2022 Hyundai Elantra N Review Update

Beverly Braga, Independent Expert | Mar 30, 2022


The Hyundai Elantra compact sedan has been around since 1990, making it one of the oldest nameplates in Hyundai's U.S. lineup. And despite consumer appetites shifting from cars to SUVs, the Elantra continues to be a strong seller for the South Korean automaker. Freshly redesigned in 2021, the Elantra enjoyed an 18-percent year-over-year sales increase in 2021 to finish second in overall Hyundai model sales.

In 2022, the Elantra lineup welcomes a new member to the family. The all-new Elantra N is one of three performance Hyundai models available stateside. More than just cosmetically enhanced, the Hyundai N sub-brand consists of models that are genuine, track-capable daily drivers. The recently retired Hyundai R&D boss hailed from BMW M, a pinnacle of motorsports performance, and the automaker tested the vehicles at the Nürburgring, an infamously challenging German racetrack. The German engineering theme is no fluke, and Hyundai N is no gimmick.

The 2022 Hyundai Elantra N debuts high-performance features like:

Perched atop the trim level ladder, the Elantra N is an all-inclusive model with two options: transmission and color. Pricing starts at $32,945 (including the $1,045 destination fee). Opting for the dual-clutch transmission (DCT) adds $1,500, and premium paints carry a $400 upcharge.

Previously, J.D. Power reviewed the 2021 Hyundai Elantra. This review focuses on the Elantra N—an all-new performance variant—and how its availability can potentially impact the Elantra's overall appeal to consumers.

What Owners Say About the Hyundai Elantra

2022 Hyundai Elantra N Blue Front Quarter View

Photo: Beverly Braga

The Hyundai Elantra competes in the Compact Car market segment. According to data collected from verified new-vehicle buyers for the J.D. Power 2021 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 57 percent of new Hyundai Elantra buyers are male (vs. 55 percent for the segment), and the median age of a new Elantra buyer is 54 years (vs. 50).

As part of the APEAL Study, owners rated the Elantra in 10 primary categories. Listed below in descending order, you'll find their preferences from their most favorite thing about the vehicle to their least favorite:

  • Exterior styling
  • Fuel economy
  • Driving feel
  • Feeling of safety
  • Powertrain
  • Setting up and starting
  • Interior design
  • Driving comfort
  • Infotainment system
  • Getting in and out

In the 2021 APEAL Study, the Elantra ranks second out of 11 Compact Car models.

What Our Independent Expert Says About the Hyundai Elantra

In the following sections, our independent expert analyzes an Elantra N equipped with no additional options.

The price of the test vehicle came to $32,945, including the $1,045 destination charge.

A Powertrain for Performance

2022 Hyundai Elantra N Interior Dashboard

Photo: Beverly Braga

Hyundai already offers a batch of sporty models with its N Line trim, available on the Elantra, KonaSonata, and Tucson. N Line models get a moderate power bump, suspension upgrades, and styling accents versus the standard trim levels. However, the N brand further produces cars that are legitimate racetrack rascals without sacrificing everyday usability and appeal.

In the Elantra N, the standard engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with 276 hp and 289 pound-feet of torque. For comparison, the Elantra N Line produces 201 hp and 195 pound-feet via its 1.5-liter turbo-four. Non-turbo Elantra trims (SE, SEL, and Limited) feature a 2.0-liter inline-four with 147 hp and 132 pound-feet. So, from base to N, the engine figures jump 129 hp and 157 pound-feet—all to the front wheels.

That's a lot of power (and engine growl) for a compact car that weighs less than 3,300 pounds. Hyundai lists the Elantra N's zero-to-60-mph time at 5.0 seconds. That's faster than comparable performance compact cars like the Honda Civic Type RSubaru WRX STIVolkswagen Jetta GLI, and Volkswagen Golf GTI. Heck, that time also beats the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series. That is until you get into their respective ultra-performance S4 and M3 variants. But the Germans will also either be double the power or triple the price, or both.

To keep enthusiasts from revolting, the Elantra N comes standard with a 6-speed stick and an 8-speed DCT option. But to be honest, the manual might not make enthusiasts happy. The gearing seems off, and the throws are on the long side. Also, the clutch has a strange feel and a high bite point. The rev-matching doesn't help either because it cuts off just before the clutch is fully engaged. It's quite the balancing act to time the clutch release and throttle feed. It sounds like Stick Shift 101, right? Except it doesn't matter if you're a 3-pedal pro or a novice: You. Will. Stall. But my time with the vehicle was brief, so perhaps after days, weeks, years with a stick-shift Elantra N, I might not stall. As often.

Now, the DCT is amazing. The Elantra N employs an 8-speed wet dual-clutch automatic, first introduced in the 2020 Veloster N. What makes this DCT "wet" versus standard "dry" DCTs is the use of electronic actuators and oil. The former manages clutch operation for efficiency and gearing, while the latter assists in lubrication and cooling. The result is some of the smoothest automatic shifts on the planet. It doesn't matter the drive mode or even if you're channeling your inner racecar driver by utilizing the paddle shifters. Hyundai's wet DCT is utterly fantastic.

The Everyday Sports Sedan

With a potent 276 hp under its hood and a front-wheel-drive configuration, the Elantra N needed more than bigger brakes and a rear spoiler to keep it grounded. Redesigned for the 2021 model year, the Hyundai Elantra sits on a brand-new platform, one with a longer wheelbase, wider stance, lower height, stronger materials, and less weight than the previous model. These ingredients cooked up a car with a lower center of gravity and enhanced driving dynamics. And that's just the base Elantra.

 The Elantra N receives significant in-house performance modifications, including a stiffer chassis, rear strut tower brace, electronic suspension system, reconfigured steering, electronic limited-slip differential, integrated drive axle, specially tuned brakes, and an overboost feature dubbed N Grin Shift (NGS).

True, NGS is a goofy name, but when do goofy things not make us smile? Because with the touch of a little red button on the steering wheel, the Elantra N shifts into the lowest gear to harness the engine's full potential (and add 10 more hp to boot). Available in 20-second bursts, consider it NOS-light, silly grin included.

The Elantra N's drive modes are Eco, Normal, Sport, plus two N options (standard and customized). When in Eco and Normal, the Elantra N acts like a run-of-the-mill compact car. Steering is light but precise, the engine note is unintrusive, and driving manners are polite. Switch to Sport, and you tap into the Elantra N Line, where the vehicle feels a little tighter in the corners, a little louder in the revs. And then you have N.

The instrument cluster will show vehicle statuses like engine temperature, torque output, and steering and suspension tuning when in N mode. The infotainment touchscreen will display added track day-oriented features like a shift indicator, lap timer, G-force, and launch control.

The engine will no longer purr; it will snarl. And the large-bore dual exhaust will play a theme song familiar to all sport compact car tuners, a backfire ballad called "Snap, Crackle, Pop." As much as the Elantra N sounds like a track-day racer, it handles like one, too. The vehicle is composed on the streets and highways and makes commuting fun, regardless of drive mode. On the track, the Elantra N lives up to all the motorsports development in which Hyundai has invested.

In the tight corners of an autocross course, for example, the Elantra N felt superbly planted. The Sonata-borrowed brakes made slowing down for turns easy. Even with stock tires, the Elantra held its speed in the corners, squealing in protest or delight (hard to say, maybe both?). And should you become too confident in your abilities, the stability control system will kick in to prevent you from striking the cones that line the course. At least some will be spared, anyway.

The Elantra N can show off even more of its performance chops on the track. The car easily achieves high speeds on the straightaways, and the Elantra N won't feel out of control. The Hyundai parts bin brakes are 14.2 inches in the front and 12.4 inches in the rear, both nearly two inches larger than the Elantra N Line. But Hyundai specially tuned the caliper and pads. The upgraded bits provided abrupt stops when needed and didn't display brake fade even after several laps on the track, autocross, or a stop sign-heavy street route.

Exclusive Styling

2022 Hyundai Elantra N Blue Front Wheel N Logo

Photo: Beverly Braga

Thanks to its aggressively chiseled character lines, the standard Elantra has a strong presence. These deeply carved dimples are bold and distinctive no matter the paint color, of which the Elantra N is available in five. The Elantra N is progressively styled to look sporty but not necessarily fast. And unless you're cruising around in the rambunctious N mode, you won't sound obnoxious either. Instead, the exterior design is one of daily-driver ambitions with the occasional splash of red and matte black. To a passerby, it's a relatively muted outfit.

The only giveaway that this isn't your standard Elantra is the N badging, which is plentiful in the most passive-aggressive way. The N brand logo appears on the grille, trunk lid, side skirts, wheel center caps, and front brake caliper.

Exclusive exterior details appear in red or black per the N logo colors. The wing-type spoiler, front grille, window trim, lower lip, and diffuser are in black. The front and rear brake calipers are red, as are the side skirts, front fascia bottom insert, and other lower body moldings that surround the car.

Unlike the exterior, the Elantra N interior comes in one color: black. But exclusive to the N model is leather and microsuede upholstery. The lightweight sport bucket seats, which offer excellent bolstering and support, also feature an N logo that illuminates. N branding is used throughout the interior, appearing on the steering wheel, gear shifter, and aluminum door scuff plate, which matches the aluminum sport pedals.

To break up the all-black monotony is light blue contrast stitching in the seats, steering wheel, and shifter boot. The same blue also decorates the shift knob and is used for the steering-wheel-mounted N1 and N2 drive mode buttons. For more natural light, a power moonroof is available on DCT-equipped models.

It's worth noting that, from a practicality standpoint, the Elantra N gets a fold-down rear bench seat with fixed headrests like in the S, SEL, and Blue Hybrid models. The Elantra Limited, Limited Hybrid, and N Line receive 60/40-split rear seats with adjustable headrests. Hyundai located the vehicle's rear strut tower bar in the trunk of the Elantra N, just behind the rear seats.

Indeed, the red-painted chassis brace looks cool but is essentially the only Elantra N performance feature that hinders everyday useability. As a reinforcement piece, one cannot adjust the bar. Unfortunately, loading long items is a problem unless they can fit between the bars. So, perhaps the bench seat utilizes the cargo space better than a 60/40-split rear seat.

Top-Notch Technology

The Elantra N comes standard with a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen and a 10.25-inch digital cluster display. Neither are available in the N Line but are standard on Limited trim or as an option for the SEL. Drivers can use the touchscreen display to access N Performance data and customize drive-mode settings. Cloud-based, real-time navigation is standard with the larger screen, and Hyundai includes three years of complimentary Bluelink Multimedia/Maps updates.

Elantra N owners can also do without cords since the vehicle has standard wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity as well as wireless Qi device charging. Other advanced in-car technologies are dynamic voice recognition, which uses AI learning to make audible commands sound more natural, and Hyundai Digital Key, which lets owners use their smartphone to unlock and start the vehicle. Digital Key is currently available only for Android-based smartphones.

As the top trim level, the Elantra N comes standard with Hyundai SmartSense. This collection of advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) includes forward-collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic warning with avoidance assist, lane-keeping assistance, lane following assist, driver attention warning, automatic high-beam headlights, rear-seat reminder systemSafe Exit Assist, and parking distance warning with reverse parking collision avoidance assist.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named the 2022 Hyundai Elantra a Top Safety Pick (the IIHS does not recognize the Elantra N as a standalone model). However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does list the Elantra N separate from the standard Elantra. While the Elantra received the highest-possible 5-star crash safety rating, as of this review's publishing date, the NHTSA hasn't rated the crashworthiness of the Elantra N.

Independent Expert Opinion

2022 Hyundai Elantra N Blue Rear Quarter View

Photo: Beverly Braga

The 2022 Hyundai Elantra has a fun-to-drive spirit regardless of trim level and drive mode. The Elantra N is the "hold my beer" challenger but with legitimate race-ready engineering and dynamics. Its design is sport-infused but without obnoxious and overwrought features like, say, a massive rear wing or flaring nostrils for a front fascia. With an MSRP that doesn't reach $35,000, even if you opt for premium paint, the Elantra N offers performance chops, transmission choice, and daily driver comfort at a price that undercuts competitors.

The stick shift-only Civic Type R starts at $38,910 (destination included). The all-new 2022 Subaru WRX starts at $30,100 but offers less like 17-inch wheels and a 7-inch touchscreen. Safety features like blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warnings aren't even available until upper trim levels. Eventually, the WRX tops out at $42,890 with the GT variant.

Also starting low but rising in cost with every tier is the Volkswagen Golf GTI. Starting at $30,935 for the entry-level S, the GTI Autobahn begins at $39,385 with the 6-speed manual or $40,185 with the 7-speed DCT. The VW Jetta GLI is most similar to the Elantra N in that it's available in one trim level and has two transmission options. The Jetta GLI starts at $31,990 for the 6-speed stick. Another $800 equips the 7-speed DCT, and it's $395 more for special paint. However, both VWs offer less power from their 2.0-liter turbo-fours. The Jetta GLI produces 228 hp while the Golf GTI has 241 hp.

Depending on who you ask and on what day of the week, the sport compact car/hot hatch segment is either disappearing or resurging. At the end of this week, enthusiasts will say the latter because Toyota is introducing the GR Corolla. The small hatch is rumored to be powered by a 1.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder and have an output of 257 hp. When full specifications and pricing are released, Toyota's entry will undoubtedly be no less competitive.

And that's the great thing about this vehicle class. They are small cars with high-performance power that easily double as daily commuters and won't break the bank in the process. Deciding which vehicle to buy won't hurt your brain since many come in a one-size-fits-most trim, with personalization being your choice of transmission and metallic flake. If anything, the hardest decision will be when and where your first track day will be.

Beverly Braga is a freelance writer and consultant with nearly 20 years of experience as a storyteller and communications professional. In addition to JDPower.com, her work has appeared in numerous print and digital outlets covering the automotive, entertainment, lifestyle, and food & beverage industries.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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