Review: The Hyundai Elantra GT N-Line Continues the N-ing Streak
Hyundai’s N performance sub-brand just keeps creating winning cars.
MALIBU, California—You already know that we're fans of the Hyundai Veloster N (All-Stars 2019, Four Seasons denizen), and we're nearly as fond of its less-expensive brother, the Veloster Turbo R-Spec. Now that we've (finally) driven the slightly larger, more conventionally packaged Elantra GT N-Line, we can call it a trifecta from Hyundai's nascent N performance sub-brand.
The GT is marketed as the hatchback version of the Elantra, but really it's closer to the European-market i30, Hyundai's VW Golf fighter overseas. The N-Line trim takes over for what was last year known as the Elantra GT Sport and receives most of the Veloster Turbo R-Spec's same upgrades. Among those are a 201-hp 1.6 liter turbo engine, stiffer springs and thicker sway bars (with higher increases at the rear to improve handling balance), stiffer powertrain mounts, bigger wheels with summer tires, and retuned shocks and steering.
The Elantra GT misses out on the Veloster Turbo's Torque Vectoring Control, a brake-based system designed to quell corner-exit wheelspin (essentially, like a limited-slip differential). And while the Veloster R-Spec is manual-only, the Elantra GT N-Line offers either a six-speed stick or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, the latter a useful concession for those whose life-partners or tolerance for left-leg activity prefer not to immerse themselves in the Way of the Clutch.
Inside, the GT gets red stitching and a few other go-faster accents, including a golf-ball-style shift knob similar to the one in the Veloster N. From the outside it's pretty stealthy, with only flowery 18-inch wheels distinguishing it from the regular, 161-hp Elantra GT.
Reviewing a car like this one is easy: Take it to a favorite curvy road and see if it works. The Elantra GT N-Line works very well. Its engine is powerful and flexible, if rather subdued in its work. The suspension is an honor roll student, lashing down body motions over uneven pavement and controlling weight transfer nicely without sacrificing a livable ride quality. The Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires just grip and grip and grip. Even more so than in the nicely sorted Veloster N, the Elantra's shifter and clutch are both smooth and light, and the steering is precise and has a nice weight to it. The brakes feel progressive and refused to fade on the steep downhill twists of Tuna Canyon Road.
There is no looser, more permissive sport mode setting for the stability control system between full-on and full-off, but we found the electronics to be minimally intrusive when on. In fact, the GT N-Line's only really bad habit is corner-exit wheelspin, and it's hardly the first front-driver to garner that complaint. A mechanical limited-slip differential, like that included in Honda's Civic Si, would go a long way toward solving this issue.
If this reads like a generic review of any decent performance car, then you get our point. We've driven a lot of perfectly good performance-minded front-drivers, and the Elantra GT N-Line is yet another one. Now, this is the point in the generic performance car review where the other shoe drops. Ready to hear what the Elantra GT N-Line gets really, really wrong? Brace yourself, here it comes:
There's no unforgivable bad habit lurking under the surface, no serious defect in the ride, no hard-to-see
"gotcha" that makes it totally impractical for family service. It even gets pretty decent gas mileage—between our traffic-choked commute, high-speed highway running, and our twisty-road run, we averaged 28 MPG. This really is your classic run-of-the-mill, brimming-with-goodness, kiss-the-spouse-take-the-kids-to-school-then-go-knock-yourself-out-on-your-favorite-twisty-road hot (or at least warm) hatch.
Hyundai makes buying into this goodness an easy task, because the Elantra GT N-Line only comes two ways: One version with a manual transmission, for $24,230, or the automatic-transmission model for $25,330. Standard equipment includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay phone integration, manually-adjustable cloth seats, dual-zone climate control, and all the power stuff we expect in a modern car. There are no factory-installed options, just a small selection of port- or dealer-installed accessories.
You remember why the Volkswagen GTI became famous, right? It was a smart, family-friendly small car that was good fun to drive. Still is. And so is the Elantra N-Line, the difference being that the Hyundai has a little less power, a slightly smaller back seat and costs about four grand less. The Elantra runs on regular fuel while the GTI requires premium, and if you're keeping it long-term, the Hyundai may ring up less in repair bills. In closing, then, we'll sign off with nine words that, had you asked us just a few years ago, we never thought we'd find ourselves typing: This is yet another great performance car from Hyundai.
|2019 Hyundai Elantra GT N-Line Specifications
|PRICE||$24,230/$24,300 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||1.6L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4; 201 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 195 lb-ft @ 1,500-4,500 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD hatchback|
|EPA MILEAGE||26 mpg (combined)|
|L x W x H||170.9 x 70.7 x 57.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.2 sec|