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Hyundai’s Elantra N:


(And I Feel Fine…)

In some 50 years of automotive consumption as – well, you know – a consumer, I’ve enjoyed moments of real excitement in my driveway, even when there was a payment attached. Among the cars, some held for regrettably short periods of time, generating that excitement were both a 1974 Alfa Romeo Berlina and ‘82 Spider, Volkswagen’s Scirocco and a gray-market BMW 323i. (The BMW was flipped; no, not sold for more money – it was flipped.) More recently it’s been a pre-owned 911 and – in the drive today – a ’21 Miata. And if I were to add a sport sedan, it might be Hyundai’s recently introduced Elantra N. The ‘N’, as you’d know, is for both Namyang – Hyundai’s R&D center – and the Nürburgring, Germany’s iconic race course. In Germany the Nürburgring is the ‘recreational’ equivalent to our AR-15 – driving balls-to-the-wall is that country’s Second Amendment.

The Elantra, of course, is Hyundai’s compact competitor to Honda’s Civic and/or Toyota’s Corolla, although this latest iteration of the Elantra seems to have jumped a half-size, as it visually stretches to what I think of as an Accord’s footprint. Its actual specs are tighter: A wheelbase of 107 inches is two inches shorter than the Accord, while its overall length is seven inches more modest. But its size is nevertheless more substantial than what you perceive to be compact, made more so by the N’s aero add-ons fore and aft.

In fact, there is a lot going on in the Elantra’s sheetmetal, which is highlighted on our test Elantra N by the sculpted definition on its sides. The sculpting is unique, and oddly reminiscent of what sheetmetal fabricators do in shaping your home’s ductwork. Of course, there’s nothing residential here; the Elantra N is designed to go and not, notably, hang in one zip code. 

In profile the almost-fastback shape suggests speed, while those aero mods attempt to keep it all on the ground. Of note: According to Hyundai’s press material, the Elantra N’s front fascia takes inspiration from ‘the battle-ready appearance of a driver’s race helmet’, while the lip spoiler at the base suggests a low-slung stance. (Until, of course, it gets knocked off in a parking lot.) To the design team’s credit, nothing here is over the top, and looks to be easy to live with for your 84 monthlies.

Inside, Hyundai combines a contemporary look and feel with just enough analog to keep this guy satisfied. The sport seats, covered in an Alcantara-like microsuede material, hold you in place without confining. For weight savings both fore-and-aft and height adjustments are done manually, but that’s not a chore – and I’ve never seen one of these manual adjustments stop working. Gauges are easy to see, and the infotainment separates ventilation and audio, making it that much easier to adjust either one without the 3-step distraction of other systems…Mazda! I’m talking to you!

Thanks in part to its wheelbase and in part to the thinner sport seats, room for backseat passengers is generous – this is a 4-door for four real adults, and offers enough trunk space for their stuff. One caveat: Despite the rear seat folding, struts used to reinforce the unibody effectively preclude carrying that bike or board – it’s better to go with the Tucson or Santa Fe if you intend to stuff it with big stuff. And if I were to add a second ‘nit’, it’s the hard plastic used on many surfaces. The standard Elantra is (obviously) built to a price point, and those materials didn’t get an upgrade as the Elantra N passed $30K.

Under the Elantra N’s hood is the surprise and delight of four turbocharged cylinders delivering 276 horsepower and 289 lb-ft of torque through a 6-speed manual or available 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Hooked up to the front wheels, you’d think this combo would define torque steer, but careful engineering – along with more acronyms than the U.S. military – manages that torque while you manage the steering wheel. This powertrain combo is truly a force for good. And truth. And – lest we forget – the Korean-American way. 

On the road, Hyundai engineers have concocted a brilliant blend of performance and practicality. The Elantra N is easy to get into and out of, reasonably easy to see out of, and goes down the road with an almost sublime serenity. Until, of course, you want to ditch the sublime. And at between $34K and $36,000 (the only option is the automatic trans) it’s a genuine bargain in today’s inflated marketplace. Add ten years of standard powertrain coverage and you can add security to that serenity. What could be more sublime?

With the predicted ‘N’d of the internal combustion engine, having this Elantra in the garage – like the turntable in your living room – would be a nice add while aging in place. And if the grid completely collapses (as is also predicted) you can still get to Starbucks; that’s if – of course – they can ring you up…

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings to his laptop some forty years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, The Washington Automotive Press Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage, a regular panelist on the AutoNetwork Reports webcast/podcast, and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.

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