In 2018, when Hyundai first released the Veloster NIt was a big deal. The Korean automaker had done a lot to make its cars more competitive, but it still wasn’t a company known for building cars that were fun to drive. Once the Veloster N arrived, everything changed. It quickly became a staff favorite Jalopnik, Thank you how fun it was to drive both on the road and on the track, yet very practical as a daily driver. Now Hyundai has given the N treatment to two more cars: the Elantra and the Kona.
(Full disclosure: Hyundai flew me to Napa, paid for my room at a fancy hotel, gave me lots of free food, and also provided an abundance of fine wines that I’m not sophisticated enough to enjoy. They also rented the Sonoma Raceway so we could drive several cars that were already full of gas.)
If you don’t know these two cars, the Elantra is Hyundai’s compact sedan. intended for competitors such as the Honda Civic and the Toyota Corolla. The Kona, on the other hand, is a subcompact crossover that looks more like a competitor to the Honda HR-V and Toyota C-HR. I’ve spent the majority of my time in the Elantra N, so I’ll focus on this one first. And yes, both are great fun to drive, just like the Veloster N.
Basic specifications of the Elantra N and Kona N
In addition to a sportier body, the two Elantra N and Kona N get more power in the form of a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 276 horsepower and 289 lb-ft of torque. This power is transmitted to the front wheels via a standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional eight-speed dual clutch. If you choose the DCT, you also get a button that you can press for an additional 10 horsepower for 20 seconds.
The 0-60mph run takes 5.0 seconds in the Elantra N (using launch control with the DCT) and 5.2 seconds in the Kona N. They are really fast, although I would say the numbers exact is not really the point here.
Hyundai also added limited electronics-Slip differential for improved handling and adjustable suspension. Plus, you get upgraded brakes and a variable exhaust that lets you choose the sound level you want for your N. Eco, Normal, Sport, N and Custom drive modes change the way the car drives, but you you might be surprised at how many options you have in Custom.
Want everything else strong, precise and sporty for your commute to work, but a comfortable suspension? Hyundai will let you do it. The level of customization isn’t exactly revolutionary, but considering how many other brands have more limited options, it’s refreshing to see.
What the Elantra N looks like
As with the rest of the Hyundai lineup, the styling of the Elantra N makes it impossible to miss. You are probably going to love him or hate him. Although, even if you hate him, you can still be ready to put up with him if you like the way he drives. The front end is probably the most controversial part of the styling. Having it in black definitely helps hide the, uh, polarizing frontal, however.
At the rear, the big controversy is going to be the rear wing. I didn’t mind, but it’s not exactly neatly integrated. And while the overall appearance is far from subtle, it’s not a wild departure from what you get on the regular Elantra.
The interior, meanwhile, is not pretty, similar to the regular Elantra. You get more heavily reinforced sport seats with an illuminated N logo, blue N mode buttons on the steering wheel, and that’s about it. Some plastics seem cheap, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make to keep the price low.
Personally, I love it when automakers are ready to produce something that stands out even though they risk alienating some potential customers. At the very least, no one will call this car harmless or boring.
Driving the Elantra N
On the road, you’ll probably want to leave the suspension in its most comfortable setting. Much like the Veloster N, it’s still quite stiff but not uncomfortable or punishing. I might have complaints while driving around Detroit, but to be fair, it’s Detroit’s fault, not Hyundai’s.
The seats themselves are comfortable and aren’t so reinforced that they get in the way of everyday life. I would have liked that extra boost on the track, but let’s be honest, very few people will take an Elantra N to a real race track. Expect to see a lot of this at future autocross events, but basically it’s a great fun daily rider.
And yes, the Elantra N is a lot of fun. It’s very fast, it’s maneuverable, the exhaust sounds great (unless you can’t stand the crackle and crackle) and most importantly, it’s a car that makes you want to drive a little faster than you. probably should. Even if you don’t already do autocross, it will make you want to get into autocross.
In an empty parking lot, where the greatest danger is that you can eat a cone or two, you can push it in a way that you probably shouldn’t on public roads. E-LSD means understeer isn’t much of a problem, and you’ll even see oversteer on takeoff once you really gain control of it.
In cars with DCT, it never really got in the way, and I didn’t notice much about it. That changed pretty quickly, and if you spend a lot of time in bumper-to-bumper traffic, this might be the way to go. But the manual was much nicer and seemed to match the character of the car better. I’d bet the shifter on the new Honda Civic Si is more precise, but it’s still a good drivetrain, especially since it’s the fast version of an electric car.
But you don’t really start to understand how good the performance improvements are until you step onto a real track. Yes, even in the stiffest suspension setting you get more body roll than you’d like on a car you’re going to be following regularly, and stickier tires would likely improve braking, but remember, that’s a very sporty daily driver. Not a racing car.
After the first two laps, the part of my brain that is still terrified of crashing someone else’s expensive car died out, and I just got to have fun. The E-LSD kept understeer at bay and the steering torque was minimal, really leaving me to worry about choosing better lines and when to change gears. It wasn’t stressful. It was really nice. And it’s more and more difficult to find these days.
How the Kona N drives
A few months ago we have a quick ride in the Kona N, so a lot of the basics have already been covered. But unlike Elizabeth’s time behind the wheel, I was able to take the Kona on the track. Yet she is right. The Kona N is fun. (Do you feel a theme here?)
Is it as fun as the Elantra N? Not enough. There’s more body roll, and it doesn’t feel as fast, but that’s to be expected. In exchange for a bit of performance, you get more headroom, more room, and the ability to haul more stuff in what is essentially a hot hatch with a little lift.
If you want to buy a car based on numbers that you can type into a spreadsheet, the Elantra N is the best car. Drive both back to back and the Elantra will always come out ahead. But if you pick one to be your only car, I certainly won’t blame you for choosing the Kona N. It’s always a pleasure to drive, no matter how good the Elantra N.
Considering how closely the Elantra N and Kona N relate to the Veloster N, it’s no surprise that they are both excellent cars. And just like the Veloster N, they’re both a lot more fun than they’re allowed to be. I really liked driving them fast, and they’re both comfortable enough for any time you get stuck driving them slowly.
And while the numbers themselves are impressive (I mean, a front-wheel drive Elantra hitting 60 mph in five seconds flat? Are you kidding?), I would say the numbers don’t really matter. A few tenths of a second here or there? The specifics of this or that functionality? All of this is much less important than how you feel behind the wheel. And drive both felt Well.
Their styling won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but aside from maybe the new GTI, they’re also pretty much the only game in town with that kind of performance for around $ 30,000. After all, it’s not like Honda has an HR-V Si for you to choose the Kona N.
If you want something faster, quieter, or more luxurious, that’s okay. As I have said many times, none of these cars are is going to be for everyone. But even if you hate the style or can’t stand the feel of interior plastics, you should at least be excited that there is a company that sells cars in the United States that are still relatively affordable and really fun to drive.