The term sleeper has several meanings and invokes several ideas. In the car world, it’s definitely a positive connotation and refers to a vehicle that is surprisingly peppy. And this week’s tester is for sure a sleeper.
This week’s tester is the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N. This trim turns the sleepy, uninspiring Elantra into a sleeper. The N trim is the only new addition to the 2022 Elantra, but that’s all this compact car needs to improve.
On looks alone, the Elantra N seems to want to challenge the Honda Civic SI head on and does so in both performance and looks. The Elantra N adds sporty design elements that I’m not used to seeing on the otherwise conservative Elantra. The 2021 Elantra did win North American Car of the Year for its remodeled and updated looks. Hyundai held off on the N trim until this year to add more style and pizzazz to this award-winning compact car.
My tester had real eye-catching looks with a powder blue exterior paint coat but the N trim exclusive red accents. A sporty spoiler sits atop the trunk and has some height to it. This certainly shows that it does indeed have the Civic SI in its sight with this styling and the sporty attitude that oozes from the Elantra N aesthetics.
The Elantra N doesn’t just “look the part” it has the performance to back up its bold, youthful appearance. The Elantra N features a 276-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with a sport-tuned suspension, steering and revised powertrain mounts. There’s even an independent rear suspension and larger front brake rotors to make it a lower speed, road-gripping thrill ride. The squatty Elantra already has a little bit of attitude without this extra performance, but with the N trim it becomes a sleeper, blazing off the road but also holding revs back appropriately or throws them quickly when needed.
This is all thanks to a dual-clutch transmission, which is only available on the N trim, as the other Elantra trims get either a continuously variable transmission or a six-speed manual. The most dynamic feature is the NGS button (N grin shift) which is a red button on the steering wheel that will boost the overall output to 286 horsepower and do a quick shift of the gears on the transmission. Think of this as how some race cars will use a nitrous boost to get that extra oomph. While it only lasts for 20 seconds at a time, the NGS button is so much fun and I found myself engaging that often, especially off the line or to get around slower moving traffic.
That NGS button is another factor that makes the Elantra N a real sleeper.
The youthful vibe of the Elantra N carries over inside with some special elements, exclusive to this trim. Blue stitching on the seats matched the exterior. The seat surfaces were a suede-like material with racing-style seats. They were comfortable, although for someone nearly 50 years old, it was tougher to get in and out of this car. Note: I am NOT the demographic for this car, despite how much I appreciated it.
Hyundai’s infotainment system is clean and intuitive. The 8-inch touchscreen is angled right for the driver but is also responsive and simple to use. The wireless integration with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is appreciated as the larger touchscreen apparently doesn’t have wireless connectivity.
For a compact car, the back seat had enough room for two adults to be comfortable. I wouldn’t stretch that capacity to three rear passengers, however.
The trunk is where you notice how small the Elantra is with a cargo area of only 14.2 cubic feet. This is sub-par and limiting to what you can carry in the trunk. The rear seats do fold down to expand that cargo area some.
The Elantra N with the 7-speed dual clutch transmission has a fuel economy rating of 28 mpg/city and 36 mpg/highway. Using that NSG button and a heavy foot found me averaging only about 29 mpg, but I didn’t care because it was the most enjoyable Elantra I’ve driven.
Perhaps the best part of the Elantra is that all of this fun and stand-out looks comes at an affordable price. The Hyundai Elantra N has a suggested retail price of $25,700.
Is the Elantra going to blaze the straightaways and win drag races? No. But will it be one of the most enjoyable, fun-to-drive compact cars on the road? Yes. Don’t sleep on the Elantra N.
Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @driversside
2022 Hyundai Elantra N Line
Price/As tested price................................................ $25,700/$25,700
Mileage.......................................... 28 mpg/city; 36 mpg/hwy
Engine............................................. 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower................................. 276 hp/289 lbs./ft.
Transmission................................. 7-speed automatic
Drive Wheels................ Front-wheel drive
Final Assembly Point................ Montgomery, AL
About the Author