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Review: The 2022 Hyundai Elantra N Pocket Rocket Is Aimed Straight At The Honda Civic Type R

Compact performance sedans are once again having a moment. Hot on the heels of the redesigned Subaru WRX comes the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N, the quickened edition of the affordable four-door. Injected with a shot of adrenaline for the first time in its multi-decade existence, the Elantra N is the new standard-bearer for the brand's high-po passenger car line-up (with the departure of the Veloster N hot hatch announced for the end of this year).

2022 Hyundai Elantra N side view

The idea of an Elantra that does more than just save you money on your monthly car payment will be a new one for most enthusiasts, but Hyundai's N division is on a seemingly unstoppable roll as the automaker relentlessly turbocharges its way into the affordable performance conversation. The third model to bear the N badge, the Elantra also happens to be the best all-around effort to date, and a car that sets its sights squarely on the celebrated Honda Civic Type R when it comes to prying away potential customers.

Controversy? What Controversy?

Whereas the Veloster N took an oddball hatchback and dipped it in hot sauce, the Elantra offers a less polarizing presentation for its spicier flavor profile. Sleek and sharp, with razor-cut creases that complicate its profile in a way seldom seen among the compact set, the Elantra N is a legitimate looker and the kind of car few would peg as borrowing the bones of an entry-level commuter. Finished in searing red and wearing its N-specific wing, front splitter, and rear bumper treatment, the tester I drove attracted significant attention nearly everywhere I went.

2022 Hyundai Elantra N interior

The Elantra N's cabin was also sufficiently stylish, especially considering its modest origins. Aside from an unusual circular symbol carved into the left-most dash panel (triggering memories of True Detective's first season), the rest of the car's presentation felt a class-above in terms of appearance materials. Yes, the angled grab-bar separating passenger from driver garnered a few comments from riders, but that affectation aside, Hyundai has learned its lesson from the reaction to the comparatively barebones Veloster N cabin and turned in something that's a meaningful step up.

2022 Hyundai Elantra N hauling Nitto tires

It's also fairly practical, even with a traditional trunk. I was able to fit a full set of 18-inch Nitto NT01 tires inside the Elantra thanks to its folding rear seat, despite the presence of a cargo-blocking body brace separating the cargo and passenger compartments.

2.0L Fun Cannon

Of course, it's what the Elantra N borrowed lock, stock, and barrel from its Veloster predecessor that truly makes this car special. Featuring the same 2.0L, four-cylinder turbocharged engine and choice between six-speed manual gearbox and eight-speed dual-clutch automated manual, the Elantra N is rated at 276 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque (with an extra 10 hp available through the automatic-equipped model's overboost function). That's 11 additional ponies over the Veloster N, 16 hp more than offered by the all-new Subaru WRX, and over 50 hp past what you'll find in the Volkswagen Jetta GLI. In fact, only the much more expensive Volkswagen Golf R and the Honda Civic Type R best the Elantra N on the dyno.

2022 Hyundai Elantra N front 3/4 view

Of course, all of that output would be no more than a party trick if the rest of the car around it hadn't been tuned to extract every possible ounce of fun from its good-to-go drivetrain. The vehicle I drove featured the six-speed manual box, which was a willing accomplice in my quest to keep the front-puller sifting through its torque band. The DCT might be quicker—taking just five seconds to surpass 60-mph—but my pick would definitely be the clutch pedal, as I found it much more engaging than the good, but more clinical self-shifter.

2022 Hyundai Elantra N rear view

Hyundai has gone the BMW route in terms of giving the driver control over various aspects of the Elantra N's chassis, engine, and steering (which makes sense given that the vehicle was developed under the watchful eye of former BMW M honcho Albert Biermann). This means that the owner's exhaust note, throttle response, suspension stiffness, limited-slip differential, and wheel effort can all be configured and saved for easy access via the pair of N-buttons attached to the steering wheel.

2022 Hyundai Elantra N front view

I personally found the most hardcore options perfectly livable in normal driving, although there's no doubt that the more civilized shock-and-steering is a more relaxed experience. That's to be expected from a car that offers virtual track maps of popular American race courses to help set up your on-board lap timer. From a handling perspective, it was easy to imagine the Elantra N feeling at home hunting from one apex to the next, as on public roads its character was just this side of rambunctious, if a bit traction-hungry under hard throttle.

The Price Is Right

The 2022 Hyundai Elantra N makes a very similar impression as compared to the soon-to-depart Veloster N. This is a car that does its best to keep its pilot involved in every aspect of the driving experience, especially with the manual gearbox in play, and its aggro exhaust tone provides the perfect soundtrack for shenanigans at speed. It stands in contrast to the more reserved, near-premium vibe of the Jetta GLI, and the speed-at-all-costs, clinical precision of the Civic Type R (which is itself on the verge of being replaced by an all-new model).

2022 Hyundai Elantra N rear 3/4 view

Priced at just over $32,000, the Elantra N is well within reach of most buyers shopping in the WRX/GLI universe. By avoiding the outlier status that doomed the Veloster N, and featuring a rip-roaring turbocharged drivetrain that's just waiting to have its true potential tapped by the aftermarket, the Elantra is perfectly positioned to make even the most diehard Honda fans take a second look, especially after comparing the price differential between this Korean hellion and the upcoming Type R.

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