2023 Hyundai Elantra N Review - Keeping The Faith
2023 Hyundai Elantra N
A well-seasoned trope in automotive media is lamentation. The sorrow for those things that we once had but no longer do. We cry out for simple cars we can work on ourselves. We mourn the loss of cheap and cheerful pickup trucks. We weep for the days of low-interest rates and the ability to negotiate prices below the window sticker.
And we miss inexpensive performance cars. Call them, if you will, hot hatches, but any number of sporty, affordable, fun toys were once available from nearly any dealer. Cheap speed is only a pair of rose-tinted shades away.
I guarantee you that I’ve said some of these things in the past. Go check every one of my previous reviews and confirm, please - we need the clicks. But as I look across the vast automotive landscape, I realize that there are still options open to those of us looking for cheap thrills. The 2023 Hyundai Elantra N is a surprising choice considering what Hyundai once was - can you ever imagine heading for the canyons in an old Excel or (for my Canadian friends) a Pony? I’m not ready to call this a golden age of affordable driving, but for now, the outlook isn't so bleak.
A close perusal of the photos and the Fast Facts box atop the page will make clear that my tester was equipped with the dual-clutch transmission. I’m sure someone in the comments below will dismiss everything about the Elantra N based on the missing third pedal, somehow giving a gender to a vehicle and deriding this car for a lack of “manhood.” Perhaps that ire will bleed over to the author, too.
Well, if you feel insecure, the Elantra N is indeed available with a six-speed, traditionally-shifted manual. But this dual-clutch automatic is quite good, shifting with speed at all the right times and giving the driver confidence that the right cog will be there when unwinding the wheel after the apex. It’s not perfect - when driving slowly, the transmission can feel a tad jerky. But it’s quite good and does nothing to diminish the joy one feels from driving. It’s a $1,500 option on the base Elantra N, and if you spend any time driving in traffic or have someone in the household who doesn’t want to deal with learning manual, it’s worth considering.
One of the few other vehicles in this class that offer a transmission choice is really the originator of the hot-hatch genre, the VW GTI. When I drove it last year, my tester was equipped with the manual - but I actually prefer the dual-clutch in both the GTI and the Elantra N. It’s one less thing to think about when driving quickly.
And driving quickly is what the Elantra N does best. It practically begs for a jaunt to the twisties. Around town, the firm suspension does crash a bit over expansion joints and other road imperfections, though it’s not all unpleasant. It could use a bit of refinement for daily use, and the exhaust note might annoy the neighbors. But when the road turns sinuous, the Elantra N wakes up and smiles. It even has a grin button - the red NGS tab on the steering wheel is for “N Grin Shift,” which causes the transmission to drop a gear or two and unleashes an extra 10 horsepower or so over the 275 horsepower base number for 20 seconds. It’s silly, but it’s silly fun.
Styling is exactly what you’d expect from a boy-racer compact sedan. It’s a bit showy, with the red lower-body trim and matching brake calipers behind big 19” alloy wheels. The black wing atop the trunklid looks a bit mild in comparison. But the standard Elantra isn’t a bad-looking car, to begin with, so the tweaks don’t detract so much as simply announce to the world that you’ve got something special. As if the exhaust soundtrack didn’t do that for you, popping and farting with each shift.
The interior is handsome and comfortable, though I’m a bit confused by the grab handle to the right of the shift lever. My first thought is that it’s an “Oh [REDACTED] I’m gonna die” handle for passengers unaccustomed to the performance envelope of a hot compact sedan...but then I recall the same handle is on the base and even hybrid versions of the Elantra. I dunno.
I do appreciate the supportive seats and the dual-zone climate control. I’d like to see wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto at some point from Hyundai, but the wired version here will do. Rear seats are comfortable enough, with surprising legroom for a compact.
If you can live with some of the compromises caused by the firm suspension and performance exhaust, this makes for a lovely daily driver. And with cars like the 2023 Hyundai Elantra N and others like it, there is still joy to be had behind the wheel. As the man once said, the good old days weren’t always good, and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.
[Images: © 2023 Chris Tonn/TTAC.com]
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