Hyundai has injected a little muscle into its smallest sedan.
The 2022 Hyundai Elantra N is a high performance version of the compact model that swaps its humble and hybrid powertrain options for a fire-breathing turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
The 2.0-liter motor is rated at 276 horsepower, nearly twice that of the entry-level Elantra’s engine.
The Elantra N even comes standard with a sporty six-speed manual transmission at its starting price of $33,245, but an eight-speed automatic is available for $1,500.
That’s the only item on the options list as the Elantra N is fully loaded, making it one of the best bargain sports cars, let alone sports sedans, on sale today.
Upgrades from the standard Elantra include a sport-tuned suspension with computer-controlled adjustable shocks, 19-inch wheels shod in Michelin Pilot Sport 4S high performance tires, an aggressive body kit with a wing on the trunk lid designed to improve aerodynamics and cooling, plus red cross bracing tubes mounted in the trunk behind the rear seats that makes the chassis stiffer.
The interior features a set of hard-shell racing-style front buckets, blue stitching specific to the model and both an instrument cluster and infotainment system equipped with performance data screens, such as acceleration timers and power output monitors.
The Elantra N can accelerate to 60 mph in less than six seconds, a feat it facilitates with a launch control system. In cars with the manual transmission, you engage the N drive mode setting and floor the throttle to hold the engine at a programmable RPM level, then let go of the clutch as the traction management system wrangles the power. The experience is harsh, with a big wheel slip followed by the tires gaining purchase and the engine bogging down as it rockets the car away. Not having tried the automatic model, I can’t say if it reacts the same way.
Slowing down is made easier by a set of relatively enormous 14.2-inch front brake discs and a rev-matching function that automatically blips the throttle on downshifts to smooth out the gear changes. The latter can be turned on and off via a big red button on the steering wheel, depending on how manual of a mood you’re in. In automatic transmission cars the button activates an N Grin Shift mode that increases the turbo’s boost and power to 286 hp for short bursts. The Elantra N sounds like bombs bursting in air, too. In N mode the exhaust makes the sort of snap, crackle, boom noises you just know the neighbors won’t complaint about at all.
The car can also pump synthetic motor noise into the cabin through the speakers to amp things up. The volume is adjustable and there is a setting that mimics the sound of one of Hyundai’s TCR racing cars. An equalizer allows you to further modify the tone, which is more of a drone when you’re just cruising along and better left turned off, but can be fun to use during moments of spirited driving.
A custom drive mode lets you dial in all the parameters to your liking, including suspension stiffness, steering feel and how much drifting is allowed before the electronic stability control kicks in.
The Elantra N has as much go as it does show and is definitely suited for an autocross event or a track day, but remains a mostly comfortable daily driver with the suspension is in its softest setting. The paper-thin tires deliver strong impacts on potholed and rutted roads, however. Rear seat passengers are provided with plenty of legroom for a car this size, and a full suite of electronic driver aids including lane-centering adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency brakes is standard.
Fuel economy comes in at 25 mpg combined and 31 mpg on the highway. That’s no match for the Elantra hybrid’s 54 mpg combined and 56 mpg highway ratings, but the hybrid is no match for the N at anything else.
2022 Hyundai Elantra N
Base price: $33,245
Type: 5-passenger, 4-door, front-wheel-drive sedan
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
Power: 276 hp, 289 lb-ft
Transmission: 6-speed manual
MPG: 22 city/31 hwy