2022 Hyundai Elantra N First Drive: A worthy Veloster replacement

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We're saying goodbye this year to one of our favorite hot hatches, the Hyundai Veloster N. It's a sad one, since it offered amazing performance in a unique, compact package. But we can't be too upset, because Hyundai has two options with the same powertrain and similar pricing. The Kona N has already impressed us, and the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N that we're looking at today, does as well. In fact, it's a nicer, more practical car than the Veloster with basically the same performance, and is actually slightly cheaper. It may not be a hatchback, but it’s arguably the better all-around car.

And yes, you read that right, despite the Elantra N being a larger car with a nicer interior than the Veloster N, it's cheaper than the hatchback. Not by much. At $33,245, the Elantra is only $350 cheaper, but that's still less! And it's welcome considering that you're not only getting more car, but also that Hyundai is still offering a “cheap” N option.

2022 Hyundai Elantra N
2022 Hyundai Elantra N

The Elantra N sacrifices virtually nothing in terms of performance compared to the Veloster, either. The turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine makes the same 276 horsepower and 289 pound-feet of torque with your choice of either a six-speed manual or eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. And before the power gets to the wheels, it goes through an electronically-controlled mechanical limited-slip differential.

Chassis parts have parity with the Veloster with electronically adjustable shocks and big brakes. The Elantra also has a mechanical hand brake useful for shenanigans. And amazingly, despite being more than a foot longer than the Veloster, the Elantra only weighs 80 pounds more with the manual transmission, or just 49 pounds more with the automatic.

Here's a fun fact about these cars: not only does the Elantra N deliver virtually identical performance to the Veloster N while being bigger, it's also more efficient. Between manual models, the combined fuel economy is the same at 25 mpg, but the Elantra's 31 mpg on the highway is 3 mpg better than the Veloster. The automatic Elantra gets 23 mpg combined, an improvement of 1 mpg over the Veloster, and the 30 mpg highway figure is another 3 mpg increase (the auto-only Kona N gets basically the same fuel economy as the Veloster). Since both cars have identical gear ratios, the difference is likely the Elantra's more aerodynamic shape.

2022 Hyundai Elantra N
2022 Hyundai Elantra N

When hustling the Elantra N, it's still just as good as its little precursor. The four-cylinder feels strong everywhere in the rev-band. Boost arrives smoothly. And the engine sounds superb through any of the exhaust settings. In quiet mode, it still offers a subtle growl, but won't make you a neighborhood menace, nor grow tiresome on the highway. The middle mode turns up the volume, while the loud cranks it up just a bit further and pours in some pops and crackles for good, juvenile measure. .

Our test car featured the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. It shifts quickly, especially when in manual mode, but it does still have some classic Hyundai DCT quirks, such as being a bit hesitant when pulling away from a stop. It's certainly a good option for having the fastest shifts and for stop-and-go traffic. The N Grin Shift overboost mode that bumps output to 286 horsepower for a few seconds is fun, too. That being said, we would still recommend the six-speed manual for most buyers. It's the same manual as the Veloster's and it's a seriously good one. The shifts are slick and solid, the auto rev-matching is highly responsive, and fully defeatable, and it simply makes an already engaging machine more so. And remember, you can’t get the Kona N with a manual.

2022 Hyundai Elantra N
2022 Hyundai Elantra N

Handling is arguably more impressive than the engine. It's a super-grippy and responsive car that impresses with its precision and communication every time you turn the wheel. The N has electronically adjustable suspension but it's a great handler regardless of the setting. Body roll is minimal even in the base setting, and it flattens out even more in the most sporty modes, without sacrificing too much compliance. The fancy differential deserves lots of credit, too. Not only is the Elantra eager on corner entry, but it stays on the intended path even as you dial in power mid-corner. It's so neutral and planted that it almost doesn't feel like it's a front-drive car. You certainly can force it into understeer if you're being silly, but otherwise, it's a remarkable effort. Torque steer is even minimal, if present at all.

If there’s one gripe compared to the Veloster N is that you sit higher in the Elantra, eliminating the sports car vibe. It’s also worth noting that the Elantra N is a mighty stiff riding car, though no harsher than competitors like the WRX or the Civic Si, and it's a fair bit quieter than that noisy little Honda. People looking for more comfort should look at something from VW or maybe the Acura Integra if you can swing the higher payments.

2022 Hyundai Elantra N
2022 Hyundai Elantra N
2022 Hyundai Elantra N
2022 Hyundai Elantra N
2022 Hyundai Elantra N
2022 Hyundai Elantra N

The Elantra makes up for that less fun driving position with a far nicer interior than the Veloster. There are far more soft-touch plastics, and a more cohesive interior design with its pseudo-combined instrument and infotainment screens and full-width air vents. It also gets nice touches like the striped faux suede door panels. It's much more spacious inside, too, with more shoulder room up front, and truly usable rear seats for adults. It even has rear doors on both sides. The N, of course, gets the sport seats with stylish illuminated N badges. They're very supportive and hold you in place without pinching or jabbing. And the screens get N-specific readouts such as a shift indicator, g meter and more.

The Elantra does sacrifice some versatility. It has a much more usable back seat and while we suspect you’d be able to fit more into its surprisingly large trunk than was possible in the Veloster with the seats raised, there’s no denying the lost functionality of a hatchback for carrying bulkier items. To that end, the Elantra also has a big chassis brace behind the rear seat that prevents you from being able to fold the back seats and slide in long items. But if you need the extra cargo carrying options, there is the Kona N.

As the heir apparent to the Veloster N, the Elantra N is about as great a successor as we could possibly hope for. It's cheaper. It's nicer. It's more spacious. And most importantly, it's just as fast. Yes, we'll take a moment to mourn the Veloster N, but not at the expense of celebrating how great the Elantra N is.

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