2021 Hyundai Elantra N prototype quick drive review: 4-door firecracker
Hold on tight: Hyundai's forthcoming Elantra N packs one heck of a punch.
Steven EwingFormer managing editor
Steven Ewing spent his childhood reading car magazines, making his career as an automotive journalist an absolute dream job. After getting his foot in the door at Automobile while he was still a teenager, Ewing found homes on the mastheads at Winding Road magazine, Autoblog and Motor1.com before joining the CNET team in 2018. He has also served on the World Car Awards jury. Ewing grew up ingrained in the car culture of Detroit -- the Motor City -- before eventually moving to Los Angeles. In his free time, Ewing loves to cook, binge trash TV and play the drums.
Ho. Ly. Smokes. I only got about 15 minutes behind the wheel of this Hyundai Elantra N prototype, but that's all it took to make a strong first impression.
Positioned above the N Line, the Elantra N will compete with a number of sport compacts, everything from the
Honda Civic Type R
. It'll basically fall in the middle of the pack as far as output is concerned, and like the Veloster N hot hatch, it'll be a front-wheel-drive affair.
Since the Elantra N will share most of its mechanicals with the Veloster N, you'll find a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 engine under the hood with around 275 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission will be standard, but the Elantra N will also get the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic that Hyundai added to the 2021 Veloster N.
This prototype has the latter setup, which is actually pretty great. The DCT fires off quick upshifts and is eager to downshift under braking. The paddles aren't the most responsive, which is a shame, but I'm hoping this'll be sorted out before development is complete. That kind of thing is fine with a Sonata N Line, but if I'm paddle-shiftin' my Elantra N, I want it to slap.
The Elantra N rides on 19-inch wheels wrapped in 235/35-series Pirelli P-Zero summer tires, behind which you'll find larger, more powerful brakes. Like the Veloster N, the Elantra N has big blue buttons on the steering wheel for various drive modes, including a proper N setting that puts everything on full boil and reduces the intervention of the traction control. That thick wheel has great weight and the Elantra responds immediately to inputs, with much more feedback than what I felt in the less-powerful N Line.
Overall, the Elantra N is a rowdy little thing -- just like the Veloster. Through a few tight turns on Mulholland Highway near Malibu, California, the Elantra N is thrilled to be chucked into corners, diving into sharp bends and holding on tight through hairpins. The throaty exhaust constantly snorts and crackles and pops. This thing is a total riot.
Look closely under the N-themed camouflage and you'll see this Elantra has a number of styling tweaks, including a more prominent lower front fascia and small rear wing. Around back, check out the larger exhaust pipes and pronounced diffuser. Inside, this prototype has thickly bolstered cloth seats and the full suite of available tech, including a 10.2-inch touchscreen on the dashboard.
Considering the fact that Hyundai is already trotting out Elantra N prototypes for folks to test, I can't imagine it'll be too long before the real thing makes its debut. When it goes on sale next year, the Elantra N should start right around $35,000, making it more expensive than a Veloster N, but cheaper than a Civic Type R. That kind of positioning should make it a super-compelling little sport sedan. I'm absolutely stoked.
Hyundai's hotter Elantra N is almost ready for prime time