Ever since our first drive of the Hyundai Elantra N-Line, we’ve been eager to get our hands on one for instrumented testing. The frisky 2022 Hyundai Elantra N-Line is now basically the automaker’s answer to the new 2022 Honda Civic Si and Volkswagen’s Jetta GLI, two cars we adore, and we wanted to see how it stacked up. Like its rivals, we already knew the Elantra N-Line is subjectively good fun to drive; we needed to see some objective numbers.
And now that we’ve seen them, well, we kind of wish we hadn’t.
N-Line: The Upgraded Hyundai Elantra
Let’s start with a quick review of the hardware: The 2022 Hyundai Elantra N-Line is powered by Hyundai’s 201-hp 1.6-liter turbo-four engine. With 195 lb-ft of torque, it just barely bests the new-for-2022 Civic Si by 1 hp and 3 lb-ft. Like the Jetta GLI, the Elantra N-Line offers both manual and automatic transmission options, the former a six-speed and the latter a seven-speed dual-clutch. (Purists that we are, we brought the stick-shift model in for testing.)
Compared to other Elantras, the N-Line features several upgrades including an independent rear suspension, larger brakes, stiffer suspension tuning, and standard-fit “summer” performance tires. Unique front and rear bumpers, black mirror caps, and a small trunk spoiler further differentiate the N-Line from other Elantras, but the differences are so subtle as to be easily missed. If you’re looking to fly under the radar, the Elantra N-Line is your car.
Launching the Elantra N-Line: Mission Impossible
Once we strapped our testing gear to the N-Line, our mood quickly turned glum. First, acceleration: At just less than 3,000 pounds, the Elantra N-Line made the run to 60 mph in a decidedly unimpressive 8.6 seconds. For comparison, the 2022 Honda Civic Si made it to 60 in 7.1 seconds (which we complained was “disappointingly slow”), and the last GLI we tested—a 2019 automatic car, mechanically identical to the recently refreshed 2022 VW GLI—did it in 6.1.
Here’s the really embarrassing bit: The pedestrian Elantra Limited, with its 2.0-liter engine and CVT automatic, was quicker than the N-Line to 60—it made it in 8.4 seconds. Even the frugal Elantra Hybrid was only a tenth of a second behind the N-Line.
We expected the Elantra N-Line to deliver a time closer to 7.0 seconds, so what went wrong? The clutch’s engagement tuning seems set up to protect the drivetrain; drop the clutch, and the engine bogs. Slip the clutch, and the engine bogs. We found it impossible to execute any sort of an aggressive launch with this car.
Numbers vs. Reality?
That was unfortunate, because the acceleration figure doesn’t give an accurate picture of what the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N-Line can do. Many of our staffers observed that, although there was some turbo lag, once the revs and the boost picked up, the engine offered plenty of power and was good fun to wind out to redline.
Unfortunately, that couldn’t help the Elantra N-Line in the quarter mile. It trotted down the strip in 16.4 seconds with a trap speed of 89.4 mph, just barely beating the Elantra Limited (16.5 seconds) and Elantra Hybrid (16.6 seconds). The Honda Civic Si was 1.1 second quicker and 3.4 mph faster in the quarter mile, and even those numbers are nothing to brag about. Again, we really hoped the Elantra N-Line might be a good match for the Jetta GLI, which made the run in a 14.6 seconds at 98.8 mph. No contest.
Braking was more in line with our expectations, with good bite and pedal feel, but the Hyundai’s stopping distance of 111 feet from 60 mph just trailed the Civic (110 feet) and the Jetta (109 feet).
Figure Eight: The Fun Is There, But the Grip Isn’t
As for the Elantra N-Line’s handling, we loved the way the car took on our figure-eight course. It inspired confidence and felt capable, not too far off the Civic Si. However, its vague clutch and shifter feel were negatives.
Indeed, our test readouts showed once again the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N-Line trailed the Civic Si: 0.91 g of lateral grip and a 26.3-second time through the figure eight, averaging 0.66 g. The Civic’s numbers were 0.93 and 26.3 seconds at 0.67 g, just a shade behind the GLI. Close, but the Elantra was still bested.
All in all, it was a bad day at the track for a car we still rather enjoy. With its $25,000 price tag, the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N-Line is a great deal for a family-friendly stick-shift sedan that can generate big grins on a curvy road. But performance testing is a by-the-numbers business, and those numbers don’t flatter: The Hyundai Elantra N-Line nips at its competitors’ heels for braking and grip, but in acceleration testing, it gets left in the dust.
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