Ratios rule the auto industry, but I’d like to postulate that no ratio – be it for gears, steering, or otherwise – is as important as smiles-per-dollar. A car’s ability to be a whole helluva lot of fun without costing too much has made legends out of the Ford Mustang, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Chevrolet Corvette, Jeep Wrangler, and others.
The 2023 Hyundai Elantra N is one of the latest to join the esteemed collection of killer performance values. Consider its $34,015 starting price (including an $1,115 destination charge). It easily undercuts the Honda Civic Type R ($44,890), Volkswagen Golf R ($45,835), and Toyota GR Corolla ($36,995).
Gallery: 2023 Hyundai Elantra N: Review
And I’m not just talking about a stripped-down Elantra N that makes owners forgo basics like heated seats. Take a look at the configurator – aside from the available seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and a pair of premium paints (Performance Blue, shown on my test car, is a $450 must-have), there are no optional extras. The most expensive an Elantra N can get is $35,965. Even fully loaded, this hot Hyundai is the most affordable car in its class.
Hyundai does extract a toll for that savings, of course. The material quality is quite poor, with lots of shoddy hard plastics and little in the way of sound deadening to keep the outside world out. And while there’s a 286-horsepower four-cylinder engine with a big, angry turbocharger, the Elantra N is a bit more muscle car than corner carver – the 315-hp Civic Type R is a quicker, sharper weapon if you’re on track often. Managing all that power is trickier, too, with the Hyundai lacking all-wheel drive like the Golf R and GR Corolla.
But a week on the roads of metro Detroit was enough to show me that Hyundai does plenty to exceed the Elantra N's price tag, though. The poor interior quality doesn’t extend to the primary driver interfaces – the two-piece bucket seats up front suited my six-foot, two-inch frame as well as anything else in the class, with excellent support and some very good looks. There’s a meaty, leather-wrapped steering wheel, too, complete with Performance Blue quick-access buttons that change the assorted driving modes.
And the drive experience of a big turbocharger that delivers its boost in heaping helpings with a side of torques teer is fun in a very different way. If anything, this car reminds me of the beloved Mazdaspeed3, a car that was too good for this sad, dark world. On rougher roads, I had to wrestle with the wheel occassionally to keep things straight – it was delightful.
save over $3,400 on average off MSRP* on a new Hyundai Elantra
Like the Mazda, the Elantra N is a stupendous value in a segment where buyers clamor for a good deal. I just hope fickle customers give this high-performance Hyundai the attention it deserves, because the Elantra N is one of those cars that whose eventual passing we’ll all lament.
2023 Hyundai Elantra N