Hyundai Elantra N-Line — To true car enthusiasts, we are well versed in the notion that it isn’t always the destination we are interested, but the journey, and more specifically, the vehicle that enables us to make that journey that is far more important. We are more interested in feeling the road through our fingertips, engaging with the car by rowing through a manual gearbox, and holding off on that upshift just several hundred more RPM just to hear the engine sing a little louder.

The basic makeup of these cars doesn’t need to be exotic in their DNA. In fact, any price point can be fun with a few simple tips and tricks, most notably, the aforementioned manual transmission, and a drivetrain that is respectable, even if it isn’t mind-bending in its power and performance. The 2021 Hyundai Elantra N-Line checks all of these most important boxes, and with a base price of just $25,000, we cannot wait to get behind the wheel.

Aimed squarely at the Civic Si and Jetta GLI, the Elantra N-Line has the genetic makeup to legitimately compete with these two fabled, frugal, and fun machines. Beginning with an all-important 1.6-liter turbocharged all-aluminum DOHC inline-4 that produces a serious 201-horsepower at 6,000 RPM and equally impressive 195 lb-ft of torque at just 1,500 RPM the N-Line has the oomph to get up and go. That power is then routed through a true six-speed manual transmission that we are wonderfully grateful for, and then on to the front wheels to get to the tarmac. There is a a true dual-clutch 7-speed automatic available as well, but we’ll take the stick thank you very much.

Now with 201 ponies under the hood, you might be inclined to think that in a world where base Corvettes are hovering around 500-horsepower, less than half that power can’t be enough. But weighing in at just 3,000 pounds, the N-Line makes the most of its Mighty Mouse motor. The Hyundai hustles from 0-60 mph in a scant 6.5 seconds, through the quarter-mile in just 14.5 seconds and on its way to a top speed of 125 mph. But being an economy car at its roots, still manages to provide extremely efficient fuel economy with 28/36/31 city/highway/combined mpg.

Not wanting to be thought of just a visual badge, the N-Line does in fact tweak the suspension to make it better and more fun. The chassis is retuned for sport, the powertrain mounts are all significantly stiffer, as does the dampers, spring rates and anti-roll bars to the tune (no pun intended) of 26 percent up front and a whopping 71 percent at the rear. That rear is actually upgraded to an independent suspension too, which helps keep the car planted around uneven cornering.

Other trim-specific standard options are things like body-color side moldings, rear lip spoiler, dual chrome exhaust tips, LED projector headlights, LED taillights, sunroof, blacked out mirrors, trim, and 18-inch wheels that are shod in your choice of Hankook Ventus S1 RX all-season tires or summer-oriented Goodyear Eagle F1’s that measure 235/40-ZR-18.

Inside the Hyundai Elantra N-Line gets small visual tweaks — red accents including red stitching adorning the seats, door panels, and even shifter knob and boot. The true analog gauge cluster is starting to almost have a retro feel at this point with the amount of digital displays were are being inundated with, but we like the more basic approach. Those seats are bolstered very nicely for spirited driving, which does ad to the overall feel and make the most of all those tweaks and power in terms of feedback and feel. No one wants to go fast and feel like they’re going to fail out of their seat.

The Hyundai Elantra N-Line isn’t going to outsell the Civic Si any time soon, as Honda fans are fiercely loyal, but we think that the goal for Hyundai isn’t so much to make those devotees cross over the loyalty lines, but to establish an entirely new generation of fans from the literal start. The N-Line is a great mix of fast, fun, functional and even family-friendly features. It allows us to go grocery shopping, take the kids to school, forget to fill the gas tank for a week, and then get our pulse rate going at a steady clip by hitting the freeway onramp just a tad harder than necessary because after all, it’s not about the destination, it’s how we get there.

Elantra N-Line