Even though there is a lot of focus on electric vehicles currently, there are still some great choices for buyers in the market for a lively compact car, such as the Honda Civic Type R and Toyota GR Corolla. Hyundai has also joined the race with the 2023 Hyundai Elantra N, which presents a strong challenge to its Japanese competitors.
The Elantra name has been present for many years, but until now, it has never been an exciting compact sedan. Hyundai failed to directly compete with models like the Civic Si, VW GTI, or even the Subaru Impreza. However, with the introduction of its sporty N lineup, the game has changed. The N lineup was initially brought to life with the now-departed Veloster N, followed by the Kona N, and now the N treatment has been applied to the Elantra, transforming this ordinary compact sedan into a winner.
Beneath the surface, the Elantra N gains added power from its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 276 horsepower. This is more power than the GTI, but slightly less than the Civic Type R or GR Corolla. All that power is directed to the front wheels through either a six-speed manual (yay) or an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. Hyundai didn’t just stop at improving the engine; the Elantra N also receives upgrades to its chassis, which include unique bushings, adaptive dampers, and spring rates.
We had the opportunity to push the Elantra N to its limits on the winding roads in Angeles Crest in Los Angeles and it was a blast. The Elantra N remains firmly planted on the road and its engine delivers a satisfying punch. However, the engine could benefit from a bit more power if Hyundai truly wants to win over buyers in the sport compact segment. It was quite easy to extract all the power the engine could offer on our drive, which felt noticeably less thrilling than the Civic Type R. The manual transmission could also use some improvement, as its throws are a bit long.
We tested the adaptive suspension, which adjusts the suspension based on the drive mode you’re in. In Comfort mode, the ride is firm but not harsh when driving around town. The Comfort mode keeps the Elantra firmly planted on the road without excessive body roll. The Normal mode tightens things up a bit, and for the ultimate experience, the N mode tightens things further, allowing you to effortlessly navigate the twisties.
The electric power steering also adjusts based on the drive mode you’re in, with the Sport and N mode providing the ideal amount of weight and feedback. The responsive steering also makes cornering easy and feels more direct than expected. The suspension and steering offer an extra level of confidence when entering a corner at full throttle. The Elantra N never fails to make you feel intimately connected to it.
Despite the Elantra N sending its power to the front wheels, it serves as another example that all-wheel drive isn’t always necessary to have a good time. Like the Civic Type R, the Elantra N is almost perfectly tuned. The limited-slip differential helps transmit that power to the ground without much wheelspin.
Lastly, we can’t overlook the Elantra N’s exhaust note. It sounds beastly compared to the GR Corolla. Ease off the gas around a corner and the pops and crackles from the exhaust can not only be heard in the cabin but by other cars around you. It certainly adds to the fun factor.
Inside, the Elantra N’s interior is nearly indistinguishable from the other Elantra models, with the exception of a few essential items, such as the N bucket seats. Since the cabin hasn’t changed much, the good news is that there’s ample room in both rows, giving the Elantra N a practical edge as well. There’s more room in the rear than you’ll find in the snug GR Corolla.
Now for the best part—the Elantra N comes in at a lower starting price than either the Honda Civic Type R or GR Corolla. It only comes in one trim and starts at $34,015. That’s a steal compared to the GR Corolla, which starts at $36,995, and the Civic Type R, which starts at $44,890. While the Elantra N may not deliver as thrilling of a driving experience as the Civic Type R, it presents a strong argument for anyone seeking a lively compact car.
If you’re in the market for a compact car, you can’t go wrong with the Elantra N—thanks to its remarkable chassis upgrades, turbocharged engine, enjoyable exhaust, practicality, and low starting price.
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