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2022 Hyundai Elantra N Review: Race-Bred Rascal

2022 Hyundai Elantra N
Photo: D.Heyman
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Dan Heyman
This relatively affordable compact car is an event like few others we’ve seen in recent years
2022 Hyundai Elantra N, profile
2022 Hyundai Elantra N, profile
Photo: D.Heyman

Auto123 reviews the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N.

Not that long ago, if you’d told me that of all the Japanese and Korean automakers that have entered the Canadian market in recent decades, Hyundai would be the first to come out with a proper performance line of their own, I’d probably have accused you of living in a dreamworld.

It’s not without precedent, exactly. Honda has offered performance trims – think Civic Si – and what you could call fully-fledged performance models like the Civic Type R; Mazda has the MX-5, and it once sprinkled Mazdaspeed love on a very light selection of models (though it hasn’t done so since 2013);  Toyota has its TRD stuff but that’s been mainly cosmetic.

Hyundai, though, seems to have spotted a gap in coverage here because it is going all out with its N division. And its efforts go beyond offering fun road cars, because it’s also racing in top-flite leagues like the World Rally Championship, TCR (touring car) Pirelli World Challenge and TCR Michelin Pilot Challenge.

So, what to do when you’re going racing and it’s time to better monetize the effort? Well, you develop some super cool road cars with a little flare, inspired by those racers.

Enter the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N. It comes powered with the same 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder the race car gets, aaand… well, that’s about it. But that’s OK, because there’s plenty more to the N package that turns this from your standard Elantra – Elantra N Line, if you will – into something altogether very different.

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2022 Hyundai Elantra N, front
2022 Hyundai Elantra N, front
Photo: D.Heyman

Outside
It starts with a host of flashy colours, including the Cyber Grey seen here and Performance Blue (likely called “powder blue” anywhere else), which is unique to the N models in Hyundai’s lineup. That gets complimented by red rocker panels no matter which of the six available colours you select, as well as unique 19-inch wheels shrouding red brake calipers, less-than-subtle (but very cool) trunk spoiler, blacked-out front fascia and matching blacked-out wing mirrors.

Add the functional front bumper cooling ducts and fact that the Elantra N rides lower than its siblings, and you have one purposeful-looking performance compact.

Oh, and how can we forget the “TCR” engine sound setting and exhaust that’s been tuned to “pop” like a race or rally car on overrun, as it does its best to remind you that there is a race version and this is what it accelerates like, how it handles, and even how it sounds.

2022 Hyundai Elantra N, interior
2022 Hyundai Elantra N, interior
Photo: D.Heyman

Inside
Here, the Performance Blue theme continues no matter which exterior colour you select, as it’s found sprinkled throughout the cabin. The contrast stitching on the seats, “N mode” buttons on the wheel – more on those in a minute – and gear-lever insert all come finished in the colour. Other N-specific interior bits include an all new “performance” mode for the standard digital gauge cluster as well as a performance data tracking app on the main 10.25-inch infotainment display.

There are also special lightweight performance seats (that, it should be noted, are manual-adjust only but do come heated) as well as a red button on the steering wheel marked with “NGR” on automatic models, and “REV” on manual models.

2022 Hyundai Elantra N, three-quarters rear
2022 Hyundai Elantra N, three-quarters rear
Photo: D.Heyman

At play
On cars equipped with the 8-speed dual-clutch automatic, as my tester was, that button stands for “N Grin Shift” – as you do – and provides a 10-horse boost (for a total of 286 hp) for 20 seconds. If that sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve probably heard of a similar feature in push-to-pass technology found in various race cars. In manual cars, that button activates or deactivates rev-matched downshifts.

Even without NGR activated though, this Elantra and its 276 hp (plus 289 lb-ft of torque) is no slouch.

Power comes on with little delay – peak torque arrives at 2,100 RPM and is maintained all the way through the 4,700 mark – and if you’ve selected one of the more aggressive drive modes, the shifts in automatic cars are banged home lickety-split – ahh, the joys of a dual clutch transmission.

You can of course choose between different drive modes – Eco, Normal, Sport, N -- or customize your drive mode and pair them with the N button, just like you would in a car from BMW M. If that’s not enough, there’s even a launch control system. You activate it through the new performance pages and when done, it will shave .3 of a second off your 0-96 km/h time, for a total of five seconds.

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Dan Heyman
Dan Heyman
Automotive expert
  • Over 12 years' experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 70 test drives in the past year
  • Participation in over 150 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists