Although the world is so focused on electric vehicles right now, there’s still some good options for buyers that want a sporty compact car, like the Honda Civic Type R and Toyota GR Corolla. Hyundai has also thrown its hat in the ring with the 2023 Hyundai Elantra N, which is a great competitor to its Japanese rivals.
The Elantra nameplate has been around for decades, but up until now it’s never really been an exciting compact sedan. Hyundai never took the opportunity to go head to head with models, like the Civic Si, VW GTI or even the Subaru Impreza. But with the arrival of its sporty N lineup, things have changed. The N lineup initially started with the recently departed Veloster N, which was followed by the Kona N and now the N treatment has been given to the Elantra, which turns this ordinary compact sedan into a winner.
Under the hood, the Elantra N gets some extra muscle thanks to its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 276 horsepower. That’s more power than the GTI, but slightly less than the Civic Type R or GR Corolla. All that power is sent to the front wheels via either a six-speed manual (yay) or an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. Hyundai didn’t just stop with upgrading the engine, the Elantra N also gets chassis upgrades, which includes unique bushings, adaptive dampers, and spring rates.
We had to wring the Elantra N out on the twisty roads in Angeles Crest in Los Angeles and boy was it fun. The Elantra N stays planted to the road and its engine does pack a nice punch. The engine could use a bit more power though if Hyundai really wants to win over buyers in the sport compact segment. It was pretty easy to squeeze out all the power the engine could give on our drive, which easily felt less exciting than the Civic Type R. The manual transmission could also be improved a bit, since its throws are a bit long.
We tested out the adaptive suspension which adjusts the suspension based on which drive mode you’re in. In Comfort mode the ride is firm, but not harsh when you’re driving around town. The Comfort mode keeps the Elantra planted to the road without too much body roll. The Normal mode tightens things up a bit and for the ultimate experience, the N mode tightens things up even further to allow you to breeze through the twisties with ease.
The electric power steering also adjusts based on which drive mode you’re in, with the Sport and N mode providing the perfect amount of weight and feedback. The quick steering also makes cornering easy and it feels more direct than you’d expect. The suspension and steering provide an extra level of confidence when you’re entering a corner at full throttle. The Elantra N never lets you down by making you feel directly connected to it.
Although the Elantra N sends its power to the front wheels, it’s another example that all-wheel drive isn’t always needed to have fun. Just like the Civic Type R, the Elantra N is tuned nearly perfectly. The limited-slip differential helps put that power to the ground without much wheelspin.
Lastly we can’t ignore the Elantra N’s soundtrack, it sounds like a beast compared to the GR Corolla. Let 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 definitely adds to the fun factor.
Inside the Elantra N’s interior is nearly identical to the other Elantra models, with the exception of a few essential items, like the N bucket seats. Since the cabin hasn’t changed much, the good news is that there’s plenty of room in both rows, which gives 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 bargain 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 be as fun to drive as the Civic Type R, it makes a compelling case for anyone looking for a sporty compact car.
If you’re in the market for a compact car, you can’t go wrong with the Elantra N thanks to its impressive chassis upgrades, turbocharged engine, fun exhaust, practicality and low starting price.
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