2023 Hyundai Elantra

Reviews

Radical styling cloaks some ordinary performance in the Elantra—at least, in versions without the N at the end of the badge. It sports adequate acceleration for the base versions and above-average ride and handling, for a 5 here. The Elantra N would score a 6, or even higher.

Is the Hyundai Elantra 4WD? 

All Elantras have front-wheel drive.

How fast is the Hyundai Elantra?

Not very quick, in base spec. A 147-hp 2.0-liter inline-4 powers most low-cost editions and ships its power through a CVT to the front wheels. It works hard, but the payoff isn’t there: the CVT saps the strength, lagging to respond to calls for acceleration even when it’s clicked to Sport mode. Freeway passes require timing and the powertrain generates its share of engine and road noise.

That said, the Elantra handles pretty well, with crisp steering turn-in offsetting some highway-speed wandering. The front strut and rear torsion beam suspension isn’t the stuff of spec-sheet dreams, but it’s tuned here for all-around compliance and works well with 16- and 17-inch wheels that come with mid-range Elantras. 

Elantra Hybrid performance

We’d take the Elantra Hybrid, in any case. It adopts a 1.6-liter inline-4, and pairs it with a 1.3-kwh lithium-ion battery pack and an electric motor, then ships the resulting 139 hp to the front wheels through a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission. It’s more frugal, and it’s more pleasant to drive around town, since its battery boosts low-end power and smooths out stoplight launches—that, and it has actual transmission gears that have a more engaging feel. Fuel economy is stellar, at up to 54 mpg combined.

With a more sophisticated rear multi-link suspension, Elantra Hybrids also have a more stable and precise feel. They’re better planted and corner with more confidence, though occasionally the gas-electric powertrain stutters as the engine is clutched in and clutched out as power needs require it.

Elantra N performance

The Elantra N Line takes the Hybrid’s smaller-displacement engine and turbocharges it for a net 201 hp, teamed to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. With 0-60 mph times of about seven seconds, the N Line hits a vibrant note. It’s quick, and has the right transmission to respond swiftly to the driver’s inputs, with a blattier exhaust note backing it up.

It handles well, too, outcornering and outgripping all but one of the Elantra family thanks to stiffer springs, an independent rear suspension, and a rear anti-sway bar, not to mention bigger front brake rotors. The ride tightens dramatically without getting upset at minor pavement blisters, and the steering’s hefty and taut, but not unmanageably so. At right around 3,000 lb, the Elantra N Line strikes a great balance between responsive tuning and everyday comfort.

But for the ultimate version of this compact, go for the Elantra N. Its 2.0-liter turbo-4 churns out 276 hp and 289 lb-ft of torque, lighting up the front wheels through either an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic or a 6-speed manual. Automatic models have an “NGS” button that boosts power in short bursts to 286 hp and guns the transmission for even faster shifting; after 20 seconds the spell is broken, and the car needs 40 seconds before it can execute the “N Grin Shift” maneuver once more. Hyundai claims a believable 5.0-second 0-60 mph time for the dual-clutch version, and despite some low-end turbo lag, the Elantra N streams silly power with a very well-mapped shift schedule—the manual’s an afterthought. With a three-mode adjustable set of dampers, an electronic limited-slip differential, and Michelin Pro Pilot Sport 4S summer tires, the Elantra N makes the most of stiffer tuning, quicker steering, and sport bucket seats to breathe new life into the compact-car nameplate.

Review continues below

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