Hyundai’s N division is out to prove that performance can come in all shapes and sizes. While the funky-looking Veloster N was put out to pasture due to declining sales, the company is hoping that the Elantra N can bring the fight to the Honda Civic Si and even the Volkswagen GTI. But is the 2023 Hyundai Elantra N the perfect anti-hero in a sub-segment long dominated by Volkswagen and Honda?
Elantra N Styling Takes Some Getting Used To
The 2023 Hyundai Elantra N is carried over from the 2022 model year, and as a result, it gets no changes to mention. That said, the carryover design is still bold and distinctive. The front fascia of our tester features a reworked front bumper and grille with bigger intakes and a front splitter, helping give the car more aggression and personality. The side profile has larger side sills, and the rear features a small trunk-mounted spoiler and a meaty set of dual-exhaust tips. With the bulk of the look carried over from the standard Elantra, the overall effect depends on who’s looking at the car. Some will say it’s ugly, while others will love the design lines in the doors and the N-exclusive wheels.
The Elantra N will also look vastly different when compared to the Honda Civic Si with the spunky Hyundai contrasting with the slightly more reserved Si which has benefitted from Honda’s attempts at adding more maturity and poise to the Civic lineup as a whole. The Elantra’s traditional four-door layout will also be welcome news for some N buyers that might’ve otherwise skipped the axed Veloster due to its funky three door layout which greatly impacted access to the rear seats for passengers.
Comfortable Elantra N Interior Still Delivers On Sportiness
Slip inside the Elantra N and you will be impressed with the amount of comfort that it provides especially for a sport sedan. While the N model still has the same issue with cheap plastics that have dogged other N badged models for years, the heavily bolstered sport seats in our tester were supportive and very comfortable. The rear seat is also roomier than the Veloster’s and we noticed an increased amount of rear leg room for taller passengers. Drivers will love the cockpit inspired layout that’s carried over from the standard Elantra with the N enhancing this by adding metal pedal covers as well as the N exclusive steering wheel with its additional N control buttons including the prominent red button for the NGS (N Grin Shift) system.
A 10.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster carries over to the N model while a matching 10.3-inch infotainment system comes bundled with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and WiFi hotspot connectivity. Like other Hyundai systems that we have encountered recently, the N’s system is easy to use and has a very simple layout when it comes to menus and icons. It’s also better than the GTI’s system which has a less intuitive interface and haptic button controls that make us yearn for the days when analog buttons once defined past GTI models. The one lone glitch in the Elantra N’s presentation is the lack of a sunroof (a growing pool of buyers crave a view of the open sky) and the only way to get it is to buy an automatic equipped Elantra N (manual examples like our tester don’t offer it.)
Wickedly Fun Performance
Performance for the Elantra N comes from the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that also sees duty in the Kona N and was passed on from the axed Veloster N. The engine is good for 276-hp and allowed the N to be a fun machine when pushed to its limits especially in sharp corners. It also allowed our manual equipped tester to make the sprint to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds with the Elantra having a large power advantage over the Jetta GLI and the Honda Civic Si. An eight-speed automatic is also available but the six-speed manual proved to be a satisfying transmission and shifts were crisp and smooth.
The Elantra likes living in the fast lane and the N Grin Shift System (NGS) is on hand to add a jolt of extra power to the Elantra N via an overboost feature. However, when the Elantra was asked to reign in its hooligan ways and behave in formal city driving that’s where the illusion (like it was with the Kona N) began to show cracks. The same suspension that allows the N to corner like a go-kart also has ride quality that’s as brittle as paper when going over Michigan’s battered roads. The engine’s exhaust note can be droning at freeway speeds, and going through all 14 settings for its various performance features (the Active Sound Design system has five selections) can be a dizzying and complex experience at times.
As for fuel economy, our tester is EPA-rated for 22 mpg in city driving and 30 mpg in freeway use with automatic equipped examples getting a slightly lower 20 mpg/30 mpg in the same categories. Braking in our tester was a highlight item for us during its stay with us with the four-wheel disc brakes delivering strong stops with plenty of bite from the performance-designed calipers.
Pricing for the 2023 Hyundai Elantra N starts at $33,995 with our example having a final sticker price of $34,395 due to the $400 Performance Blue paint. This pricing allows the Hyundai to be a very tempting performance bargain. While most will be equipped with the optional eight-speed, it’s important to note though that choosing this particular option will add $1,500 to the price of a Elantra N, which eats away at its budget-friendly prowess. That said, the Elantra N is still alot more fun to drive than the Jetta GLI and it even manages to hold its own against the Subaru WRX and the aforementioned Honda Civic Si.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.