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2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line Review: The Handsome Middle Child

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Auto123 reviews the 2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line.

These days, it's still possible to have fun behind the wheel of a compact sedan, even if the segment has shrunken considerably. And there’s still life in the category: in a few months, Honda will have unveiled the new version of its Civic Si sedan, Volkswagen's Jetta GLI soldiers on, the Mazda3 can be had with or without turbo, and there’s the Subaru WRX, which commands a slightly higher price than the sedans listed above.

From Hyundai, we have the Elantra, but now also the Elantra N Line, the spiffier variant that by the way shares several mechanical components with its close Hyundai Group cousin, the Kia Forte GT.

The Hyundai Elantra model was revised for 2021, as for the occsion it welcomes N Line variant. We set out to determine if this new edition has what it takes to seduce the affordable-performance-car enthusiast!

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2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line, profile
Photo: V.Aubé
2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line, profile

The prettiest of the lineup?
Performance begs a sleeker body. And in this regard, the Elantra N Line is a little more convincing than before, especially with the wheel arches overseeing 18-inch wheels that add a good dose of character to the equation. The front fascia is also exclusive to this version, with the N Line badge announcing the sedan’s colours. At the rear, the steeply sloping trunk even gets the requisite spoiler, while in the bumper, a functional diffuser joins the dual exhaust on the right side.

Finally, side skirts have been added to the car, which admittedly is not necessarily a crowd pleaser with its twisted edges and four-door coupe silhouette. Personally, I find the N Line to be the prettiest of the Elantras, simply because these little details enhance the coupe-like design of the sedan.

2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line, front
Photo: V.Aubé
2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line, front

The powertrain?
There’s no surprise under the hood. The Korean automaker has been relying on its little 1.6L turbocharged engine for several years now, and it’s on duty here. With 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, the engine works quite well with the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. However, the manual gearbox is no longer available even as an option in Canada; fans will look in envy at our neighbors south of the border who can still enjoy three-pedal driving.

Regardless, the Elantra N Line's powertrain is by far the most energetic in the lineup, at least until the actual N performance variant shows up.

As is increasingly the case these days, the magic of electronics can change the character of a car at the touch of a button. To that end, the designers wanted to make that button easy to access, and you can’t miss it in its spot to the left of the information gauge behind the steering wheel. Let's face it, this big button verges on caricature!

The Sport mode is where to go to unleash the fullest potential of the sedan. The engine then gets more playful, shifts are more efficient and the exhaust note is a bit more raucous. To return to a more sedate, leisurely ride, there are Normal and Intelligent modes.

The four-cornered independent suspension does a nice job of handling the Elantra N Line's “in-between” mission. When Hyundai does bring on the authentic Elantra N, the lineup will be complete.

2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line, interior
2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line, interior

That suspension in fact helps deliver the element I liked best about this sedan: its overall comfort. Despite its sporty demeanour, the 2021 Elantra N Line doesn't require its passengers to make an appointment with their chiropractor after a ride out in the country. The steering is less fuzzy than in the Elantra Hybrid we tested earlier this spring and the braking has just enough bite to make you feel confident when heading aggressively into a corner. Chassis rigidity is probably its greatest quality, and that means the popular sedan will have no problem accommodating the N hardware on the supercharged version expected here in 2022.

The interior
The Elantra's looks certainly can lend themselves to some heated debate, but what about the interior? It's all well and good to have a car that looks good, but if it's not comfortable, the driving experience can only reach so high. In this regard, the N Line's more-supportive seats give one no reason to complain - they're comfortable but still offer enough support for sporty driving.

The driving position is easy to find and the steering wheel, tattooed with the letter N, is pleasant to hold, even if a fatter steering wheel would have been even better. The Elantra N will undoubtedly have this exclusive feature.

As for the dashboard's appearance, like other most recent Elantras, the N Line contains a large screen with a glossy black panel. While the 8-inch touchscreen is well placed - and even angled slightly towards the driver - it would have been nice to get the screen that's included in the brand's plusher models.

2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line, dashboard
2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line, dashboard
2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line, multimedia screen
2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line, multimedia screen

I'm also puzzled by that piece of plastic to the left of the information gauge. Yes, the big button for the driving mode is easy to find while driving, but I'm not sure how relevant it is. The climate system controls are well placed, while the steering wheel controls end up becoming second nature.

This physical separation to the right of the centre console looks very “race car cockpit”, but it forces the passenger to raise their arm to access the climate controls for example, or even to grab their coffee cup in the holder. And cheap plastic is still part of the sedan's environment, despite the starting price of this sportier variant that sits just under the $30,000 mark... before preparation fees and taxes!

However, space is impressive for a sedan-coupe, even in the second row where a regular-sized adult can sit without bending their neck.

The last word
The 2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line once again confirms the interest manufacturers have in producing performance-oriented variants. Hyundai, like Volkswagen and Honda, will soon be joining the ranks of the super-performers with the Elantra N, although the Veloster N was already playing that role. Until then, though, the N Line is a very acceptable alternative. As long as you like the design!

2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line, three-quarters rear
Photo: V.Aubé
2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line, three-quarters rear

We like

The boldness of the silhouette
The overall comfort
The performance of the engine

We like less

The limited rear vissibility
The dashboard
No manual transmission!

The competition

Honda Civic Si
Kia Forte GT
Mazda3 GT / GT Turbo
Subaru WRX
Toyota Corolla APEX
Volkswagen Golf GTI / Jetta GLI

2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line, trunk, rear lights
Photo: V.Aubé
2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line, trunk, rear lights

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Photos:V.Aubé
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