Not so long ago, folks wouldn't be cross-shopping the Subaru WRX with a Hyundai Elantra. One has a history of turbocharged all-wheel-drive fun on both pavement and dirt. The other has a history often associated with rental car agencies and comfortable, sedate front-wheel-drive trips for small families. Friends, the times are changing.
We now have the Hyundai Elantra N, packing 276 horsepower (205 kilowatts) into a relatively lightweight sedan package. The suspension is tuned, the steering is tuned, and though it spins just the front wheels, it's proven to be a surprisingly good sports sedan. Meanwhile, the new-for-2022 WRX checks in with 271 hp (202 kW) and a curb weight about 200 pounds heavier, due in part to its much-loved AWD system. Both cars offer auto-shifting gearboxes (a CVT for Subaru, eight-speed DCT in the Hyundai), but this particular showdown from Edmunds is a six-speed manual affair.
save over $3,400 on average off MSRP* on a new Hyundai Elantra
Things sound relatively equal on paper but surely the Subaru's AWD grip will dominate in the end, right? That might be true if this were a simple drag race, but the course includes hard braking after the quarter-mile and a 180-degree turn, ending with a sprint back to the starting line. A legendary Subie AWD launch is only a portion of this contest, so perhaps the Elantra N has a chance after all.
In fact, it definitely has a chance. Two races are held, with the first seeing the Elantra N bog horrifically off the line while the Subie just blasts away, ultimately crossing the quarter-mile first. However, the lead noticeably shrinks through braking and the turn, and then the Elantra puts the N in never surrender. It crosses the line ahead of the WRX by just under a car length, terrible launch be dammed.
The drivers switch cars for the second race, and this time the Elantra N does much better off the line while the Subaru falters. With a near-even start, you can probably guess how the rest of the race goes. This time the Hyundai wins on all metrics, including the quarter-mile. No AWD? Apparently, that's no problem for the Elantra N – on dry pavement, anyway.
For now, it seems the Subaru fans will have to wait for the new WRX STI to arrive before regaining bragging rights. Oh, wait ... we forgot that Subaru canned the next-gen STI. Yeah, that's awkward.