The 2022 Hyundai Elantra N is Hyundai’s second attempt at making a proper sport compact car after the Veloster N. There’s even a Kona N now, somehow. That’s all super cool coming from a car company that didn’t really know how to manufacture a sports car 20 years ago. But how good is this new Elantra N, really? Is it Civic Type R good, Volkswagen Golf R great? I’m afraid that, yes, it is.
Where’s The Face?
No, Hyundai, I’m not going to say that I find your car looks pretty just because you loaned me one. The new Elantra is an ugly car from every angle. There are two problems with this design. One, it’s lacking a face, which makes the car look like it has one big mouth, like some sort of weird-looking fish. I hate it. Two, its front and rear overhangs are just way too long, so from the side profile, especially when the car’s sitting on its base rental car wheels, it just looks goofy.However, I will say that in N form, the Elantra comes together not bad. It’s almost as if the designers began with this version and then removed stuff from the car as they were going down the lineup hierarchy.That’s because the N car has a more agressive front bumper with a front spoiler that helps dress up the otherwise stale front fascia. 19-inch wheels, that look the business, properly dress up the wheel wells. They’re wrapped in P245/35YR19 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S performance rubber. Oh, and I absolutely dig the baby blue color of my example. You just feel as though this Elantra means business.And it does. I mean, Hyundai’s N division is very serious about performance. Just like a Civic Type R, this Elantra was considerably modified in the areas that matter. There are adaptive dampers and a stiffer rear anti-roll bar, reinforced front strut towers, and a chassis brace behind the rear seats that connects the suspension’s towers. Behind those fancy wheels you’ll find a set of 14.2-inch brake rotors up front and 12.4 out the rear. The Elantra N also gets a multilink independent rear suspension (like in the N Line), contrary to the regular Elantra that makes do with a standard torsion beam setup.But of course, a sport compact car wouldn’t be complete without a proper drivertrain and in that respect, Hyundai did its homework. This is essentially the same turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine as in the Veloster N. It therefore pumps out a healthy 276 horsepower and 289 lb-ft of torque. It sends all of that furious might to the front wheels via an electronically controlled limited-slip differential.Real drivers (I’m kidding) will want to spec this thing with a six-speed manual transmission. However, buyers of the 8-speed dual-clutch automatic will get an added bonus in the form of the N Grin Shift overboost function. Hit a button on the steering wheel, and horsepower climbs to 286 for 20 seconds.And then there’s the pricing for the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N which is frankly decent and rather embarrassing for both the Civic Type R and Golf R. It kicks off at $40,003 for the manual transmission and $41,603 for the automatic. That’s a full $10,000 less than the new, 2023 Civic Type R.
Many carmakers have claimed to sell a proper sport compact car in the past, but many have failed. I’m here to tell you that Hyundai understands performance quite well, because the Elantra N is wild as fuck!Let me begin by how this thing sounds. If a Civic Type R sounds like, well, nothing except for a few turbo chirps and a Golf R likes to send fake engine noises through its sound system, the Elantra N is all about its exhaust. It’s variable, meaning that when you put the car in Comfort mode, it’s as quiet as a library. The suspension is also rather tame in this mode. Basically, you’re driving an Elantra with a very good manual transmission and a firm clutch.Putting the car in N mode is where the party begins. Not only does the entire gauge cluster turn into something that looks like it was taken straight out of a purpose-built race car, but the suspension stiffens up, the steering wheel gets much heavier and, well, the two massive exhaust pipes start spitting loud decibels. Really loud decibels. Obnoxiously loud decibels.There’s no apology in the way an Elantra N sounds. Punch the accelerator pedal and it’ll hurdle its four-cylinder bangs far off into the distance. The moment you let off the throttle, loud backfires bounce their way out of those enormous stainless steel cylinders – papow! – while cute crackles and pops can be heard as you let the car coast in a given gear.It’s all massive fun and motivates you to keep pushing the car even more. It also makes the car feel faster than it actually is. That, my friends, is the essence of what a sport compact car should be.But the Elantra N is also properly capable. That four-cylinder engine is extremely energetic, especially at higher RPMs where it’ll continue pumping out horsepower all the way to the last increments of its redline. Perhaps more impressive is how everything wraps nicely around this engine. The Elantra N puts the power down with little hesitation, and except for some occasional steering wheel tugs, you’d barely ever know this is a front-wheel drive car.Handling and braking is equally impressive. I first drove this car on the Sonoma race circuit, in northern California in the wet. The car not only proved to be well planted to the ground during quick transitions, but also showed me that it likes to play when lifting off the throttle. There’s playful chassis tuning here during lift-off oversteer that reminds me of old Hondas. In other words, you can really place the Elantra N where you want it and it’ll follow, but beware when lifting off, because it will wag its tail.At this point, this properly all seems too good to be true from a car company that never really ever made a car like this before. But trust me when I say this, the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N is serious business. Perhaps its only real letdown lies in the fact that it’s a sedan and not a hatchback, which makes it lose significant points versus the Honda and the Volkswagen.The Golf R is also an all-wheel drive machine, which makes it more daily drivable during the winter months. And while I find that enormous X-brace in the Elantra N’s trunk super cool, owners of this car will quickly find it irritating when attempting to pass cargo through the trunk. Nevertheless, this is a quick, fun car that will brawl with the best of them, all at a lower price point than its main competition. Isn’t that alone something that’s worth celebrating?
Review of the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N by William Clavey
Sport Compact Cars
- Fun, quick and agile
- Fully customizable drive modes, great sound
- A lot of performance for the price
- Looks sort of goofy
- Not a hatchback
- Rear brace limits cargo space
9.2 / 10
Clavey’s Corner is located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Prices and trim levels discussed in this article reflect the Canadian car market.
Special thanks: Hyundai Canada
Photography: Guillaume Fournier
Contact the author: [email protected]