2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line first drive review: A sprightly sport compact

2021 hyundai elantra n line 025

Hyundai has big plans Grow Your N Performance Portfolio in America. The company will soon offer a spicy short Elantra N Sedan, but in the meantime, this softcore n line version should be more than enough to whet your appetite.

The N line effectively replaces the old Elantra Sport, packing turbo power, upgraded suspension hardware, and lots of active safety technology, all for around $25,000. The new 2021 Elantra is already a great foundation on which to build, and these N Line enhancements only make Hyundai’s compact sedan more attractive.

Without question, the most striking feature of this car is its design. The new Elantra is different, all geometric and weird. The N Line builds on that character with a slightly more haphazard front end, black side moldings, and 18-inch wheels. There’s definitely a lot going on, but I think New Elantra Wears these sporty tweaks well. It’s a little more in-your-face than a Honda Civic Si, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

The Elantra is definitely less polarizing on the inside, where the N Line model gets comfortable sport seats with leather bolsters, a thicker-rimmed steering wheel, a wireless charging pad, alloy pedals and some red accent stitching. Like the standard Elantra, the N Line’s cabin is quiet and well-appointed; Everything you touch is covered in above-average material, with the not-so-great stuff reserved for less-noticeable places like the transmission tunnel and steering column.

Oddly, you can’t get the N Line with the Elantra’s digital gauge cluster, nor can you opt for the 10.2-inch infotainment display, which means embedded navigation is a no-go, as well. That’s not to say that the 8-inch multimedia system is bad or anything, it just looks cheap surrounded by big shortcut buttons and a bunch of black plastic. On the other hand, the 8-inch screen offers something the larger system doesn’t: wireless apple carplay and android auto. Combined with the aforementioned charging pad, it’s an A-OK setup.

Bad news: The N Line only comes with the Elantra’s smaller, 8-inch screen. The good news: Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Drew Phillips

Of course, the main reason you should buy the N Line is for its great performance. This hotter Elantra uses Hyundai’s 1.6-liter turbo I4 engine, which produces 201 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 195 pound-feet of torque at 1,500 to 4,500 rpm. That’s more than enough grunt for a 2,943-pound sedan, especially considering that torque is distributed way less.

The Elantra N Line comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission, but you can get a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic for an additional $1,100. I’m generally all about that stick-shift life, especially in plucky little turbo cars like this Elantra N line. The problem is that the manual gearbox… sucks. This reminds me a lot of the Genesis G70: the transmission actively dissipates power when you engage each gear, meaning you hold the clutch but then acceleration doesn’t match up to speed as you throttle Dig deep in. Combine that with longer throws between gears and the generally fuzzy-feeling clutch pedal, and it’s one of the few times where I think I’ll have a DCT. (Yes, I know…)

Once you’re off and running, the 1.6-liter engine is a peach. There’s a lot of mid-range power in each gear, so thankfully it doesn’t have to do much in the way of shifting you on winding roads. A lush small exhaust note accompanies the entire feel, largely fading into the background at high speeds.

I’m all about manual transmission, not just this manual transmission.

Drew Phillips

Compared to the base Elantra, the N Line has stiffer springs and engine mounts and larger front and rear stabilizer bars. The N Line rolls on Goodyear Eagle F1 235/40-Series summer tires if you get a manual transmission, but oddly, the DCT cars use Hankook Ventus all-season rubber. Summer tires aren’t an option for automatic-equipped models, so you’re on your own for gripper boots. (I’m sure your dealer can hand them out for a few extra bucks.)

There are no drive modes or adaptive settings in the manual Elantra N line; You just go in and go. I love that refreshing simplicity in such an inexpensive sports car, and there isn’t much about the N Line’s standard tune. Steering is light but precise and the chassis strikes a great balance between comfort and agility. The Elantra N Line is like the Civic Si: It’s a fun little sports sedan that you can actually drive every day. Unfortunately, the Elantra N line lacks some of Honda’s active safety features, namely adaptive cruise control. At least you get other niceties like driver attention monitor, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring and forward-collision warning.

So many angles.

Drew Phillips

At $25,095, including $995 to destination, the 2021 Elantra N Line is a very attractive little package. It’s priced right above the Civic Si, and while Honda offers a bit more technology and a better manual gearbox, I like the Elantra’s turbo power. The fact that it offers an automatic transmission also opens it up to a wider range of potential buyers.

As stoked for the full-jute Elantra Ann, I know the high-pitched little crackers won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But this N Line version doesn’t feel like a watered-down sport sedan by comparison. Especially with its super-attractive price point, it just might be for those who want a little more excitement in their move.

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