems like everything is more expensive these days.
Whether it’s the record-high amounts we’re paying for gas, the price of used cars, or how much it costs to simply put food on the table, the idea of a bargain feels as elusive as ever. Except there’s the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N, which is a genuine performance car value.
Even taking money out of the equation, Hyundai’s latest N car is a gift. Delightfully extraverted styling, one of the sweetest manual gearboxes out there, and proper sport compact handling, all wrapped up in a comfortable, immensely accessible wrapper.
If, in some sort of alternate universe, Lamborghini decided to get into the compact sedan game, the end result may look a bit like the current-generation Hyundai Elantra. This high-performance N version, then, would resemble the full-bore Superleggera Performante STO edition. The race helmet-inspired blacked-out grille has been controversial with commentators, but this one happens to quite enjoy it. It’s a front end that’s not dissimilar to that of the new Lamborghini Huracan Tecnica – a car that debuted after the Elantra N, which makes you wonder who’s copying who here.
This Hyundai sport sedan also has big 19-inch wheels hiding red brake calipers, the obligatory red lower surrounds, a spoiler on the back, and – as a true tuner throwback – clear taillights. Those after something more youthful might prefer what the Hyundai Veloster N or another hot hatch has to offer.
Even without the N-specific badges, buttons, seats, and shifter, the interior is quite nice. The air vent trim spans the entire dash, the centre stack is skewed towards the driver, and there’s a grab handle separating the front passenger from the driver’s area, creating a cockpit-like atmosphere.
Behind that aggressively dark abyss of a grille sits a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder making 276 hp and 289 lb-ft of torque. It’s the same engine out of the Veloster N, albeit making 29 lb-ft more torque to go with a whopping one extra horsepower. There is a smidge of turbo lag if you go looking for it, but the front-wheel-drive Elantra N generally pulls well.
This motor can be paired to either six-speed manual or eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions, and Hyundai says the Elantra N will get from zero to 100 km/h in 5.3 seconds using launch control with the latter. Naturally, the manual tested here takes a little longer. For what it’s worth, it also features a launch control system that holds revs until you dump the clutch.
It may pack less power than much of the competition – take the Volkswagen Golf R, for example, or the forthcoming Toyota GR Corolla – and be a little slower in a straight line. But outside of head-to-head drag racing situations, the Elantra N is far from a slouch.
Hyundai’s high-performance four-cylinder is quite capable of sending the company’s compact cars down a road quite quickly, but its true appeal is the way it sounds. In this car’s sport and N modes, the exhaust sounds pretty hilarious: boomingly loud on the highway, with almost obnoxiously audible crackles and pops on throttle release. When you’re ready to blend back in with the rest of civilization, switching the Elantra N back into normal mode makes it – from the inside, at least – nearly as quiet as the regular Elantra.
Driving Feel: 9.5/10
As impressive as the Elantra N’s engine may be, it feels mostly like the carryover part from the Veloster N that it is. Where this car significantly ups its game over its three-door stablemate, however, is in its handling.
The Elantra’s chassis is a full generation newer than the Veloster’s, and feels every bit better. It may physically have a bigger footprint but there’s a lighter, more nuanced and adjustable feel in the way it steers and how chassis and suspension responds. The smaller Veloster may have a tighter wheelbase (71 mm shorter than the Elantra’s, to be exact), but the Elantra doesn’t feel notably less chuckable in comparison. If anything, the Elantra’s newer, more advanced frame makes its little brother feel like a blunt instrument in comparison.
Just like the Veloster, the Elantra N features a limited-slip differential that aggressively pulls it into corners. Paired with sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, the hotted-up Elantra is a front-drive grip monster that seems to go where you point it even when where you point it feels like an impossible target. Not only is it technically capable, but the fun factor is high, too. The steering rack feels precise, appropriately responsive, and adequately tactile.
That six-speed manual transmission, by the way, is a good one. Sufficiently short, weighty, and satisfyingly clunky, I’d put it about a half-notch below the more metallic-feeling Honda Civic Si’s shifter, as well as the previous Civic Type R’s. The Hyundai’s gear ratios are expertly calibrated for public road exploits, the clutch is just right in terms of weight and engagement, and auto rev-matching works every time. The brake pedal strikes a nice balance of not being too short that it feels overly aggressive when driving normally, but it’s also short and strong enough to feel appropriate for a sport compact like this.
As far as driving normally, keep this car in its more tame modes and the steering is light. Predictably, the entire car is no more unwieldy than a normal Elantra around town, while highway cruising is stable, comfortable, and uneventful. Get on it, though and it quickly reveals itself as the serious performance car that it is.
In terms of the overall drive, where the Veloster N was a clear rung below Honda’s hottest hatch, Hyundai has closed the gap considerably with this Elantra N.
Outward visibility is good all around, while active safety features include blind-spot monitoring, forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, and lane-keep and follow assist. Adaptive cruise, however, is not available, nor is Hyundai’s blind-spot camera system.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named the 2022 Elantra a Top Safety Pick, granting straight “Good” ratings in terms of crashworthiness. Child-seat latches were deemed “Acceptable,” while crash avoidance and mitigation is generally “Good.”
Discounting transmission and colour choices, there aren’t any options. That means the heated front bucket seats with light-up N logos are manually adjustable, a 10.25-inch digital instrument screen, a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless charging, ambient interior lighting, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a heated steering wheel. Those two screens in front of the driver are a clear and significant upgrade from what you get in the noticeably older Veloster N, as is the dual-zone climate.
User Friendliness: 9.5/10
Upon first glance, the Elantra’s insides may sort of resemble the frustratingly touch-control-laden cabin of the new Volkswagen Golf, but unlike that interior, Hyundai’s version is a world apart in terms of usability. All climate commands are done via buttons and knobs, and there’s a proper volume knob as well as a customizable shortcut button. The big infotainment screen is easy to make sense of, and the two N buttons on the steering wheel are configurable and let you switch drive modes on a whim.
With the Elantra N based on a vehicle essentially born for rideshare duty, it’s an appreciably practical car. That long-looking body means an almost ridiculous amount of legroom in the back, while headroom can be tight if you’re tall.
The caveats arrive when you try folding anything down back there, with no central armrest or 60/40 split action for the bench itself; it comes down as one piece. And even when you do fold the rear seat, the passthrough is impeded by bracing that’s exclusive to this N version. It’s good for chassis rigidity, but not so good for floor lamp transportation. For most everyday uses, though, this Elantra will fit much of your gear and passengers just fine.
While the Veloster N’s pretty rough in the ride department, the Elantra N is a noticeably more supple affair. In its more sedate drive modes, it matches the Honda Civic Type R in not being significantly harsher than the regular compact commuter on which it’s based. Electronically controlled suspension capable of variable damping forces means N and sport modes are stiffer but still not punishing.
The bolstered and quite cool-looking front seats are similarly well-done, striking a good balance between comfy and purposeful. The front seats are three-stage heated, while the steering wheel can be warmed up as well. Road noise is noticeable but not especially so for a vehicle of this grade, performance or otherwise.
Fuel Economy: 9/10
Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) has rated the manual Elantra N for 10.9 L/100 km in the city, 7.7 on the highway, and 9.4 combined, slightly beating out both the Veloster N and the outgoing Civic Type R comparing combined-to-combined figures. Like those two, the Elantra N also did better than expected during testing, logging 9.3 L/100 km after more than 700 km. That’s a decent number for the level of fun on tap here.
For reference, the automatic Elantra N is notably thirstier, with ratings of 12.1 L/100 km in the city, 7.9 on the highway, and 10.2 combined. Premium fuel is recommended regardless of transmission.
Not only is the Elantra N (relatively) economical to fuel but it’s very reasonably priced. Per this manual tester’s price sheet, this car starts at $37,199. The only other decision buyers have to make beyond transmission is colour, and there aren’t any other real options or trim levels to mull over, so adding $200 for the Performance Blue paint, $100 A/C tax, and the non-negotiable $1,725 destination charge, this exact car came out to $39,224 before tax.
Not only is the Elantra N better to drive, has a nicer interior with more modern tech, and boasts real back seats compared to its Veloster N sibling, but it’s $700 cheaper. It’s also significantly less expensive than its competitors from outside of the Hyundai family. Volkswagen, for example, commands at least $46,000 before any options or fees for the Golf R.
You’ll likely notice that car reviews here on AutoTrader.ca consist of a pros-and-cons summary at the top that usually lists three highlights and three drawbacks with the car in question. In the case of the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N, it’s difficult to come up with anything reasonable to put in that latter column.
Maybe this is one: it still uses a little button on the door handle to remotely lock and unlock rather than a touch sensor like so many other keyless entry systems. Also, the red bracing that goes across the rear trunk passthrough does hinder practicality. Otherwise, there isn’t much to complain about. Oh, here’s one: $100 bills don’t fly out of the air vents every time you turn it on. There – that’s the third con.
It may not have the gnarliest specs compared to its peers, but when it comes to the vastly more important matter of on-the-road fun combined with honest-to-god livability, it’s firmly among the top of its class and simply a great car all around. A thoroughly superior package compared to its Veloster N sibling, the Elantra N is more fun and less frustrating to live with than the VW Golf R, and nips at the heels of the stellar last-gen Honda Civic Type R – all for way less money. If the upcoming GR Corolla and next-gen Type R are serious about proving their worth over this Hyundai, both Toyota and Honda have their work cut out for them.
|Engine Cylinders||Turbo I4|
|Peak Horsepower||276 hp @ 5,500–6,000 rpm|
|Peak Torque||289 lb-ft @ 2,100–4,700 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||10.9 / 7.7 / 9.4 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||402 L|
|Model Tested||2022 Hyundai Elantra N|
|Price as Tested||$39,224|
$200 – Performance Blue paint, $200