Redesigned for the 2021 model year, the new Hyundai Elantra becomes a much more mature vehicle potentially helping the efforts to keep sedans alive in an automotive sales market that is dominated by crossover and sport utility vehicles.
In the compact sedan segment, the Hyundai Elantra has always been a notable vehicle and in its seventh generation it takes on a new design language with an effort to attract automotive enthusiasts through performance trim variants of the N Line and new Elantra N.
Diving into the new 2021 Hyundai Elantra this week I get to experience the compact sedan in the N Line trim, a trim that adds noticeable improvements in the performance realm with a different engine over all other trims. While the new Elantra N Line should not be confused with the Elantra N, they both add an enthusiastic appeal to the brand and the compact Elantra to build off a decent platform that starts with a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine with 147 horsepower. From there, the Elantra N Line does away with the naturally aspirated engine and goes with a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that’s good for 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. The major highlight for enthusiasts is the new Elantra N Line has a 6-speed manual transmission as standard. My test vehicle has its turbocharged engine mated to an optional 7-speed automated dual-clutch transmission, which still elevates the attraction of such a vehicle that moves with authority and quick shifts. The new Elantra N Line gets up to 60 mph in about 7 seconds, which is a huge improvement over other trim levels of about 1.4 seconds.
The 7-speed dual-clutch transmission does well for a direct feeling but suffers from some unwanted clutch slippage upon light throttle applications. The downshifts are timed perfectly and are executed quickly even when using the manual shift paddles on the steering wheel. The steering feel is somewhat heavy but provides no usable feedback through the electric-assisted rack.
To keep pricing down, the Elantra N Line doesn’t get the benefit of some of the other trim level’s desirable features, such as the 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster, smart cruise control, or leather-trimmed seats. Instead, the Elantra N Line gets analog gauges, heavily bolstered sporty cloth heated seats up front, and poor-performing halogen projector headlights. You must move to the Limited trim or Elantra N to get better-performing LED headlights, something I think should come standard across the board for a new vehicle in 2021.
The uniqueness of the Elantra N Line for its exterior styling goes the distance with several darkened accents, larger 18-inch wheels, and rear LED taillights to distinguish it from the rest of the trim lineup. What really matters is what is under the hood and having those extra 54 ponies laid down to the pavement through the front wheels to give the driver a little more fun. Fundamentally, the Elantra N Line is the sweet spot for the compact sedan in my opinion despite it missing a few high-tech features that you can get on many other trim levels, including the top Limited trim, which doesn’t get the N Line’s sweet 201-horsepower turbocharged engine.
The way the Elantra N Line handles is also elevated with a unique sport suspension setup that may be a bit too stiff for some. The Elantra N Line is much more than just a more powerful engine, it’s a cohesive package that adds real-world usable performance – but it’s not for everyone. Even the exhaust note can be a little intrusive for some with a subtle growling drone at highway speeds.
The fuel economy is very consistent as I experienced where I mostly matched the EPA estimate for the highway at 36 mpg. City mileage comes in at 28 mpg city and combined is 31 mpg.
Inside of the new Hyundai Elantra N Line is a cabin that’s somewhat set apart from the rest of the Elantra line with unique seats, contrasting stitching throughout the fabrics, and a stand-out analog gauge cluster with red colors, which is a color that is supposed to mean SPORTY. Space in the newly redesigned Elantra is much improved where front seat adjustments are vast allowing people like myself who are over 6-feet tall to easily find the optimal and comfy driving or seating position. The driver’s seat is power adjusted with power lumbar while the passenger front seat is fully manual. The back seats provide just enough space for 6-feet tall passengers as well, which rounds up a rather surprisingly accommodating cabin. The only downfall here is the liberal use of hard plastics leaving only a few soft-touch surfaces on the upper dashboard and on the door trim where you find an abundance of red-accented stitching.
The latest infotainment unit in the Elantra N Line using an 8-inch touchscreen is very straightforward and nicely integrates wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto with several USB ports for device charging. There’s also a dual-zone automatic climate control.
There are plentiful active safety features even in the Elantra N-Line that lacks the smart/adaptive cruise control feature. It still incorporates forward collision warning with emergency braking and pedestrian detection, lane departure warning/lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance, driver attention warning, and blind-spot collision avoidance with visual and audible monitor alerts.
Hyundai plays a rather smart game with their trim levels and has done well with the new Elantra N Line putting its sporty bits at the forefront in an exclusive package that tests out at only $26,350, which includes a $995 inland freight and handling charge. Even better, the Elantra N Line with the standard 6-speed manual transmission is $1,100 less than my test vehicle.
For those who want a little “more” out of the Elantra N Line, they can happily look to the new Elantra N, which brings the tech and even more performance to the tune of 276 horsepower and 289 lb-ft of torque. Of course, the Elantra N is going to run up the price to about $32,925 but remains a good value for all the tech features and performance delivered and the availability of a 6-speed manual transmission!