Can the hottest version of the best selling SUV stand up to the competition, or is it too expensive ...Read More
Now that we’ve established that a hot hatch is what you’re looking for, let’s dive right into the choices. The obvious first choice in this category is the classic Volkswagen Golf GTI. And while we truly love and adore the GTI, the issue starts to show when we are talking price. It’s just too much money. Once you start tacking on features, we’re talking a $35,000+ vehicle. Too much.
Okay, so we’ve taken the first choice off the menu, what does that leave us with? Focus ST, great choice, except it’s dead, and she’s not coming back, folks. We just have to accept that, as difficult as it may be. So what else is there? Mini Cooper S? Too much and too small. Honda Civic Si? Solid choice, and really the best contender at this price, but trunk space is limited and the looks are questionable. Fiat 500 Abarth? Far too small. BMW, Mercedes, and Audi all have a toe dipped into this territory, but again, the prices are just far too much to justify for a hot hatch. So where does that leave us? Cue the Hyundai Elantra GT N-Line.
Starting at an extremely reasonable $23,000, even in its top trim, it doesn’t cross over the $30,000 mark. In true hot hatch style, the Elantra GT N-Line (that long name is going to get old typing a hundred times today) provides style, speed, and space all in an affordable package.
Down to brass tacks, how does this thing drive? Surprisingly, very well. Going into my week with the car, I wasn’t sure what to expect. When Hyundai poached the former head of BMW’s M Division, Albert Biermann, he promised to make the brand less serious and more focused on “fun”. From what we can tell, he and his merry band of merry pranksters he brought with him from BMW have done a good job of making this happen. The Veloster N-Line, for example, expels fun from every nook and cranny.
The Elantra, on the other hand, looked much more serious. There’s no weird three-door configuration, there are no giant exhaust tips, and there aren’t any crazy colors. It all looks so...serious. I was concerned the ex-BMW folks may have forgotten to remove their serious German backgrounds and make this a wacky fun car. In a way, I was right.
For all intents and purposes, the car drives extraordinarily well. There are not many (if any) sub-$30,000 cars that can tackle a road like this. Composed and efficient on the road, the Elantra GT N-Line is a serious hot hatch that can lay down the law. But that’s exactly the problem, it’s too serious.
The car hugs the road in corners and is easily able to put down its 201 horses to the road, with little to no wheel slip. Corners are relatively flat and the performance tires will grip harder than a toddler holding on to his mother's leg. The steering isn’t great at communicating what is happening with the front wheels though, so you’re left guessing what they’re doing based on how the car is reacting rather than feeling it directly through the steering rack.
Whip the Elantra into a tight corner and the uncommunicative but quick steering rack changes the direction of the nose faster than expected. The grippy tires keep you on your line and the decent power output will pull you out of the corner easily. But when pushed extra hard, the Elantra resorts to safe understeer and an overly intrusive traction control system that shuts down the fun way too early and far too abrupt. The car seems to say “There will be no dancing in my town!” Well, we are all Kevin Bacon, and we want to dance.
Overall, the 1.6L has adequate power. 201 horses is enough to get the 3,100 lbs hatchback up to 60 in 6.3 seconds, but when pushing the car through the corners, you can feel the engine longing for more. An aftermarket intake and tune would surely wake up the turbo-four, but not enough so that it’d be worth risking that sweet 10-year/100,000 mile warranty for just a little extra power.
Cruising around town the car is extraordinarily comfortable, however. The tight suspension and good build quality are felt throughout and daily driving is handled with ease. Traffic is easily handled with our optional 7-speed dual-clutch, though there is a small amount of chatter from a slow takeoff, though that’s to be expected with a dual-clutch. But again, that’s a bit of the problem again, if you wanted a good daily driver with enough power, hop into a Sonata and you’ll be happy. When you get a hot hatch, you want a car that will egg you on, a car that wants to go fast, and wants you to take it there.
When driving the Hyundai, it objectively performs very well. It can hold excellent speed through the corners and but its serious overtones seem to hold back your smile from reaching ear to ear, you mostly just drive around with a mild grin. A very serious, German looking, mild grin.
Step inside the Elantra GT N-Line and you will see where this car shines. All that serious, slightly boring nature of the driving abilities translates extremely well into the interior. To start, the Elantra GT N-Line is beyond well-equipped. Heated and cooled seats, automatic climate control, adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, automatic headlights, navigation, and more that I’m sure I am forgetting to include. It is loaded, and all under $30k. That is impressive.
Further, the interior is well-built! Hyundai is a completely different manufacturer than they were ten years ago. Build quality is way up, materials used are far higher quality, and the attention to detail is astronomically better.
Everything you touch in the Elantra feels modern and well-built. Sit down in the seat and you will be happy to place your butt in a comfortable and well-supported seat. There isn’t a crazy amount of side bolstering like a Focus ST, it hugs the body perfectly. Both me: 6’0”, 170 lbs, and my wife: 5’4” 120 pounds, felt supported and comfortable in the seats. They are constructed of tough, water-resistant material with slim carbon fiber accents along the edges and feel both well-made and durable (but not cheap durable like a plastic or rubber).
The steering wheel is also designed well. The buttons have great feedback and are intuitively placed. Behind the wheel, the gauge cluster is attractive and features a high-quality screen. In today's modern era of full digital dashes, conventional gauges are starting to show their age, but they work in the Elantra. Costs have to be cut somewhere . I would have liked to see a bit more sporty attitude to the gauges, but they fit with the subdued design of the interior.
The center screen is tacked onto the dash, and while it looks a bit cheesy, it is nice for steadying your hand to use the screen while driving. The Hyundai’s user interface is very well sorted. Quick to react with little lag or freezing between screens. Apple CarPlay is also available making phone usage even easier while driving.
The rest of the dash handsome and low-key. The only real indication that you’re in a car that would be categorized as a “hot hatch” is the red accents trimming the outboard air vents (curiously missing from the center vent despite it using the same materials), red accents on the seats and shifter, and red stitching throughout. It all works though.
The interior space is excellent as well. I can comfortably sit in the rear seat when the driver's seat is placed in my normal driving position. My son's gigantic convertible car seat fits in the rear seat with no problem behind my wife's comfortable seating position as well. The 24.9 ft³ of trunk space is larger than many SUVs and when the seats are folded the 55.1 ft³ was able to handle my hardware store run while redoing the floors of my house.
The interior is comfortable, attractive, and intelligent. I am sure that some of the younger crowd that would be looking at this car would like a more shouty interior, but honestly, this doesn’t feel like a car for them.
So if this hot hatch isn’t for the younger, flat-billed wearing, vape smoke blowing crowd, who is it for? Based on the pricing, usability, and warranty coverage this is the perfect car for young professionals that want fun, need reliability, and don’t want to look like a fool for having it.
Hoping into a Hyundai Elantra GT N-Line gets you a fast, fun, reliable car for under $30,000. Including with that is a 10-year warranty, and you don’t look like you are trying to emulate the late Paul Walker.
Millennials are starting to grow up. They are getting corporate jobs, buying houses, getting loans, and having a massive impact on the market. This is the perfect car for a young professional.
With this car, you can have a family, go to Home Depot, transit to and from work every day comfortably and safely, hit a track day or two, and rest assured knowing that for ten years you can own a car and have all your mechanical needs covered. All of this for less than $30,000, that’s really starting to sound like a great proposition.
I would like to see slightly more “fun” out of the Elantra GT N-Line, the N-Line is supposed to be the fun version of Hyundai’s performance cars after all. A slightly more aggressive exhaust note would be a good start. Less interference from the traction control and a little extra flair on the interior would also do this car wonders. But overall this is a fantastic little cruiser and a blast to drive.
When recommending a car, I always ask myself if I were in that situation, would this be on my list. For this car, in particular, I am in that situation, and this car is absolutely on my list.
We give it the 1800CarShow approval.
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