2022 Hyundai Elantra N
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First Drive: 2022 Hyundai Elantra N Review

The new Elantra N proves how serious Hyundai is about performance. Canada Drives hits the track at the Sonoma Raceway in Northern California to put the performance compact sedan to the test ahead of its official spring 2022 release date.

Key Features:

  • Fantastic drivetrain
  • Impeccable chassis dynamics
  • Easy to daily drive

Direct Competitors:

  • Subaru WRX
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI
  • Honda Civic Si

A few years back, Hyundai gave birth to its first ever performance division. It was happily dubbed N, in reference to its Namyang R&D center in South Korea. N also stands for Nurburgring, where the vehicles are tested. There’s even a rumor that the entire N moniker is a troll from Albert Biermann, the man behind Hyundai’s ride and handling tuning, who previously worked at BMW M. The letter N follows M in the alphabet. Get it?

The first vehicle to inherit Hyundai’s performance knowhow was the Veloster N, introduced in 2019. The car did rather well, impressed the automotive press and gained respect from the performance crowd due to its rascal-like exhibition of performance, ridiculously loud exhaust and impeccable chassis dynamics. Hyundai listened and it’s back with its second act: the 2022 Elantra N. 

New Elantra N’s pricing and rivals

2022 Hyundai Elantra N | Photo: Amee Reehal

Hyundai invited us to Sonoma Raceway, in northern California, to sample its new firecracker on wheels. There’s no pricing yet, and the car is only scheduled to hit Canadian showroom floors next Spring, but we were given the chance to get first dibs on the south-Korean giant’s first take on the sports compact sedan segment.

In N form, the Elantra sits between the warm sport compact offerings – things like the Honda Civic Si, the Volkswagen Jetta GLI/Golf GTI and its own corporate cousin, the Kia Forte GT (which is the equivalent to an Elantra N-Line) – as well as genuine hot compacts like the Honda Civic Type R (on hiatus until 2023), Volkswagen Golf R and Subaru WRX.

2022 Hyundai Elantra N interior

2022 Hyundai Elantra N | Photo: Amee Reehal

Hyundai goes out of its way to make the Elantra N’s cabin stand out from other versions. Immediately when you step inside, you’re greeted by an aluminum plaque with the red N letter inscribed on the lower part of the door sill. There are sports bucket seats that could very well belong inside a purpose-built track machine. The illuminated N logo inside the seat’s headrest is in a nice touch.

2022 Hyundai Elantra N | Photo: Amee Reehal

There’s a suede-like material that covers the door inserts, the seats, and the headliner. The steering wheel is a performance type, with two large blue N buttons that activate pre-selected settings (suspension, steering wheel, exhaust note and the automatic transmission’s shifting characteristics), as well as the red NGS button. That stands for (N) Grin Shift, and it’s only available with the automatic gearbox. Hit it, and the car gains an additional 10 horsepower and shifts faster during 20 seconds.

The Elantra N also gets its own bespoke digital gauge pod with N-specific displays, while the infotainment system gets an N menu, allowing the driver to customize the vehicle to their liking (preset the blue N buttons) and even time a lap. Blue is the official color of N and can be spotted on the stitching on the seats. 

2022 Hyundai Elantra N | Photo: Amee Reehal

Performance and driving impressions

To achieve sport compact car status, the Elantra N inherits the Veloster N’s turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, but with slightly more torque. Final figures sit at 276 horsepower and 289 lb-ft of torque, identical to its Kona N subcompact crossover cousin. That engine can either be mated to a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic.

A quick look at the Elantra N’s specs:

  • Engine: 2.0L turbocharged direct injected “Flat Power” 4-cylinder
  • Displacement: 1,998 cc
  • Horsepower (HP): 276 @ 5500 ~ 6000
  • Torque (lb.-ft.): 289 @ 2100~4700 
  • Exhaust: Large bore exhaust outlets
  • Drivetrain: front-wheel drive

The Elantra N is front-wheel drive, but it comes standard with a limited-slip differential. The car also got chassis reinforcements, as well as a gigantic torsion bar installed behind the rear seats. There are adaptive dampers that change their stiffness according to selected drive modes. Brakes are beefier, with larger calipers, as well as 360-mm ventilated discs up from and 314-mm in the rear.

Out there on Sonoma’s wet Sears Point circuit, the Elantra N proved to be one heck of an athlete, but also one that liked to play. If you dare release the throttle too quickly while turning, she’ll quickly kick out the rear. Stay easy on the throttle, however, and the Elantra N will gracefully follow its line. Corner exits require a bit more sensitivity from the throttle to avoid overpowering the front tires, but that limited slip differential proved highly effective to adequately generate out-of-corner grip. 

2022 Hyundai Elantra N | Photo: Amee Reehal

In the straightaways, the Elantra N’s forced-fed engine proved strong and linear, with ample low-end torque and a willingness to rev out all the way to redline. The extra-loud exhaust, complete with rally car-style backfires, simply increases the fun factor. Back on the road, everything can be toned down at the flick of a button. The car becomes a Hyundai Elantra all over again, which is fantastic for daily driving. 

Except for perhaps some irritating delays in the automatic transmission’s kickdown speeds at times, this pocket rocket is near flawless.

Verdict: is Hyundai's 276 hp 4-door car worth it?

With the Elantra N, it’s clear Hyundai understands what driving enthusiasts want and delivers it to them on a golden platter. More importantly, it’s a testament to its dedication to internal combustion performance, even if it’s concentrating its efforts on electrifying its entire lineup.

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