Hyundai has worked hard at coming out with sporty vehicles that people can actually afford. The Hyundai Veloster N is a riot and while I haven’t driven the Elantra N yet, I can only imagine that the sedan version of the hatchback is equally as enjoyable to drive. While the Veloster N and Elantra N are relatively affordable vehicles for the level of performance they bring, they’re still not that affordable. The 2021 Elantra has a MSRP of $19,650 and the Elantra N’s MSRP is $31,900. Before the used car market went upside down, that was a decent used car price between the two.
If paying $31,900 is a little too much and 276 horsepower, adaptive suspension, a loud exhaust system, and the Elantra N’s aggressive face sound and look like too much, Hyundai has another offering that might appeal to you. It’s the 2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line. Think of it as a decaf cup of coffee compared to the nitro cold brew that is the full-blown N.
Recently, we’ve seen automakers skew to the more performance side of the compact scale, ignoring that pricing continues to be a major factor, if not the largest, for shoppers looking for a vehicle in this class. The Volkswagen Golf GTI, Honda Civic Si, Volkswagen Jetta GLI, and Subaru WRX all cost more than the Elantra N Line with the gap being as high as $6,895. That, for a lot of people, is a lot of money that can go toward gas or non-car-related things – like rent and groceries. The things you really need to live.
The Elantra N Line may not be the sportiest trim, but it still has plenty to offer drivers. For starters, it comes with a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 201 hp. It’s a far cry from the 276-hp engine in the Elantra, but it’s a lot more than the standard Elantra’s 147-hp rating. The trim also brings 18-inch alloy wheels, multi-link independent rear suspension, and sport seats. You’ll also find some styling tweaks that result in an angrier look.
These changes may not sound like a lot, but they make the N Line the perfect middle in the Elantra lineup. I don’t see these being popular, which is a shame, because they represent what fun, affordable cars used to be.
Hyundai’s designers have been hitting hole-in-ones with their designs recently. It really seems like the company can’t help but churn out a hit these days. The Elantra is the same. Bold, aggressive, futuristic. While others play it safe – we’re looking at you, Jetta – the Elantra doubles down on what it thinks is right and is all the better for it.
In addition to striking the right balance between the base Elantra and the bonkers Elantra N, the N Line also does the same thing with its design. The Elantra N may be too much for some, though it’s nowhere near as juvenile as the Honda Civic Type R, but the N Line strikes the right balance of being sporty without screaming about it. Both things are good. It gives the N Line its own feel.
It’s a similar case on the inside where the N Line adds a few sporty touches. There are quite a few N badges, red stitching, red accents, amplified gauges, alloy pedals, and sport seats with the right amount of hug. The Hyundai N Line also has this stick near the center console that you move forward and backward to get the vehicle to move. There’s also this odd pedal to the left of the brake, but more on that later.
You can tell Hyundai’s engineers focused on maintaining the Elantra, while adding the sporty bits, because the rest of the cabin is pure Elantra. That is to say, it has the same excellent infotainment system and roomy cabin, but you’ll also find rough plastics and budget-friendly materials. I mean, they’re what you expect for a vehicle at this price point and the package looks nice, but if you’re jumping into this expecting a quality vehicle, you’re shopping in the wrong place.
My first car was a 2003 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V. I loved that thing. It wasn’t powerful, but the way it zipped around on a windy road helped me get into cars. I miss that thing and sorely wish I didn’t sell it. Anyways, the 2021 Elantra N Line may be 18 years newer than my old Sentra, but it feels just like it. There’s just enough power to where you can have fun, but not enough to land in jail. The handling is sharp, predictable, and, most importantly, enjoyable.
Without premium materials to weigh it down, the N Line feels light and nimble, willing to turn without a lot of body roll. It doesn’t have the trick suspension you’ll find in the Elantra N or a limited-slip differential, but it offers plenty of grip with little torque steer. When you’re not bearing down on a V6-powered Ford Mustang, the N Line has a slightly harsh ride, but it’s nothing too bad.
That funky stick near the center console is fun to use. It has tight gearing with a satisfying throw, but the pedals could be placed slightly closer together for better heel-and-toe. This is, though, one of the easier cars to heel-and-toe in because of its light clutch.
This isn’t a number’s car. The N Line doesn’t have the same lateral grip or zero-to-60 mph times as its competitors, but it’s still fun. And, when your little stretch of enjoyment is over, you won’t hate the ride back. You’ll also have a sore back because of all the money you saved that’s in your back pocket.
The 2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line may be a new car with modern tech and a futuristic design, but its old-school approach of affordable fun is something a lot of people can get behind. It’s nearly just as fun as its competitors, while being priced thousands – not hundreds – less. That goes a long way in gas, tires, track day fees, and gear. You won’t post the quickest lap times in the N Line, but you’ll be having fun. At the end of the day, that’s all you really need.